In 1989 HBO debuted┬áTales From the Crypt, a horror-anthology show with an unprecedented amount of tits, gore, budget, and bad puns. Based on a variety of titles from EC Comics, the episodes ranged from silly to creepy to horrible. And we’re going to review every single one of them.
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Dead Wait (3.6)


“If you’re so fucking smart, how come you’re the one that’s dead?”


WHAT IS IT?


An unscrupulous conman goes to great lengths to obtain a rare and valuable black pearl.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?


With more horror street cred than probably any Crypt director yet, we have Tobe Hooper behind the camera. Hooper is, of course, most famous for directing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, though in the case of Poltergeist he’s a bit like Lee Harvey Oswald: those who have reviewed the facts find it hard to believe he worked alone. The script was written by A L Katz and Gilbert Adler, the geniuses behind Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, but the real story here is the star studded supporting cast. Holding up a lead performance by James Remar (Dexter’s dad on Dexter) are Academy Award Winning (I know, it’s crazy to me too!) actress/comedian Whoopi Goldberg, the great John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of The Rings trilogy) and Vanity! Yes, that Vanity. I guess they couldn’t get Anna Fantastic.

HOW IS IT?


Honestly, I’m of two minds on this episode. Katz and Adler’s script is really horrible. For most of the episode there’s no forward momentum at all, just the characters lazily drifting from one scene to the next without any clear direction or motivation, climaxing at a pointless ending. Motivation is a big problem in general here; I’ve now watched the episode three times and I’m still not sure who’s running what games on who, and for what reasons. But, on the other hand, this is easily the goriest and most gruesome Crypt to date, and all of those effects, from a decapitated chicken to a gooey intestinal tract, are truly outstanding. Coupled with Vanity getting naked, this is definitely the most R-Rated episode yet. It’s a shame that all this had to be lost inside of a horrible plot and waste of talented actors, even by Crypt standards.

The episode centers on Red (James Remar) a hot tempered con-man who’s long quest to obtain the rare Black Pearl (not that Black Pearl) has brought him to a small remote Carribbean island in the throes of revolution. He’s named after his hair color, which is something seemingly every person on the island feels the need to point out and wax poetic about. They say that, in their culture, red symbolizes life and that he’s extremely lucky to have such a head of hair. I’m pretty sure they just hate Irish people. This aspect never really pays off, so it’s up to you to pick. Anyway, Red has traced the Black Pearl down a man named Duval (John Rhys-Davies), a wealthy plantation owner and his beautiful wife Kathrine (Vanity) and meets them in a seedy bar. He claims to have plantation experience and, even though they call him on that bullshit (his hands are too clean and pretty) they hire him anyway, to run the entire plantation. You get the feeling that it’s part of some sinister plan, but you also get the feeling that they both kind of want to fuck him. Again, it’s unclear, so you decide.

At the plantation he’s introduced to Peligre (Whoopi Goldberg), a Mundunugu (worth 21 points in Scrabble) who acts as a metaphysical maid for the plantation, cleansing it of evil spirits. Or something. While showing him to his bungalow, she tells Red about Duval’s Schistosomiasis: water worms that have matured in his blood and burrowed out into his skin, which is only the most horrifying thing ever. Shortly after settling in his hut (complete with a decapitated ram’s head for…spirit…protection…stuff) he sneaks back into the main house to take a look at the Black Pearl. I have to note that the nature of the Black Pearl might make it valuable, but it also makes it really dull and ugly looking. It has all the appeal of beige gold. But before Red can claim the lumpy turd as his own, Duval walks in and explains that the pearl is protected by an alarm system that calls the local army, who are more reliable than the police.

Outside, Red encounters Kathrine and begins what is definitely the worst seduction I’ve ever seen in anything ever, and that includes my own prom. Vanity apparently not only studied under Prince the musician but Prince the actor as well. She has the same kind of snotty presence that says “Be grateful I’m even trying this hard” that made Prince such an uncharismatic actor, despite being one of the most charismatic performers of all time. Coupled with a really awkward attempt at an accent, Vanity is kind of a mess here. Anyway, after a surprisingly graphic (read: nudity) sex scene, the two decide that they’re both in love with money and plot to steal Duval’s prized dark matter. Later, Red wakes up to find a decapitated chicken in his bed, still flapping his wings. It’s the work of Peligre, who says that she’s trying to protect him from Kathrine, who’s dangerous. Again, the script encourages the audience to fill in the blanks about what the hell any of it means, like some kind of cinematic Mad Libs.

Red goes to the mansion and learns that the rebel forces have taken over the capital and that the army is escorting everyone to the airport. He talks to Duval, who asks Red to take Kathrine to the airport for him, citing that his Schistosomiasis has made him too weak to leave. Later, Kathrine rushes to Red telling him that the Black Pearl is gone. Red goes to investigate and discovers Duval, surrounded by deflated balloons, piling money into a suitcase. Red demands the pearl, but Duval cryptically claims that “even if I wanted to give it to you, I cannot now put my hands on it” so Red shoots him. Not finding it in the bag of money, and seeing the balloons lying around everywhere, he realizes that Duval swallowed it and decides to get it out the hard way. Seeing Red cut open Duval’s stomach and digging around (complete with gloriously lingering close-ups) would be gross enough even if Duval’s body weren’t filled with worms. So when Red actually yanks out his intestines and cuts them open to retrieve the pearl, it’s kind of incredible. The scene is so great and disgusting it almost redeems everything that came before. Almost.

After retrieving the pearl Kathrine turns on Red, pointing a gun in his face. But Red is saved when Peligre pops out of nowhere and whips out a Kathrine voodoo doll and stabs it through the center. But Peligre has other motives. She leads him to her village, takes out a machete and cuts off his head, because his red hair is so great. Or something. Again, we’re asked to fill in the blanks ourselves, so I like to imagine she scalped him and made a wig for a kid with Leukemia. Because if there’s one thing that I love, it’s pathos.

HOW EVIL ARE THE WOMEN?


Between wives conspiring with men they just met to kill their husband and Voodoo priestesses stuffing dead birds in your bed (before decapitating you), you just can NOT trust women in this episode.

ALSO WORTH NOTING:


*Apropos of nothing, I’ve always wanted to date a witch doctor. The possibilities of foreplay alone that voodoo dolls present boggle my mind.

*During the sounds of gunfire of the revolution happening in the background, there’s a Wilhelm Scream.

*After the episode, there’s a mock talk-show where the Cryptkeeper “interviews” Whoopi Goldberg, and she could not look less excited to be there if she tried.

*The episode apparently takes place over the course of a single night, which makes all of the machinations and plot developments feel even stranger and more forced.

*What the hell does the title have to do with anything?

WORST CRYPTKEEPER JOKE:

“Congratulations on winning that Academy A-weird” (This one is especially bad.)

GRADE: C-


JOHN SAYS:


There’s virtually nothing I disagree with Patrick on here, he’s right on every count. But for me, the incredibly graphic sex and violence kind of pulls it together. It makes me like the bad dialogue scenes more as well. They’re clearly soundstage-set, bits of unrehearsed gruesome melodrama meant to tie together the lurid big scenes. It’s a real seedy, junky half hour, which doesn’t make it good, but it’s got its own pulpy texture.