The Films (5/5, 2/5)
Tales from the Crypt owned horror in the 90's. The TV show which began broadcasting in 1989 was one of the most popular TV show's of the era, and attracted A-List talent into it's tales of twisted horror. At the same time the 1950's EC Comics from which the series was adapted (Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, Shock SuspenStories, etc) were being re-released both in floppy editions, and restored EC Library hardbacks. It was a good time to be a fan of the franchise. Toward the end of the TV series run a pair of Tales from the Crypt movies would be made. Unlike the 2 EC offerings made by Amicus in the 1970's (Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror) these would not be anthologies, but narrative feature tales hosted by the Crypt Keeper. The first out of the gate would be the 1995 Ernest Dickerson directed Demon Knight.
Demon Knight follows a wanderer named Brayker who is involved in a car wreck on the outskirts of a New Mexico town. The other individual involved in the accident is a demon known as the Collector. The Collector's mission is to stalk Brayker and to retrieve from him the last of 7 Keys. This key will allow the bringing of total darkness, and allow a literal Hell on Earth. Brayker's mission is to both protect the key, and pass it on to the next "Demon Knight" and tonight he must do both, as the stars on his hands that indicate the location of the new knight are aligned, and that also means it is time to do battle with the demons.
OK, so the TV series Tales from the Crypt was adapted from EC Comics stories, as were the 2 Amicus films in the 70's. When I saw Demon Knight in the 90's, I thought it was just an amazing monster film, and that was all I needed. Watching it now, it is immediately apparent that Demon Knight was not written to fit in the Tales from the Crypt formula. It doesn't have the same tone that the series and comic stories would carry. It apparently was written to be Tom Holland's follow up to Child's Play, and bounced around from studio to studio for 8 years before being made with the Crypt moniker. That being said regardless of the intent of the makers, Demon Knight is simply a great horror film.
The film takes place over one long dark night, and has a wonderfully dark and creepy atmosphere. This extends from the wonderful use of the creepy hotel set, to the wonderful use of color by director Ernest Dickerson. The film being in one primary location for much of the time relies on the cast to help bring the horror of the piece to life, and the cast for this film is excellent with genre stalwarts like Dick Miller and Billy Zane to excellent turns from CCH Pounder, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Thomas Haden Church, and William Sadler.
The script from Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, and Mark Bishop blends exciting and suspenseful horror with an epic mythological story that gives a film that could feel very small, a larger more worldly feel to it. Dickerson keeps the pace of the film flowing in such a way that the film is never boring, and through lighting and design choices keeps the film quite a stylish affair. The soundtrack choices are also excellent, though certainly do date the film to the early to mid-90’s.
A year after the release of Demon Knight, a second Tales from the Crypt movie would be released into cinemas. This one would have more of the campy Tales from the Crypt quality fans would expect, but almost none of the quality of the prior film. This film Bordello of Blood, would be introduced by the Crypt Keeper before going into a story about a private eye named Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller) who gets hired to investigate some strange happenings at a local bordello. It turns out the bordello is a front for a cult of vampires run by Madam Lilith(Angie Everhart).
There is line in the film where Miller describes feeling like he's in a bad Tales from the Crypt episode, and he isn't the only one feeling that. Demon Knight was a preexisting film branded with the Tales from the Crypt name, Bordello of Blood, however, was rushed into production on the success of Demon Knight, and it shows. When watching it on this Blu-ray I honestly got the vibe that the film felt less like direct to video horror fodder, and more direct to USA Up All Night. It’s a campy, trashy affair, with some decent effects, bad humor, and almost entirely lacking in scares. Most of the cast do fine with the material. Dennis Miller is in full on 90's Dennis Miller mode here, and Everhart and Eleniak are suitable in their respective roles. Feldman is probably performing his role as written, but feels like he's performing a bad 80's caricature in a bad 90's movie.
I remembering enjoying this film more when I was 13, and I could see why the film does combine horror and nudity in a way that could get past both parents and video store clerks, but trying to watch it as a real film is nary impossible. There might be viewers out there that can enjoy it for it's high camp value.
Audio/Video (4/5, 3/5)
Tales from the Crypt Demon Knight is presented in a fairly excellent 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. This is a really solid transfer with deep blacks, excellent detail all around, and lush vivid colors. There is some unobtrusive grain present that helps contribute to a nice film look to the presentation.
Bordello of Blood was shot by a director who had shot episodes of the TV, and actually has more of a brightly lit TV look to it. The transfer is also 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded. It is a solid upgrade, with decent detail, solid blacks, accurate flesh tones, but it is much softer all around then Demon Knight.
OK, so I'm going to preface the audio portion here. I e-mailed Shout! Factory on this, and they looked into it, and I never heard back, and so it might have been the disc I received, but I did sit on this for a few weeks, and have to point this out.
Demon Knight has 2 audio tracks a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 track. I have a decent 5.1 setup in my theater room, and when I put Demon Knight in there was severe instances of audio dropout on my system during the 5.1 track. I only experienced this in the first 5 or so minutes of the film where the mock-murder is happening and during the Crypt theme. During these segments dialogue was inaudible to very thin, and the theme song was very low. It was looked into, and in talking to other viewers no one else experienced it, but across 2 players I got the same results, but only on the 5.1 track. I then started the film over with the 2.0 track, and experienced no such issues going forward. That track sounded quite solid with dialogue, score, and ambient effects coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues such as pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Bordello of Blood has the same audio specs as Demon Knight, the 5.1 here I had no problems with. It sounded quite excellent throughout, with dialogue, score, and ambient effects coming through loud and clear.
Extras (3.5/5, 3/5)
Scream Factory have put together solid packages for both Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Demon Knight has a commentary with Dickerson and another with the FX team. We are then treated to a nearly 40 minute making of, a stills gallery, trailer, and a 10 minute Q&A. Bordello of Blood has a commentary with the screenwriter, another extended making of, a video store promo, stills gallery, and trailer for the film.
Demon Knight is one of the few true mainstream horror classics of the 90's. It is a wonderfully stylish film with some great monsters, great sets, and an excellent atmosphere. Bordello of Blood, is not remotely good, but it has monsters, boobs, and blood, so someone out there might be willing to give it another go. Both transfers are solid upgrades from what came before, and Scream gives each a solid extras package. Demon Knight comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, Bordello of Blood is worth a rental if you still have a video store around.