Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Tales from the Crypt" (1972)

At 40 years old, “Tales from the Crypt” is still one of the best horror anthologies out there. A collection of five stories assembled around the tour of an historic crypt, done in the classic horror-as-morality-play fashion. As with most anthologies, there is a variety of quality. The first three here are really well done.

1. …And All Through the House

On Christmas Eve a woman kills her husband for the insurance, but before she can set things up to make it all look like an accident, she hears a radio bulletin that a crazed killer has escaped and is prowling the area dressed as Santa. When she actually sees the man trying to gain entry to her house, she rushes to call the police before she remembers that she has a dead body on hand with no explanation. She makes sure everything is locked up tight and goes about her work, but when she is done and ready to call the authorities she notices that her daughter is no longer in her room in bed. She has seen “Santa” and excitedly let him in…

2. Reflection of Death

A man leaves his wife and kids to run off with his mistress, but as she is driving the car down the highway that night letting him rest he awakes yelling from a nightmare. Just then they are run off the road and crash. As he wakes up he finds the car, but his mistress is gone. He looks for her all around, even returning to his house and then hers. Everyone he meets screams in terror at seeing him, except for his mistress who is blind. She was blinded in the accident… that killed him? He sees his reflection in some glass and realizes that he is horribly disfigured and dead. He awakes with a yell. It was all a dream; they are driving down the highway. Just then they are run off the road…

3. Poetic Justice

Less horrific than anger inducing, a man who dislikes his old neighbor sets out to ruin his life so that he will move away. Instead he drives the man to suicide with forged, hateful valentines from everyone in town. The guy must have spent days writing hundreds of the most hateful poems imaginable. One year later the man’s corpse returns to exact a revenge of a decidedly poetic nature…

The last two stories are quite a bit poorer, but all five feature people on the crypt tour and concern their deaths, with all of them unrepentant of some really despicable acts. Once the stories are all told the characters realize that they are not predictions of a terrible future, but reminders of what they have just recently experienced. They are welcomed to hell…

This is an example of the way horror used to be employed to scare, entertain, and warn. It holds up pretty well too. (At the time of this writing you can watch the whole thing on YouTube.)

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