AKA Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight. Wormwood, New Mexico is home to lots of unsavory characters, but now it’s host to a demon known as The Collector (Billy Zane) as well as Brayker (William Sadler), the human he’s chasing. Long story short, the demons need seven keys to rule the earth, and already possess (hee hee hee!) six of them, the seventh being in Brayker’s hands. Good thing it’s full of blood (some of it once belonging to Jesus) that repels the demons. Brayker runs to a seedy motel, and he along with the residents take a stand to save the world.
An interesting aspect of the film is that most of the main characters are tainted in some way—not typical protagonist material. There’s Deputy Bob (Gary Farmer) (who’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer), Willy (Dick Miller) who is an alcoholic, Cordelia (Brenda Bakke) who is a prostitute, Wally (Charles Fleischer) the meek postal worker, Roach (Thomas Haden Church), who is a selfish jerk, surly motel proprietor Irene (CCH Pounder), and Jeryline (Jada Pinkett Smith), a thief out on probation. Going with the biblical theme, they could be construed as maybe not all seven but most of the deadly sins: alcoholic Willy for gluttony, Roach or Cordelia for lust, lazy but bossy Irene for sloth, etc. The Collector tries to tempt them by appealing to their selfish desires; for example with Cordelia and Jeryline he tells them how pretty they are, and that if they help him they never have to age. Also rather Christian-y is how Jeryline parallels the thief in the Bible who, while being crucified with Jesus, repents. Jeryline redeems her former actions by becoming an action hero for God.
Besides the heavy religious subject matter, there’s also quite a bit of humor. There are lame jokes like Irene exclaiming to Jeryline (about her cat): “Get that pussy off the table!” and Cordelia, who was also sitting on the table, moves. My favorite is when Brayker and Jeryline battle a possessed Willy. Willy is throttling Brayker, and then Willy is decapitated, giving Brayker a second to breathe, but Willy’s headless body begins choking him anew. “Oh man!” Brayker gasps. He tells Jeryline to gouge out the eyes, which will kill it, and the severed head replies, “I heard that!” Truly, Zane’s performance must be seen rather than described:
Ah, I still remember the first time I saw this movie, over twenty years ago: a VHS copy watched with my fave horror buddies, my sisters Suzy and Leslie. Good times were had. I still love it. Overall the characters are likable (even The Collector), the plot is sensible-ish, and it’s Tales from the Crypt—enough said. It’s directed by Ernest Dickerson (one of the few prominent Black names in the field of horror direction). Now, a warning: don’t watch the edited-for-T.V. version, where “son of a bitch” becomes “son of a beast” and “asshole” becomes “airhead.”