Monday, September 9, 2013

If a Tale From the Crypt Doesn't Have a Cryptkeeper, THEN WHAT IS IT?

PEOPLE! Are you aware that in 2001, Jennifer Grey, Craig Sheffer, and Tim 'Best Actor of All Things Ever' Curry starred in a Tales From the Crypt movie? A TALES FROM THE CRYPT MOVIE?

Now before you go a'swoonin, I have some bad, bad news.

This is not really a Tales From the Crypt movie.

But words don't lie! you shout with fervor, jabbing your pointing finger to the dreadklocked Cryptkeeper looking over the cover art's action. See? The movie is called Ritual and it's clearly Jamaican based and hence, THE CRYPTKEEPER HAS DREADLOCKS! Surely he'll open the film wearing a happy face t-shirt while making some inappropriate jokes about ganja and adding t's to all his words. I mean, THAT'S WHAT TALES FROM THE CRYPT MEANS.

Unless the year is 2001 and Miramax was scared off by Bordello of Blood's poor box office performance, thusly removing all references to the Cryptkeeper from  A TALES FROM THE CRYPT MOVIE.

Not that I'm bitter about that or anything...

Quick Plot: A gooey opening scene in Jamaica gives us an incredible melting character actor investigating the mysterious illness that befell his patient, rich land owner Wesley Claybourne. But then he melts.

And we still haven't had a Cryptkeeper pun.

Back in the U.S., Dr. Alice Dodgson (aka Nobody Puts Baby In the Corner With a New Nose) attempts to save a dying young patient with experimental medication, losing the kid's life and her medical license in the process. Jobless, she accepts the now vacant role of personal physical to the aforementioned Wesley on a sprawling Jamaican plantation as ratlike older brother Julian (Nightbreed's Craig Sheffer) looks on suspiciously.

Helping out is Caro, the Claybourne's sexy childhood friend, and Jennifer Grey's Left and Right Nipple, which should have at the very least earned their SAG card for the amount of work they have to do under a tight white camisole. You know what else works hard? Dream sequences. All 972 of them.

See, there's an art and craft to using the 'shock! scare! dead main character! oh, it's all a dream!' trick. When handled correctly, it's an outstanding little device that almost every basic horror movie requires. On the other hand, when about 40% of your film's running time is composed of said 'shock! scare! dead main character! oh, it's all a dream!' sequences, they lose their power rather quickly. This is especially evident when Nobody Puts Baby's Prominent Nipples In the Corner With a New Nose recaps her most recent nightmare with the line "I just had the most horrifyingly real dream of my life!" Just try to watch that scene and not respond "as opposed to the 12 other horrifyingly real dreams we've witnessed?"

That being said, Ritual isn't a terrible movie. Filmed on location in Jamaica, it looks gorgeous, and the actors are all more than adequate. Does it feel like a Tales From the Crypt episode? Somewhat. Greedy characters get their karmic slap, bodies get melted or zombified, breasts get displayed and jungles get trod upon.

But the puns? Ah, what I wouldn't do for a pun...

High Points
If nothing else, this movie includes copious doses of Tim Curry petting cats and making lecherous smiles at women. That in itself sort of puts this into the 10 range

Low Points
Aside from the obvious--THIS IS A TALES FROM THE CRYPT MOVIE WITH NO CRYPT--Ritual ends on the sourest, meanest, most unnecessarily misogynist note that in no way was warranted by its otherwise fine 100 minutes. I was absolutely disgusted by the final shot of this film. Now one could argue that it's the usual comeuppance doled out by any Crypt morality tale, but it's not really the case. Let's get into SPOILERY specifics:

So the villain is, in a worthy twist, revealed to be Caro. It's fine for her fate to be zombiehood, since she was planning on doing the same to her friends, but then Ritual decides to get playful by showing her as a zombie bride being lain on a bed by the film's OTHER still-living villain, a corrupt and cruel policeman whom she had previously insulted for being fat. So as punishment, she'll get to spend the rest of his life being raped. He, keep in mind, was as much of, if not MORE of a villain (WHO KILLED TIM CURRY DAMNIT) but you know, he's fine. I understand the idea of throwing in a final punch, but this one is so miscalculated that it almost ruined the otherwise unoffensive and slightly entertaining film on the whole.

Lessons Learned
Everyone in Jamaica carries machetes for work and protection

Voodoo is like disco, but with less poom poom

It is customary for hospitals to fire surgeons via snail mail

If naming a character Wesley, consider how the line "As you wish" might sound and whether you're looking for a Princess Bride reference in your voodoo zombie horror movie

Bonus Material
As I watched this on Netflix Instant, I was denied the apparently extra of the Cryptkeeper segment tagged onto the DVD. HOWEVER, IMDB has kindly provided the dialogue spoken by everyone's favorite ghoul on the quotations page for Ritual. Do yourself a favor and take a look. It's oozing with mons and is written phonetically. 

The Internet is a wonderful place.

Look! It's...
Everyone's favorite Pennsylvanian insurance salesman/Glee sex offender Stephen Tobolowsky in a small role as Alice's boss

If you're looking for some throwback Tales From the Crypt action, then Ritual really isn't it. That being said, those in the mood for some voodoo horror along the lines of The Serpent and the Rainbow or, as the credits claim as a basis, I Walked With a Zombie will find plenty to enjoy. The story and characters are better thought-out than a lot of other straight-past-your-cineplex offerings, and there's an added bonus of pretty people and pretty kickass practical effects. Plus, Tim Curry petting a cat while being smarmy. 

That's all this gal needs.


  1. John Kassir, the guy who did the voice of the Crypt Keeper, totally beat Sinbad in the standup comedy competition on Star Search. It's a bizarre TV moment. Sinbad does a very typical "didja ever notice?" monologue about how women (get this) enjoy shopping. And John Kassir does this weird free-form performance piece with different voices and sound effects. Sinbad definitely looks a little stunned afterward, like, "What the hell just happened here?"

  2. I need to track this moment down! I met Kassir at Rock 'n Shock a few years ago and he was a treasure. WAY more treasureful than Sinbad! Way more treasureful than a word that's not a word like treasureful!