October 10, 2015

Screening Report: Demon Knight (10/8/15, Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers, NY)

The other night I made another of my seemingly weekly trips to the Alamo Drafthouse theater, seems like I am in there all the time. As a matter of fact, I think the servers are starting to recognize me. Anyway, I was there for a 20th anniversary screening of the glorious 1995 film Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, or as I like to call it, Demon Knight. Expecting something more creative? sorry to disappoint. At the same time, don’t tell me you always use the longer version. I won’t believe you. In any case, I have always loved this movie ever since I first saw it (on film) during its original release.

The screening was the latest in a monthly series called Prints of Darkness (clever, right?), hosted by the newly minted Fangoria editor in chief, Michael Gingold. This is his first screening since he delivered a wonderful q and a with Kevin Bacon following a screening of Tremors. Now. truth be told there had been a desire to follow up the Bacon appearance with one by Demon Knight leading man William Sadler. Sadly, the pieces did not fall into place. As awesome as that would have been, the screening went wonderfully and the movie kicks just as much as as it ever did, perhaps even a bit more.

As the night got underway, the spotlight came on and Mr. Gingold took his position in it, blinded by it, and unable to see the crowd that had shown up for it. He told us about how the film arrived during a down time in horror. I am sure you remember the 90’s, Scream hadn’t yet provided a much needed lift for the genre in the eyes of the mainstream public and there was not a heck of a lot of quality horror coming out of the studios. Fortunately, Tales from the Crypt was killing it on cable and had eyes on the big screen. Their first foray was none other than Demon Knight.

Demon Knight was a screenplay that had been floating around since the late 1980’s and was first set to be directed by Tom Holland as his follow up to Child’s Play, ultimately passing and making the TV movie The Stranger Within. Then it was going to be helmed by Mary Lambert as a follow up to Pet Semetery, but she chose to make that film’s sequel and when it failed to be a hit, her stock dropped. Ultimately, it fell in the lap of Ernest Dickerson, DP for many of Spike Lee’s films and the underappreciated Enemy Territory, and director of movies like Surviving the Game, Bones, and a number of The Walking Dead episodes.

One of the fun facts we learned about the movie is that all the glowing green goop was the liquid used in glow sticks. but because you could not buy it in quantities someone had to break open and drain something like 4000 of them to get what they needed. Another cool note is that all of the demons in the movie were individual sculpts, each one looked a little different, adding to the uniqueness of the monsters (which at one point were almost not creatures, but gues in suits and ties and glasses, glad that never happened) Plus, the movie brought together a solid cast with some excellent performances. You had Sadler, Billy Zane. and Jada Pinkett in the leads alongside a supporting cast that includes Dick Miller, CCH Pounder, Thomas Haden Church, Brenda Bakke, and Charles Fleischer.

This was originally intended to be the first in a trilogy. It never made it past the second, Bordello of Blood. There were a couple others in the works, one was called Fat Tuesday, set in New Orleans, and then there was Dead Easy, that was mentioned at the end of Demon Knight. Another movie that was originally planned as a Tales from the Crypt movie but got made on its own was Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners. To be honest, I am glad that made it through without the Cryptkeeper wrap around bits, and frankly. I always forget about those bits with regards to Demon Knight.

With the opening done, it was time to get to the main course. The movie begins, and we get the familiar notes of the Tales from the Crypt opening and the high pitched cackle of the Cryptkeeper, voiced by the ever excellent John Kassir. We have an opening vignette of a horror movie scene being directed by our ghoulish host before moving onto the movie proper.

The now familiar bass line opening to Filter's "Hey Man, Nice Shot' play as William Sadler's Brayker is being pursued by Billy Zane's Collector. A fiery crash ensues with Brayker managing to get away, forcing the Collector to team up, sort of, with the local law to track down our hero, who has made it to a nearby church turned boarding house with the help of local drunk Uncle Willy (played by the great Dick Miller). Here, he finds a colorful collection of folks, who, he will have to work with to survive the night.

I am not going to go through the hole movie, but suffice to say the movie has a lot going for it. The story is actually quite interesting and I would not mind seeing explored even more. The tale strikes a very good balance between giving you background information and leaving bits to be filled in by the viewer.going beyond the story you have some great effects, there is no shortage of blood and goo tossed about the screen. Seeing this on the big screen helped reveal just how much is really there, watching it on the small screen always minimizes the affect of things, so the bigger the screen the bigger the impact.

As good as the story and effects are, what really makes this thing take off is the cast. It is so good, funny, frightening, creepy, caring, they cover it all. This is one of, if not thee best performance from Billy Zane, this shows just how good he can be. Then there is Sadler, who takes up the mantle of hero and makes it his own. Finishing off the lead trio is Jada Pinkett who gives us a strong and reluctant hero. This movie is seriously funny, has some scary moments, and just works on all levels.

Seeing it on the big screen for the first time in twenty years was an absolute pleasure. The print was in very nice shape with solid colors and audio. It has some marks and such, but it just added to the texture of the feature.

This screening was an absolute blast, and is the perfect movie for this time of year.the crowd was into it, the movie holds up incredibly well, and I am looking forward to seeing it again. Be sure to keep your eyes on the Alamo Drafthouse calendar for more upcoming features. Also, next month's Prints of Darkness screening will be the Lovecraft inspired From Beyond starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, and Ken Foree. See you there!

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