HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” Retrospective: An Introduction

3/12/16 Update: Cable network TNT is gearing up for a reboot of Tales from the Crypt with M. Night Shyamalan as a producer! This is exciting, of course.

Original Story: Having run for over seven seasons from 1989 to 1996, HBO’s horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt was a cultural phenomenon that I sadly missed in its initial run (I was less than a month old when its final episode aired).

If you have no idea what Tales from the Crypt is, then just imagine The Twilight Zone if The Twilight Zone was a horror/comedy program rated TV-MA. Then, imagine that almost every episode featured a sometimes laughable amount of fake blood, quite a bit of nudity, and every swear word your mother never wanted you to say. Also, instead of Rod Serling bookending each story, the host of the show is an undead, three-foot-tall, animatronic ghoul called the Cryptkeeper, who has one of the most distinct voices in all of television history. Yeah, Tales from the Crypt is sort of insane, and all the way awesome.

HBO’s Tales from the Crypt gets its roots from a comic book of the same name that was in print in the early 1950s through a long forgotten comic publisher, EC Comics. The comic book, along with similar publications both from EC and its competitors, pushed the boundaries of the comic industry until the introduction of the Comics Code, which restricted the gory and violent nature of the stories. Ultimately, EC comics was forced to stop production on Tales from the Crypt altogether. Tales from the Crypt was basically the Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto of its day before its untimely banning, with parents and Congressmen across the United States spouting concerns about how the comics would “make your child sick, twisted, and even bloodthirsty.”

Even still, Tales from the Crypt had already gotten its ghastly claws in many kids growing up in the 1950s, with a few of them growing up to become big Hollywood producers by the 1980s. Richard Donner (The Goonies), David Giler (Alien), Walter Hill (The Warriors), Joel Silver (Die Hard), and Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) came together with HBO to create a horror anthology television series based on the old EC horror comics. And so Tales from the Crypt was born in 1989 only to live for seven seasons over seven years before its ratings unfortunately dwindled by 1996 and HBO decided to pull the plug.

Having caught a few episodes growing up either through syndication or old VHS tapes my brother had recorded, and being that I already adored horror movies, Tales from the Crypt was a show that I was instantly intrigued by. I started asking for the DVD sets as they came out whenever I had the chance (birthdays, Christmas, etc.). Before I knew it, I owned most of the series. Even though I have had the complete series at my disposal for years now, I still haven’t watched the majority of the 93 episodes, and the first season is the only one I’ve watched all of the way through.

Seeing as how it’s summer break and I have a bunch of extra free time outside of work, I have taken it upon myself to finally watch every episode of Tales from the Crypt in order. Of course, as the resident horror film blogger on the Jet Fuel blog, I cannot just watch it without writing about it. So, I plan on taking you, dear reader, through the power of the internet, along with me over seven write-ups in which I will revisit and evaluate each season of this cult classic show.

As always, join me again next time, kiddies, as we take a journey back to 1989 with Tales From The Crypt’s debut season.

— Michael Lane, Film Blogger

Handy links to my other retrospectives on HBO’s Tales from the Crypt:

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