Oh, boy. After the travesty that was the mediocre sixth season of Tales from the Crypt, you could only hope that things wouldn’t get worse. Unfortunately, the seventh and final season of the beloved HBO anthology show hits an entirely new low you never could have imagined.
In a last-ditch effort to save money on production (and perhaps spice things up a bit), the production of the final season of Tales from the Crypt jumped across the pond from the US to the UK, with English actors, directors, and what have you. On paper this sounds like an interesting change of pace, and a decision that could result in some fine television. It’s unfortunate, though, that it was hard for me to even pick five “good” episodes out of the thirteen-episode season to focus on here.
I’ve noticed that most seasons of Tales from the Crypt tend to kick things off with an episode with a higher quality than what’s in store for the rest of each season, and that’s very much the case here. “Fatal Caper” focuses on an old man named Mycroft who doesn’t have much time left to live. Mycroft’s will states that if his two remaining sons can’t finish the task of finding their other brother, who left home years before never to be heard from again, then the old man’s riches will instead be donated to charity. This leads to the brothers coming up with their own plans for stealing what they believe is rightfully theirs, and these plans aren’t the least bit legal. This episode was directed by Bob Hoskins, and is a tight, suspenseful little story that features some fine character work. The twist ending is incredibly ridiculous too, but also pretty fantastic, making this an easy pick for one of the best episodes of the season.
After a slow second episode, the third of season seven, “A Slight Case of Murder,” picks things up a bit with its immense charm. Sharon is a mystery novelist who has been in a bit of a slump as of late. With her nosy neighbor Mrs. Trask always stopping by unannounced, and a jealous husband ready to kill her for a suspected affair she may or may not be having, Sharon just never has the time to get back to writing her bestselling novels. But it’s her own life that may be the perfect example of what to write next. This is an appreciably understated episode — more so than most — and definitely worth a watch. It’s suspenseful, has a fun ending, and features some really charming acting from Elizabeth Spriggs as Mrs. Trask. I for one am ready for the Mrs. Trask spin-off series.
The fourth episode of the season is another dud, but the fifth one, “Horror in the Night,” is a fantastic, trippy episode that feels unlike any other in the entire series. After a successful robbery, jewel thief Nick betrays his partner by shooting him and keeping all the jewels for himself, but not before his partner lands a non-fatal gunshot on him, as well. Nick isn’t too badly injured from the wound, and decides to hide out in the first seemingly ordinary hotel he comes across. And while he initially believes he’s escaped and won, it’s here that Nick begins to lose his mind. We watch Nick encounter horrifying hallucinations here, and it seems as though his ex-partner may be catching up to him, too. The stellar hallucination sequences in this episode really what make it stand out, and while it isn’t a great episode in all, it offers some cool, creepy visuals and features a solid ending.
Five, count ’em, five bad episodes go by before we get another one of value, but the eleventh does happen to be the best of the season. Starring Eddie Izzard, “Confession” focuses on detective Jack Lynch (Claran Hinds) as he tries to, well, get a confession out of the man he thinks has just slain three women, Evans (Izzard). Evans is a Hollywood screenwriter whose movies all happen to center around grisly murders, and this makes Lynch suspect him instantly. Lynch slams Evans hard with accusations and questions, but Lynch will have to take drastic measures to get anything out of his suspect. This episode is such a huge relief in a season filled with so many lackluster episodes. This one easily stands out above the rest as the best episode of the season, as it highlights great acting, cinematography, and features a truly suspenseful story. Though I like the previous three episodes I’ve mentioned above, I wouldn’t consider any of them to be great. “Confession” is the only episode of this season that I would rank among the best of the series. The performances by Izzard and Hinds are fantastic, and they’re what really make this episode work so well. The only problem I have with “Confession” is that it is somewhat predictable, but I can overlook that simply because of everything else that this episode offers.
Skipping the forgettable twelfth episode, the thirteenth and final episode of the season (and subsequently series finale) is perhaps the most memorable of the lot, simply because of its totally different style. “The Third Pig” is animated, making it the only one of its kind in the entire series. Basically just a goofy, deranged spin on the classic fable of the “Three Little Pigs,” “The Third Pig” is a fun romp that definitely serves up some laughs. The plot is simple: after his brothers Smokey and Drinky are murdered by the Wolf, third pig Dudley creates a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster to exact revenge on the Wolf. There’s a fun twist at the end, but for the most part, this is the most straightforward episode of Tales from the Crypt that you can find, though I’m not necessarily saying that as a diss to the episode. The animation style reminds me of classic Nickelodeon shows like Ren & Stimpy or Rocko’s Modern Life, but the content of this episode is far more graphic than either of those shows could ever have dreamed to be. “The Third Pig” is simple and isn’t particularly great when compared to other animated comedies of the time, but it’s a significant episode of Tales from the Crypt due to its distinctiveness. I applaud the showrunners for even including an episode like this.
So there you have it, my
final post (see below) reflecting on HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. It’s too bad that the series ended on such a low note, with the final season getting a 1.5 out of 5 from me. Still, as a whole, the series is quite remarkable and has plenty of amazing episodes that hit on multiple fronts, including comedy, horror, and suspense. Barring the last couple seasons, I seriously cannot recommend this show enough.
Episodes to watch recap:
- “Fatal Caper”
- “A Slight Case of Murder”
- “Horror in the Night”
- “The Third Pig”
For more on Tales from the Crypt, read my review of the series’ first film adaptation, Demon Knight.
— Michael Lane, Film Blogger
Handy links to my other retrospectives on HBO’s Tales from the Crypt: