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The Dark Morality of “Tales From the Crypt” and Its 15 Best Episodes

Image courtesy of HBO

In lieu of its return, we take a look at what made this horror anthology pioneer so special, and the 15 episodes that best showcased this

There was another writer that was going to pen this piece. I had to write it though. I had to! Something had to be done to right thing wrong. So I used the powers of the Internet to find that other writer, learn their schedule, and was quickly able to murder them. Problem solved. And now with the competition out of the picture, the piece was safely mine. Not only that, the feature gained such recognition that I was even invited to a prestigious literary awards ceremony accordingly. However, when I showed up to receive my prize, I was told that it was “Cadaver of the Year,” as my head was swiftly cut off and turned into my trophy.

That’s Tales From the Crypt in a nutshell.

While distilling such a monumental piece of horror is an obvious disservice to it, the fact that it is capable of such simplification is also why it connected to people so well. Tales From the Crypt ran for seven seasons, and two/three films from 1989 to 1996 on HBO, making it one of the first original series for the groundbreaking network. This horror anthology saw unprecedented freedom in its storytelling, using the EC Comics umbrella (Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, The Crypt of Terror, Crime SuspenStories, and more) from the ’50s as its source material. With acclaimed film directors and producers Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver, and Robert Zemeckis backing the vehicle, A-list actors and directors were also eager to lend their talents to the series.

I have vivid memories of this series from my childhood, setting it up to record on the VCR and then watching it the proceeding morning. My local video store even had a few VHS releases from the series (containing three episodes a piece) that I voraciously checked out as often as I could. While an overabundance of anthology series have seen creation through the years (and there’s a particular boon going on right now for the format), Tales From the Crypt connected in a special way. Its simple, dark fables that showed the tables getting turned on unjust individuals or hapless fools is universally relatable. This deep library of pulpy stories was also the perfect material for Hollywood’s best to let their hair down and just have some goddamn fun (a feeling present in every single episode).

With news of M. Night Shyamalan’s revival of the series on TNT, we thought that we’d explore 15 of the series’ finest episodes, showing the warped morality that made this horror so much fun.

15. “Mournin’ Mess” (Season 3, Episode 10)

Directed by: Manny Coto; Written by: Manny Coto; Original Air Date: July 31, 1991

“Help? Mr. Sweeney, you need burial.”

Steven Weber plays one of the most delightful assholes that you’ll ever come across (and this is a series that specializes in delightful assholes) in this installment. He plays an alcoholic newspaper reporter that stumbles upon the story of a lifetime. As a trend in homeless people murders begins to plague the area, Weber’s apathetic reporter begins to connect the dots towards a local charity. The episode is both written and directed by Manny Coto, who the series is likely utilizing for his Dr. Giggles notoriety, even though now most people might be more familiar with him from his work on 24 and Dexter. His cavalier plotting on those shows is perfect for Tales From the Crypt’s pulpy vibe.

“Mournin’ Mess” might be far from the best episode of Tales From the Crypt, but its twist reveal at the end leaves me with some of the most glee that I’ve ever had with the series. While the show has run through the litany of A-list creatures like vampires, werewolves, and zombies, the monsters here turn out to be ghouls. Yet they treat them like they are just as popular of a threat as anything else. I always thought of ghouls to be more of a general term, so to see the embracing of the human-eating monsters so thoroughly here was always amusing to me. It’s like if a bunch of people ripped off their masks and said, “We’re boogeymen!” It also doesn’t hurt that the name of the charity association, the Grateful Homeless Outcasts and Unwanted Layaways Society, is a acronym for G.H.O.U.L.S., which is so ridiculously stupid that it turns back to brilliant.

14. “Death of Some Salesman” (Season 5, Episode 1)

Directed by: Gilbert Adler; Written by: A.L. Katz and Gilbert Adler; Original Air Date: October 2, 1993

“You take cash!”

Now this has all of the makings of a classic Tales From the Crypt episode. A conniving cemetery plot salesman takes his smart brand of conning to the very wrong house when he disturbs the Brackett household. Rooting for and against this corrupt protagonist (played by Ed Begley Jr., no less) is what Tales From the Crypt is all about. The real showpiece of the episode though is that the three members of the twisted Brackett family are all played by Tim Curry (Curry’s work is so incredible here, it nearly brought the show an Emmy for his performance). Tales From the Crypt mainstays A.L. Katz and Gilbert Adler (who would stay with the franchise all the way up to directing Bordello of Blood) bring this story to life, with lots of welcome backwoods stereotypes being played into and subverted simultaneously. There’s a lot to enjoy here—including the rug pull of an ending—but this one is all about Tim Curry. The sex scene with his repulsive Winona in juxtaposition to the hot scene that starts off the entry is brilliant, too. “Death of Some Salesman” would start off the season’s fifth season strong and act as an example of just what sort of vehicle this show could be for a performer.

13. “Cutting Cards” (Season 2, Episode 3)

Directed by: Walter Hill; Written by: Walter Hill, Mae Woods; Original Air Date: April 21, 1990

“Of course you gotta think. Thinking’s the fun part of it. Thinking about it. Thinking about what’s gonna happen. Listen to that little wheel of fortune click and turn into place when you ease back the hammer…What do you think, Sam? You gonna scream? Yeah, you will.”

A favorite amongst many fans of the series, “Cutting Cards” is just good old fashioned fun. Writer/director Walter Hill delivers a doomed story masquerading as a fun rivalry between two out-of-control gamblers who can’t stand one another. This episode is pure one-upmanship as Lance Henriksen and Kevin Tighe relentlessly ping-pong back and forth with each other. There’s not a ton of depth going on here, just marveling at these two unhealthy obsessives warring off against one another. Their rivalry barrels ahead, too, with the pacing being pretty relentless for a relatively short episode of the series. The performances are so alive here and even if the episode might not be the scariest at times, the tunnel vision on its simple premise becomes terrifying in itself. The ending here is also perfect and one of the better example of how hell truly can be other people.

12. “Dead Right” (Season 2, Episode 1)

Directed by: Howard Deutch; Written by: Andy Wolk; Original Air Date: April 21, 1990

“I loathe you, Charlie. Every day with you is like an eternity in hell!”

Tales From the Crypt would kick off its sophomore season with the Demi Moore-starring, “Dead Right.” Familiar, yet reliable, territory is turned to here as Moore’s character plays an unscrupulous gold digger who’s looking to cash in. She marries a slobbish oaf of a man (played by Jeffrey Tambour, in an impeccable “gross-suit”) after learning from a fortuneteller that she’ll become rich after his inevitable death, and things are off to the races from that point. A pre-fame Moore and Tambour do fantastic jobs here, and there’s such a delight to be taken from not only his total love for her, but also her complete disgust towards him. She literally vomits from giving him a peck on the lips at one point—that’s the sort of monster they’re billing this schlub as. Tambour taps into some genuinely terrifying anger in this episode, and it’s a little surprising that director Howard Deutch primarily works within comedy. With all of the supernatural terror that Tales From the Crypt would get into, there’s also something to be said for the completely human action of having a psychotic break over matters of the heart, too. The ending here is a welcome, intelligent twist that turns the tables in the appropriate manner. Vorna’s always right, after all.

11. Collection Completed (Season 1, Episode 6)

Directed by: Mary Lambert; Written by: Whitney Brown, Randolph Davis, and Battle Davis; Original Air Date: June 28, 1989

“I believe in using chloroform. Doesn’t shock the system, muscles don’t tense up, and they pull away from the bones like butter.”

If “Dead Right” is all about the horrors of marrying someone that you cannot stomach, then “Collection Completed” is about the dangers of realizing that your better half can just as easily turn into your worst enemy. A simple, innocuous story follows an elderly couple (M Emmett Walsh and Audra Lindley) settling into retirement life together. What should be a peaceful final chapter to their lives together sees the two of them driving each other crazy, with the main contention point being the unreasonable number of pets that have been brought into the home. With this still being the show’s first season, the places that the series would go to were still a mystery and there was hardly a real formula in place yet. This seems like a riff on All in the Family or something before the very, very dark turn is taken that rides the episode out. The final shot of the episode is one of my absolute favorites in all of Crypt history. The taxidermied version of the husband (with the make-up effects done by Thomas and Bari Burman, the people responsible for Sloth from The Goonies) is absolutely horrendous, and won’t be leaving your memory any time soon.

10. Top Billing (Season 3, Episode 5)

Directed by: Todd Holland; Written by: Myles Berkowitz; Original Air Date: June 26, 1991

Perhaps I was wrong about the young man. He does have the look, after all.

Something that Tales From the Crypt would repeatedly perfect was the art of casting celebrities in roles that felt tailor-made for their public personas. “Top Billing” is such an instance where Saturday Night Live’s Jon Lovitz is cast as a struggling actor hungry for his dream role in Hamlet. This casting decision feels more than a little influenced by Lovitz’ recurring SNL character, the Master Thespian, but surprisingly Lovitz’ portrayal of Barry doesn’t go for laughs but rather soul-crushing sorrow (the trajectory that Lovitz’ career has taken also adds some further poignancy to this depressing entry). Lovitz’ struggle is very real here, and rather than the self-entitled sycophants that fuel most Tales From the Crypt episodes, Barry feels like he’s being especially tested by the world. His decision to ultimately murder the actor that’s poised to “steal away” his role seems like the natural progression of this frustrated man rather than a string of shitty behavior that caught up with him. The final moments of “Top Billing” are some of Tales From the Crypt’s most spiteful. Not only is Barry’s winning of his role not what he expected (turns out he wasn’t auditioning for Hamlet, but rather Yorick—you know, the skull), his remains are unceremoniously thrown out a window into the streets. Many Tales From the Crypt episodes have seen a conclusion where the protagonist is at rock bottom, but this is the only one where the loser’s face is eaten by a dog, being recognized as a piece of trash.

Plus, it’s got the Cryptkeeper reciting iambic pentameter in the beginning, so how can you pass that up?

9. Yellow (Season 3, Episode 14)

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis; Written by: Gilbert Adler and A.L. Katz & Jim Thomas and John Thomas; Original Air Date: August 28, 1991

“To Martin – Let Courage Be Thy Name. Love, Dad.”

“Yellow” is without a doubt Tales From the Crypt at its most cinematic. Right from its incredibly ornate, expensive tracking shot that opens up the episode, this installment feels a little out of the norm. The episode chronicles Kirk Douglas and his son, Eric, portraying a father and son in the military, in a war story about courage, honor, and being able to perform soldierly duties set at the height of the first World War. The piece is also obviously riffing on Paths of Glory, adding a little more gravitas to Kirk Douglas’ performance (which also netted him an Emmy nomination here), too. “Yellow” feels tonally askew from the rest of the series, however many recognize it as one of the series’ stronger entries. It also likely doesn’t hurt that Zemeckis is the one in the director’s chair again for the installment.

If at any moment the episode sticks out (such as its 40 minute runtime, making it the longest episode in the series), it’s likely due to the fact that it was originally a third of Two-Fisted Tales, a pilot for a spin-off that aired on the USA network only once (Season four’s “Showdown” and “King of the Road” were the other two pieces). The pilot was still focusing on publications from the EC Comics line, but all with a war theme in place (and William Sadler hosting the joint as a phantom-like sharp-shooter, which would have been awesome). “Yellow” might not be the most surprising Tales From the Crypt episode, but it’s a very powerful one that’s bleakly to the point when it comes to its ending. Sometimes the bluntness of something can be the scariest thing of all.

8. Split Personality (Season 4, Episode 11)

Directed by: Joel Silver; Written by: Fred Dekker; Original Air Date: August 26, 1992

“Two’s the magic number.”

Shifting gears entirely, “Split Personality” is a (relatively) light-hearted romp that has Joe Pesci playing a deliciously slimy con man. Pesci is pretty perfectly cast here (although do yourself a favor and picture the casting choices for this and “Yellow” being reversed). He’s given many opportunities to lose his temper, having yelling fits, and act misogynistic (not to mention a wonderful/terrible striptease to “I’m Too Sexy”). The only thing that Pesci’s character seems to like more than money, is the number two (it’s weird…I know), and so wouldn’t you know it that he stumbles upon two gorgeous twins that are too eager to make his acquaintance. The episode is producer extraordinaire Joel Silver’s lone directing credit (and what a statement to be making in doing so), with a script by the always campily reliable Fred Dekker of House, Night of the Creeps, and Monster Squad fame.

What I love so much about this episode is the sheer greed of Pesci’s character. He could easily live happily ever after with one of these women, but he tries to pull off the absolutely outrageous con of pretending to have a twin of his own and marry both women. It’s such a ridiculous plan that’s only topped by the twins’ reaction to finding out the truth. The final image here is some truly messed up stuff that makes the “innocent” material before it all the more impactful.

7. Carrion Death (Season 3, Episode 2)

Directed by: Stephen E. de Souza; Written by: Stephen E. de Souza; Original Air Date: June 15, 1991

“All right. It’s been nice traveling with you cop, but this is where we go our separate ways. Believe me, this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me.”

This episode is just so much fun. Like it’s a really solid, suspenseful piece of television, even if you don’t have an unreasonable obsession with Kyle MacLachlan. Shifting the horror to a blistering desert, “Carrion Death” acts as a welcome homage to westerns like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, and Sergio Leone in general, with the slight genre change paying off. Kyle MacLachlan plays bank robber/serial killer, Earl Raymond Diggs, who the law is on hot pursuit of as the criminal races towards the safety of the Mexican border. MacLachlan is an interesting casting choice here, and using him against type works reasonably well. Making him simply a bank robber would have been enough too, but the episode’s insistence on making him a worse person (he’s frequently monologuing about his murders) is a nice hyperbolized touch here. Kind of brilliantly, rather than the entire episode being a game of wits between Diggs and the law, Diggs deals with the police officer fairly early on. Only before he manages to do him in, the cop swallows the key to the handcuffs that are binding the two of them together. Now Diggs is stuck dragging dead weight through the aimless, sweltering heat, with no hope on the horizon. This all leads to some great “desert madness” rantings courtesy of Diggs to the vultures that continually follow him along.

The episode is written and directed by Stephen E. de Souza (acting as a reunion of sorts for The Flintstones screenwriter and his Mr. Slate casting choice), who had a legitimate career as a legendary action scribe, penning the scripts for things like Commando, The Running Man, and a little art house film known as Die Hard, and he takes to this hard-boiled thriller script like gangbusters. De Souza’s script is full of ingenious moments, like the ways in which Diggs uses the cop’s corpse as some sort of shelter from the elements at times, or even the makeshift blade he forges out of the cop’s sharpened badge (although the results there are hardly in Diggs’ favor). “Carrion Death” never lets up and is satisfying right up to its final, over-the-top moments.

It also effortlessly nails what the last episode of True Detective’s second season was trying to do with Vince Vaughn’s character. So there’s that, too.

6. Television Terror (Season 2, Episode 16)

Directed by: Charlie Picerni; Written by: Randall Johnson and G.J. Pruss; Original Air Date: July 17, 1990

“Rumors of ghosts, voices in the night weird lights and sound. Nonsense? Or is this modern day chamber of horrors truly haunted? Tonight, we’ll find out.”

Haunted houses. We’re getting into the staples of the genre here, and when Tales From the Crypt digs into the classics, it doesn’t hold back. “Television Terror” is a pleasing mash-up that wears its ‘90sness on its sleeve. Radio shock jock from the ‘80s and Jerry Springer prototype, Robert Morton Jr., headlines the entry playing a TV personality that’s not too far from home for him. Horton Rivers (Robert Morton Jr.) wants to investigate a house that a bunch of murders happened in five years ago and see if its alleged “haunted” status has any truth to it. Take a wild guess if it does? What’s kind of cool here is that the live filming technique that the episode employs ends up becoming one of the first examples of found footage horror, which is kind of incredible. In that sense, the episode fits the mold of traditional found footage horror quite effectively. Things take some time to get moving, but once they do the filming style ramps everything up to great effect. Not only is “Television Terror” one of the grislier installments of the series, it’s also commonly seen as one of its scarier episodes, hence its higher position here.

5. The Ventriloquist’s Dummy (Season 2, Episode 10)

Directed by: Richard Donner; Written by: Frank Darabont; Original Air Date: June 5, 1990

“I’m splitting up the act!”

 From one trope to another, the creepy ventriloquist’s dummy is another well that the series would draw from to great success. I’ve always thought the ventriloquist’s dummy was an effectively creepy tool (this episode gives Anthony Hopkins’ Magic a run for its money, which is saying something), but there’s a lot to get excited about in this episode beyond that. Bobcat Goldthwait and Don Rickles lead the cast, for instance, and both deliver great performances. There’s a supreme empathy underlying the whole entry as you truly feel for Goldthwait’s Billy Goldman. Then, on top of it all you’ve got Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon, Superman) directing, and the always reliable Frank Darabont (Nightmare on Elm Street 3, The Mist, The Walking Dead) writing the episode. “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” does an expert job at tapping into the struggles of being a performer, and seeing the two comedy heavyweights playing this seriously has a lot more value to it. I’ve said this for a lot of these episodes (this is a look at the finest, after all), but the twist that goes down here is legendary, with the puppetry and effect work doing some phenomenal work here. This creature has such a distinct look to him. Oh, and the full-on Sam Raimi homage that goes down once Mr. Ingels’ brother is “let loose” is an example of how good a director Donner is, and the amount of unbridled fun that this show will allow itself to have.

4. Easel Kill Ya (Season 3, Episode 8)

Directed by: John Harrison; Written by: Larry Wilson; Original Air Date: July 17, 1991

“They lack one thing, one supremely important thing: the artist’s touch his ability to interpret the horror of the world through the darkness of his own soul. You have some of that darkness, don’t you Jack?”

 “Easel Kill Ya” is just fantastic. It’s Tales From the Crypt firing on all cylinders, and there’s such a perfect logic to everything here that gives its ending (which kicks ass) an extra oomph. It seriously feels like this is what a Larry David episode of Tales From the Crypt would look like, with how all of these events dovetail together so horrifically by the time that the credits roll. You could seriously cue up the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme over the ending and it wouldn’t seem out of place. The episode’s focus is on Jack Craig, an unsuccessful, addict of a painter who is tired of watching opportunities pass him by.

Craig is played by a largely unknown Tim Roth (this was pre-Reservoir Dogs), who does a wonderful pained, moody performance through all of this. Craig eventually catches a break in the form of William Atherton’s foreboding art dealer who is a collector of “morbid art.” When Jack realizes he has an incredible knack for painting the deceased, it’s not long until he’s taking matters into his own hands in order to keep the inspiration and pay checks flowing. This of course isn’t all that different from A Bucket of Blood, the premier film on artists killing for inspiration, but this actually came prior to the Corman film, so there.

The director, John Harrison in no stranger of anthologies by any means, helming a number of Tales From the Darkside entries (let alone, the movie), and the episode’s writer, Larry Wilson, would end up writing five Tales From the Crypt scripts by the end of his tenure, making him well versed in the medium, too (while also having a hand in Beetlejuice’s script, which can’t be overlooked). Watching Craig try to clean up his act as the world continues to push him into darkness packs a large impact that helps the narrative greatly. As mentioned earlier, “Easel Kill Ya’s” ending is one of the most brutal reversals that the show has ever pulled. It’s a terribly dark note to go out on, and it really leaves you wondering what will become of Roth’s Jack Craig now that he even has less to live for.

3. Abra Cadaver (Season 3, Episode 4)

Directed by: Stephen Hopkins; Written by: Jim Birge; Original Air Date: June 19, 1991

“Martin was wrong about one thing, the sense of touch isn’t the first thing to go… it’s the last!”

 A lot of people’s favorite episode, and one that causes me to cringe simply thinking about its horrid subject matter, “Abra Cadaver” is a real gem. Directed by (the underrated) Predator 2’s Stephen Hopkins, he’s injecting flair all over this piece, whether it’s through the black-and-white prologue, or the heavy stylistic device that the episode hinges itself on. See, “Abra Cadaver” is about the Fairbanks brothers (Beau Bridges and Tony Goldwyn), who are both doctors working on unlocking the secrets of resurrection (they’ve even got Frank Herbert’s glowing green Re-Animator serum to boot, apparently). Part of the fun here is watching how the two archetypal brothers essentially switch roles after the “incident” has taken place, giving each actor something meaty to chew on (when we’re not focusing on the ridiculous pot smoking Haitian morgue worker). As is the constant rug pulling that’s done to the audience through all of this. Seriously, the episode basically conditions you to not trust that anyone is actually dead until we’ve seen them flat line like five times in a row.

The real reason to get excited about “Abra Cadaver” though is that the whole thing nearly plays out through first-person perspective, as Dr. Carl Fairbanks becomes “trapped” in his “dead” body while we hear his interior monologue during the whole thing. It’s a brilliant conceit that’s used very well here and only makes this idea all the more frightening, and surprisingly the episode thinks of a number of fun variations on the structure, too. In fact, it’s an experiment that would work so well for the series that Robert Zemeckis would more or less remake the episode (or render it irrelevant, your call) for the ambitious sixth season premiere, “You, Murderer.”

“You, Murderer” succeeds in some areas where “Abra Cadaver” doesn’t, but the real difference between the two pieces is that “You, Murderer” is more interested in having silly, fun with this idea, whereas “Abra Cadaver” purely wants to make you uncomfortable. This entry can be very hard to watch at times, and is constantly reminding you of how fucking horrible of a situation that this would be to be caught in. Moments like Carl’s body being drained, hung up on meat hooks, or the blood that drips down his skull (and over the camera/POV) as he’s peeled open all twist your stomach in different ways. The ending might be a little reductive after everything that’s been gone through, but it by no means negates what’s gone on before it.

Watch this episode before going in for surgery. I just dare you to.

2. People Who Lives in Brass Hearses (Season 5, Episode 5)

Directed by: Russell Mulcahy; Written by: Scott Nimerfro; Original Air Date: October 13, 1993

“Brotherhood is kinda like a bond, isn’t it? The kind that you can’t easily walk away from.”

This episode might not end up on all of the “Best Of” lists, but it has an undeniable weirdness to it that it embraces from the start and never lets up. A familiar road for the series, some two-bit, get-rich-quickers are our lens here, as Bill Paxton and Brad Dourif do their best Of Mice and Men impressions. They star as two dim-witted, butter obsessed (a peculiar detail that’s never elaborated on, rather than being quirky for quirky’s sake, yet it works) schemers that set their sights on a kindly ice cream man because that’s obviously where all the big scores lie. The episode’s director, Russell Mulcahy earned the nickname “Bucket of Blood” on the Tales From the Crypt set due to just how violent and gratuitous this installment is. Faces are getting blown up with such ferocity that you’d think this was some screen test for The Hateful Eight or something. Add to the fact that the episode saw scripting by Scott Nimerfro, one of Hannibal’s head honchos, and it’s easy to see how this becomes such a viscera-flinging adventure.

As the DeLuca brothers get closer to their ill-gotten gains, the episode heads towards one of the series’ endings that I remember the most vividly and I’m sure will permanently be burned in my brain. Or at least flash through my mind’s eye whenever I hear ice cream truck music flitting by. I remember renting a VHS of this episode repeatedly, and it was the sort of horror magic that woke up my young brain and showed me what this show was really capable of. “People Who Live In Brass Hearses” is human, weird, terrifying, and unbelievable in the way that only Tales From the Crypt is capable of. Now are you sure you still want to investigate that ice cream truck that always smells bad?

1. The New Arrival (Season 4, Episode 7)

Directed by: Peter Medak; Written by: Ron Finley; Original Air Date: July 25, 1992

“Ignore it…Ignore it…Ignore it.”

This might not only be the best Tales From the Crypt episode in my opinion, but it’s a deeply unsettling piece of entertainment in general, whether it’s in the obvious ways that it paints an uncomfortable home life for Nora (a perfectly cast Zelda Rubenstein from the Poltergeist films) and her daughter, Felicity, or the more subtle, subliminal touches that get under your skin and start making your “madness meter” go off uncontrollably. “The New Arrival” tells the story of a self-help radio psychiatrist (think if Frasier Crane moved from Boston to New York, instead of Seattle) that is slowly losing his luster and in need of some ratings magic stat (his book, The Art of Ignoring Your Child isn’t the best-seller that it once was). These desperate times lead the good doctor Lothar and his crew to do a house call with a very particular “bad girl” who is in need of rehabilitation.

That alone is an appealing setup, and the number of angles that the episode could go in accordingly hold a lot of potential, yet “The New Arrival” comfortably finds the most messed up idea and runs with it. Felicity is creepy as sin to begin with (as is her bedroom, goodness), due to the weird porcelain mask that she runs around in. Seriously, less is more here, and when is something like this not the most terrifying thing? Felicity is only the tip of the iceberg here, as this slowly turns into a Rube Goldberg machine of murder as people get picked off one by one. Renegade ceiling fans, electrified doorknobs, and tight, dark hallways that are lined with razor blades aren’t just scary situations to be stuck in, they’re outright insane, and just seeing where this episode decides to go is where a lot of the fun lies. It’s easy to see how director Medak could become the man behind the camera that would work on such gorgeous television series as Carnivale, The Wire, and Breaking Bad.

Ultimately, Lothar decides that all of this has been a complicated ruse, with Felicity merely being a disassociated persona of Nora as she runs around in a costume. Surprise, surprise. It’s not. And the truth that the episode leaves you with, combined with Lothar’s grim fate, is a fantastic conclusion that manages to make Felicity even scarier than when she’s running around in that mask. Seriously, the end here is just a nightmare, and to think of this merely being part of a cycle that will never end is the scariest thing of all.

We’ll see what TNT and Shyamalan bring to the table here, and in spite of my heavy reservations, I’d like to remain optimistic. He’s going to have an uphill battle with his new Cryptkeeper character (the original is owned by HBO), but that’s not to say he couldn’t wind up with something interesting. It should be curious to see if any of the episodes highlighted here will see new life and exploration through the new series. There’s never been more incredible horror talent out there at the moment (there have been two anthology films with segments for every letter in the alphabet), and it could be fascinating to see what someone like Ti West would do with “The New Arrival” or Oren Peli with “Television Terror.”

Well you know what they say, boils and ghouls, be scareful what you wish for, it just might come boo!

More Macabre Madness For You Boils and Ghouls: “The Man Who Was Death” (Season 1, Episode 1), “And All Through the House” (Season 1, Episode 2), “Dig That Cat…He’s Real Gone” (Season 1, Episode 3), “For Cryin’ Out Loud” (Season 2, Episode 8), “Werewolf Concerto” (Season 4, Episode 13), “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” (Season 6, Episode 1)



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COMMENTS

26 Comments
  • Pulagatha

    No Korman’s Kalamity? That’s a great list of best episodes though.

  • Riiiiiiiiiight

    I agree with a lot of your choices, but definitely NOT the order. I would argue that “Death Of Some Salesman” is THE BEST episode of the series due to the very acting and twist ending you mentioned.

    I would also jettison #’s 3 and 4 and replace them with Zemeckis’ “All Through The House”, which was directed through the teeth and tense throughout, and also “House Of Horrors”, which was fun and kept me guessing as to what was really going on in the episode until the very end.

  • Fracassi

    Mourning Mess was pretty good. I actually like Steven Weber in his horror roles, and although The Shining isn’t my favorite TV movie, he plays Jack Torrance quite well. Segue – His audible narration on Stephen King’s IT is absolutely fantastic. My favorite Tales from the Crypt episodes are Curiosity Killed, Comes the Dawn, People Who Live in Brass Hearses, The Man Who Was Death, and Carrion Death.

    • Fracassi

      Almost forgot – the Will Wheaton episode is really fun too.

      • Riiiiiiiiiight

        “House Of Horrors”

        • Fracassi

          HA. Thanks. I love that episode. “Yes it does appear to be K9 fecal material sir.”

  • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

    Eh… Yellow was the worst episode imo (yeah, worse than anything of season 7). Didnt really fit the show, and even on its own it was just really bland and uninteresting.

    And #1 should always be Television Terror. -slap

    • Riiiiiiiiiight

      “Television Terror” was definitely great, maybe #2 or #3 for me. The great episodes were the ones that weren’t overly long and had more scares to offer than some gory little twist ending.

  • Grimphantom

    I’m surprise the ones on the bottom i consider being the best episodes.

  • no “Strung Along’ ? the really creepy episode about the puppeteer and his murderous clown puppet ?

  • Flu-Like Symptoms

    I always had a soft spot for “The Switch”.

  • BlingRhames

    Lower Berth should be on this list. Plus, it’s an origin story of the Crypt Keeper himself.
    “Enoch, the two-faced man, an attraction at a sideshow, falls in love with a 2,000 year old mummy, eventually leading up to the conception of their bastard child, The Crypt Keeper.”

    so if you ever wondered… how that pun throwing weirdo came into existence watch “Lower Berth”.

    And… Split Personality is borderline unwatchable. I remember thinking that when I saw it as a kid and then more recently when I watched it again a couple of years ago. Just really, really, not good.

  • Vader the White

    Three of my favorites (the first three episodes of Season 1) are in the honorable mentions? And no “Lower Berth?”
    Well, my favorite (“Television Terror”) made it, along with one of the first episodes I ever saw (as an adult at least), “Mournin’ Mess”, which led me to buying all seven seasons on DVD>

  • Jason Stein

    I saw The New Arrival in middle school and it freaked me out so much I kept the lights on when I went to bed. Yellow is my absolute favorite episode, it even has Dan Akroyd.

  • shawn lawson

    “Split second” all day! Wtf?!!!!! Episode is a riot and gory.

  • Bob Marshall

    Television Terror is the single greatest TFTC episode.

  • Ben_Jammin

    Nice list, particularly New Arrival, Top Billing and Collection Completed, but it’s missing another classic. I call this adventure in fine dining, “What’s Cookin'”!

  • Foxenstein Must Be Destroyed

    what’s that one where the woman goes to parties and takes the face off men who freak out when they realize she’s not wearing a mask? i like that episode.

  • Frank Lloyd Jr.

    Wasn’t there an episode of the show “The Hitchhiker” with an ending similar to “Split Personality”?

  • Fracassi

    I like that David Warner is in the number one episode. When I was a kid I thought he was the coolest villain in Tron.

  • ConnieHinesDorothyProvine

    That was one of the awesomest shows ever.

  • Raul Calvo

    I think “You, murderer” is a nod to the Humphrey Bogart movie Dark Passage more than a riff on Abra Cadaver. Dark Passage is a movie from 1947 that is known because the first part of the movie is in the POV of the protagonist.

  • murdermakesmecum666

    i reallly liked the switch, threes a crowd, loved to death, forever ambergris, operation friendship.

  • Garth Goudelock

    A really solid list. I am one of the biggest TftC fans out there and usually I take issue with these lists because I just don’t agree. But each of these is one of my favorites. Based on mood others could be swapped in, but can’t say I disagree with any of these.

  • Mrs_Spengler

    In the “Television Terror” part of the article, you got the actor’s name wrong. It’s Morton Downey Jr. not Robert Morton Jr.

    • Daniel Encarnacion

      yeah i noticed that one. They also screwed up in Abra Cadaver… Dr. Herbert West is the guy from Re-Animator. Not Frank Herbert, he’s the guy who wrote the awesome, amazing, and kickass Dune Series lol…

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