The TCL Chinese Theater was taken over by the forces of darkness with a special screening of Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight. Presented by Screamfest LA, the 1995 classic returned to the big screen in Hollywood, California, complete with themed Crypt Keeper drinks, a packed house and Q&A with director Ernest Dickerson, writers Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, actor Charles Fleischer and the Crypt Keeper himself, John Kassir.
Starring William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith and Billy Zane, Demon Knight was the first of three films to be released under the Tales from the Crypt banner though it wasn’t always planned that way. Based on isolated settings such as that of Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), according to co-writer Cyrus Voris, Demon Knight was “a spec script that Ethan and I wrote with a friend of ours, Mark Bishop, originally as a sort of a low budget movie we could try to make by ourselves.” Before it became a Tales film, several horror legends were in the running to take on the role of director including Tom Holland (Child’s Play - 1988) and Mary Lambert (Pet Cemetery - 1989). The script eventually made its way to the hands of Tales producer Joel Silverman and was one of three scripts that received unanimous approval to become a Tales from the Crypt motion picture.
On casting actor Billy Zane as the villain of the film, Ernest Dickerson regaled that he was surprised to find that Billy was in fact bald, having seen Zane with a full head of hair in Dead Calm (1989). It was with Dickerson’s insistence that Billy performed bald, a look Zane would continue throughout his career till this day. Actor Charles Fleischer, who portrayed disturbed postal worker Wally Enfield, was also in attendance. He had previously worked with Tales producer Robert Zemeckis on Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Back to the Future: Part II (1989), and had performed on Star Search as a comedian alongside John Kassir.
Fans may still have some waiting to do before John Kassir’s Crypt Keeper returns to television and film. When asked about the future of Tales from the Crypt, Kassir explained that “It’s really about getting the rights back from E.C. Comics.” While the Tales may have ended, the influence of the show and films continue. Reflecting on the phenomenal effects work done by Todd Masters in creating the demons, Ernest Dickerson playfully noted that “I love Lord of the Rings, but I think Peter (Jackson) saw my movie several times.”
For information on future screenings, visit Screamfest at screamfestla.com.
View the full Q&A here: