Saturday, November 7, 2015

TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT (1995) (Blu-ray Review)

TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT (1995) 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 93 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, 2.0 DTS-HD MA Stereo with Optional Englisg Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Cast: Billy Zane, Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Jada Pinkett, John Kassir, Thomas Haden Church, William Sadler


Synopsis: A mysterious drifter known as Brayker (William Sadler, Iron Man 3) possesses the last of seven ancient keys that hold the power to stop the forces of darkness and protect all humanity from ultimate evil. But the human race is safe only so long as Brayker can evade the demonic Collector (Billy Zane, Titanic) who has gathered the other six keys. In his obsessive quest for the key, the Collector rallies an army of ghastly cadavers against Brayker and the inhabitants of a run-down hotel. Armed with automatic weapons, sacred blood and sadistic humor, Brayker and the strong-willed Jeryline (Jada Pinkett-Smith, Gotham) must lead the other guests in a gruesome battle against the Collector and his evil horde of ghouls.

Too often I find myself having conversations with horror fans who have nothing kind to say of nineties horror, I count myself among them. There's always a few noteworthy nods to Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness, The Blair Witch Project, John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness and so on, but  very rarely does anyone mention Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight as one of the highlights of nineties horrors, and that's a low down dirty shame in my opinion.

Demon Knight is a ton of horror fun, starring William Sadler 
(The Shawshank Redemption) as Brayker, a man on the run and a force of good. He has in his possession an ancient key filled with the blood of Christ that the demonic forces of evil want for themselves. It seems they need it to unleash their Evil across the Earth. Evil incarnate here is faced by Billy Zane (Dead Calm) as The Collector - not to be confused with the Marvel character. Zane offers a deliciously manic performance which was pure joy from beginning to end, he is unhinged in the best possible sense of the word. Both men arrive at a decommissioned church which now serves as a hotel, in Wormwood, New Mexico, which is where the battle between good and evil will unfold, now the inhabitants of the hotel becoming unwilling combatants, forced to fight for the forces of good or give into the seductive power of evil. Billy Zane is the sort of charismatic guy that everyone is drawn to, he knows your inner-most secrets and desires. When things don't go his way and the key seems to be slipping from his grasp he goes off the deep end, first he punches a hole through the sheriff's head, which is a fun moment of gore, and then he slices open his own hand, spilling a fluorescent green demon-blood which he splashes on the ground. From those glowing-green pools arise glowing green-eyed demons who lay siege upon the hotel, while The Collector tries to turn and seduce various inhabitants of the hotel towards evil.

The ensemble cast is damn good, we have CCH Pounder (Bagdad Cafe) as the stubborn hotel proprietor, Jada Pinkett Smith (Gotham) as an ex-con hired on as help, the venerable Dick Miller (Gremlins) as a local drunk and Thomas Hatden Church (Sideways) as the local misogynist jerk. Brenda Bakke (L.A. Confidential) appears as the hooker with a heart of gold, and Charles Fleischer (the voice of Bugs Bunny) pops up as an irate postal worker. A great cast all around and they're all turning in strong performances, no one is phoning it in, but none more so than Billy Zane as the charismatic, sarcastic and straight up seductive face of evil. 

The special effects are top notch, this one is loaded with way more gore than I had remembered from previous viewings, and it looks splendid in HD! Arms are ripped off, faces are destroyed, and there are loads of green goo and awesome demonic creature designs, the look of the creatures are very cool, and when one of  kid is transformed into a demon it looks like something straight out of John Carpenter's The Thing.  Demon Knight is a sorely underrated horror entry, loaded with some good gore, wry humor and an action packed demon-siege movie, all of which makes this one Hell of a good time.

Audio/Video: Demon Knight arrives on Blu-ray for the first time in North America from Scream Factory with a very pleasing AVC encoded transfer that is quite a step up over previous standard definition incarnations. There's a nice clarity and crispness to the image with nicely managed grain and some shining moments of fine detail. Onto the audio we have the choice of DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo or 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles. The original stereo track sounds great, well balanced and with some power behind it. The surround options offers some discreet use of the surrounds with demonic siege upon the decommissioned church with crackling thunder throughout, it's a good surround track. 

Onto the extras we have two new audio commentaries, the first from Director Ernest Dickerson moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, Dickerson speaks proudly of the movie with some nice insights into how he came onto the movie and making it. The second commentary comes by way of Special Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vliet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo, And Demon Performer Walter Phelan. The team speak about the technical aspects of making some of the great effects from the movie, what it was like on set, with the usual fun array of behind-the-scenes stuff, the special effects guys always give us fun commentaries.

The highlight of the Blu-ray for me was the 40-minute Under Siege: The Making Of Demon Knight – featuring interviews with Director Ernest Dickerson, Co-producer A.L. Katzm Screenwriters Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, And Mark Bishop, Stars Billy Zane, William Sadler, Brenda Bakke, Charles Fleischer and others. Zane is a blast as he recalls the cast and crew and the reputation of the movie, plus it's a blast to see William Sadler and the legendary Dick Miller, the latter of whom recalls flubbing his line in the scene with the roomful of nude women. It's a great making of doc, offers a lot of insight into the making of the movie. 


There's also a Panel Discussion From The American Cinematheque Featuring Director Ernest Dickerson, Actor Dick Miller And Special Effects Maestro Rick Baker, a gallery of images and the theatrical trailer for the movie. The disc comes in a standard Blu-ray case with a sleeve of reversible artwork, on side featuring the theatrical poster art and the other being a newly commissioned illustration from regular scream contributor Justin Osbourn, there's also a slipcover featuring the Osbourn illustration.

Special Features
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Ernest Dickerson moderated by Michael Felsher
- NEW Audio Commentary With Special Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vliet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo, And Demon Performer Walter Phelan
- NEW Under Siege: The Making Of Demon Knight – Featuring Interviews With Director Ernest Dickerson, Co-producer A.L. Katzm Screenwriters Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, And Mark Bishop, Stars Billy Zane, William Sadler, Brenda Bakke, Charles Fleischer And More (39 Mins) HD
- Panel Discussion From The American Cinematheque Featuring Director Ernest Dickerson, Actor Dick Miller And Special Effects Maestro Rick Baker (10 Mins) HD
- Still Gallery (68 Images) (6 Mins) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)


I hope this new Blu-ray brings some much deserved love to this under valued nineties entry, when we speak of nineties horror this is a title that doesn't come up often enough, a very solid and action-packed demon-siege movie that has gone under the radar for far too long. Scream Factory have put together a very nice Blu-ray release with a solid transfer and excellent extras, this is a high recommend. If you've not seen it or have dismissed it I suggest you give it watch. 3.5/5

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