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

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Even though TALES FROM THE CRYPT took pop culture by storm when it debuted at the tail end of the ’80s, it’s a damn shame that the first film under the series’ banner, DEMON KNIGHT, isn’t considered to be more of a genre classic. With one of the strongest ensemble casts in horror history, an imaginative script and brilliant practical effects work from Todd Masters, Ernest Dickerson’s first foray into fright filmmaking is an undeniably fun and impressive effort on all accounts. And yet, DEMON KNIGHT never quite carries the same weight as contemporary classics such as TRICK ‘R TREAT, NIGHTBREED and PUMPKINHEAD, although hopefully that reputation will turn around with the film’s incredible new Blu-ray from Scream Factory.

For those unfamiliar, DEMON KNIGHT follows a fugitive on the run who takes shelter at a local run-down inn following an explosive car accident. However, when a mysterious man shows up in pursuit of the fugitive and raises hell, the people residing at the inn band together to stave off a demonic siege. Soon, the people learn just how much is at stake, and find their faith tested in the battle between good and evil.

With the likes of William Sadler, Jada Pinkett-Smith, CCH Pounder, Thomas Haden Church, Dick Miller, Gary Farmer, Charles Fleischer, Brenda Bakke and a scene-stealing Billy Zane all on their A-game, DEMON KNIGHT is a fantastically shot and terrifyingly told film that truly feels like a top notch TALES FROM THE CRYPT story brought to the big screen. The film holds up brilliantly upon multiple rewatches, and perhaps even improves as you can catch new things upon every view. And, of course, it’s always refreshing to see the Cryptkeeper work his macabre magic, especially since he’s been woefully absent from airwaves for nearly two decades now.

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In terms of transfer, DEMON KNIGHT sports an excellent video and audio quality, which will make horror collectors swoon while newcomers will be able to appreciate the film’s strong visual style and FX that much more. The video transfer, coming from a previous HD conversion for the film’s Australian Blu release, is clear, colorful and beautifully rich in depth. Meanwhile, Scream Factory gives the film an impressive sound transfer as well, with the 5.1 sound offering guaranteed to please those with more high-end home theater set-ups.

However, the real delight of this DEMON KNIGHT disc are the incredible special features on display, which gives the film much replay value. The crown jewel of the features would be “Under Siege”, the making-of documentary which nearly regroups the entire cast and crew to sing the praises of the film and tell some excellent stories about the production, including the excised original ending (which sadly seems to be lost in time.) Yet the two brand new commentaries- one from director Ernest Dickerson and another from the film’s stellar FX crew- are also great and informative in their own right. And a American Cinematheque panel discussion- while appreciated in its inclusion- is a bit too amateurish to compete with the other, expertly produced features.

Overall, DEMON KNIGHT deserves to be in any self-respecting fright fan’s collection ASAP, especially f0r those who have yet to see the fun, freaky flick. Scream Factory did a superb job of giving the cult classic the Blu-ray disc it deserves, and with Halloween around the corner, DEMON KNIGHT should make it’s way into many horror hound’s viewing rotation, looking and sounding better than ever.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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