The first three months of 1995 kept me broke and my wallet empty. Living outside of California for the first time in my life, I lived with my mother in Albany, Oregon, where I wasn’t very popular and spent the majority of my time listening to Nine Inch Nails and playing Donkey Kong Country. I spent more time in the theater than I did at home, and well, why wouldn’t I? Just in those two months (and I still have the stubs in a box somewhere I bet) I spent my hard earned allowance watching such greats (and not so greats) such as HIGHLANDER: THE FINAL DIMENSION, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, THE MANGLER, HIDEAWAY, as well as BEFORE SUNRISE and LEGENDS OF THE FALL (I’m a horror guy through and through but if you say you don’t have a soft spot for the last two films that I mentioned, then you’re either heartless or in denial).
While those were all enjoyable as hell at the time (I don’t get a kick out of HIGHLANDER: THE FINAL DIMENSION these days as much as I did when I was 15), the film that defined those first few months of that year for me, and most of that year in general was Ernest Dickerson’s Tales From the Crypt film, DEMON KNIGHT. Watching it in a fairly empty theater, it had the ingredients that not only kept me laughing and on the edge of my seat the whole time, but it also made me return to see it an additional four more times in the same week. So, keep your demon sponges and Christ blood close, this A LOOK BACK AT article is on just that film, the great horror/comedy masterpiece,DEMON KNIGHT!
DEMON KNIGHT begins as any regular episode of the great Tales From the Crypt did, with the always entertaining Crypt Keeper (voiced again by the great John Kassir) introducing the story. After a faux film shoot goes wrong, the Keeper introduces us to DEMON KNIGHT, and off we go! In what could only be attributed to the mid nineties, the story begins with Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot“, against a car chase between two men: a drifter named Brayker (the always great William Sadler, THE MIST, DIE HARD 2) who is on the run from the other driver, A cowboy hat and trenchcoat wearing man known only as “The Collector” (Billy Zane, BACK TO THE FUTURE, DEAD CALM. A little bit into the chase, both cars are wrecked, and Brayker makes it away. He stumbles through the town and eventually makes his way to an old decommissioned church, which serves as a local motel/whorehouse/etc. He checks in under a fake name, and is introduced to a decent sized group of stowaways who inhabit the motel, including Roach (Thomas Haden Church), his regular prostitute Cordelia, Uncle Willy (Dick effin Miller!), Jeryline (Jada Pinkett Smith), a former convict trying to stay out of trouble, and a few others.
Not too long after arriving, The Collector, now escorted by the local police who had picked him up at the scene of the crash, shows up and says that brayker has something that is his: a cross filled with a substance. It’s found, and just as the Collector is about to be on his way, the police decide that something’s a little fishy and decide to take both Brayker and The Collector in, but before they can do so, The Collector punches right through the sheriff’s face, his head getting stuck on The Collector’s arm.
Brayker grabs the cross, and for some reason that we find out later, The Collector jumps out of the window, and away from the doors. Brayker opens the artifact, and pours a little of the substance on the doorway, and frustrated by it all, The Collector slices open his own hand, throwing green blood to the ground, and forming a group of demons.
Brayker uses the substance to seal all of the doors and windows, and pissed off as hell, The Collector begins to taunt and entice each of the residents, through fantasies, and attempts to persuade them to turn on each other (and Brayker), in order to retrieve the cross artifact. Little by little the number of surviviors is cut down one by one, and we eventually find out that since the crucifixion of Christ, someone has been chosen to keep the artifact (which is filled with a mix of the blood of Christ and the chosen ones) safe from the demons assigned to get it.
Through the stupidity of Roach, who sells Brayker and the rest of the gang out(and in turn gets devoured by the demons), The Collector and his evil minions gain entry into the motel, and force the gang to find shelter upstairs. As the demons close in on them, people begin to die off even faster than before, leading into some pretty fun death scenes (Uncle Willy’s possession, as well as the possession of a young kid who just happens to be reading an old Tales from the Crypt comic, are two that really stand out) and impressive special effects.
As The Collector slowly takes everyone over, only Jeryline and Brayker are left, until Brayker is badly wounded, and begins to bleed to death. The Collector attempts to talk Jeryline into being his bride in hell, but when he sees she’s not too keen on the idea, he tries to kill her, but not before getting a whole mouthful of the blood spit on his face, causing him to melt and explode. The film ends with Jeryline getting the same “chosen one” star tattoo markings as Brayker had, and she begins her newfound job of being like Brayker, a drifter. A new Collector begins his quest to track her, and the story ends.
What makes DEMON KNIGHT so great, is that like the Tales From the Crypt TV show, it never takes itself too seriously. It’s a fun, gory, comical ride, full of like I said, awesome special effects, and some memorable performances. Zane alone is worth watching it for, as evident in this video:
The guy’s a blast to watch in this film, and well, so is everyone else. It’s great to see William Sadler as the president in IRON MAN 3, but I’ve always thought he was at his best in DEMON KNIGHT, as he plays the mysterious Brayker excellently. It’s a fun movie, terrific for hanging out with friends, eating a couple pizzas and having a drink to. Check it out!