Tales from the Crypt, HBO’s iconic horror series adapted from the classic EC comics achieved cult status due to a fun mix of gore and laughs. Though the show was delightfully over the top, ushered in by the hilarious Crypt Keeper, episodes could still pack a terrifying punch. So settle in, boils and ghouls, as we take a look at the most shocking installments of the series…
5. “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy”
This season two episode of Tales from the Crypt stars Bob Goldthwait as Billy, a failing ventriloquist struggling to develop his act. He seeks out his idol, the retired ventriloquist Mr. Ingles, played by an incredibly game Don Rickles. However, the secret to Mr. Ingles’s successful comedy career isn’t as simple as practice makes perfect.
Billy discovers that Mr. Ingles’s dummy, Morty, is his conjoined twin (attached to where his right hand should be!). Morty is manipulative and murderous, and hijinks ensue. The story punches out on one of the most twisted moments of the series. This hallmark episode happens to be directed by Goonies director Richard Donner.
4. “Carrion Death”
A criminal (Kyle MacLachlan) attempts to escape to Mexico after robbing a bank in this season three episode. However, a determined police officer relentlessly pursues him. Their intense chase leads to a crash, but the officer refuses to give up, emerging from the wreckage to continue the pursuit. The cop manages to handcuff himself to MacLachlan’s character, swallowing the key before he succumbs to injuries the criminal gave him.
What follows is a war of attrition as the criminal attempts to walk across the desert to freedom as he drags the cop’s body along with him. Meanwhile, a vulture lurks, clearly anticipating an opportunity. Possibly one of the goriest endings of Tales from the Crypt, this one will have you skipping your next meal…
3. “Television Terror”, a ‘Tales from the Crypt’ That Relies on Classic Scares
A TV personality (Morton Downey Jr) known for covering sensational topics embarks on a spine-chilling episode in his career as he explores a haunted house. This particular house has a dark history, once occupied by a woman who committed fratricide for insurance money. In this episode, the atmosphere takes center stage, creating a sense of gloom and fear as the TV host explores each room.
Despite the season two episode’s predictable storyline, the creaking floorboards and moving shadows intensify the claustrophobic experience. A rare Tales from the Crypt that bypasses gore for more classic scares. It’s also great seeing Morton Downey Jr lean into his own image as a somewhat sleazy TV host.
2. “Forever Ambergris”
Now this season five episode is an absolute gorefest. Combat photographer Dalton Scott, portrayed by Roger Daltrey, finds himself constantly living in the shadow of talented photographer Isaac Forte, played by Steve Buscemi. Determined to surpass Forte, Scott concocts a plan to take over his life, even going as far as pursuing Isaac’s wife.
Though on some level this Tales from the Crypt episode shows the potential horror of germ warfare, it’s really a showcase for gory special effects. In one vivid scene, the flesh of a man starts to decay, seep, and peel away while still connected to his living body. However, the moral message of how jealousy can ruin relationships resonates.
1. The Most Shocking Episode of ‘Tales from the Crypt’…”Abra Cadaver”
The season three episode “Abra Cadaver” revolves around two brothers, Carl (Tony Goldwyn) and Martin (Beau Bridges), who took different paths after attending medical school. Carl pulled a prank that left Martin with paralysis in one hand, leading him to become a medical assistant, while Carl became a successful surgeon. In his quest for revenge, Martin administers an experimental drug to Carl, preserving the vitality of his brain while rendering his body lifeless.
This episode is shown mostly through Carl’s POV, with Tony Goldwyn narrating as an internal monologue. This uniquely shot Tales from the Crypt delves into themes of vengeance, the perils of practical jokes, and the terror of mortality. Goldwyn does a haunting job making the viewer experience his visceral fear of death, while Bridges chews scenery hamming it up. It also has a nice, well-earned twist ending that ties all of the themes together.
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