Long before you heard the trademark cackle of the Crypt-Keeper on the HBO series Tales from the Crypt spanning from 1989 to 1996, the sentiment of that signature laugh existed in printed form. The Vault of Horror comics started in the ‘50s, leading to similar titles like The Haunt of Fear and Tales From the Crypt. It was its own genre in comics and eventually became its own sub-genre in horror. The O. Henry-style tales were a perfect match for comics, but, for some reason, they took decades to reach the relatively new small screen.
The 1973 British anthology movie, The Vault of Horror, followed Tales From the Crypt (1972) and brought comic book horror into the world of cinema. At a young age, it was nearly impossible to convince a parent to buy a horror comic, but we were latch-key kids back then, so these soft-gore films would have to suffice when they appeared on late afternoon television. British accents meant it was quality programming that wouldn’t bring mom running into the room.
The five tales of horror are each presented as nightmarish fantasies coming from five men who find themselves in an elevator that will only take them to one place. Their stories are like confessions from the owners of The Monkey’s Paw.
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“Midnight Mess,” “The Neat Job,” “This Trick’ll Kill You,” “Bargain in Death,” and “Drawn and Quartered” each have their own way of bringing the man in question to their comeuppance. These are the kinds of morality stories that imprint into the brain so deeply that they serve as cautionary tales.
You’re in the Twilight Zone and riding your bike through every town in Creepshow when you commit to sitting through this 50-year-old masterpiece. It’s not available on any streaming service, but do yourself the favor of finding it on YouTube if you love anything from Trilogy of Terror II (1996) to Tales from the Darkside (the 1990 movie or the 1983-1988 TV series). All you new kids on the block who love Trick ‘r Treat (2007) so much, settle in for your grandparent’s Sam.
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