Ernest Dickerson’s horror comedy is the start of what should have been a wonderful horror movie series with the “Tales from the Crypt” branding. Despite lacking an ironic twist in the finale, “Demon Knight” is right down the avenue of classic EC Comics. It’s filled with inadvertent heroes, garners a very unlikely villain, and has a very unique sense of humor about itself. Dickerson manages to channel “Demoni” while also pitting very morally gray characters against a force of pure evil. “Demon Knight” is a raucous and brutally entertaining horror movie that pits good against evil, and stacks the deck in the favor of evil.
It should be noted that this is a tale being told by the crypt keeper. Anyone familiar with the original series knows that nine times out of ten, the protagonists almost always lose, and we watch a group of misfits going up against a bonafide demon knight and his army of hell’s minions. William Sadler stars Frank Brayker, a man on the run from an apparent law man who ends up at an abandoned church that’s been renovated in to a hotel. The hotel is the den of society’s rejects, including a young janitor (Jada Pinkett), a prostitute, her abusive lover, an alcoholic regular, and a few other sorted characters. Though Brayker seems like a criminal at first glance, the group is horrified to learn that his pursuer, a dashing officer is actually a Collector.
The Collector, as played by Billy Zane, is hell bent on getting Brayker’s holy key, which will spread darkness across the world, if claimed by Satan’s forces. After a very gory confrontation, the collector traps the folks inside the hotel and surrounds them with horrific demons that are intent on breaking inside and ripping them apart. Those that resist are seduced by the collector, who lures them to the dark side with promises of riches and pleasure. As the characters are picked off one by one, Brayker struggles to keep the key in safe hands, which becomes difficult as the night presses on and obstacles present themselves. Dickerson is successful in creating tension and claustrophobia, building on our characters and letting us watch as the collector picks at their souls, trying to reclaim the holy key.
Zane’s performance is charismatic and absolutely excellent, as he portrays the ultimate unholy force of evil that you love to hate. Zane has a good time playing this maniacal megalomaniac, while the supporting cast garner some memorable turns including Sadler, Pinkett, and CCH Pounder, respectively. Dickerson’s film is painted in stark blues and greens, making the abandoned church something of a den of sin ravaged by pure evil, while splashing the screen with gore and scares that will arouse a hearty laugh from the audience. There are some top notch effects on display, from the creatures to torn limbs that look absolutely grotesque. While “Demon Knight” doesn’t feel like an extended episode per se, it is a damn good platform to the potential movie series, opening the franchise with a bang and keeping audiences constantly entertained. I never had a bad time re-watching “Demon Knight.”
The Blu-Ray from Scream Factory comes packed with two audio commentaries. One with director Ernest Dickerson, and another with the special effects team. There’s the original theatrical trailer, and a five minute still gallery. There’s a ten minute Egyptian Theater Q&A Session, footage taken from the 3 Day festival that celebrates the work of character actor Dick Miller. There are questions about Miller’s work, and discussions with special effects artist Rick Baker, and director Dickerson. Finally, there’s the forty minute “Under Siege: The Making of Demon Knight” which garners interviews with the cast and crew of the film including Director Ernest Dickerson, Co-producer A.L. Katz, Screenwriters Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, and Mark Bishop, and stars Billy Zane, William Sadler, Brenda Bakke, and Charles Fleischer, to name a few. It’s a fun and in depth look at the creation and making of the movie, with original ideas about the film’s premise, looks at the effects and the shoot, and a fun tidbit about how “From Dusk Til Dawn” was once being courted to be a part of the movie when it was being planned as an anthology.