Demon Knight (1995)
Demon Knight (1995)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: January 13th, 1995 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Ernest Dickerson Actors: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Dick Miller, Thomas Haden Church, Sherrie Rose

 


 

A

chesty axe-murderer soaks in the tub as her recently butchered husband dissolves in a vat of acid in the basement. But it’s all an act, as part of the lead-in for the Crypt Keeper’s (voiced by John Kassir) hosting of a feature-length episode of “Tales from the Crypt,” entitled “Demon Knight,” which begins with Frank Brayker (William Sadler) fleeing from the Collector (Billy Zane). Their cars end up colliding in a ball of fire, forcing Brayker to hobble to the Halfway House Cafe, where he unsuccessfully attempts to steal another vehicle.

An isolated, decommissioned church-turned-motel, run by Irene (CCH Pounder), provides a place for Brayker to hole up for the night. Work-release employee Jeryline (Jada Pinkett) scurries about, trying to finish up her sizable list of chores, while patrons Uncle Willy (Dick Miller) and mailman Wally (Charles Fleischer) roam about, chatting with prostitute Cordelia (Brenda Bakke) and eyeing the mysterious new guest as he consumes a bowl of ketchup-covered sludge. When the police barge in, accompanied by the Collector, Brayker is arrested and a relic in the shape of a key is confiscated. But just as the strangers are about to be escorted away, the Collector punches a hole through the sheriff’s head, unleashing all sorts of chaos.

With heaps of gooey gore, “Demon Knight” introduces a swarm of writhing hellions that attacks the motel’s unprepared inhabitants. With impressive makeup effects, grisly prosthetics, and diverting bloodshed, the look of the film is fairly sleek. Green lightning bolts that zigzag out of the demons’ eyes aren’t as compelling, but the convincingly run-down stages offset the momentary deficiencies in special effects. When members of the ragtag team of survivors start succumbing to the hypnotic possession techniques of the Collector, the gruesomeness grows ever more complex (boasting nightmarish hallucinations – and some gratuitous nudity).

Amid the haunted-house jump scares and the graphic violence, decent bits of humor work their way into the picture. Amusingly, the levity is never forced; laughs are generated from the over-the-top nature of the oozy body horror. And action enters the film as well, particularly during a chase sequence through abandoned mine tunnels. As with the “Tales from the Crypt” movie that followed (“Bordello of Blood”), “Demon Knight” additionally involves religious components, which go hand-in-hand with the otherworldly occurrences. “I’m not making these rules up!” As it makes cynical commentary on striking deals with the devil (a combination of “Faust” and “Bedazzled”), the atmospheric visuals ramp up, culminating in sensational carnage – though it’s countered by Zane’s unbridled cheekiness, which detracts from the seriousness of the thrills and the morbidity of the finale.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10