A new "Tales from the Crypt" movie feels like an echo of another time, doesn't it? A time, perhaps, when HBO was just an expensive movie channel rather than the most respected producer of TV drama on the block; a world where a puppet could drop terrible puns, and even more unpleasant sexual innuendoes, with abandon. It was a more innocent time. Certainly a cheesier one.
Of course, "Ritual" isn't exactly a "new" "Tales from the Crypt" movie. It's five years old, having been produced in 2001 as the final nail in the "Crypt" movie coffin, after the middling performances of the first two features, 1995's "Demon Knight" and 1996's "Bordello of Blood," demonstrated that the franchise's TV following didn't translate into box-office clout. Also, "Bordello of Blood" was pretty lame.
Executive producers Robert Zemeckis, Gilbert Adler and Joel Silver -- who'd brought the Crypt franchise to HBO along with Walter Hill and Richard Donner -- subsequently formed Dark Castle Entertainment, which has dedicated itself to slightly glossier horror films: like the remakes of "House on Haunted Hill," "Thirteen Ghosts" and "House of Wax," as well as "Ghost Ship" and "Gothika."
"Ritual" feels like a contractual obligation designed to bridge the two worlds: It's a remake of Jacques Tourneur's 1943 chiller "I Walked with a Zombie," with Jennifer Grey starring as an American doctor who discovers creepy goings-on at a plantation in the West Indies.
But Tourneur's film was all low-key suggestion and atmospheric dread, and that won't do for a "Tales from the Crypt" movie, so the screenplay by Rob Cohen and director Avi Nesher leans just as heavily on the shocks-and-sex mixture of Wes Craven's "The Serpent and the Rainbow."
The two sources effectively cancel each other out, leaving "Ritual" somewhere between dud and dreck ... and probably explaining why it's been sitting on its distributor's shelf for half a decade. The dearth of star power in its cast couldn't have helped -- Grey's co-stars include Tim Curry, Craig Sheffer and Kristen Wilson, Eddie Murphy's wife in the "Doctor Dolittle" movies.
But if you're a completist, "Ritual" does open with two solid minutes of that wacky Crypt Keeper, as the crumbly puppet (voiced by John Kassir) ogles bikini-clad hotties at a resort and makes terrible puns for your amusement. If that yanks your nostalgia crank, well, pony up a few bucks for the rental. Otherwise, just spin up "Demon Knight" again. Billy Zane's
performance was totally underrated.
STUDIO: Dimension Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2006
TIME: 106 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: Spanish subtitles
'Tales from the Crypt: Ritual'
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