Halloween Countdown: 'Demon Knight' - Ernest Dickerson’s Cult Horror Classic
Photo Credit: S & A

Halloween Countdown: 'Demon Knight' - Ernest Dickerson’s Cult Horror Classic

Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight
“Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight”

One of the things I really like about director Ernest Dickerson is that he has no qualms nor shame about being considered a “genre” director – the term used for directors who specialize in genres such as horror, suspense and action.

Take a look at his very impressive and extensive list of directing jobs in both films and television, and you’ll see credits such as “Surviving The Game,” “Bones,” “Never Die alone,” “The 4400,” “Under the Dome,” and “Dexter.” And I don’t need to tell you about his stellar work on the AMC’s “The Walking Dead” for which has directed several episodes, many considered the most intense and better episodes of the series.

I wish more black directors were horror and action directors. True, your chances of ever getting an Oscar nomination are between none and no way in hell, but who cares about Oscar when you can either make people jump out of their seats, or have them by the edge of their seats? And when you stop to think about it, there haven’t been that many horror films directed by black directors. There’s William Crain’s “Blacula,” the 1990 film “Def by Temptation” directed by James Bond III, and 1995’s “Tales from the Hood” by Rusty Cundieff to name a few. In fact, there was even an article a few months ago about the lack of horror film directors (here). We have to step up to the plate.

But Dickerson’s talent as a horror film director really displayed itself in his Universal film, “Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight.” Released in January of 1995, the film was one of very few horror films released by a major studio directed by a black director since “Blacula” by American International Pictures, and that was back in 1972.

The plot itself is preposterous (as it should be), about a sort of immortal guardian who has lived for centuries and who holds the last remaining key of seven originally, containing the blood of Jesus Christ, which are used to ward off evil in the world. He is being chased by some Evil One known as The Collector who holds in his possession the other six keys, and, of course, everyone wants to get their hands on them, including an ex-con played by Jada Pinkett- Smith, as well as demons, and a few unfortunates whose basic function is to get slaughtered in imaginative, gory ways (If you have ever wondered what it would look like if you punched your fist right through a guy’s head, you should see “Demon Knight”).

The film was a modest box office hit when it was released, and, aside from being a solid horror film, it’s also quite funny. Obviously the filmmakers thought the plot was so ridiculous that they decided to play out several scenes for straight-out laughs, functioning as tension releasers.

The film didn’t get a lot of positive reviews when it first came out, but then very few horror films do, even the really good ones. Many critics like to look down on the horror genre, though there are some who understand the use of metaphors and allegory that can be incorporated in them. However, over the past 20 years since it first came out, it’s become much more appreciated, and is considered to be a genuine cult classic. As one film critic called it: “One of the most underrated genre entries of the ’90s.”

Here’s the trailer for “Demon Knight.” Pick up a copy on blu-ray here:

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