Tales from the Crypt (Season 1) (1989)

This debut season for HBO’s long-running horror anthology series (adapted from the 1950s comics) consists of six episodes that are wonderfully macabre and blessed with a darkly ebullient sense of humor. The first episode, “The Man Who Was Death,” is a thematically potent and resonant exploration of the morality (or lack thereof) of the death sentence, and it’s blessed with a terrific performance by the always-reliable William Sadler. The yuletide-themed “And All Through the Night” has some of the season’s best moments, dripping with wicked irony and an impressively grisly sensibility (not to mention a memorable set), and Lea Thompson is enjoyably campy in the compelling “Only Sin Deep.” “Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” is a little on the dull side and it gets repetitive, and “Lover Come Hack to Me” is fine if a little mediocre, but it all ends well with season closer “Collection Complete,” which is a ballsy, unsettling little number. Along with one of the genre’s most iconic scores (by Danny Elfman, natch) and likely the best horror television intro, there’s the Cryptkeeper, brought to life by Kevin Yagher’s striking puppetry and John Kassir’s immortal voice work, and all put together it makes for first-class entertainment.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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