The Last Of Us - Season 1Eps4
Since we horror fans are familiar with the stuffed prowlers of Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Scarecrows, Jeepers Creepers II, an episode of Goosebumps and an Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the expectation is that the scarecrow will be the one doing the skewering and disemboweling in this story (and a freaky mask makes him Crypt's first, but not last, scary clown). Its ultimate "twist" at least seems predicated on that assumption. And while the Crypt killers are almost always contemptible but very much human monsters, most of the running time is spent anticipating how the 'Keeper can turn "straw," "effigy" or "if he only had a brain... saw!" into puns.
The Last of Us - Season 1Eps4
We certainly expect that kind of thing from Tom Holland, who made a famous movie about an anthropomorphic piece of plastic pretending to be a normal doll when it in fact harbored the soul of a serial killer. The director of Fright Night was also a pro at stories about seemingly crazy people insisting on something supernatural going on but failing to convince anyone else. He managed to surprise me with "Lover Come Hack to Me" but doesn't pull off the same trick here. Basically, the twist is that there is no supernatural element to the proceedings when we naturally assume there is one, something that probably struck Holland and co-writer James Tugend as clever but merely falls flat. The fact that the scenario turns out to involve a regular three-sided triangle isn't so much surprising as unsatisfying, like an extended build-up with no pay-off.
So this is the first episode I've come upon that I distinctly remember seeing back in the 90's. I'll never forget it, because even edited for network TV it really got to me. It comes not just with a satisfying demented twist, but an incredibly disturbing cruel irony at the denouement. Like the last episode, it relies on the twist that an inanimate object was, apparently, just an inanimate object all along. The difference is that here there's a twist upon that twist, and it's a great one. "Dummy" plays beautifully on audience expectation in service of an ending that manages to pull off the trademark Crypt irony while also being largely unexpected. I suspect that's because, on top of being a clever variation on the "evil dummy" subgenre, this episode makes you care about its two characters: wannabe ventriloquist Bobcat Goldthwait and his idol, a has-been lounge act played by Don Rickles.
- Man, I love pre-fame screenwriter Frank Darabont: Nightmare 3, The Blob, his two scripts for Crypt? He had quite the streak going (if you conveniently forget he also co-wrote The Fly II with Mick Garris). Darabont and Donner team up for another episode in season 4.
- Pop quiz: Who directed Children of a Lesser God? The answer would be Randa Haines, who followed up her award-winning film by directing this episode. She started her career as a script supervisor on low-budget movies like Let's Scare Jessica to Death, one of great underrated horror films of the 70's. Later on she'd direct such genteel fare as The Doctor, Wrestling Ernest Hemingway and a tv movie where Matthew Perry reaches out to inner-city school kids. This was her first credit in the four years following the critically-beloved Children; I liked the idea that the Crypt producers might have made a conscious decision to hire female directors, considering they also got Mary Lambert to helm the best episode of Season 1. Sadly at a glance, it seems there won't be another female behind the camera until the final season. (p.s. In an AFI poll, Haines named Alain Resnais' Muriel as her favorite film - no shit!)
- First episode written by Scott Nimerfro, who'd write nine more episodes, become story editor for the show's final season and co-produce the first TFTC feature film, Demon Knight. Like many of the show's writers he also got his start on Donner films, working as video coordinator on Scrooged and assistant to Lethal Weapon 2 producer Jennie Lew Tugend.
Next to carnival barker, mortician has got to be the most represented occupation on this series. That's just a guess, but my familiarity with 90's horror movies in particular leads me to believe this won't be the last episode set in or around a mortuary. The real question is whether the next funeral director we meet will be anywhere near as odious as this one. Moses Gunn's Uncle Ezra is the most reprehensible Crypt character so far, and that's saying something. There is literally not one line from his mouth or anything he does that isn't absolutely despicable. He embodies the typical E.C. villain, which Stephen King once described as "a totally black character, with absolutely no redeeming qualities, the Compleat monster."
- Don Mancini, the father of Chucky the killer doll, worked on the script. His first screenplay was 1988's Cellar Dweller, a horror movie with a plot similar to the Crypt episode "Korman's Kalamity" from later on this season. Like "Judy, You're Not Yourself Today" scribe Scott Nimerfro, Mancini would end up writing episodes of Hannibal (he even threw a reference to its cancellation in the latest Chucky movie). The script is also credited to Michael Alan Kahn, who crewed on Donner's Lethal Weapon movies, and Jonathan David Kahn (his brother, I assume?) 041b061a72