Welcome boils and ghouls to 15 tales of terror! Tales from the Crypt is one of the best horror television shows of all-time. Some would argue it is the best horror television show. Based on the infamous EC Comics of the same name, Tales from the Crypt featured stories where bad characters would meet their comeuppance in ironic and gruesome ways that were almost always satisfying. And the story would be tied in a neat little bow at the beginning and end with the Crypt Keeper, everyone’s favorite wise-cracking ghoul.
Earlier this year, TNT greenlit ten episodes of a Tales from the Crypt TV show. Unfortunately, it was recently reported that TNT has been having issues over the past year getting the rights. With fingers crossed that the remake is still coming (with horror writer/director M. Night Shyamalan developing the pilot episode), let’s celebrate the show that was and continues to be a fantastic entry in horror television. Here are the 15 Best Episodes Of Tales From The Crypt.
15. The Reluctant Vampire (Season 3, Episode 7)
Definitely the least dark episode on this list, “The Reluctant Vampire” has such a different feel to it than just about any other episode of Tales from the Crypt. Some may say it’s too cheesy, but boy, do we love that cheese. Directed by Elliot Silverstein, the episode stars Malcolm McDowell as the vampire Donald Longtooth (get it?!). Unlike your typical creature of the night, Donald is a kind vampire who works at a blood bank, taking what he needs from his job. However, when they start to get low on blood, Donald starts killing the horrible people in the world to help restock. Things go well until he alerts the attention of vampire hunter Rupert van Helsing.
The humor in this episode is just so different from every other episode and it somehow manages to make this episode stand out in the best of ways rather than the worst. Malcolm McDowell does such a good job as Donald Longtooth that you’ll find yourself rooting for him by the end. If you enjoy a good laugh, “The Reluctant Vampire” is a good episode to watch.
14. Carrion Death (Season 3, Episode 2)
This episode is directed and written by Steven E. de Souza (Commando, Die Hard) and it has the feel of a modern western. Serial killer Earl Raymond Digs, played by Kyle MacLachlan (How I Met Your Mother, Inside Out), is on the run from a cop who just won’t quit; an ominous buzzard follows him around as well. After several showdowns, Digs ends up getting handcuffed to the cop, and things take an even more sinister turn.
MacLachlan does a great job as the villainous death row escapee. He’s so evil that he has to monologue about it, which makes for some dark and funny moments. His encounters with the cop are filled with tension and entertainment. Then there’s the ending, which is brutality to the max and super fun (not so much for Earl, but definitely for us viewers). It’s something that will certainly stay with you for a while. This is a classic episode that you do not want to miss.
13. Cutting Cards (Season 2, Episode 3)
Directed and in part written by Walter Hill (the producer of the Alien films), “Cutting Cards” is about two gamblers whose feud with each other knows no bounds! Reno (played by Lance Henrikson of Aliens and Terminator) and Sam (played by Kevin Tighe of Emergency! and Lost) challenge each other to a game of cards that quickly turns deadly. Who will come out on top as the better card player? And will the price of losing be the ultimate one?
There are several good reasons why this episode is a fan favorite. The chemistry between the actors, namely the hatred between them, is palpable. It’s so entertaining to watch them face off. Their dedication to defeating the other person is amazing and the final moments of the episode show just how far each of them is willing to go to beat the other. It’s a perfect ending to a fairly short and sweet episode.
12. Top Billing (Season 3, Episode 5)
In a real role-reversal, Jon Lovitz (known for Saturday Night Live and comedies such as Big) plays Barry Blye, a down-on-his-luck actor who loses his agent and his girlfriend. Unable to get a role, Barry is willing to do anything to get the lead part in the Shakespearean play Hamlet. Anything.
Directed by Todd Holland (The Real O’Neils), this episode’s story is interesting to watch unfold. Jon Lovitz is a treat, always entertaining here. He really nails this role, which feels so opposite from his usual type of character and makes us want to see him play a dark character more often. Other members of the cast add to the enjoyment, including John Astin (The Addams Family) and Paul Benedict (The Jeffersons). The ending is probably one of the darkest in the show’s run, which is really saying something for Tales from the Crypt. It’s a nice surprise and a fitting end for the bone-headed Barry.
11. Yellow (Season 3, Episode 14)
This is a very different episode of Tales from the Crypt; it was actually part of the Two-Fisted Tales anthology, a failed TV pilot and another EC Comic related property. In the comics this was a story in the very first issue of Shock SuspenStories. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future), this episode takes place in the year 1918 during World War I. Lieutenant Martin Kalthrob, played by Eric Douglas, tries to get discharged, but ends up leading a patrol to German lines to fix a communication line instead. After behaving like a coward, Kalthrob is sentenced to death. But will he be able to escape with the help of his father?
The episode shows how there are so many different horrors in life, and war is among them. The camera work also makes this episode feel more like a movie. Eric Douglas does a great job and his father in the episode, played by his real father Kirk Douglas (Spartacus), is a standout. It’s far from a traditional Tales from the Crypt episode, yet it still manages to be one of the best by far.
10. The New Arrival (Season 4, Episode 7)
Director Peter Medak gives us an episode full of the supernatural and psychology. Dr. Alan Goetz, played by David Warner (Titanic, Tron), spends his time hosting a radio show on which he tries to fix the psychological problems of his callers. But because of poor ratings, his show is in danger. With his ego at its highest, Goetz decides to visit his regular caller Nora, who complains her daughter, Felicity, is always behaving badly. Along with his producer Bonni and his boss Rita, Goetz visits the house and gets plenty more than he bargained for.
This episode feels like Tales from the Crypt’s answer to The Exorcist. And it’s quite the answer indeed! The episode is paced well and has plenty of suspenseful moments to enjoy. Warner does a great job as the egotistical psychologist whose neck you just want to wring. Then there’s Zelda Rubinstein, who completes the episode’s supernatural feel thanks to her Poltergeist roots. This episode has enjoyable performances all around and has a story that will possess you.
9. Split Second (Season 3, Episode 11)
One of the best examples of an episode being ripped from the pages of the comic, “Split Second” stars Michelle Johnson (Death Becomes Her) as the vixen Liz Kelly-Dickson and Brion James (Blade Runner) as the lumber camp owner Steve Dixon. Liz marries Steve but quickly realizes he’s not what she really wants. Things get complicated as Ted, a new and extremely attractive worker played by Billy Wirth (The Lost Boys), comes to the camp for work. Liz can’t keep her hands to herself, and her husband is the last person to let someone touch what he deems “his.”
This episode has a slow burn that really pays off. Viewers will be waiting with bated breath for Dixon to finally snap. The tension is present throughout the entire episode and has a great payoff. All the actors do a great job here. The friendship between the lumber jacks in the camp is also really enjoyable, and Dan Martin (Rin Tin Tin: K-9 Cop) as Snaz gives a short but memorable performance here. This all leads to a fantastic and horrifying ending.
8. Four-Sided Triangle (Season 2, Episode 9)
Directed and written in part by Tom Holland, this episode revolves around four characters: married couple George and Luisa Yates, who own a farm; their young female farmhand Mary Jo; and, most importantly, a scarecrow! The husband and wife (played by Basic Instinct’s Chelcie Ross and Edward Scissorhand’s Susan Blommaert) are terrible bosses to Mary Jo (played by Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette). What makes matters worse is that George lusts after her, but she’s too busy being in love with the scarecrow on their farm to notice him. It’s when George decides to finally get Mary Jo that the situation gets rather prickly.
The couple in this episode are fun to despise and we really feel for Mary Jo. Her mental state is also interesting in this episode, making you wonder just how “crazy” she must be. The ending has a clever little twist that makes this episode a stand-out in many viewers’ minds.
7. Television Terror (Season 2, Episode 16)
TV journalist Horton River is played by his real-life counterpart Morton Downey Jr. (the talk show host of The Morton Downey Jr. Show). In “Television Terror,” Horton explores a supposedly haunted mansion. But what he thinks is just a harmless house with a horrific history that will help get him ratings, may turn out to be more real than he ever could have imagined.
This episode is the best because of the real life connections. Morton Downey Jr. is basically playing an exaggerated(?) version of himself here and every minute of it is enjoyable. His huge ego is matched only by the entertainment this episode could bring. The episode has a classic horror feel when things start to go wrong in the house, and the conflict between Horton and his assistant Sam (as played by Dorothy Parke of No Way Out) plays out spectacularly in this episode. The last scene in this episode holds on to such a gruesome image that it really adds to the overall shock value and makes this one of the most memorable episodes of all time.
6. Easel Kill Ya (Season 3, Episode 8)
While this may have one of the most cringeworthy titles of any episodes, “Easel Kill Ya” is a fun episode with a classic ironic ending. Directed by John Harrison (Tales From the Darkside), the episode stars Tim Roth (a then-unknown who would go on to star in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs) as Jack Craig, an unsuccessful painter. Jack seemingly gets lucky when he scores a wealthy patron after selling a dark, horrific portrait. In order to keep his patron happy, he has to keep creating gruesome paintings of death, which leads him to murder for inspiration. To fellow artists reading this, that is not the way to go!
Craig’s journey into darkness is entertaining to watch, as are his attempts to stay sane. That ending just gives the episode a fascinating greater meaning that, while maybe predictable to some, makes this episode a strong entry on this list.
5. What’s Cookin’ (Season 4, Episode 6)
This episode stars Superman himself. What could be better than that? Gilbert Adler directed and in part wrote this episode, which stars Christopher Reeve (Superman) and Bess Armstrong (Jaws 3-D) as Fred and Erma, a married couple who own a restaurant. Their business has seen better days and nothing they do seems to be drawing customers in. Not until they hire a stranger, Gaston (Judd Nelson of The Breakfast Club) who comes up with a steak recipe with a mysterious ingredient.
All the actors do a really good job here. But Reeve and Nelson are stand-outs here, with Reeve playing an eternal optimist at the end of his rope and Nelson serving as the mysterious stranger who gets the restaurant back on its feet. Their working relationship is fascinating to watch, especially after Reeve finds out what the “secret” ingredient turns out to be. It also features the appearances of other familiar faces like Meat Loaf. The story unravels at a steady pace and leads up to an entertaining end. And it always seems to make us hungry…
4. Death of Some Salesman (Season 5, Episode 1)
Director Gilbert Adler (producer of Superman Returns and Constantine) gives us the story of a con-man posing as a salesman. Judd Campbell, portrayed by Ed Begley Jr. (This is Spinal Tap), will use any underhanded trick he can to get money. His current scheme involves knocking on the door of the Brackett family, which he’ll soon learn is the worst mistake he could ever make.
The main selling point in this episode is the fact that Tim Curry plays the entire Brackett family. The husband, the wife, and the daughter: all Curry! He does an amazing job as every character, making them come off as both funny and sinister. This is always a great combination when it comes to Tales from the Crypt.
Ed Begley Jr. also does a great job as the fast-talking salesman, and the episode gives us two quick little instances right off the bat about just how despicable he can be. The acting talent in this wonky episode is some of the series’ best.
3. And All Through the House (Season 1, Episode 2)
A wife played by Mary Ellen Trainor (Die Hard) kills her husband on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately for her, she has the worst time in the world. A mental patient, played by Larry Drake (L.A. Law), has escaped from an asylum and, wearing a Santa Claus outfit, he begins to stalk Trainor, who is in for the battle of her life. Will she be victorious, or has Santa decided she’s been too naughty this year?
There is never a moment where the tension isn’t running on high in this episode. The fight between the wife and “Santa” leads to so many suspenseful moments and you’re not really sure how it will end. Trainor does a great job playing the vile wife and Drake is wonderful as the creepily silent Santa Claus. Of course, the ending has become a classic staple of Tales from the Crypt endings that most fans can quote by heart. It’s a brilliant and simple conclusion to a truly chilling tale.
2. Dead Right (Season 2, Episode 1)
Directed by Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink, Outcast), Demi Moore (Ghost, A Few Good Men) stars as Cathy, a greedy woman who wants to become rich as quickly as possible. She meets a medium who tells her that she will meet and marry a man who will inherit a lot of money. Unfortunately for Cathy, her prophesied husband winds up being Charlie Marno, played by Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development, Transparent). Charlie is the biggest, messiest man Cathy’s ever met, but prompted by the prophecy, she pursues him anyway. Will his inheritance be everything she dreamed of?
The acting is superb yet again in this episode. Moore does a great job of being despicable. Tambor is nearly unrecognizable in character, and he perfects the gross-factor. The ending of this episode is one of the most satisfying twists. It really makes the viewer question whether looking into the future is ever a good idea (We’re thinking it’s a hard “no”).
1. Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone (Season 1, Episode 3)
Directed by Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon), Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) plays Ulric, a homeless man who becomes a circus performer after he’s given the ability to come back to life. He uses his abilities to perform truly death-defying feats, including drowning and then reviving. He’s Houdini without the trick up his sleeve! Becoming a media sensation, Ulric takes advantage of his situation and rakes in the cash, growing more and more consumed by greed. But he’s forgetting one important thing…
The story is simple in the best of ways and the pacing of the episode keeps you on the edge of your seat. Every performance Ulric does is entertaining and it’s interesting to see him come up with new and interesting ways to kill himself while still making it a crowd-pleaser. It’s rather eerie how entertained the audience is by Ulric’s performance. The ending, while predictable, is ultimately satisfying. Though it has always kind of frustrated us that Ulric apparently can’t count to save his life.
Did we miss a Tales from the Crypt episode you feel belongs on this list? Let us know what it is and why in the comments below!