I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again I have a real soft spot for the horror anthologies that Amicus put out in the sixties and seventies. To me they hit a real sweet spot when it comes to the idea of “fun horror”. They manage to be gruesome without being ghoulish, dark without being bleak and contain some real moments of sick humor without being gratuitous. They tell fast paced punchy stories that usually manage to have a punch line worth sitting through and if they come off as a bit campy, well that’s all part of the fun isn’t it. Besides it’s always a good time watching old British character actors looking appalled.
Many consider Tales From The Crypt to be the best of the Amicus films, I still have to give the nod to the fairly loopy Asylum, but it certainly stays in the running. The film was directed by Freddie Francis (The man behind the immortal Trog). Unlike other directors always seemed comfortable in the anthology format. In a lot of ways he was the Terrence Fischer of Amicus. It certainly is the funniest of The Amicus films I’ve seen. “All Through The House” in which a treacherous housewife (are their any other kind in the EC universe) attempts to cover up a murder on Christmas Eve, takes the well worn cliché of the killer Santa to new heights. While “Wish You Were Here” an incredibly over the top take on The Monkey’s Paw plays like a Monty Python skit of itself. Complete with a middle aged stammering witness to the mayhem so ineffectual he might as well be played by Graham Chapman.
The highlight, for me anyway, is Poetic Justice, in which a real estate developer dedicates himself to ruining the life of Peter Cushing’s kindly old pensioner, only to face some unexpected consequences. Alright not that unexpected it is Peter Cushing he is harassing after all. This is a story you have seen before, hell let’s face it almost by definition every single one of these Amicus segments are stories you’ve seen before. But the sheer amount and unmitigated force of the EVIL Real Estate agent’s unmotivated dickery is truly impressive.
Blind Alley, in which the residents of a refuge for the blind get rather baroque revenge on the stingy head of the institute is good fun as well. Bonus points for such great use of a hallway lined with razor blades. Really only" Reflection Of Death" can be said to be a dud. It’s fine, but it’s the very definition of a one joke premise. You know the punch line far ahead of time and just patiently wait for the film to catch up.
Still four out of five isn’t bad for any horror anthology, and for an Amicus one that’s a batting average to rival Ty Cobb. Tales From The Crypt might not be my personal favorite of The Amicus anthologies. But I’d be hard pressed to think of a better place to start.