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.
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 film was a spin-off of sorts from the popular HBO horror series, “Tales from the Crypt,” which was inspired
by the infamous 50’s EC Comic books. There were two other “Tales from the Crypt” movies made later; although “Demon Knight” is considered to be, by far, the best one of the lot.
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
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
Now Shout Factory,
through its horror film specialty label, Scream Factory, has released “Demon
Knight” for the first time on blu-ray, just in time for Halloween (it was released 2 days ago, October
20). Special Features Include: Audio Commentary with Director Ernest Dickerson; Audio Commentary with Special Make-up Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vliet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo, and Demon Performer Walter Phelan; “Under Siege: The Making of ‘Tales From The Crypt presents Demon Knight’ – Featuring interviews with Director Ernest Dickerson, Co-producer A.L. Katz, Screenwriters Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, and Mark Bishop, Stars Billy Zane, William Sadler, Brenda Bakke, Charles Fleischer, John Schuck and Dick Miller, Editor Stephen Lovejoy, Special Make-Up Effects Creator Todd Masters, Special Make-Up Effects Artists Scott Coulter and Scott Wheeler, and Demon Performer Walter Phelan (40 minutes); and finally a Panel Discussion from the American Cinematheque featuring director Ernest Dickerson, actor Dick Miller, and Special Effects maestro Rick Baker.
Now if Shout
Factory, or someone, could please finally release Dickerson’s oddball “Most Dangerous
Game” – human prey vs. hunters – remake, “Surviving the Game,” with Ice-T, Charles
Dutton and Rutger Hauer on blu-ray. It’s a doozy of a film.
trailer for “Demon Knight.” Pick up a copy on blu-ray here and get it before Halloween: