Tales from the Crypt is a fundamental piece of anthology horror, and one key episode is actually devoted to the Crypt Keeper’s backstory.
Tales from the Crypt is an iconic anthology horror series with an equally well-known narrator; one episode provides an unexpected focus on the show’s host, the Crypt Keeper.
There is no shortage of different anthology series when it comes to the horror genre, but HBO’s Tales from the Crypt was way ahead of the curve with its mature and exaggerated approach to bringing classic genre tales from the pages of EC Comics to life. Tales from the Crypt ran for seven seasons and produced nearly 100 episodes that have helped guarantee the series’ place in horror history.
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The anthology structure of Tales from the Crypt allowed for all-star casts and directors to participate with little commitment. The versatility and the surprising twist endings of these pulpy and gruesome stories helped win over audiences, but Tales from the Crypt also made a big impression thanks to the show’s outspoken and pun-slinging host, the Crypt Keeper. The Crypt Keeper helps introduce and conclude each episode of the series, and is primarily used for comic relief. However, there’s one episode of Tales from the Crypt that actually works the Crypt Keeper and his history into the narrative.
In Tales from the Crypt season 2, episode 14, “Lower Berth”, a seemingly simple story is told about love found at a creepy freak show. Enoch, a man with two faces, finds an unlikely kinship with a fellow sideshow attraction, a 4000 year-old living mummy. All of this feels like standard Tales from the Crypt until the episode concludes with the revelation that these two lost souls have had a baby together — the Crypt Keeper. In the wraparound segments, the Crypt Keeper acknowledges that this is his origin story, and that a more appropriate title might be “Tales from the Crib”. He continues to compliment how his baby self is a “cute little terror tyke” and even laments that his parents didn’t live long enough to see him become famous and the host of his own HBO anthology series. This twist in the episode is treated a bit like a joke, but it’s a major surprise when the Crypt Keeper reveals what the episode has secretly been about.
Tales from the Crypt isn’t the kind of horror anthology series to feature connective tissue between its story or tease a larger universe of mythology, so “Lower Berth” is an especially strange departure. It’s even more unusual that this episode occurs during season 2 rather than the later years, when the series was more desperate for content. This feels like a conscious choice to take a risk rather than the series scraping the bottom of the barrel for story inspiration.
Furthermore, this is the first and only time that the Crypt Keeper actually appears in a story, rather than just the opening and closing segments. It establishes an odd precedent, and occasional episodes that featured brief pieces of the Crypt Keeper’s development wouldn’t necessarily be doomed to fail. It’s definitely not something that should have become a recurring feature in the show; the Crypt Keeper certainly works better in small doses. However, this level of experimentation marks Tales from the Crypt trying to see if a slightly larger role for their infamous host could have helped the series.
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