Every Tales From The Crypt TV Show Ranked From Worst To Best – Screen Rant

A look at the best and worst Tales from the Crypt franchise had to offer and those who tried to share the spotlight with the Cryptkeeper.
While perhaps not quite as recognizable as Freddy Krueger or as beloved as Elvira, the Cryptkeeper has had many attempted successors and spinoffs, but how do Tales from the Crypt’s numerous series compare when ranked worst to best? After over three decades of television history and multiple shows continuing the deliciously pulpy legacy of EC Comics, it’s been a long road of trial and error, full of ups, downs, and puns. However, along that stretch of memory lane is a curious story of how Tales from the Crypt evolved as a franchise and how it produced some of TV’s best horror.
Founded in 1944, EC Comics once distinguished itself with a line of periodicals that included classics such as The Haunt of Fear, Weird Science, and Mad Magazine. Known for raising the bar and pushing the limits, it was in 1989 that HBO aired a television series based on EC’s horror anthology Tales from the Crypt. Considered a monster success, the Cryptkeeper became a horror icon and Tales from the Crypt a launching point for several EC-inspired spinoffs.
Related: Every TV Show Based On A Horror Movie (So Far)
While Tales from the Crypt is the most recognizable, there were several attempts to keep the Cryptkeeper going and introduce EC’s other anthologies into pop culture consciousness. Varying in tone, theme, and the audiences they tried to reach, each Tales from the Crypt series stood out in its own right. There’s no denying that Tales from the Crypt had a lot of heart (and probably plenty of other organs in the Cryptkeeper’s collection), but how did it compare to its sister series trying to recapture its success?
When ‘90s young adult horror, like Goosebumps, was en vogue, the usually gory Cryptkeeper was attempting to appeal to the countless “kiddies” he addressed with the CBS game show Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House. Taking a break from his “deadtime stories,” the Cryptkeeper and his co-host Digger challenged children to compete in horror-themed games. Filmed at Universal Studios Florida, Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House aired on Saturday mornings from 1996-1997, and took the Tales from the Crypt franchise in a new direction.
In the tradition of Legends of the Hidden Temple and other children’s game shows filmed at Universal Studios, Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House pitted young contestants against each other, challenging them to use their minds and physical abilities to rack up points. Some games had team bouncing over “The Swamp From Hell,” while others had them solve word puzzles before being trapped in “The Incredible Shrinking Room.” However, the episodes always ended with a scavenger hunt for skulls in a haunted house.
Despite facing competition from scarier 1990s kid’s TV shows, Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House presented an enjoyably campy Saturday Morning spectacle that was the first of only two children’s game shows nominated for a Daytime Emmy, but it ultimately faded into obscurity. Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House was a curious deviation from the usual narrative-driven anthologies and lasted longer than other Tales from the Crypt shows, but it never reached the same heights. Although, few horror icons can claim they were popular and versatile enough to warrant a game show the way the Cryptkeeper did.
Related: Could A Nightmare On Elm Street TV Series Reboot Work?
Adapted from the EC comics sister series of the same name, in 1992, three episodes of Two-Fisted Tales found their way to television. Once published as a comic anthology covering war stories, the television series took liberties as it tried to replicate Tales from the Crypt’s TV success. Including introductions from a wisecracking host played by William Sadler of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey fame, the series was the first of Tales from the Crypt’s aired spinoffs and was only short lived.
Like HBO’s anthology, each episode told a different story. Although, rather than focusing on horror, the show told tough-as-Likes that featured top-tier talent, including actors like Brad Pitt, Dan Aykroyd, and Kirk Douglas. The insult-spouting, gun-toting host, Mr. Rush, attempted to entertain with stories like “Showdown,” which told of a ghostly gunslinger forced to relive his violent past, and “King of the Road,” a bittersweet tale of drag racing. Two-Fisted Tales wasn’t quite Tales from the Crypt, but it tried to be as the Cryptkeeper became a breakout star.
Two-Fisted Tales as a series never lasted beyond its television pilot, a made-for-tv film cobbled from the show’s first few episodes. Among a slew of obscure comic-based movies, it seemed as if Mr. Rush lacked the charm that brought people back to HBO’s crypt. However, despite Two-Fisted Tales’ debut only airing once, the three episodes produced for the backdoor pilot became Tales from the Crypt episodes with new wraparound segments filmed.
Based on EC Comics’ far-out sci-fi anthologies, in 1997, Perversions of Science aired as Tales from the Crypt’s forgotten spinoff. With all the hallmarks of an EC series, including a colorful host to bookend its segments, Perversions of Science made sense as a successor to Tales from the Crypt, which ended a year prior. Airing for one season, HBO’s stab at a new anthology was an ambitious project that embraced the over-the-top fiction of the 1950s.
Related: Every Twilight Zone Movie & TV Show Ranked From Worst to Best
More surreal in its delivery and sometimes humorous in tone, Perversions of Science’s suggestive cyborg, Chrome, had tales of botched alien invasions, murderous robot nannies, and grieving multiverse traversers. Like other Tales from the Crypt spinoffs, it featured sci-fi alumni like William Shatner and Ron Perlman, but they also gave opportunities to new talent such as Jamie Kennedy. Perversions of Science’s campier presentation and more fantastic stories did more with the franchise than Two-Fisted Tales, taking full advantage of CGI and practical effects to adapt mind-bending comics such as Weird Science and Weird Fantasy. However, Chrome’s corner of HBO prime time became dwarfed by the canyon-sized grave left by its predecessor.
Perversions of Science lasted a little over a month but wasn’t without its merits. Although not quite the spiritual successor HBO hoped it would be, the sci-fi anthology had a unique identity that felt like a weirder take on Tales from the Crypt. Since airing, Perversions of Science has had little opportunity to find a new audience or the cult status to recognize it as little more than a curiosity.
Before R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps came to television in 1995, the Cryptkeeper’s animated series, Tales from the Cryptkeeper, was there to scare Saturday mornings. With its initial run lasting until 1994, the Cryptkeeper later returned in 1999 with a follow-up to his cartoon anthologies with New Tales from the Cryptkeeper. While each season varied, the world of animation seemed ideal for Tales from the Crypt, allowing it to homage to its origins as a comic book and tell stories as fun as they were disturbing.
Related: Every R.L. Stine Movie Ranked (Including The Fear Street Trilogy)
Tales from the Cryptkeeper’s episodes mainly presented themselves in the series’ typical format, stories book-ended by a horror host, including EC’s Vaultkeeper and The Old Witch. Although, stand-out stories made Tales from the Cryptkeeper able to rival some of the best ‘90s cartoon adaptations. Tales from the Cryptkeeper’s three-season run included narratives of a manic cartoon character seeking revenge, a blossoming love story about a shapeshifting plant, and a duo of homework-eating monsters who were dangerously real. The Cryptkeeper’s cartoon may not have been as recognized or celebrated as Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, but it successfully adapted Tales from the Crypt in a way that felt appropriate for younger audiences.
Tales from the Cryptkeeper was a show that had the right amount of camp, horror, and talent to make it feel like a worthy, albeit watered-down successor to Tales from the Crypt. While there was no revival or a Saturday Morning second coming for the Cryptkeeper, reruns aired well after the show became canceled and headlined FearNet’s Funhouse, a Saturday morning block for nostalgic horror-loving viewers.
In 1989 Tales from the Crypt and its stars set the pace for future anthology series, such as American Horror Story. Although not the first adaptation of the EC Comics, with multiple movies predating it, it did define the series and brought high-quality gory horror stories to HBO. There’s a reason why even over three decades later, the delightfully gruesome anthology helped make Tales from the Crypt a milestone in horror history and the Cryptkeeper everybody’s favorite creepy pun-slinging corpse.
Starring John Kassir as the Cryptkeeper, each episode saw him sharing stories of monsters, murderers, and black magic. However, what separated HBO’s series from shows like The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Darkside, was that every tale told by the Cryptkeeper felt less like an episode and more like miniature horror movies, with the same quality of effects and higher tiers of celebrity guest stars. After audiences saw Joe Pesci torn in half by sadistic twins, Michael J. Fox’s dark comedy about life insurance fraud, and Tom Hanks in an episode that featured zombie brides, Tales from the Crypt expanded to become a pop culture force.
Since its cancelation, Tales from the Crypt has been a show many have failed to match or surpass. With few exceptions, even EC Comics’ multiple successors and spinoffs never quite reached the critical praise or countless fans HBO’s series garnered. Over the years, other attempts to revive the series were proposed, including an M. Night Shyamalan-produced reboot of the series. However, for now, the Cryptkeeper still reigns as a "master of scary-moanies,” and perhaps someday, he’ll be back to spin more tales from his crypt.
Next: How Steven Universe Opened The Door For New LGBTQ+ Cartoons
Biologist, journalist and comic book writer, the works of Spencer Bollettieri are as extensive as they are diverse. Having written for places like Theme Park Magazine, Jurassic Outpost, and various other publications, his work has been described as a one of a kind. Blending his background in science, unique voice and love of most things nerdy to craft stories, articles and scripts. Although having traveled the world in the pursuit of adventure and new stories to tell, he’s mostly based out of New York City. Often wondering where his journeys might take him next.


About Merisa

Check Also

‘The Great British Bake Off’ Musical Is Headed to London Stage (VIDEO) – TV Insider

Have you ever wanted to see Paul Hollywood on stage singing about hazelnut biscotti and …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *