Tales from the Crypt - The Thing From the Grave (Season 2, Episode 6)

The Thing From the Grave
Season 2 - Episode 6
from Tales from the Crypt #22
Aired May 8, 1990
Directed by Fred Dekker
Written by Fred Dekker
Worst pun: "Which leaves poor little Stacey fresh out of boyfriends. Oh, well...I'm sure she'll dig one up somewhere."

A jilted Romeo murders his sweetie’s suitors…but maybe there is such a thing as a love that cannot die. 

It's been a while, boils and ghouls. It was 2 years ago that I last wrote one of these and I have to say I've missed you dearly; almost as much as I've missed this wonderful show. I haven't watched an episode since we last spoke, so imagine my horror when the first thing I see is the Crypt Keeper preparing to pull his postmortum pud. 

2 seconds into the episode and it's a close up of a dirty magazine. It's literally a slow fade in from the opening, just so I know deep down in my soul what I'm committing to. And folks I'll be honest with you, if it's called PlayGhoul I might finally get the strength I need to blow my brains out. 

Well, it turns out I was wrong. It's not PlayGhoul. It's called PlayDead and he calls it a "ghoulie magazine." Please feed my dogs and tell mom this is not her fault. 

This hurts my soul so deeply that I don't even flinch when he says "deadtime stories." You're gonna have to come at me harder than that. Poor choice of words in retrospect, but I digress. I grip the edges of my desk as an endless barrage of puns about 'rotten romance' (GET IT, IT'S ROTTEN BECAUSE IT'S A CORPSE BECAUSE ITS A THING FROM A GRAVE) knock me unconscious and I awaken hours later in a pool of my own sweat, tears, and piss to tackle this terrifying tale.

cursed image 713

We get into tonights poorly named tale and right off the bat we have two big plusses in this episode's favor. First is the synth score that's going apeshit like we're at the climax of a John Carpenter movie and Miguel Ferrer's name appearing in the credits. Ferrer is one of the most underrated character actors in history, so even if this episode is dogshit, at least the bad guy from ROBOCOP will be here to class this up a little. 

We get right into the action with our friend Devlin (Kyle Secor). I don't know if he's the protagonist or antagonist, but with a name like that you're going to have to really pull out all the stops to get me to care. Devlin is driving somewhere in a hurry. I don't wanna sound crazy or nothing, but it sure feels like we're starting at the only exciting part of the episode and it's going to be downhill from here. He pulls up at a house and Miguel Ferrer is standing outside waiting for him in his incredibly inconspicuous Inspector Gadget coat. Probably not something worth worrying about, Ferrer ALWAYS plays characters on the up and up. 

So fuckin...Devlin asks if "she's" ok. Oh boy, I sure hope this is about a love triangle, especially one involving some evil shrew harpy BITCH misleading two poor innocent men. Those episodes are always great. Ferrer tells him she's just fine - but he wishes he could say the same for him. Before Devlin can respond, Ferrer shoots him square in the shoulder.

Looks like Mac's ocular patdown failed to accurately assess the threat.

You know what guys, this episode might be alright. 

Ferrer asks him if that's the shoulder she used to cry on, takes a brief pause to revel in his own genius, then asks if it was the other one instead and pops him in his other shoulder. It's as great as it sounds. Devlin stumbles away but trips and falls on a pile of dirt. Why is there a pile of dirt just sitting there in the woods? Great question. That pile is left over from the grave Miguel Ferrer has dug for him. What follows is a pretty incredible exchange that sums up a lot of what I love about this show.

"Hi. I'm sorry there's no headstone. The Ten Commandments were carved in stone. You remember the Ten Commandments, don't you? 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife' was part of the deal."
"She's not your wife"
"She will be pretty soon. Why don't you get your ass in there?"
"What happened to 'thou shalt not kill?'"
"...fuck it."

And he unloads the clip in Devlin's chest and lets him fall into the grave. Incredible. Absolutely fucking incredible. Ferrer tells Devlin he wants him to remember one last thing before he goes to Hell: she belongs to him. 

This opening is fucking fantastic. It's going to be hard to fuck this up. 

In many ways, this is a metaphor for the remainder of the episode

A beautiful model named Stacey (Teri Hatcher) is filming a commercial photo shoot in a very nice leather swimsuit. She is so absurdly gorgeous that it isn't even fair. I'd cut off a thumb just for the chance for her to spit in my face and insult my micropenis. Anyways, She's being photographed by...Devlin. Oh no. Oh God dammit no. That means what I just saw was the end of the episode. The big, climactic finale, aka the most exciting part. Sweet Lord, we started in media res and the rest of this episode is going to be a flashback all about MY GOD DAMN CHEATING BITCH WIFE. My absolute least favorite Tales from the Crypt plotline. 

Devlin works for an ad agency or some such nonsense. He mentions to his assistant how cheesy this ad is, and when she complains it's because of the male model, he retorts that they love him in Japan. It cuts to four Japanese guys in business suits talking and nodding amongst themselves. I don't think I'm going to enjoy the Ferrer-less parts of this. 

He jokingly says something about how being on this set is better than being on a tropical island and getting all hot and sweaty. That beautiful young CHEATING BITCH GIRLFRIEND OF MINE replies that sometimes she likes getting hot and sweaty. You know, the way women talk in stories that guys on Facebook make up about the women that reject them. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that these two will find solace in each others' caring embrace on a cold moonlit night.

They're gonna fuck. 

Did you guess the rest of the episode from here? Did you put two and two together in that they are going to put two and two together and fuck like rabbits, and she's going to be engaged to Miguel Ferrer and he's going to find out and shoot him, and then since the episode is called THE THING FROM THE GRAVE, he's going to come back from the dead? I have this sinking feeling in my tummy that I should have just turned it off at the 3 minute mark. 

And then my sweet angel re-enters the episode. Look at this fucking getup he has. 

I want this tattooed on the inside of my eyelids

The glasses. The coat. The everything. He is so absurdly hateable. A+ sir. This grand entrance is when we find out his name: Mitch Bruckner. Just look at him, of course he's a Mitch. 

His name is Bruck and he's here to fuck, and Stacey is visibly uncomfortable the second he steps into frame. Mitch and Devlin have their first interaction since the introduction in which one man brutally murdered the other in cold blood, and it's pretty great. Mitch can sense the sexual tension so the scene essentially becomes Miguel Ferrer gloating about how hot she is, then politely informing Devlin he's her manager (and fiance), then proceeding to order her around like he's in charge of this shoot. Devlin suggests Mitch is making her uncomfortable and he should give them some space to work, and Mitch responds by telling him to lube up the camera lens and shove it up his ass. Not yet satisfied with his work, he finishes by yelling "GET SOME SHOTS OF THE INSIDE OF YOUR ASSHOLE, HOTSHOT" and throwing his still-lit cigarette on the ground as he storms out amongst a crowd of confused Japanese businessmen. I'm so happy I could cry.

Everyone on set takes a break and in a scene that made me laugh harder than I'd like to admit, the male actor in the commercial says in passing that Mitch is a real bummer, and Devlin enthusiastically pats him on the back and replies "Thanks for the input!" in the fakest voice I've ever heard. This episode is kind of great so far. I hope it can maintain this level of humor and ma-oh nevermind. Devlin and Stacey are fucking. Yep, there they go. Getting all up in her gummyworks. Just ravaging her gooey gumdrop factory. That's really gonna cheese Mitch off. I hope he doesn't find out.


Alright baby, 15 more minutes of MY CHEATING (almost) WIFE.

After knowing her for five minutes, Devlin asks if Mitch ever hit her, and then gives her a key to his place. Is that being done with the best intentions, or is he just trying to slide up in her goodies? Doesn't matter, they used the time that could have been used to explain his intent on ruining the climax. Regardless of why he gave her the key, she comes over that same night with a bruise on her chest and desire in her heart and this episode hits a brick wall. That joke about which shoulder she cried on loses a bit of its luster when you realizes she's crying because the guy from BLANK CHECK falcon punched her in the lung. Devlin pulls a necklace out of his pocket and puts it on her and says an old blind lady gave him. Gee Stacey, I'm sorry your husband used your ribcage like a speedbag because the Jets didn't cover the spread, accept my condolences in the form of this trinket given to me by a witch in a Brooklyn slum. Gaze upon this exposition and despair: "An old blind lady gave this to me. She said that it was the Mayan God of truth and if you make a promise while you're holding it, no matter what, you're going to keep that promise." Just pause a bit and let that wash over you. 

I wonder what he's going to promise. I fucking wonder.

I was having so much fun and now I'm completely over it. I guess this explains why I watched this episode once and promptly stopped writing this feature for 2 years. In one clunky, awful line you get the entire backstory to the ending of the episode you already saw. Cool. Very cool. 

Devlin sees the bruise on her chest and "oh my God he beat you" and "oh my God don't worry it's over between us I want a new life" and "oh my God let me touch the necklace and if he ever hurts you I promise I'll be there for you" and "oh my god put your penis inside me" and Jesus Christ what the fuck happened to this episode? I guess it wouldn't be believable if he came out of the grave to avenge her in the afterlife, we need to give her a magic necklace that keeps promises and helps her wins games of Duel Monsters. Why have mystery, intrigue, suspense, or horror of any sort when we could have a tiki statue that Greg Brady won in a surf contest? I'm not saying I'm happy that Miguel Ferrer beat the shit out of Teri Hatcher, but I am saying that I'm happy that there's a valid reason for her to turn elsewhere and not just be cheating on him because ALL WOMEN ARE CONTEMPTIBLE CHEATING REPGUNANT WHORES™Tales From the Crypt. By the time we get to season 7 we'll be fucking praying for some domestic abuse to soften up the adultery. 

...so he dies and then Mitch goes back for her and he's the thing from the grave and he kills Mitch, right? Got it. Let's get through this. 

They start making out, as you do after the leader of the Huns wallops you with a spinning back fist, but the scene cuts to a different angle. They're being recorded from outside. GASP. It's Mitch. And Mitch's dog, for some reason. I guess a dog is the only thing you can trust NOT LIKE THAT TRAMP, AM I RIGHT FELLAS? 

...so he dies and then Mitch goes back for her and he's the thing from the grave and he kills Mitch, right? Got it. GREAT. HURRY UP.

The next day Devlin gets home and Mitch gives him a ring a ding ding. Mitch tells him he knows everything, but it's not important because she's in trouble. They got in a fight and she ran to the cabin. Wait, the cabin? But 15 minutes ago he was shot at that cabin and then Mitch will go after her and he's the thing in the gra-

Oh ok, we jumpcut to the scene of Mitch burying him interspersed with them kissing and all that. Alright episode, not bad. We've still got 9 minutes left and we're caught up. Maybe I was being too hard on it. Maybe it won't be stupidly predictable. 

Stacey rings up Devlin to no avail when Mitch enters the room wearing the worst leather jacket you've ever seen in your life. In a truly incredible performance, Mitch plays coy and pretends he had no idea what's been going on. He insinuates that something has been going on between THAT GOD DAMNED WHORE and that nerd with the glasses, and mentions that night she said she went off with her girlfriends. When she defensively asks if he followed her, he pouts and says no and that he didn't know for sure something was up until that moment. Then he takes a seat and gives a solemn monologue about how things haven't been good between them and how he's been stupid but she's the best thing that ever happened to him. 

Miguel Ferrer is too good for this garbage episode. 

He asks why Devlin hasn't returned her calls in a week if he loves her so much, insinuating he might be busy challenging a small child with a piece of Egyptian magic around his neck to a dice game with monsters. She tells him she has no idea and that's why she's so worried and Mitch jokingly asks if she thinks he's a corpse somewhere.

Get it?

He keeps pressing the issue, saying Devlin probably flew off to Paris with another model or something. She asks what if he's wrong and he says if he's wrong about this and he comes back for her then he'll let her go. But if he's right, which he will be because as we both know four-eyes is six feet under, then she owes it to herself to come back to Mitch and give it another try. This is some A+ gaslighting. What a complete piece of shit. I love it. What appears as a soft spoken, humbling apology is at its core a monologue that exists to manipulate her emotions and make her feel like she's been used up and left behind while Mitch, despite his flaws, just loves her so gosh dang much and wants to treat her right. 

Later, that night, Stacey goes to Devlin's house for some reason. Speaking as someone who has been ghosted countless times: it's been a week, let it go. She discovers groceries on the counter. Wait a second, who would just skip town and leave a fresh carton of tutti fuckin' frutti on the counter? No, this isn't making one lick of sense. I must consult my Mayan truth necklace first. She rewinds his answering machine, despite the fact that Devlin picked up the phone so Mitch wouldn't have left a message, and she only hears the first sentence before Mitch appears like the avenging specter for this writer's failed marriages and grabs her from behind. 

They struggle a bit, then we jumpcut to her in lingerie tied down to a bed with duct tape over her mouth. 

Easy now, episode. Let's just be cool here. 

It's the same cabin from the beginning of the episode. I wonder where this is going. I sure hope Devlin isn't the titular thing from the grave that keeps its promise to protect Stacey from Mitch. 

Mitch calmly tells her there's no point in calling for her lover's help because he buried him in the woods outside. Remember all that clever manipulating Mitch did earlier? Well he didn't consider the possibility that Stacey might fucking drive to someone's house, so now he has to rape her mouth shut. 

...so he dies and then Mitch goes back for her and he's the thing from the grave and he kills Mitch, right? GOT IT? FUCKING GREAT. Let's get to the zombie we all know is coming so we can get out of here. I've already got my coat on, bring on the credits already.

Approximately 47 minutes into the episode, Devlin emerges from the ground. Mitch unbuttons his shirt and gloats about how Devlin won't save her and really I just need this episode to chill. I'm cool with zombies and all that, but lets leave the rapey stuff at home. I know it's the 90's and all but come on. 

Mitch hears a noise and goes outside with a gun and flashlight. He turns around and

Look at this dime store dickhead.

Mitch unloads a clip in him while yelling that he killed him. He doesn't even seem scared of the zombie, more so annoyed at the fact that Devlin had the nerve to come back from the dead just to fuck his night up. They run into the woods, Mitch trips and falls into the grave. There's a pretty good shot of Zombie Devlin removing some of Mitch's digits with a shovel, but even that is ruined because not even 30 seconds later they cut away and cut back and someone in the prop department fucked up and switched up which hand was missing the fingers. I shit you not. 

Devlin crawls into the grave and buries them both for some reason. Stacey releases herself from the bed, walks outside to the chorus of Mitch yelling NO GOD DAMMIT NOOOOO and looks down at her necklace. The zombie completely submerges him in the dirt and...

that's it. 

She doesn't even cry that both of her stupid fuck pillows are dead. Just kinda stares straight ahead like "huh...how about that?"

That's the episode. Fart. At least my pal the Crypt Keeper will cheer me up.

"I would have called tonight's fear-fable a 'Boy meets GHOUL' story...except the boy WAS the ghoul this time!"

See you guys in another 2 years.


Well, that was a colossal disappointment. Abusive boyfriend kills girlfriend's lover. The end. To think this episode started so strong and then completely shit the bed five minutes in. It's hard to imagine such a dip in quality even being possible. Miguel Ferrer being truly transcendent elevates what would be a bottom rung episode to mediocre at best. This episode is working with some weak ass material, and without him it would be entirely skippable. If they put literally anybody else in his role I'd tell you not to waste your time, but he's so good that this episode is worth watching just for his delivery of that 'Ten Commandments' line. It's truly amazing. It feels like he saw the script as a personal challenge to make something watchable out of it.

Everything else is boring. It's not the actors' fault though. Kyle Secor and Teri Hatcher are both capital f 'Fine' with what they're scripted to do, but you can only do so much with so many ancient Chinese necklaces. Ferrer rises so far above and beyond because he's not as much an actor as a beautiful gift sent down to us humans that we were not pure enough to truly appreciate. Every single thing that happens after the first 3 minutes is as boring as the title. I'll give this episode one thing: it sure does live up to its name. "The Thing from the Grave" reminds me a lot of "Lover Come Hack to Me," which is about the furthest thing from a compliment you can possibly give.

It's like writer/director Fred Dekker took the concept of "Three's a Crowd" and fucked it all up. There is no suspense (how could there be?), it's slower than fuckin' Christmas, and it's boring. There's one interesting and exciting scene in the entire episode and it's the first thing you see. It's all downhill form there, slowly plodding to the conclusion you know is coming. There sure as shit aren't any scares, because that zombie mask at the end is sub-Goosebumps level. You know it's bad when you're shooting at night and it still looks that shitty. The scariest thing in all sincerity might be the idea of the Crypt Keeper jerking off.

Seriously, what the fuck Fred Dekker? What is this? He wrote "And All Through The House" for God's sake. Oh, that's right, he also wrote "Only Sin Deep." Dekker was given a chance to direct an episode and this is what happened. Spoilers: he'll write a couple more episodes, but don't expect to see him in the director's chair on this show again. No, he'll go on to bigger and better things like...ROBOCOP 3. 

Season 2 has been great...right up until now. The streak had to end sooner or later, but this one hurts more than I thought it would. It's not that it's bad, it's that it's such a waste of a great actor. Ferrer is one of the all time greats; a man who brings intensity to every role, never phoning it in. He's so charismatic and confident that even when he's playing the most vile piece of shit imagine, you're still captivated by his every word. And this is what he's given to work with. What a crushing disappointment. 


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1 comment:

  1. Just discovered your blog having freshly seen this entry and the two preceding ones. This review is incredible, both in nailing the issues with the episode and in its entertainment value. Do wish you feel like resuming the series at some point. No doubt there'll be further stinkers ahead but also other winners and it'd be grand to read your thoughts on more.