I just watched Demon Knight. Movie Thoughts came into my head while I did so, so here they are:
First and foremost, I’ll point out that it was a perfectly serviceable schlock horror experience. I’d recommend it to people who have the exact taste in movies that I do.
But what set my mind a wandering during this movie is something that actually applies less to this movie and more to serious attempts at horror fiction. Demon Knight, being a Tales From the Crypt production, is presented with a framing sequence featuring everyone’s favourite cryptkeeper, the Cryptkeeper. It has that double layer of fiction. The Cryptkeeper is already a fictional character and he is relating to us another story, which is therefore Extra Fictional. You see what I’m saying? I’ll come back to that a few paragraphs from now.
One of the ways that I often disagree with Horror Discussers on the internet is that a percentage of them (it feels like a large percentage, but probably actually isn’t) want to feel like they are scared for themselves while watching the horror movies. I can’t relate to that. I’ve never got that feeling once that I can remember. What I want from horror movies is to care about the characters enough to feel worry that they may not make it through the story. This is something that horror movies often fail.
The people who want to feel scared by horror stories also tend to say they prefer non-supernatural horror, because that way it can be something could really happen. A ghost bear isn’t scary because ghost bears aren’t real, they say. A normal human killer with a knife is scary because one of those might break in and kill me while I’m watching the movie. Well that could happen any time, whether you’re watching a movie or not, so if you want to be scared of that, be scared of it. If I’ve knowingly put a fictional movie on to watch I’m not worried about either the ghost bear or the normal human killer in the movie, because they’re both equally fictional actually. And ghost bears would make for a movie infinitely cooler than a human with a knife.
Anyway, while watching the Cryptkeeper introduce Demon Knight I began to wonder if he, and other similar horror comic hosts, were introduced to allow a sort of distancing from the supernatural elements of the horror stories they presented. You don’t get to pretend the story isn’t fictional when the undead guy making terrible puns tells you right from the start that it’s a story. It’s like a gate that only lets in people who can accept the weird supernatural stuff. If so, good job, Cryptkeeper.
There is said to be a ghost bear in the Tower of London. Supposedly it scared a guard so much he collapsed and died a few days later. So we should all fear ghost bears.
I would definitely watch a movie based on this concept, and I’d also respect it as an episode of Doctor Who.