Western Animation / Tales from the Crypt Keeper

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An animated spin-off of Tales from the Crypt that ran for three seasons. The first two were on ABC from 1993 to 1994, the last on CBS from 1999 to 2000. Unlike its live-action counterpart, Cryptkeeper usually had kids as the heroes in its stories; therefore, most of the stories had to lack blood and gore, with a horror factor that was more akin to Goosebumps and usually having an aesop. During the second season, the show brought in Cryptkeeper's co-Horror Hosts from the comics, the Old Witch and the Vault Keeper, who would usually try to steal the spotlight away from the Cryptkeeper.

When CBS gained the rights to the show, it commissioned a third season under the title "The New Tales from the Cryptkeeper". However, this season had a much more simplified animation compared to the comic book style of the first two. And the stories toned down on the scares. Not helping matters was the fact that the Cryptkeeper was actually part of the stories rather than leading them in, as he usually does.

Despite this, the show has a cult following and episodes can be found on YouTube and purchased from iTunes.

The show has the following tropes:

  • Actually Not a Vampire:
    • The female protagonists of "Fare Tonight" search for proof of vampires. They end up on the trail of spooky looking guy who only appears at night and seems to be luring a would-be victim to a secluded area. He's not the vampire; he's a vampire hunter. It's the limo driver the girls know that is the actual vampire.
    • "Transylvania Express" sees Ben and Mike sneak onto a train, where they find a coffin and suspect one of the "weird dudes" from the station is a vampire. However, it turns out all the vampires sneaked onto the train, too.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The Crypt Keeper himself. He retains a dark sense of humor, but his live-action counterpart was much more vicious.
  • All Men Are Perverts: With the female vampire in "The Sleeping Beauty" disposed of, Melvin comes upon the actual sleeping beauty. He acknowledges this could be yet another vampire, but he decides to chance it in return for a kiss.
  • Animated Adaptation
  • An Aesop: As it was a kids' show, this was pretty mandatory.
    • This was even truer in the third season (thanks to new FCC rules calling for more educational TV shows for kids), to the point where it became Anvilicious.
  • And I Must Scream: Done many, many times.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Crypt Keeper's segments in the episode "Pleasant Screams" has him eating food in an attempt to go to sleep. He mentions that he has tried disgusting delicacies such as screech cobbler and then suggesting something "really gross", which turns out to be carrots.
  • Art Evolution: Happened during the channel hop.
  • Art Shift: As noted above. The Season 3 intro actually features footage from all the seasons, so you can see how they differ.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The episode "The Weeping Woman" ends without the Crypt Keeper getting even with the Old Witch for trying to invade his show, instead having him bursting into tears as he is forced to watch her perform in the opera.
  • Batman Gambit: The ending of "Hyde and Go Shriek" reveals Wendell actively harassed his bully as a monster in order to goad him into taking chemicals to even the score. After transforming for the first time, the bully is immediately captured—never to bother Wendell ever again.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In "Gorilla's Paw," Louis steals the titular object from a shop for a group of kids he idolizes and makes wishes for their benefit. It's a Literal Genie—something the shop owner cryptically warned them about.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Wendell in "Hyde and Go Shriek." He took a lot of abuse from Rex and his pals, but he saw it as just good fun and never took it personally. However, Rex causes Wendell to lose his pet mouse, Mr. Jekyll. Afterwards, Wendell vows to get revenge. He succeeds.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate/Big Bad Ensemble: The Vault Keeper and the Old Witch were both introduced in the second season as antagonists that tried to steal the spotlight from the Crypt Keeper. Both of them hated each other as much as they hated the Crypt Keeper, but they would occasionally work together.
  • Book Ends: In "All the Gory Details", Mr. Klump mentions the first rule of reporting, and says he's been a reporter for so long he hardly needs his brain anymore, to which the annoyed driver (who is already getting tired of his Straw Misogynist antics) says "Tell me about it." When we see him after his Karmic Transformation, he has a similar conversation about checkers, to which the annoyed creations reply "Tell me about it."
    • Also, the first and last town scenes Mr. Klump is himself in take place in the hotel.
    • In the first episode of Season 2 ("Game Over"), the Old Witch turns the Crypt Keeper into a frog. In the last episode of the season ("Transylvania Express"), she tries to do it again, but he manages to deflect the blast and turn her into a frog instead.
  • Bring It Back Alive: The hunter in "Hunted" doesn't kill animals... but sells them to the highest bidder, with absolutely no concern for their future welfare. Still makes him extremely unsympathetic. He even made a point of saying that he gets paid whether the animals are killed or not—implying he only hesitated this time because his native helpers were watching.
  • The Bully: A few flavors appeared throughout the show, some more Jerkass than others. "Hyde and Go Shriek" in particular was interesting about it, having a trio of bullies who were led by a Jerk Jock named Rex. Despite their regular target Wendell being absurdly forgiving about their "jokes", and the teachers also getting on their case about it, Rex was never satisfied until he actually got Wendell wound up - his two partners in crime were generally more lenient on Wendell, though they picked on him even without Rex around.
  • The Cameo: During the first season, the Crypt Keeper would often appear briefly during a story. Unlike in the third season, though, these were usually unimportant to the overall plot (one episode simply shows his face on a penny), but the end of "The Cat's Away" reveals that the boys had broken into his spooky house, and they encounter him returning from vacation as they're fleeing in terror.
  • Catch Phrase: In the third season, the Crypt Keeper would often end the episode by saying "Creep out of trouble, because I'll be watching."
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Seen in the first season's intro. A kid is running through the Crypt Keeper's house, with many scary monsters emerging to run after him. It turns out the monsters just want to watch the show, even offering the kid some popcorn. Various episodes would also use this trope.
  • Dirty Coward: Chuck constantly in both episodes he appears in. He always runs from trouble, even abandoning Melvin on a regular basis.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework:
    • The season two episode "The Brothers Gruff" has the protagonist mention that his teachers wouldn't believe his pet hamster Fred ate his homework.
    • An episode of the third season had a boy accuse monsters instead of a dog. Being an Animated Adaptation of Tales from the Crypt, that episode actually had monsters who ate homework. When two showed up at the boy's home, the boy said another monster showed up before and ate it. The monsters then took the boy to their home dimension to find the monster the boy described. When the boy eventually confessed he didn't do the homework, the monsters took the boy home and forced him to do his homework, present it to school, and ask the teacher to make two copies for the monsters to eat.
  • Dream Within a Dream: "Pleasant Screams" sees a teacher and one of his students trapped in a world full of monsters. The two realize they have something in common: they've both been mean to a boy in the class and this nightmare is a way of getting back at them. After this realization, the boy wakes up in class—getting an earful from the teacher and snark from his classmate. It then looks like the nightmare is about to start all over again, but then the teacher wakes up in his bed—realizing he was dreaming the whole time and needs to be nicer to the boy.
  • Foreshadowing: "The Sleeping Beauty" has a couple references to princes who disappeared during quests to the castle. After being faced with the queen vampire, Chuck encounters a group of male vampires all dressed like princes.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The Chuck and Melvin episodes.
  • Freudian Excuse: Implied in "Grounds for Horror" with the hardass counselor. He says he never had time to be a kid—suggesting he didn't have a carefree childhood like his charges.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The Vault Keeper
  • Gainax Ending: "Game Over" takes it pretty far. The two kids who regularly skipped school to play video games find that they're video game characters, and they get killed. Two alien creatures are then shown playing the game and acting just like their counterparts did, just as a game monster approaches them from behind.
  • Genre Blindness: Lampshaded in "The Sleeping Beauty" before the brothers enter the castle. Melvin complains that Chuck wants to go inside—pointing out that this castle has a curse on it and a reputation for making princes disappear.
  • Genre Savvy: The bully's pals in "Hyde and Go Shriek" suspect Wendell planned for exactly how things worked out, but they really don't want to push it.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "Hunted", the Crypt Keeper sings the first verse up to the chorus of "Highway To Hell", before saying "Hello" to the viewers. To top it off, on the back of his biker jacket is the saying "Shriek Happens".
  • Green Aesop: In the season three episode "Waste Not, Haunt Not".
  • Guest Host: The Old Witch tells "Cold Blood, Warm Heart", "Dead Men Don't Jump" and "Growing Pains." The Vault Keeper, meanwhile, "All the Gory Details" and "The Haunted Mine". Note that each case is against the Crypt Keeper's will.
  • Heel–Face Turn/Took a Level in Kindness: This happened to Jerkass characters on the show who didn't get Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Horror Host: The Crypt Keeper, the Old Witch, and the Vault Keeper.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: The Old Witch and the Vault Keeper tried this on occasion in Season 2. They rarely succeeded.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: In "Hunted," a Jerkass hunter is poaching in South America and runs afoul of a supposedly mythical beast. Determined to catch this beast and make a profit, the hunter pursues it deeper and deeper into the jungle. Just when he thinks he has it, the beast springs its own trap to capture him instead. Turns out the beast was once a Jerkass hunter himself and had been cursed. Forced him to live in the wild, he learned to respect nature and its creatures. He regains his human form and passes the curse onto his captive to start the cycle over again.
    • Another has an obsessed fisherman whose morals his nephew constantly questions. At the end he finds a wallet on the ground and picks it up, only for the wallet to be connected to a hook, and he is dragged into the water where a Fish is reeling him in while the Fish's nephew questions his uncle's morals.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Whenever the Crypt Keeper goes up against the Old Witch or the Vault Keeper. Even more so when all three of them are in an episode.
  • Incoming Ham: The Old Witch would always announce her presence with a loud, "Guess who?!"
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight in most episodes, but averted hard in "The Weeping Woman".
  • Ignored Expert: The train conductor in "Transylvania Express" warned Ben and Mike to wait for the morning train instead of take the night one. He did so because he knew a vampire attack was likely, but he didn't think they'd believe that part.
  • In-Name-Only:
    • Season three's adaptation of the comic book story "Drawn and Quartered", which took the original story about a vengeful artist using voodoo so that whatever he painted in his pictures happened to the critics who cheated him and made it about a young boy who loved to draw being given a magic pencil by the Crypt Keeper and using it to get even with the two boys who bully him through his drawings.
    • Both the comic and cartoon versions of "The Works... In Wax!" involve a wax museum and the contents being realer than anticipated. Otherwise, the stories are vastly different: the former being about the proprietor's wife changing the murderer displays and the husband finding he should have left well-enough alone, while the latter is about a boy who idolizes the museum's wax monsters and tries to stop a corrupt businessman from claiming the property after the original owner dies.
    • "Grounds for Horror" keeps the idea of a kid being defended by a Not-So-Imaginary Friend, but the original comic involved an outright abusive stepfather instead of a hardass camp counselor who learns how to enjoy himself.
  • Insistent Terminology: Chuck and Melvin are twins, but as Chuck angrily reminds him more than once, "not identical."
  • Ironic Hell: Chuck is horrified at the end of "The Sleeping Beauty" to be turned into a vampire—not because it makes him a monster, but because he can no longer see his reflection.
  • Jerkass: There is a fair number of them. You can expect one to appear in just about every episode.
  • Karmic Transformation: Happens to the Jerkass Straw Misogynist reporter in "All the Gory Details". When his female partner leaves him behind, he tries to expose Dr. Kromwell's creations to the public on his own, only to end up becoming one of Kromwell's creations.
    • Another example was about a teen nerd who was being constantly harassed by a psychotic bully, until he finds a salve that temporarily turns him into a werewolf and fights back. The bully after finding out exactly what's going on tries the salve on himself to fight the nerd on equal terms only to be immediately spotted by civilians and tranquilized by the police then have his face all over the news as a "Monster Boy" then is implied to be taken to a government lab for extreme testing, while the nerd continues a happy life with no-one ever finding out he was involved
    • The ending of "Hunted" is another one. The hunter is captured by the beast he pursued, who turns out to have been just like him years ago. He was cursed and had to learn to respect nature. He knew he could pass the curse on to someone else and knew only villainous hunters would go this deep into the jungle.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Usually happened to mean or very greedy characters.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "While the Cat's Away" was the first episode. After enduring numerous scares, the kids find a treasure chest that contains Tales from the Crypt #1.
  • Leitmotif: The traditional Tales from the Crypt theme, the Funeral March, and a soft, ominous tune unique to this series were all associated with the Crypt Keeper.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the original live action series, which was very adult. While the show obviously had to be toned down for its target audience, the third season definitely took this a step further.
  • The Man Behind the Man: "Hyde and Go Shriek" strongly implies that the Crypt Keeper ended up being this for Wendell. One of Rex's pals sells Wendell the box of monster chemicals—saying it was just there when his father bought the store. Viewers can briefly see the Crypt Keeper's face on the box, as the kid's getting it.
  • Man Child: "Grounds for Horror" ends with the hardass counselor learning to have fun with the kids.
    "He's a living, breathing example of that old saying, 'A great man is he who has not lost the heart of a child.'"
  • Mirror-Cracking Ugly: The Old Witch. She doesn't even have to look in a mirror; her just being near one causes it to break. On a few occasions, she's also literally caused the fourth wall to crack.
  • Misery Builds Character: The obnoxious counselor in "Grounds for Horror" rides his charges hard in order to make men out of them.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The first episode, "While the Cat's Away", has the two boys who broke into the Crypt Keeper's house find a Tales from the Crypt comic book while trying to find something valuable. Fittingly enough, said episode was one of the few Tales from the Crypt Keeper episodes to be an adaptation of a story from the original Tales from the Crypt comic book.
    • The intro to "Transylvania Express" is the Crypt Keeper looking for some new digs. He approaches someone to say this isn't his usual "haunt" and then finds he's talking to the Old Witch—a subtle nod to The Haunt of Fear, which was hosted by her.
    • The Season 2 intro involves the Old Witch and the Vault Keeper trying to steal the Crypt Keeper's book. When it goes flying, the pages are shown to be comics.
  • Never My Fault: Whenever something went wrong during their journeys, Chuck would always blame his brother Melvin.
  • Never Say "Die": Played with. Some episodes would directly mention death and some would simply imply it. The Lighter and Softer third season, oddly enough, subverted this trope in the episode "Monsters Ate My Homework" when the monsters subtly threatened to eat the boy if he didn't give them homework to eat and explicitly mentioned the monster the boy blamed for eating his homework as having recently passed on.
  • No Antagonist: Played straight for the Crypt Keeper segments of the first season and one episode of the second season as well as the entire third season. Mostly averted with the rest of season two's Crypt Keeper segments and the stories themselves.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Due to Standards & Practices giving them a draconian list of things they could not show on television, (being a kid's show, gore was a given, but the list also had vague generalizations like "Eyeballs floating in a pink ooze" and "Nothing overly terrifying"), so the writers were forced to use this trope to great effect. "Grounds for Horror" offers a good example, as the featured monster remains largely invisible. When it shows the characters its true form, the audience only sees a shadow.
  • Once per Episode: The Old Witch would give herself a dramatic introduction, blow a kiss that shatters glass (or the television screen), and tell at least one lame joke in almost all of her appearances.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The first episode, "While the Cat's Away", subtly reveals that the Crypt Keeper's real name is T. Charles Kingman.
  • Panty Shot: The Old Witch has one in the intro to season two.
  • Parental Bonus: In "Fare Tonight," Camille and Mildred are running from the vampire, who rips out a factory's staircase and throws it at them. They just miss getting crushed because of some missed steps they broke off earlier. Relieved, they exclaim, "Cool! Buster Keaton!"—a reference to the famous stunt from Steamboat Bill, Jr..
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: "While the Cat's Away" kept the basic plot of the original comic story (which was about two thieving travel agents breaking into a spooky mansion to claim possible treasure and encountering horrific sights); it just softened the more adult details, replaced the adults with kids, and shortened how long the characters were trapped in the house. The Twist Ending (it being the Crypt Keeper's house all along) was left intact.
  • Prince Charmless: Chuck in "The Sleeping Beauty". He even insists on being called "Prince Charming".
  • Pungeon Master: Would you expect any less from the Crypt Keeper and his fellow EC hosts?
  • Real After All: In "Hyde and Go Shriek," Rex's pals see Wendell trying to bulk up for a fight with him. One of them claims that Wendell can make a formula that'll give him muscles, so he sells him the box. They don't believe it'll actually work, but when stories of a monster start up, they realize it's true and try to warn Rex.
  • Re Tool: Season 1 was pretty faithful to the format of the live-action series - a story bookended by Crypt Keeper segments taking place in his old house. For Season 2, EC Comics' other horror hosts (the Old Witch and the Vault Keeper) were added as antagonists - each bent on stealing the show. This prompted the Crypt Keeper to leave his house and "take the show on the road," with his segments taking place in different locales and him being pestered by the competition. Season 3 dropped the Old Witch and the Vault Keeper and instead had the Crypt Keeper a part of the stories (usually setting them in motion). And while the preceding two seasons contained aesops, Season 3 was arguably more Anvilicious (with one plot revolving around teaching a boy the importance of reading).
  • Role Reprisal: The Crypt Keeper is played once again by John Kassir, the actor who played him in the original live-action series.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: "Myth Conceptions" changes the story of Medusa, but it acknowledges doing so. The archaeologist discusses the story with a little girl, saying he actually believes Perseus failed to defeat Medusa. He ends up being right, but that's not the whole story. Medusa heroically defended her temple lair from those like of Perseus, who was trying to rob the treasures within. It also turns out the little girl was Medusa—meaning she can shapeshift. She also can't be turned to stone by looking at her reflection.
  • Sequel Episode: Several characters from Season 1 would return for Season 2, often acknowledging their prior adventures:
    • Camille and Mildred from "Fare Tonight" appear in "The Weeping Woman".
    • Chuck and Melvin from "The Sleeping Beauty" appear in, well, "Chuck (and Melvin) and the Beanstalker".
    • Wendell and two bullies from "Hyde and Go Shriek" appear in "Growing Pains".
    • Ben and Mike from "Ghost Ship" appear in "Transylvania Express".
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sibling Seniority Squabble: Chuck and Melvin. Chuck justifies bossing him around by being the older brother. Melvin always points out Chuck is only ten seconds older.
    "Ten seconds... ten lousy seconds."
  • Something Completely Different:
    • The fourth episode is the only one of Season 1 to use a Two Shorts format (respectively, "Gone Fishin'" and "A Little Body of Work"). Two episodes of Season 2 would later try it: "Cold Blood, Warm Hearts" and "The Spider and the Flies" form one episode note , and "The Avenging Phantom" and "Myth Conceptions" form another.
    • Season 2's "The Brothers Gruff" is the only one of the season where neither the Old Witch nor the Vault Keeper try to horn in.
  • Spin-Off
  • Stock Footage: There's surprisingly little of it, each of the stories generally having its own setting, although when it's used it generally gives a sense of the stories taking place in the same relative area.
  • Surfer Dude: Ben and Mike are, like, totally righteous examples of this trope, dude.
  • Title Drop: The Crypt Keeper gives one at the end of the season three episode "Waste Not, Haunt Not".
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Camille and Mildred respectively.
  • Twist Ending: A few episodes had these, usually of the Karmic variety.
  • Unexplained Recovery: "The Sleeping Beauty" ended with Chuck being turned into a vampire. He's back to normal in the Sequel Episode, with Melvin casually mentioning the prior episode as their last trip into the dark forest.
  • With Friends Like These...: Louis spends most of "Gorilla's Paw" idolizing three kids and doing anything they ask in order to be let in their club. It's clear they have little regard for him, but despite their talk of "friends defending friends," they're quick to turn on each other when things get tough. When everything's resolved, Louis says he's too good for them and walks out.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: In "The Sleeping Beauty", for all his awareness of the tropes of a "romantic quest", Chuck apparently forgets that the Youngest Child Wins in fairy tales (even if he's only ten seconds younger).
  • You Don't Look Like You: A double example. The animated Crypt Keeper in the first two seasons doesn't bear any resemblance to his live-action counterpart aside from being a skeletal zombie, while his appearance in the third season is drastically changed, but more closely resembles his appearance in the live-action series.

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