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Film / Demon Knight

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The Movie of the HBO television series Tales from the Crypt, released in 1995. Demon Knight tells the story of a drifter named Frank Brayker (William Sadler) who arrives in Wormwood, Texas, and seeks refuge in a church-turned-hotel where he meets the no-nonsense landlady Irene (C.C.H. Pounder) and her niece Jeryline (Jada Pinkett Smith), alcoholic Uncle Willy (Dick Miller), prostitute Cordelia (Brenda Bakke) and her abusive boyfriend/pimp Roach (Thomas Haden Church), and fired mailman Wally (Charles Fleischer) who's hopelessly in love with Cordelia.

Not long after Brayker's arrival, a handsome and charming gentleman in a trenchcoat and cowboy hat known only as The Collector (Billy Zane) shows up with Sheriff Tupper (John Schuck) and Deputy Bob (Gary Farmer), seeking a key-shaped artifact that he claims Brayker stole from him. The Collector soon reveals that he's actually a demonic Bounty Hunter and quickly lays siege to the hotel, raising up an army of skeletal minions to aid him in getting his dirty hands on the Key and going about tempting some of the hotel's residents with their innermost desires. Brayker reveals to the residents (well, those who survive the demonic onslaught...) that the Key once contained the blood of Jesus Christ and subsequently that of previous guardians of the Key. The Key can ward off evil if it contains blood, but will bring about The End of the World as We Know It if it runs out of blood and is used by the forces of darkness.


Not to be confused with Demon Knights. Followed by Bordello of Blood.

This film contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The Collector is an evil SOB, but boy he is charming and polite to anyone he meets, even as he tries to corrupt them into eternal damnation, murders them horribly, or attempts to trigger the apocalypse.
  • The Alcoholic: Uncle Willy really loves his liquor.
  • Alien Blood: The Collector and his minions have florescent green blood.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Collector's minions lay siege to the hotel in their efforts to retrieve the Key.
  • And I Must Scream: The reason the "shoot-for-the-eyes" tactic works is that it frees the tortured souls within the demons.
  • And Show It to You: The Collector's threat (and final words) are that, since Jeryline won't love him, at least he can have her heart—and extends a finger with a large scalpel on it.
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  • And Starring: John Kassir as the voice of the Crypt Keeper.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The blood in the Key wards off demons, or kills them if they touch it.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: When Brayker explains the origins of the Key, a few characters are openly skeptical despite having already spent a good deal of time fending off demons.
  • Arrow Cam: When the Deputy shoots the Collector with an arrow.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When The Collector is trying to tempt Jeryline:
    The Collector: You know, it doesn't have to be unpleasant. Hell, I'd rather it wasn't! All right, I know what you're thinking. You give up your soul, you turn into a demon, you look like shit. Where's the payoff, right?
  • Artifact of Doom: Slight subversion—the Key can ward off demons as long as there's blood in it, but can be used to bring about The End of the World as We Know It if it's empty.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: To destroy a demon, you have to aim for the eyes.
    The Collector: That eyeball shit? Only works on low-level demons.note 
  • Badass Normal: Brayker has no special powers (aside from a really long lifespan) but holds his own pretty well against demons.
  • Bald of Evil: The Collector is bald.
  • Big Bad: The Collector pursues the Demon Knight and antagonizes him through the film in the hopes of starting the apocalypse.
  • Big "NO!": Yelled by Brayker just before Roach shoots at his possessed boss and ends up destroying a barrier keeping the demons out.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When Roach says "Vaya con dios," The Collector replies, "And a Vaya con diablos to you, sir!"
  • Bittersweet Ending: All the characters save Jeryline and her cat are dead and the cycle begins again, with a new Collector appearing to chase her until the day she makes her own last stand. But in the process, Jeryline at least gets to fulfill her dreams of travelling and seeing the world, and the Crypt Keeper assures us she's having a fabulous time.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: While the Collector is definitely evil, a Demon Knight will go to any lengths to prevent the key from falling into the wrong hands.
  • Bloody Murder: The blood of Jesus and that of other guardians of the Key can harm and even kill demons.
    • Blood Magic: The blood can also be used to create barriers that ward off and even kill demons if they're dumb enough to try passing through. In a twist, using the key and the blood therein are unambiguously holy, as God himself was the one who put the blood in the key to begin with, according to Brayker.
  • Call-Back: When the residents of the hotel doubt Brayker's story, he angrily mutters that he didn't make the rules. Later, the Collector chuckles about how the rules seem to be arbitrary.
  • The Cameo: An uncredited John Larroquette is briefly seen as a Slasher Movie monster in the first Cryptkeeper book-end segment.
    John Larroquette: Where the hell did they dig this guy up?
  • Cassandra Truth: Two-thirds of the movie seems to be this with regards to Brayker, as none of the others really take him seriously until he fully explains the backstory and why protecting the key is so important.
  • Changing of the Guard: Brayker comes to the hotel because he knows he'll find The Chosen One there.
  • Character Development:
    • Jeryline seems to be a delinquent who'd rather blow off Irene's chores and snap at anyone who asks anything of her. She slowly mellows out as she seems to find a kindred spirit in Brayker. Turns out this is because she's the next Chosen One
    • After Roach leaves her to die and she's saved by Wally, Cordelia starts to stand up to Roach and be more assertive. Unfortunately, it's cruelly cut short when she's possessed shortly after and killed by Brayker.
  • The Chosen One: Brayker, later Jeryline.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The Collector's rant after being fended off by Brayker using the Key.
    The Collector: Humans! You're not worth the flesh you're printed on! Fuck this cowboy shit! You fuckin' ho-dunk, po-dunk, well then there MOTHERFUCKERS!!!
  • Corrupt Hick: Roach has a Southern drawl and treats Cordelia like crap.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Wally gets his moment when he runs outside to save Cordelia from a demon, grabbing a handgun from Deputy Bob and shooting a demon multiple times in the head. Turns out later on that Wally was planning to blow up the post office.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Collector revels in snark, but the quote below early on in film from the Sheriff counts too:
    Sheriff Tupper: Well, Bob, it's too late to give them a ticket. But if it'll make you feel better, you can shoot their ashes.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Collector tries to bribe or threaten each character into helping him get the Key.
  • Death by Sex: The prostitute Cordelia, despite being a sweet girl, is unfortunately the first of the residents to be possessed and killed shortly after. Her asshole boyfriend Roach, whom she has sex with earlier in the movie, follows later on.
  • Death Glare: The second Collector gives a potent one at Jeryline.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Jeryline is initially hostile to the others but gets better.
  • Demonic Possession: What happens to the poor people who fall for The Collector's devilish charms.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: The Collector himself distinguishes himself by saying that the eyeball weakness only applies to "lower-level" demons; the reason is that those lower level demons have trapped tortured souls. The Collector, who has no soul, sports a true form that is the only demon that we see with wings.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: The second Collector whistles the Tales from the Crypt theme tune.
  • This Was His True Form: See One-Winged Angel.
  • Dies Wide Open: Brayker dies this way near the end. Jeryline respectfully shuts his eyes. When The Collector finds him, he opens them back up.
  • Dirty Coward: Roach. During the demons' attack on the hotel, he ventures outside with Cordelia and tries to make it to his truck, only to spot a demon that then comes right at him and Cordelia. What does good ol' Roach do? He pushes Cordelia toward the demon as he hauls ass back into the hotel.
    • It doesn't help that The Collector flat-out says he was counting on Roach to give him the Key to save his own skin.
  • Dirty Old Man: Uncle Willy. His topless women fantasy is the best evidence for this trope.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: In a sense. With all the adult residents the Collector has to charm and seduce them, appealing to their flaws or insecurities, before he can possess them. With the kid Danny, he just takes over him through a comic book. Meaning that... comic books are inherently tools of Satan?
    • More like, just with Uncle Willy who was tempted with Booze and Women, the Collector Tempted Danny with the promise of superpowers and a superhero career. Danny could "Save everybody" if he "Just let me in"
  • The End... Or Is It?: The Collector is defeated and killed, but a strange man in a black hat starts following Jeryline, who has taken on the duties of guarding the Key, on her way out of town. However, if one can believe the Crypt Keeper, she survived long enough to have a happy ending.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Collector's actual name is never revealed.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Collector is physically incapable of saying the word "love", which leads to yet another hilarious moment with Billy Zane:
    The Collector: I l-l-l-l-l... uh... you. I l-l-l-l-l... uh... you. Do you think you could ever find it in your heart to l-l-l-l-l... uh... me back?
    • He does, however, understand the noble Brayker well enough to know he wouldn't follow on his threat to kill a hostage. Not because he's particularly concerned with human life, but because she's the next Demon Knight.
  • Eye Scream: Possible subversion, in that it's the only thing that can kill the demons.
  • Fanservice: Uncle Willy's fantasy involves a bunch of topless women.
    Willy: [wide-eyed] Ho-leeeee shit!
    • The opening sequence is there purely for Peggy Trentini to give a Fanservice overdose.
  • Exotic Equipment: At one point, the Collector's fly opens, a column of flame bursts out, and he cries out, "Woo! Woo! Down, boy!" When it retreats back into its pants (and his fly zips back itself), he sheepishly apologizes. Jeryline is not amused.
  • Final Girl: Jeryline, who must take down the Collector.
  • Flashback: A few interspersed to show the Key's origins, the first guardian (Sirach) protecting it and how Brayker eventually came to possess it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: In-Universe. The Collector keeps telling Jeryline that Brayker is gonna die. He's right.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Brayker, on hearing Jeryline was on work release, casually asks what Jeryline was jailed for. He gives a subtle smile when she replies she was a petty thief. All Demon Knights are former thieves.
    • After getting upstairs, the Collector gets hit with an arrow in the eye and only falls over. This lets the audience know in advance that the "shoot for the eyes" tactic alone won't work on him.
    • Earlier in the film, Wally (a postman) demonstrates some Improbable Aiming Skills by nailing some approaching demons with headshots and then eye shots. Later on it's discovered that he had a stash of military-grade weapons and explosives he planned to use to blow up his old workplace, justifying his familiarity with guns.
    • Jeryline spitting in the Collector's face. The second time, with Demon Knight blood, has a far more potent effect.
    • Jeryline being tempted by the Collector with her desire to be a world traveler. She ends up Walking the Earth eternally running from demons.
  • Frame Story: Not a story exactly, but as with Tales from the Crypt, we get a wraparound featuring the Cryptkeeper, this time embodying the role of a ham-fisted (or is it just hammy?) Hollywood director.
  • Going Postal: We find out Wally actually was crazy and reading everyone's mail and was going to blow up the post office for Cordelia.
  • Gorn: As per usual, there’s plenty of blood and violence. Anyone who gets possessed becomes a showcase of gory Body Horror.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: When Brayker dies and all of the blood barriers vanish, The Collector makes one of these to a swelling score.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Happens a few times.
  • A Handful for an Eye: The Collector seems to have the upper hand against Jeryline...until she spits a mouthful of blood from the Key into his eyes. Due to the blood being an extremely diluted mixture of Jesus Christ's, it actually has the effect of acid against the demon.
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: Brayker's arrival brings with him the Collector, and all of the chaos that follows in his wake.
  • Hate Sink: Roach, Cordelia's abusive boyfriend and an all-around Jerkass and Dirty Coward. He leaves his girlfriend to die, mocks everyone around him, serves as a constant obstacle to Brayker's plans, and gives the Collector the Key he's looking for, knowing he's dooming the world to the apocalypse, just to save his own hide. He didn't even have to be tempted into possession like any of the others. The Collector even tells Roach he was counting on him handing over the Key, and another demon mook nods in agreement. Luckily, he's Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves when the Collector has his demons rip him apart.
  • Here We Go Again!: After Jeryline escapes in the end, we catch a glimpse of another Collector, tailor-made for her.
  • Hero of Another Story: The Key's previous guardians—two of whom (Sirach and Dickerson) are shown during brief flashbacks.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Irene and Deputy Bob.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Collector, by way of Our Demons Are Different and a few Reality Warper sprinkles.
  • Hurricane of Puns: It's the Crypt Keeper. What did you expect?
    You call that 'hack'-ting?!... Well, let me tell you something, pal—you're no 'Gory' Cooper! You're not even a Robert 'Deadford!' Another take like that, and it'll be back to 'bit parts' for you, and I won't say what bits I'm talking about!
  • I Lied: The Collector says this directly to Roach just before he is Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
  • Ignored Expert: Brayker early on.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Since the only thing that destroys demons (other than the holy blood) is a shot in the eyes, Brayker is insanely good at hitting that relatively small target using just about any weapon he gets his hand on. Justified in that he does have the power of God on his side, and he is at least a hundred years old, giving him lots of time to work on his marksmanship.
    • Less so with the postman Wally, who lands a few head-shots on a demon, and when Brayker tells him to aim for the eyes, puts them out with two more perfect shots. Later on it's revealed that Wally has a huge cache of assault weapons stashed in his room (though he hadn't gotten around to finding much ammunition yet), implying that he's put in the footwork in learning how to use them.
  • In Medias Res: The movie begins in the middle of a car chase that marks the beginning of the end of a century-long game of cat and mouse between the Collector and Brayker.
  • Infant Immortality: Horribly, horribly averted...
  • Info Dump: Brayker is forced by the hotel residents to explain what's going on. Learning it doesn't make them feel better. Also, when a Demon Knight receives the Key, they get forced fed the memories of every Knight in history.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Wally had saved up quite the firearm collection - but had no ammo for it, to Deputy and Irene's dismay.
  • It's All About Me: Roach is astoundingly selfish. Even when he learns the entire universe is at stake, he still can only think about saving his own ass.
  • Jackass Genie: The Collector offers to grant wishes to a few characters if they help him, but all he ever really does if they accept is turn them into demons. Of course.
  • Jerkass: Roach. While trying to escape the hotel during the demonic attack with Cordelia, he gets spotted by a demon and pushes Cordelia into the coming demon's path while he runs back inside. Not long after, he shows himself to be abusive towards Cordelia and overall rude to others. And he later steals the Key from Brayker and makes a deal with the Collector for safe passage, only to be Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
    • Roach is indirectly responsible for Cordelia's possession and death, as his taking her to her room so he can threaten her leaves her isolated and vulnerable to the Collector's attempt to seduce her. He also fires at his demon-possessed boss and destroys the blood-barrier at the mine entry, granting demons access to the inside of the hotel and leaving the survivors trapped on the second floor with only fading hope of lasting til morning. And then there's his attempts to trade the key for his life as mentioned several times on this page. In short, Roach is just as much an antagonist of this story as the Collector is.
  • Karmic Death: Roach again.
  • Large Ham: Billy Zane as The Collector, having a grand old time.
    • And of course, this being a Tales from the Crypt production, we get a wraparound featuring the Crypt Keeper, an animatronic entity that somehow manages to be the largest ham in the history of television.
  • Legacy Character: One Demon Knight, one Collector. The first Demon Knight, Sirak, and Jeryline are both thieves, so it could be all Knights are thieves of one sort or another.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: The Collector offers Irene her severed arm in exchange for her soul. On a platter. Irene flips him off.
  • Loveable Rogue: Jeryline used to be a thief. Which makes her a superb candidate as a Demon Knight.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: The Collector, of course. After getting stabbed in the eye, he is more concerned about the broken Ray-Bans. "I liked them, too. Damn."
  • Meaningful Name: The town of Wormwood is a reference to the Book of Revelations concerning the end of the world: "The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood."
  • The Millstone: Roach, who spends his time insulting Brayker and trying to oust him out of his position as leader, criticizing everything he does while never offering an alternative aside from giving the demons the key, which absolutely no one else is willing to do, and screwing things up with his cowardice and assholery. Immediately after learning that if the key falls into the Collector's hands, the entire universe will be destroyed, Roach steals it from Brayker and hands it to the Collector to save his own ass
  • Mind Rape: The Collector's weapon of choice.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film alternates between comedy and horror.
  • Nazi Zombies: Kinda. Brayker kills a demonic German soldier in one of his flashbacks, and although the scene is set in World War I, the choice to put the later stahlhelm on the German instead of the pickelhaube is invoking some Nazi-like imagery, as the stahlhelm is more associated with Those Wacky Nazis than the Imperial Germans.
  • Neverending Terror: The Legions of Hell are chasing after an ageless Chosen One who carries a holy flask containing the blood of Jesus and previous Chosen Ones. The Chosen One must stay on the run from them, constantly moving and never slowing down too much for an instant or else, they get the flask and unleash Hell on Earth. Also, the Chosen One bears a mark on his/her arm counting down how much time is left until they must make their Last Stand, at which point they must face an onslaught of Demonic Invaders and then pass on the flask to the Lone Survivor, who is the next Chosen One.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Roach nearly brings about The End of the World as We Know It simply because he can't resist taking a parting shot at his asshole boss.
    Homer? This is for five years of minimum wage, you asshole!
  • Nothing Is Scarier: After the Collector attempts to seduce Jeryline, she quietly walks back out into the main hall and is eerily silent for a while, leaving the viewer to wonder if she's been possessed herself or not.
  • Novelization: By Randall Boyll.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Peggy Trentini in the opening framing segment.
    • Cordelia, Hooker with a Heart of Gold.
    • The two ladies with our horror host in the closing framing segment.
    • The temptation the Collector offers to Uncle Willy is a bar of topless women offering him beer and making sexual innuendos about "enjoying a long, hard one." And for the kicker, some of them were played by porn stars.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: invoked In-universe, the Collector gives up the cowboy disguise, followed by a Cluster F-Bomb.
  • Oh, Crap!: Brayker gives an "Oh, shit!" when he realizes The Collector is going to summon an army of demons.
  • "Oh, Crap!" Fakeout: When The Collector is stabbed in the eyes (which kills demons), he screams in horror, then chuckles sadly at his broken sunglasses, "Damn, and I liked those, too."
  • One-Winged Angel: We do briefly to get to see The Collector's true form just before he dies: a gigantic, skeletal being with a ram's head and enormous wings. He blows up real good.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Irene has her arm ripped off early in the film, but she neither bleeds to death nor goes into shock despite never getting the serious medical treatment that surviving such an injury would require.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: It's not even clear if demons actually have names, so it's just "The Collector" to you.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Lampshaded by The Collector, who ponders just who makes all these rules.
  • The Power of Blood: The Key was filled with the blood of Jesus Christ (and later guardians of the Key) to prevent the demons from using it. The blood can create barriers and hurt demons.
  • Prima Donna Director: Apparently, give the Crypt Keeper control of a movie and he turns into one.
  • Pushed at the Monster: Roach forces Cordelia to join him in a run for his truck when the demons surround the hotel. When one ambushes them, he INSTANTLY shoves her towards it and runs back inside to save his own skin. Luckily Wally and Brayker manage to get her back into the hotel.
  • Reality Warper: The Collector, who dumps Uncle Willy into a lewd and extravagant party beyond his wildest dreams, and apparently warps a comic book to mirror the events happening in the film, though it's never made clear how much of it is simply him getting into his victims' heads, as the first is a hallucination.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Being the guardian of the Key means you don't age. Brayker is at least a hundred years old. Since the movie doesn't date itself, the fact that Brayker became immortal during World War I just makes him older and older as the film ages.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Jeryline. Irene gets her moments, too.
  • Scary Black Man: The Other Collector.
  • Seen It All:
    Roach: You know this Hell on Earth business? Big fucking deal! I've got hemorrhoids.
  • Shout-Out: To Tales from the Crypt, of course.
    • The way Irene and Deputy Bob go out is similar to Vasquez and Gorman's deaths in Aliens (using grenades, a snappy one-liner and holding hands in their last moments to take out pursuing enemies).
  • Staking the Loved One: Jeryline has to do this to the possessed Uncle Willy and Danny. She fails to go through with it the first time, but succeeds the second.
  • The Stinger: At the end of the closing credits, the Crypt Keeper appears to ask the audience why they're still there and to tell them to look out for his next movie. (He refers to Dead Easy, which production ultimately never moved forward with.)
  • Take Up My Sword: Brayker tells Jeryline after he's passed on the key to her, that she'll have to do the same thing someday.
    Brayker: When the stars align, you'll know what to do.
  • Taking You with Me: "SUPPERTIME!"
  • Tall, Bald And Snarky: The Collector, as evidenced throughout this page.
  • Thematic Series: Along with Bordello of Blood, making up the Tales from the Crypt film franchise even though the two stories have no narrative connection, and just feature William Sadler and the Key.
  • Title Drop: Easy to miss, but the Collector actually does use the term "Demon Knight" to refer to the guardian of the Key, when he brags no one had ever taken a Demon Knight alive before.
  • Token Evil Teammate: The Collector openly admits he was counting on Roach to betray the Universe.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Way too many of the residents during the movie, but especially Roach.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: The Crypt Keeper, as always. When having his head cut off, he laughs, "Well, whaddaya know—I asked for final cut—and I got it!"
  • Took a Level in Badass: Of all characters, Deputy Bob, who when we first meet him, was a typical Bumbling Cop, but by the end, he's ordering the others and Brayker to go without him as he wards off the approaching demons before he and Irene give their lives to take them out.
  • Transformation of the Possessed: What happens to those who get possessed.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In one of his flashbacks, before receiving the key and learning about the demons, Brayker seems pretty unperturbed that he and Dickerson were set up by German soldiers with glowing eyes and clawed fingers, and that green light shoots out of their eyes when they die. He just talks about them having "lured us into an ambush" as though they were ordinary human enemy soldiers.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Collector makes the offer to Jeryline. Her response is really something to behold.
  • Wham Line: "No. S'ok. I'll wait for the next one." (cue Death Glare)
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: At one point, The Collector asks who makes up all the rules for the demons.
  • World War I: One of Brayker's flashbacks takes place during this conflict.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Brayker is performing his Take Up My Sword moment, he reassures a dubious Jeryline.
    Jeryline: Look, Brayker, I can't do this! I'm not the right time of person for this shit!
    Brayker: The demon tried to seduce you, right?
    Jeryline: [nods] He tried.
    Brayker: You're the exactly the right type of person.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Discussed by Brayker—especially when it comes to the Take Up My Sword.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: "I lied." Said by the Collector to Roach after he hands over the Key he stole from Brayker.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: All Demon Knights end up with a grisly fate, according to the Collector who is an Unreliable Narrator. However, at some point, all Demon Knights pass on the Key to a new one at an unspecified but predetermined place and time.


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