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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 Flescher) 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • Arrow Cam: When Brayker 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 he 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. Although Satan is the supreme ruler of the demons, The Collector is at the heart of the action, while his boss is a background Greater-Scope Villain.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Changing of the Guard: Brayker comes to the hotel because he knows he'll find The Chosen One there.
  • The Chosen One: Brayker, later Jeryline.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The Collector's rant after being fended off by Brayker using the Key.
    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: 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 Glare: The second Collector gives a potent one at Jeryline.
  • 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.
  • 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. Just look at his topless women fantasy for evidence.
  • 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 Dany he just takes over him through a comic book. Meaning that... comic books are inherently tools of Satan?
  • 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 / Gagging on Your Words: The Collector is physically incapable of saying the words "I love you," which leads to yet another hilarious moment with Billy Zane:
    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 that 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.
    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.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Collector is an evil SOB, but boy does he act charming and polite to anyone he meets. And he'll keep up that act even as he tries to corrupt you into eternal damnation, murders you horribly, or attempts to trigger the apocalypse.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: When Brayker dies and all of the blood barriers vanish, The Collector makes one of these to a swelling score.
  • Gray and Black 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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!
  • 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 nude 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.
  • 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).


Example of: