Welcome back to the crypt, fiends. This week, we’ll be exploring sham marriage, murderous intent, a few ghosts, and the strange sexual allure of Amanda Plummer in EnCRYPTed‘s rundown on the fifth episode of Tales from the Crypt, “Lover Come Hack to Me.”
This is a point I will likely reiterate as this series goes on: Tales from the Crypt has one of the best damn theme songs of all time. Written by Danny Elfman, it embodies haunted houses, Halloween, and fun fear. It rivals the theme music from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and the theme from The Munsters as one of the best horror ditties ever.
“Lover Come Hack to Me” was written by Michael McDowall (one of the writers on The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a regular contributor to Tales from the Darkside and Monsters) and directed by Tom Holland (Fright Night and Child’s Play). It’s based on a William Gaines story from “The Haunt of Fear.” It first aired on Wednesday June 21st, 1989.
Like “Only Sin Deep” last week, “Lover Come Hack to Me” might count as one of the less “wild” episodes of Tales from the Crypt. Indeed, this episode is constructed in a “waiting for the shoe to drop” sort of way. We know something creepy is going to happen, and that Chekhov’s axe will be put to good use, but we have to spend the bulk of the episode waiting for it. Most of this one is two people wandering around a large creepy mansion, deciding where to have sex. It’s plenty atmospheric, but lacks the taut single-place tension of “And All Through the House.”
Super-handsome Stephen Shellen plays Charles, a newly married man who clearly married the timid and demure Peggy (Amanda Plummer) for her money. Peggy’s aunt (Lisa Figus) sees right through him, and Peggy even questions out loud his reasons for marrying her. Charles assures Peggy that he loves her, but since this is Tales from the Crypt-land we know that he is a greedy bastard from the start. Greed is the deadly sin of the week. And Charles will be the one who ends up being cosmically punished in some way.
Charles and Peggy get lost in a rainstorm on the way to their honeymoon, and find themselves finding shelter in an old dark abandoned house. Oddly, everything seems to be set up for them to have a romantic evening. The fireplace is set up, wet clothing must be shed (we see Shellen’s butt numerous times), there are candles waiting to be lit, and the grandfather clock is conveniently wound and working. Charles clearly wants to off Peggy, but Peggy manages to seduce him with naughty clothing and a surprisingly forthright sexual attitude.
After having sex, Charles decides not to kill her; she’s a bit of a wildcat and he likes that. He then has a dream or vision of some kind wherein Peggy pulls another man into the mansion, has sex with him by the fire, and then murders him with the rather large battle axe over the fireplace. It turns out, oddly enough, that those people her saw were actually the ghosts of Peggy’s mother and father. Peggy appears with the axe, announcing that she only wanted a magical, “perfect” wedding night just like her mother had. Which means, of course, a perfect night in an isolated house, a perfect first-time sexual encounter, and a perfect bloody murder. Sorry Charles. You get the axe. Amanda Plummer is a twitchy and wonderfully unhinged actress whose timidity seems to cover something sinister in every one of her roles. Her strangely energetic allure – not to mention bizarrely alluring sexuality – drives this episode.
“Lover Come Hack to Me” is a bit too straightforward setup-then-payoff to make it stand out as a classic. The acting is fine, but too much of the mystery is held off to the very end. This is not a “twist” ending, so much as a final explanation for all the weird stuff that came before. Its not until we see copious amounts of gore dripping down Amanda Plummer’s teeth that we really get enriched by the gleefulness of it.
This occurs to me. The Crypt Keeper tells you each of these stories, and he seems to be reading them out of great musty tomes kept in the craggy walls of his mouldering crypt, but I wonder: did he also write them? Is the Crypt Keeper a scholar of creepy tales, or their author? I always thought of him as someone who merely read all these stories, and was professorially enlightening us. He did not personally bind those books, he just reads them to pass the time, entertaining himself with the horror within. The origins of the Crypt Keeper will be explored in an episode called “Lower Berth” from the second season.
Until next week, kiddies, the crypt is closed. Join me then for “Collection Completed,” the final episode of the first season.