It has been 25 years since Tales from The Crypt: Demon Knight made its debut with all the camp, cheesiness, splatter gore, and oddball comedy expected from the famous anthology series. The film came during a general lull in horror movie interest, sandwiched in between the genre’s ‘80s golden years and right before its big resurgence in the late ‘90s, with a comedic horror story about a demon killer and an eclectic group of people fighting to survive.
There’s a sex worker, a grade A jerk, a secretive postal clerk, a police officer, and a fearless hotel owner. Then, there’s Jeryline, a Black woman protagonist portrayed by then-rising actress Jada Pinkett (now known as Jada Pinkett Smith). She’s a convicted thief on a work order release with a wise-cracking, no-nonsense persona.
In the horror movie world, she’s the type of character who is typically expendable so the “real” leading person, in this case Frank Brayker (William Sadler), could defeat evil and triumph. Most Jeryline-esque characters are there for witty quips, eye candy, and to often sacrifice themselves for others. But Jeryline soared past horror movie tropes and persistent stereotypes to quickly established herself as a vital part of the narrative. In fact, this enigmatic and brave character is in several defining (and sometimes hilarious) scenes that make this film an underrated gem.
Here are some of Jeryline’s best moments in Demon Knight.
An Instant Connection
Geeking Out About It
Brayker was relatively nonchalant when he met the other people at the seedy hotel. But, when Jeryline first appears, he gives her a look of almost stunned disbelief and she returns it back to him.
It’s sly foreshadowing of her future as the survivor destined to become new guardian of the key. At the end, Brayker says his trip there was specifically to give her the key, so obviously he had some sort of internal nudge or had seen her face at some point.
Everyone else isn’t too suspicious of Brayker’s sudden arrival, but Jeryline immediately realizes that he didn’t just “come here for the view.” It jumpstarts her curiosity around his past and willingness to work with him to save others.
The Cat Conundrum
Jeryline’s primary concern during a demon invasion wasn’t for her own life, but rather her beloved black cat Cleo. She’s thrilled when her feline friend shows up in the kitchen but things get comical when Brayker starts chasing both of them around a table. Jeryline is fiercely protective of her cat and purposely encourages Cleo to run away from Brayker. Dude, please leave her cat alone!
He’s worried that Cleo may be harboring an evil spirit but, in Jeryline’s words, her cat is “not possessed by some demon from hell.” Thankfully, Cleo was just a crafty cat who used a tunnel and managed to survive the night. Was Cleo somehow protecting Jeryline from harm? I would like to think she’s a good luck charm.
Fun Fact: Jada’s Set It Off (1996) character Stony is best friends with another Cleo, but this time it’s a fellow human.
The Woman with a Plan
Jeryline was the main person who kept the plot going forward. She encouraged the group to use the same tunnel Cleo used to go towards potential freedom. It put her at odds with Brayker but it seemed like the most logical choice at the time. Think about it.
This guy says he can protect them, but he’s also brought monsters—that have killed two people—right to their doorstep when they were minding their own business. Why would anyone listen to Brayker over Jeryline at that point? She was trying to create a plan while refraining from escalating the situation with anger and blaming, unlike the forever awful Roach.
If Jeryline hadn’t rallied the group to move forward, then it’s pretty likely that everyone would have died in that house. Well, they all died anyway, but that’s beside the point. Moving them to a different location allowed Brayker time to tell his story and witness how Jeryline exhibited heroic traits. The change in location also got them to Wally’s stash of bombs used to kill the remaining demons.
The Collector Encounter
Jeryline’s mission to find Danny is interrupted when The Collector gets into her mind. He tempts her with an offer to give her a fabulous life as a beautiful demon and says she will end up dead if she doesn’t let him in.
She eventually looks him in the eye and boldly spits in his face to reject the offer. It’s a really bold to take towards this powerful antagonist, which only feeds into his desire to win her over. The dynamic between The Collector and Jeryline is different than with any other character because 1) She doesn’t fall for his trickster ways and 2) he is genuinely interested in making her a beautiful demon.
He was likely impressed by her sheer will power but also may have gotten the hint that she had the fortitude to be the next keeper of the key relic.
Exactly The Right Person
Jeryline is terrified when Brayker reveals that she will take up the mantle after his impending death. She blatantly remarks that she’s not the right type of person—a layered statement from a Black woman with a crime past. But, being a thief is a part of why she was made to be the next key carrier.
She’s likely been rejected, overlooked, discarded, and mistreated by society and told that she cannot attain certain things because of her race, sex, and criminal background. If anyone has given her a chance, it was a fellow Black woman like Irene, who let her work at the hotel.
So, the thought of being some sort of hero is far beyond what Jeryline would imagine. However, Brayker tells her that she’s exactly the right person to guard the key—and he’s 100 percent right. Her bravery, intelligence, heart, and resolve supersede any stereotypes about what a hero should look like.
A Bloody Finish
Jeryline’s final showdown with The Collector is the best. She comes out of hiding in her underwear and socks, covered in the key’s blood and ready to take him down. Jeryline is alone and uncertain but she pursues him as he creepily tries to bring her over to his side once again. Her idea to hold blood from the key into her mouth until the perfect moment to spit it into his eyes is wonderfully smart and effective.
It’s a gross and fiery conclusion that makes her a rare example of a Black final girl. Jeryline not only lives to tell the tale but also starts her own path towards adventure and action as a demon knight.
The Crypt Keeper revealed that Jeryline is traveling the world and having a great time. But, it’s still a bummer that she never got a chance to lead her own movie in a sequel. It would have been a bold move in the mid-late ’90s to have a demon slaying Black woman traveling the Earth for epic adventures. Jeryline’s battles with the new Collector, who presented as a Black man, would have told this type of story from a fresh perspective. But, there’s always fanfiction, right?
No matter what, Jeryline is a forever boss who broke the mold as the sole survivor of a horror film. She not only got a chance to survive, but she also was able to thrive and live an embolden new life as a hero. And, hopefully Jeryline is still out there somewhere in her universe being a badass 25 years later.
Featured Image: Universal Pictures