Good morning creeps and creepettes, Cryptkeeper Bubbawheat back for day 22 of our 31 Days of Tales From the Crypt. Today’s rodent is none other than Bernardo Villela who is The Movie Rat where he nibbles on all sorts of film, including plenty of foreign, indie, and documentary titles. Today, he takes a look at one of the episodes that I’m entirely unfamiliar with but sounds infinitely interesting, especially for me considering I have a penchant towards time loops, or might I say a time Whirlpool.
To be able to write about the selected episode I felt it necessary to have two sections that explain my journey to having this be my first full episode of the show viewed. You can feel free to scroll down to my take on Whirlpool but you’d be lacking some contextualization, namely the grain of salt with which to take my piece.
It’s funny that I should even be partaking in this blogathon. I had seen it around, considered it quickly but having never seen Tales from the Crypt before I didn’t consider it a real possibility. Then I was asked to. I looked at what I could locate, and soon, and decided to jump in.
Which means I have to lead off with what my prior aversion was to Tales from the Crypt and horror in general. The latter I have touched on some, so specifically the Cryptkeeper used to freak me out. I don’t know what was on just before it would come on (Dream On?) but sometimes I’d catch the opening cackle and have to flip over to another channel.
Growing up I was sheltered and didn’t want to be scared or “face fears.” Things I saw or got glimpses of did make their mark. The monsters I feared under the bed were Mogwai in the cocoon stage, and sometimes hatching.
It took me a while to want to see horror. I’ve cited The Shining in a high school class as an awakening. And it was what made me search out Stephen King immediately thereafter. Tastes of enjoying being scared, using the release Craven speaks of, came on TV where I could see scary things and via a hammock effect bounce back into a comedy to more easily get over what I just saw.
Some of these shows were things like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and the X-Files being long removed from youthful viewings of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the like.
So those were the beginnings, and one can see how I was ill-equipped and disinclined to watch the show. Now, when tasked in this blogathon, I was much more prepared in a number of ways.
As many do, my sojourn in the horror genre truly started with one gateway (King) and since then I’ve explored many avenues. One avenue includes other anthology shows like The Haunting Hour, and the newer variety like American Horror Story. Not only that but slowly and surely I’ve also gotten familiar with the other aspect needed to appreciate Tales from the Crypt: horror comics.
I wrote previously of my comics epiphany. But it was many years since discovering and falling in love with Creepshow, as a film, and King’s edition (there’s that gateway again), before I would then read some horror comics mainly Creepy.
Having come to read them, after a long and winding road I was fully prepared to enter the crypt.
Having the background I do I realized that the Cryptkeeper’s introductory speeches on this show the natural extension of the magazine’s mascots, regardless of horror book, introduction to the short tales of horror within.
Whirlpool is directed by Mick Garris who himself owes a great debt to Stephen King working on a number of adaptations of his work namely Sleepwalkers, The Stand (mini-series) The Shining (mini-series), Quicksilver Highway, Riding the Bullet, Desperation and Bag of Bones. He went on to also direct two Masters of Horror episodes Valerie on the Stairs and Chocolate, and wrote for the largely lamentable Fear Itself. However, here Garris, fairly early in his directing days, is given a framework wherein he can excel.
The 25 minutes drama is one of the more effective, more under-utilized formats on TV. These shorter stories make this narrative rather close to a book. Even more so in this story as it deals with a morphic tale of a comic book artist having stress-nightmares about pitching a story for a horror anthology comic, namely Tales from the Crypt. Taking a Groundhog Day approach to the story allows the episode four or five iterations of its tale and of the comic-story within, it is also interesting to note is that the tale that is being pitched is fairly reminiscent of Diabolique.
This truncated running time makes it easier for a show such as this, on a then-fledging cable network (in terms of original programming) to have a single-camera show, and this episode features stylized framing, lighting and effects without going overboard. It’s a comic book treatment of film visuals that’s much more akin to Storaro’s Dick Tracy than Sin City. There are visual parallels in each frame of the narrative which go beyond just the swoop down from the God’s-eye view, or canted angles, but go to static, well-composed ones as well that give this episode great cohesion that is quite necessary for it to work.
The episode is interestingly spear-headed by two comedians, who were generally not known for their acting work, and who I enjoyed a great deal when they were at their zenith; Rita Rudner and Richard Lewis.
Having waited I can unquestionably say I was definitely better able to appreciate this show now that I have a footing in horror across media. It seems much in the intended spirit of EC Comics, this episode especially. Obviously. And the on-the-nose comic book approach here was certainly the right way for me to go.