By Ken Tucker
June 26, 1992 at 04:00 AM EDT

The fourth-season opener of Tales from the Crypt finds this horror anthology in good, nasty form. Three new stories premiere here. The first, ”None but the Lonely Heart,” marks the directorial debut of actor Tom Hanks; it’s the story of a con man, played by Treat Williams, who seduces elderly women, convinces them to sign over their savings to him, and then kills them. The idea isn’t a new one, but Williams is completely believable as both a charmer and a murderer. Hanks (who also appears in a cameo role) keeps the story moving swiftly and introduces the gruesome climax so subtly it’s bound to surprise you.

”This’ll Kill Ya” features Cleavon Little, Sonia Braga, and Steel Magnolias‘ Dylan McDermott as research scientists on the verge of a medical breakthrough. McDermott’s character is an arrogant lout who makes the lives of the other two miserable, so they play a mean trick on him, injecting him with a substance they tell him is lethal. The rest of ”This’ll Kill Ya,” directed by the painter Robert Longo, involves McDermott’s violent revenge on his colleagues.

”On a Dead Man’s Chest” is about the lead singer of a hot heavy-metal band (The Mambo Kings‘ Yul Vazquez) who gets a tattoo on his chest that proves to have a life of its own. As directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist), ”Chest” is the strongest Crypt tale of the set. Friedkin and scriptwriter Larry Wilson get all the details right and manage to make being a rude rock star seem both heavenly and hellish.

Then too, there’s a terrific, all-too-brief performance by rapper Heavy D., playing the sinister tattoo artist, Farouche. Midway through the painful procedure, the wincing singer points to Farouche’s eye patch and asks if it’s ”just for effect.” Farouche pulls up the black patch to reveal a disgusting clot of scar tissue and explains calmly that ”this was payment for a tattoo I gave Baby Doc when he was running Haiti.” The late dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier didn’t like Farouche’s design, ”so he took out my eye with a salad fork.” Now that’s the kind of throwaway detail that lifts a crass thriller into goofy greatness. B

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