''Tales of the Crypt'' to fill horror void -- The current TV series will be put into three new films and 15 new TV episodes

Blood and guts, in Joel Silver’s eyes, just ain’t what they used to be. ”There are no horror franchises out there,” laments the producer. ”Nightmare is tired; Jason is tired.” Which is exactly why Demolition Man‘s Silver is building a new monster: screen versions of Tales of the Crypt, the grisly slasher series he brought to TV in 1989.

With a new deal at Universal for a trio of modestly budgeted Crypt movies, a green light for 15 new TV episodes, and a blitz of Crypt merchandise (from T-shirts to video games), Silver and his partners (including directors Robert Zemeckis, Walter Hill, and Richard Donner) are leaving no gravestones unturned. The first Crypt movie-Demon Knight, to be directed by Ernest Dickerson (Juice)-should creep into theaters by Halloween.

But will audiences get their chills from a big-screen Crypt when they can be terrified at home for free? (Launched on HBO in ’89, the series-now a Tuesday-night show on Fox-has already been spun off to ABC as a Saturday- morning kids’ show, Tales From the Cryptkeeper.) Silver’s team is banking on the familiar. The films, he promises, ”are gonna have that same great humor, that Grand Guignol quality, very macabre and very sexy.” And hell, even if they fizzle, there’s no financial problem. With the syndication rights to the Crypt just sold, ”the show is now completely in the black.” Talk about tap dancing on the grave.