To celebrate horror on television, I’m looking back at 31 tales from various anthology series. They’re the ones I vividly remember or respond to the most. No matter what, though, they are proof that horror and suspense aren’t limited to the big screen.
During the 1980s and 1990s, there was a flux of animated spin-offs based on movies or television shows. The most auspicious was clearly The Real Ghostbusters, but that was one of the rarer success stories. Many others went unnoticed, or they died a slow, uneventful death. Once the novelty wore off, the networks generally moved on to the next trend.
Tales from the Crypt having its own cartoon was a strange choice even for the decade it sprang from. The original show was as macabre as they came. The version most people originally saw in syndication was in fact censored, so perhaps there was an audience for diluted ghoulishness. Targeting it towards young children seemed fitting for an era that conceived Gak, Creepy Crawlers, and other gross or morbid merchandise.
That being said, the end result of Tales from the Cryptkeeper was, as expected, rather tame. There was obviously no sordid content or violence with this being aimed at little ones. It doesn’t take a lot to scare kids, after all. Even so, one of the more memorable episodes has to be “The Haunted Mine” from the second season. An obnoxious man named Dale travels to his aunt’s ghost town to convince her to move into a retirement home. She refuses and they all somehow end up in the abandoned mines that so happen to be home to giant, ferocious rats.
“The Haunted Mine” sounds like it would be about ghosts, but the threat is certainly tangible. As Dale explains ever so plainly, an explosion freed the rats from their subterranean location so they could then escape and snatch their unsuspecting prey. To a kid, that’s pretty scary to both hear and see. In addition to the child-friendly spookiness, there is a human interest backstory which adult viewers can connect to, if only for a few chuckles. Dale’s aunt is a very active senior citizen who loves her equally old, loyal dog and hates the man who supposedly abandoned her so long ago.
With one’s expectations adjusted and their childlike curiosity intact, Tales from the Cryptkeeper is more amusing than the watered-down premise sounds. There was a short-lived revival in 1999, but, to put it nicely, the animation and story quality left a lot to be desired.