If there's one element Tales from the Crypt fans are attached to from the original HBO series, it's John Kassir's cackling, pun-happy Crypt Keeper. Which is why I suspect many fans will be disappointed by today's news that TNT is “reinventing” the character for their M. Night Shyamalan-produced reboot, which the network has now officially ordered for a 10-episode run.
In short: HBO's incarnation of the Crypt Keeper — and by extension Kassir — will not be returning for the new series. As Kassir pointed out to me back in January, the character is in fact owned by the original series' producers — a group that includes Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Walter Hill, Richard Donner and David Giler — and the decision of whether or not to grant the rights is up to them. The question is: were TNT and Shyamalan simply unable/unwilling to retain the rights, or are they instead planning a different tonal (read: more serious-minded) approach to the classic EC Comics franchise?
I'm old enough to remember when the HBO series was on the air, and I personally can't imagine a Tales from the Crypt series without Kassir's iconic voiceover work — which isn't to say that I won't watch the new incarnation. But I do think Shyamalan and co. will have to work extra hard to win the trust of fans who are strongly tied to the rotting jokester, who was created for the original seriss by special effects makeup artist Kevin Yagher. As Kassir himself put it to me:
“He's who people remember. He's the visual part of the series. He's your best creepy buddy who told you these stories and let you know that that this show was gonna be fun. …He gave you that right up front, so you knew exactly how to go in and watch it. And that's a big deal. That was the difference between that and all of those other horror anthology shows that have come on the air that came and went, that don't have any kind of personality to the show itself.”
As it happens, Tales from the Crypt is part of a larger block of genre programming executive-produced by Shyamalan, with the anthology series Time of Death and the Slender Man-esque Creatures making up the other two parts of the equation. Here's a brief description of each, via Deadline:
Time of Death is planned as an anthology series with each season taking viewers hour-by-hour through a single “long night of hell.” The first season will follow a murderous psychopath who returns to his Midwestern hometown during the annual county fair to exact revenge on a community he believes destroyed his life.
Creatures is a psychological thriller that tells the tale of two former best friends who, at 12 years old, tried to cut out their classmate”s heart as a sacrifice to an internet bogeyman they invented called Mr. Gorgi. Fifteen years later, the two young women have been released from a psychiatric institute into their small town in Alaska, but it”s not long before they start to feel the alluring and terrifying presence of Mr. Gorgi once again.