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Demon Knight

Demon Knight (also known as Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight) is a 1995 horror film directed by Ernest Dickerson, and starring Billy Zane, William Sadler, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Dick Miller, and Thomas Haden Church co-star.

Demon Knight is a feature-length film presented by the popular HBO series Tales from the Crypt, and features scenes with the Crypt Keeper (played by Tommy Vicini and once again voiced by John Kassir) at the beginning and end of the movie.

The film was followed by Bordello of Blood; although it is not a direct sequel, the key artifact from this film makes an appearance.


The Key

The story of Demon Knight revolves around an artifact and its guardian. The artifact is a key, one of seven keys that can open the gates of Hell and unleash darkness across the universe.

In the beginning, before the Earth was formed, demons wielded these seven keys to focus the power of the cosmos into their hands, but after God created the world, He scattered the keys throughout the universe. After thousands of years of retrieving six of the keys, the demons returned to Earth upon learning that the seventh and final key was located there. To prevent the key from falling into the devils' hands, it was filled with the blood of the dying Jesus Christ, obtained during the crucifixion.

The blood in the key has the power to create barriers on entrances where it prevents demons from entering. These barriers can be broken by either removing the blood from where it was poured, or if the structure creating the barrier is destroyed.

If the blood runs out, the key can be refilled with the blood of the latest guardian of the artifact and the new supply of blood still has the same power, due to it still having some (however diluted) blood left in it from Christ or possibly because the sacrifice of the knight's life re-empowers the blood.

The Guardian

The guardian of the key appears to be immune to aging and natural death, but they are still vulnerable to death through other means. On their hand, there is a kind of tattoo that acts as a gauge to when their night will come when they will fight the demons, and when the night is over, pass on the duties of guardian to another.

The first guardian of the key was a thief named Sirach. Thousands of years later, during World War I, a soldier named Dickerson was the guardian of the key, and in 1917 he passed the responsibility to a fellow soldier named Frank Brayker.

Brayker's fight

Nearly nine decades after receiving the key from Dickerson, Brayker is being pursued by the Collector, a higher-level demon tasked with retrieving the key. Arriving in New Mexico and narrowly eluding the Collector on the highway, Brayker heads into a nearby town where he runs into Uncle Willy, an alcoholic who takes Brayker to a boarding house that used to be a church. There, Brayker meets the landlady, Irene, young criminal on work release Jeryline, postal worker Wally, prostitute Cordelia and her crooked boyfriend Roach.

Shortly after, the Collector arrives at the hotel with Sheriff Tupper and Deputy Bob, who arrest Brayker and question him about the artifact. The two police officers find the artifact, but the Collector can't touch it as long as there is blood in it and needs it emptied out. Uncle Willy starts to empty it, but Sheriff Tupper takes the key. As they are about to leave, the Collector punches the sheriff, driving his fist right through his head. Brayker briefly scuffles with the Collector, eventually driving him off with the key. The Collector jumps out the window and summons a legion of skeletal, lower-level demons that can possess people after they've been killed. To complicate things, the Collector tempts the people inside the hotel with promises of getting things they want if they join him.

First, he seduces Cordelia and uses her to get to Wally, who is then killed by a possessed Cordelia. In the following confrontation, the possessed Cordelia rips off Irene's arm before finally being killed by Brayker. Roach leads a revolt against Brayker, and everyone else agrees to head into an underground mine shaft in an effort to escape without the demons knowing it; Brayker grudgingly joins them. Jeryline gets separated from the others and finds Danny, a young boy whose parents were possessed by two of the Collector's minions. Just then, the demons in question attack. Jeryline and Danny join up with the others, and everyone returns to the hotel basement. Roach ends up destroying a blood barrier after shooting a demon, and everyone makes a run for the upstairs, where the demons are unable to get to them (earlier, a blood barrier was accidentally created at the top of the stairs).

Brayker explains the history of the key to everyone, and at that moment, Jeryline realizes that Danny is missing. Everyone goes to look for Danny, but Roach manages to obtain the key from Brayker without his knowing it. The Collector tries to entice Jeryline into helping him retrieve the key, while Irene finds Danny in the attic with Uncle Willy and orders Uncle Willy to get and bring Brayker up into the attic. Uncle Willy takes Danny with him, only to fall victim to an illusion of being in a bar with beautiful, topless women. The Collector, posing as a bartender, goads Uncle Willy into drinking alcohol. Irene and Deputy Bob find a trunk loaded with weapons, and learn that Wally had been planning to attack the post office.

While looking for Uncle Willy, Brayker and Jeryline find Danny in a room, and encounter a possessed Uncle Willy. Brayker is barely able to fight Uncle Willy as he finds that he doesn't have the key, while Jeryline is torn between killing Uncle Willy and helping Brayker. Brayker grabs a machete and cuts off Uncle Willy's head, but that doesn't stop the possessed man. While his headless body proceeds to attack Brayker, Danny takes Uncle Willy's disembodied head and stabs his eyes out with deer antlers, ending his menace.

Roach, meanwhile, has made a bargain with the Collector: the key in exchange for safe passage out of the hotel. Roach wipes away the blood on the stairwell to allow the Collector to past through, and gives him the key. However, once he finally gets the key, the Collector reneges on his bargain by saying, "Oh and Roach, there is just one more thing I forgot to mention, I lied" and sics his minions on Roach, killing him. Victory is short-lived, though, when Brayker fires an arrow into his eye. The Collector drops the key and falls to the floor far below. Brayker gets the key and heads up into the attic with Jeryline and Danny, while Irene and Deputy Bob fight off the demons. Irene sets off a belt of hand grenades, and she and Deputy Bob sacrifice themselves to kill the minions.

Now alone with Jeryline and Danny, Brayker uses what little blood is left to create a barrier on the attic window, then hands the artifact to Jeryline, saying that she is the "chosen one", the one who, being the only person to survive the night, will receive the duties of guardian. Just then, a possessed Danny attacks Brayker, clawing into his chest. Jeryline kicks Danny through the window, and Danny is killed by the blood barrier. Before dying, Brayker fills the key with his blood, gives Jeryline the key, which brands the gauge tattoo onto her palm.

After Brayker dies, the Collector comes up into the attic and again tries to sway Jeryline to join him. Jeryline has slathered blood on her body, and grabs the Collector's arm, the blood burning his skin. The Collector disappears, and Jeryline goes to confront him, only to be ambushed by him. The Collector washes the blood off of Jeryline's body, but she tries gouging him with the key; though it has no effect, it distracts the Collector long enough for Jeryline to drink some of the blood. After one last attempt to get her to join him, the Collector is about to kill Jeryline until she spits the blood in his face. The Collector writhes in pain and goes up in flames before reverting to his true demonic form and exploding.

As a new day dawns, Jeryline refills the key with Brayker's blood and heads off into the world, boarding a bus and making a barrier at the door. However, she is being followed by a man in an overcoat and a black hat, who declines to board the bus and instead walks down the road whistling the Tales from the Crypt theme...

The film ends with The Crypt Keeper attending the world premier of the film. When he arrives at the theater, the producers confront him, revealing that they have a "final cut". The Crypt Keeper is decapitated by a guillotine, and the film ends with a shot of his head, laughing maniacally.

Following the credits, a brief post-credits scene of the Crypt Keeper plays, promising that the next film, supposedly titled Dead Easy, will appear in theaters soon.


Actor Role
Billy Zane The Collector
William Sadler Frank Brayker
Jada Pinkett Smith Jeryline
Brenda Bakke Cordelia
CCH Pounder Irene
Dick Miller Uncle Willy
Thomas Haden Church Roach
John Shuck Sheriff Tupper
Gary Farmer Deputy Bob
Charles Fleischer Wally
Ryan Sean O'Donahue Danny
John Larroquette Actor in Prologue
John Kassir Voice of The Crypt Keeper


  1. "Cemetery Gates (Demon Knight edit)" - Pantera
  2. "Tonight We Murder" - Ministry
  3. "My Misery" - Machine Head
  4. "Diadems" - Megadeth
  5. "Instant Larry" - Melvins
  6. "Fall Guy" - Rollins Band
  7. "Beaten" - Biohazard
  8. "Policia" - Sepultura
  9. "Hey Man Nice Shot" - Filter
  10. "1-800-Suicide" - Gravediggaz

The melody portion of "1-800-Suicide" plays in the background of the scene where the Collector first attempts to seduce Jeryline. Portions of "My Misery" and "Diadems" play during the closing credits after the traditional Tales From the Crypt theme.


  • In an original ending the Collector transformed into a more demonic form before his destruction, but the test audiences disliked it. It was changed so that the Collector would be in a familiar form when he was destroyed.
  • During the scene in the attic with the possessed Danny, a Tales from the Crypt comic book falls to the floor, and its flipping pages reflect the events of the scene as they happen.
  • Brayker says he was given the key by a soldier named Dickerson. This is a reference to the film's director, Ernest R. Dickerson.
  • Demon Knight was released in theaters on Friday, January 13, 1995; Friday the 13th is a day traditionally held to be bad luck. This fits Tales from the Crypt's macabre atmosphere.
  • The concept of destroying a demon's eyes in order to kill it was later used in the television series, Brimstone, which was created by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, who wrote the script for Demon Knight.
  • Brayker's key artifact is also used in Bordello of Blood although its importance bears less relevance than in "Demon Knight".

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