Film / TV

Interview | M. Night Shyamalan Talks Up the ‘Tales from the Crypt’ Reboot

The director of 'Split' says the upcoming TV series will go back to the original comics and be 'absolutely naughty.'

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

When talking to M. Night Shyamalan yesterday, my attentions were split. On one hand I was there to learn more about his new kidnapping thriller Split – which had just premiered at AFI 2016 – but our entire conversation was about huge spoilers, and it would be rude to reveal them now, months before the film’s premiere on January 20, 2017.

So I used the second half of my interview with the director of The Sixth Sense and The Visit to learn more about one of his most exciting projects, a reboot of the classic horror television series Tales from the Crypt, which will air on the TNT network in 2017. The original show, based on the classic and violent EC Comics series, was a darkly humorous series of morality plays, in which the wicked received ironic comeuppance every week. Many of the biggest celebrities in the world guest starred or guest directed episodes of the original Tales from the Crypt television series, and of course I wanted to know if that tradition would continue.

Also: The 100 Best Horror Movies of the 1990s!

What follows is the very conversational back and forth I had with M. Night Shyamalan about the future of the series, what his favorite Tales from the Crypt comic book story is, and what the original show means to him.

Insert the iconic Crypt Keeper cackle, and then let’s go…

HBO

HBO

Crave: Another project I’m really excited about from you is Tales from the Crypt…

M. Night Shyamalan: Oh cool.

I grew up with Tales from the Crypt. The comics, the show and the other movie, and it’s an interesting fit for you because we associate a lot of your work with a twist and Tales from the Crypt had a lot of twists. But the Tales from the Crypt twists were very moral.

Yes.

It was ironic punishment.

Cautionary tales, or comeuppance.

Is that still an important factor for Tales from the Crypt?

Yeah. I mean for me, the Crypt Keeper is kind of a cataloguer of men’s sins, and just loves it, and goes “I want you to do this. Come, so I can do this thing.” I love that, the dark angel that has all these books of man’s sins and tells you another one.

In some respects, as the executive producer who puts the show together, you are the Crypt Keeper. Has there been any thought about you literally being the Crypt Keeper and introducing the show?

[Laughs.] No, no, no. Not at all. What would you say, as I’m thinking about making it, what is the things that you would need to have in there?

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

For me, I think you do need a Crypt Keeper. I think you do need a host and preferably somewhat familiar to what we’ve seen before, but that’s surface stuff. For me, it’s the impish sense of humor. This ghoulish…

Yes, I agree.

…mean-spirited sense of humor. The HBO series was brilliant because they took these big celebrity cameos and it made it seem a little naughtier in some respects, like everyone’s getting away with something. Everyone’s playing. Everyone seems really eager to be there.

Yeah, yeah.

It wasn’t a whole bunch of people stabbing at the dark. There was a sense of real strength, coming out with all guns firing, if that makes sense.

I think I understood the first part. I don’t know why, it’s a moment that had nothing to do with the Crypt Keeper came to mind. There’s a cameo by that sweet kid, but he was in that Seth Rogen movie about the end of the world…

This is the End…?

Yeah. All I remember is the cameo where one of the actors like squeezed Rihanna’s butt at a party, and I forgot that actor. You know who I’m talking about?

I know who you’re talking about. It’s weirdly inappropriate…

Weirdly inappropriate and not who he is. In real life he’s actually sweet, kind of…

Michael Cera comes to mind…?

Yes! Michael Cera! Yeah, like that, so getting actors to come and do that on Tales from the Crypt, being absolutely naughty, and deliciously so.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

That’s something I would like to keep. What is Tales from the Crypt to you? What does it mean to you?

To me, I grew up in an immigrant Indian house so it was very forbidden. Even HBO at that time was like, that’s not appropriate. You shouldn’t be watching it. So we didn’t have that. So I’d have to sneak over to my friend’s house, sleep over there. I went over to Michael Popky’s house to watch it.

How do you spell “Popky?” I want to get it right.

[Laughs.] I think it’s “P-o-p-k-y.”

Just checking. I want to give him credit for this.

It’s in my phone somewhere. […] I haven’t seen him in whatever, twenty years. But yeah, it represents forbidden-ness. But obviously you get that kind of forbidden-ness is so many shows now, from [checks]… yeah, Popky. “P-O-P-K-Y.” But I do think that the thing that’s solely Tales is this thing you’re talking about, this thing. Because you can see it in the stuff I’m interested in right now, right? [Quoting the villain in Split] “Asian people’s music helps digestion.” You know, that dark kind of, “That was inappropriate!” Funny, scary, weird. That funny/scary mix.

I noticed that in Split. There’s a mean streak in your films now. Is there something… are you okay…?

[Laughs.] I’ve always been like that. I’ve always been like that but I also have a very soft side, as you can see as well. Those two things I think work well together. One earns the other.

Do you have a lot of Tales from the Crypt ideas? Are you going to write them all, or are you just curating?

Curating. I would try to… well, I’ll update them, hopefully.

So you’re going to go back to the original well.

Oh yeah!

So you’re not just going to do you’re own thing.

No, no, no.

You’re going back to the original stories.

These are the comics, yeah.

What’s your favorite one from the comics that hasn’t been done yet?

[Thinks.] There’s a bunch. I have a folder of my favorites, like my twenty or thirty favorites. I’m trying to remember them. I mean they’re so weird. There’s one where there’s a bewitching one, where an old lady bewitches and takes the wife, and the husband has to figure it out. He keeps the old lady in the closet but that’s really his wife now. They’ve swapped, you know? And he can’t kill this woman but she’s now a beautiful woman.

That’s weird.

Yeah. Fun stuff.

I get a lot of them confused because there was also Vault of Horror and stuff.

Oh yeah, those are all valid too.

Are those fair game for you?

They’re fair game, yeah.

There’s one really cool one, I can’t remember which comic it was. It was a guy who goes to a motel and the motel owner was draining everyone of their blood and he was convinced it was a vampire, and the twist was, “I’m not a vampire. I’m a ghoul. I eat flesh and I hate the blood!”

[Laughs.]

It’s the same basic thing to the audience but it’s still a twist.

“You misunderstood.”

That was it. “You just don’t get it.”

Yeah. The meanness, hopefully it’s irreverent and okay with doing taboo stuff.

Is there a limit to what you can do because you’re going to be on basic cable, as opposed to HBO?

Yes, definitely there will be a different line, I think. I don’t know what that is yet but there will be a different line.

Top Photo: Jerod Harris/WireImage

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most CravedRapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.