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Monday, October 3, 2022

The “Solar Opposites Halloween Special” Brings Back John Kassir as the Cryptkeeper!

John Kassir returns as the infamous Cryptkeeper, who dispenses puns and helps save Halloween, as Solar Opposites pays tribute to this horror icon.

A lot of horror anthology series have made their mark on the medium, but one of the reasons that HBO’s Tales From the Crypt remains such a perennial favorite is because of its haunting, hilarious master of scare-emonies, the Cryptkeeper. The stories told within Tales From the Crypt typically don’t disappoint, but the hacky host that introduces and bids farewell to each installment quickly became the most celebrated aspect of the series. The Cryptkeeper character didn’t make his debut in HBO’s anthology series, but the reason that this take on the fearsome figure broke through to the mainstream is because of John Kassir’s titillating performance in the role. Now, after nearly a decade of staying in his grave, John Kassir makes his proper return as the Cryptkeeper, and it’s in one of the most unexpected of places.

A little background on the Cryptkeeper will better highlight the character’s strange journey from EC Comics narrator to a supporting player on Hulu’s animated sci-fi comedy, Solar Opposites. While most commonly associated with Tales From the Crypt, the character was first introduced in 1949 in Crime Patrol #15. This iteration of the EC Comics character was purely frightening and more of a twisted hermit before he’d go on to find his footing as a comedic horror host. EC Comics would also introduce a Vault-Keeper and Old Witch for their The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear genre anthology series, dubbed the three GhouLunatics, but it’s only the Cryptkeeper who resonated with audiences (although the other two would show up in animated form in Tales from the Cryptkeeper). Tales From the Crypt would even blur the lines between storyteller and subject for its story, “Lower Berth,” which turns out to be the Cryptkeeper’s origin story, a piece of lore that speaks to the public’s growing interest in the character.

John Kassir’s work as the Cryptkeeper would extend beyond the television series and he continued to reprise his role of the character in CD-ROM video games, pinball machines, and even a cameo in 1995’s Casper that equates him to cinematic icons like Clint Eastwood and Rodney Dangerfield. Tales From the Cryptkeeper, an animated spin-off that was geared towards children, continued Kassir’s tenure as the Cryptkeeper from 1996-97, following the end of the original series. Inexplicably, he’d also host Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House, an innovative Saturday morning game show for kids. Say what you will about The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock certainly never gained a level of crossover appeal that they could host a Saturday morning children’s game show.

The Cryptkeeper was even such an odd icon that he could fuel three musical albums, which included hits like “Crypt Jam” (complete with a music video), a whole Christmas album titled “Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas,” and the most recent, a 2000 “Monsters of Metal” compilation that pulls together tracks from heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath, Megadeth, and Pantera, while the Cryptkeeper provides interstitial narration between tracks. This is a pun-based corpse with zero musical background and yet he could sell three albums. Audiences needed as much Cryptkeeper content as possible. 

Beyond an eight-episode official Tales From the Crypt radio drama that came out in 2000, the most recent appearance of the Cryptkeeper was in 2012’s New Years Shockin’ Eve Marathon, a promotion that FEARnet put together to celebrate the network gaining the syndication rights to the series. New Cryptkeeper segments were interspersed between episodes as he helped audiences welcome in the new year. These recurring appearances from the Cryptkeeper have so much to do with Kassir’s committed performance and there’s a reason why he’s yet to be recast. Kassir has continued to work as a performer and voice actor, but there’s been a prolonged absence of the Cryptkeeper character for more than a decade. The Solar Opposites writers understand that now, more than ever, the world is in need of the Cryptkeeper’s brutally brilliant wordplay that distills deadly decisions down to morbid tales of morality.

What’s most impressive about the “Solar Opposites Halloween Special” is that it would have been far too easy to turn John Kassir’s return as the Cryptkeeper into a fun throwaway cameo and nothing more. It’s deliciously entertaining to have Kassir indulge in classic unholy alliteration, including his own take on some popular Smash Mouth lyrics, but this episode strives for more. In perfect Solar Opposites fashion, this Halloween special specifically resurrects the Cryptkeeper because he’s the ideal conduit to express the story at hand that’s being told. The episode utilizes the Cryptkeeper’s ironic storytelling mechanics to shatter an antagonist’s reality and force them to reckon with their own existence in the process. The way in which this supernatural storyteller neatly lays out their life through puss-filled puns triggers an existential crisis that helps Korvo escape from his death. It’s arguably the smartest use of the Cryptkeeper, including any of his original EC Comics appearances.

The Cryptkeeper becomes Korvo’s saving grace in the “Solar Opposites Halloween Special,” and for an episode that spends most of its first half singing the praises of The Great Pumpkin as the be-all end-all Halloween deity, it’s ultimately the Cryptkeeper who changes more lives here. He helps Korvo appreciate Halloween as a whole and understand that it’s a way for people to celebrate what it means to be alive by exorcising the things that scare them and examine why they do. It’s never too late to change, whether it’s in a benign capacity over one’s appreciation for Halloween or a drastic life change that completely alters the course of someone’s existence. 

That’s the beauty of the Crypt Keeper. He’s always got a bone to pick with stasis and arrested development. 

The “Solar Opposites Halloween Special” is also exciting for what it proposes regarding the series’ future. Now that the Solar Opposites universe has a Cryptkeeper in it, it wouldn’t be difficult to use him, moving forward, as the go-to host for any future anthology installments. Yes, this could be done for seasonal horror stories, but it’s even sillier to imagine John Kassir narrating an episode that tells a trilogy of stories that are inspired by Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. Now that the series has done the heavy lifting with an esoteric and thematic implementation of the Cryptkeeper, they’ve certainly earned the right to ease up and present him in his traditional capacity as a host, rather than the focus of an episode.

The “Solar Opposites Halloween Special” is still extremely successful if this is the first and last time that John Kassir’s Cryptkeeper cackle is ever heard, but the series’ compulsion for callbacks and dedicated world-building means that there’s a good chance that the show’s animated Cryptkeeper will live to pun again.

The post The “Solar Opposites Halloween Special” Brings Back John Kassir as the Cryptkeeper! appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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