Wormwood is in for a worse dilemma than its questionable name or near-ghost town population – to be more specific, the Mission Inn is in for a hell of a time, thanks to man-on-the-run Brayker and his green, glowy tattoo hand. A chase between Brayker, who holds a magic blood-filled key, and a demon called the Salesman, who wants to gain seven keys that harness a great power, brings them both to the unfortunately named town, and Brayker shacks up at the inn with a bunch of hodgepodge lodgers (like those rhymes?) who both help and hinder Brayker’s attempts to keep the key out of the bony, fiery clutches of the Salesman and his arsenal of undead spawn.
This is a novelization of the film of the same name, which was, of course, based off of the television series on HBO. Normally, I’m not into novelizations of movies and TV; most of the time, they’re poorly written, follow-the-film garbage that can only state in bland vocabulary what the film already did in live action. But TftC:DK differs in writing style and intelligence level – it doesn’t feel like some half-baked, lazily written scam for money to bank off of the film’s popularity. It’s got a witty narrator that makes reading the book a whole lot more fun and that carries that brand of saracasm that the Tales from the Crypt series is known for.
But there are still some problems, like the fact that the story is lacking in substance. That’s not to say that the author, Randall Boyll, is at fault for this. It’s the original script that drags this aspect of the book down; the plot happens all in one night and the backstory about the keys and the Salesman is too cut-and-paste to be of any substance. But it makes sense, at least in the realm of a B-movie Tales from the Crypt story, and the book has enough depictions of blood and guts and at least a hint at sex that keeps the entertainment value notched to high.
The voices of the characters are all diverse enough too, and it’s great to see Boyll shift from each character and bring them together in the Mission Inn. But at some point in the story, I couldn’t help but feel that each character was an intricately designed stereotype of all the main horror archetypes: the drunk, the slut, the normal girl, the nerd, the junkie, and the hero. Sure, they were fleshed out and the audience could associate pretty easily with each of them, but in the end they kind of faded back into their old stereotypes as they died and it was easy to forget that they had ever encompassed anything more than their two-dimensional personalities.
But what’s to complain about! Demon Knight is a book you can pick up, read quick, and leave forever as a book that was a pleasant distraction. It’s not a masterpiece, and not meant to be, but it’s a decent diversion, and it’s actually not a terrible novelization. It would be interesting to see what Randall Boyll could do on his own, without a pre-written, over-the-top outline of a story. But as it stands, you could do worse than Demon Knight. It’s probably better to read than the movie is to watch.