Imaginary archives in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight

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Demon Knight sustains this brash pace where it make-pretends expecting the viewer to already know what’s up, and so does wonders playing into the inherent strangeness of the anthology format where it can neither conventionally begin nor end, but must instead convince that it is already fully formed and that its best days are behind it. It is framed as an eschatological comic dork western thing for which Demon Knight is only ever the belated end, the reunion, the finale to this imaginary long running series about conmen, demons, and Jesus as a historically contingent mantle that was at some stage lost in a fire, desert burial, or small town library closure. Without its (fictional) predecessors the film we access is presented as the only surviving evidence—a quality that makes it both impossibly rich with imagined threads and maddeningly insufficient as an encompassing artefact. It is this latter perspective the film tries to liberate us from: try as we might to see past and through it, to peer around its corners and demand more from its actions, it is only ever Demon Knight that looks back and waves. Dickerson’s erratic gestures both draw attention to the film’s material surface and intuitively thrill us, which in splitting the analytic middle answers that it is the very artificiality of the film that holds, and if accepted a such, reveals its secrets rather than the promise of another, truer Demon Knight existing somewhere else, in the desert or in ash. It is the erratic gestures, it is the maddening insufficiency, it is the hastily drawn surfaces that reveal everything the viewer needs in order to imagine its pasts and futures into being, which makes this not only a fascinating work conceived from a conceptual archive but a moving treatise on the participatory nature of storytelling and world building in general.

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