Main cast: James Frain (Elliot), Siobhan Flynn (Arianne), Jonathan Firth (Malcolm), Gordon Peters (Sergeant Baker), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Valdemar Tymrak), and John Kassir (The Crypt Keeper)
Director: William Malone
While there had been twisted tales of romance gone awry in Tales from the Crypt (Loved to Death, ’Til Death, etc), we don’t really get many that focused on a romance. Prior to this, the closest is probably Forever Ambergris, but Report from the Grave is the first one with a central theme of tragic romance that involves the protagonist. Oh wait, there is also The Thing from the Grave, but we don’t talk about that thing in polite company. If this episode is the spiritual sequel to that episode, well, it only shows that the Brits sometimes do romance much better than the Americans, despite the stereotype of them having stiff rods rammed up their rear ends and what not.
Elliot, our hero, has devised a machine that can somehow track and recreate memories of dead people. This can be useful, but it needs testing. So, our moron breaks into the crypt of the infamous serial killer Valdemar Tymrak with his girlfriend Arianne to do that testing. I’m sure you can guess that things will not go as planned.
Elliot and Arianne seem to be on the rocks when the episode opens, with them bickering over his suspicion that she has stolen his research documents. She insists that she has nothing to do with the lost papers, and in fact, she loves him. Unconvinced, his paranoia fueled by him finding a letter which suggests that she has sold him out, the moron decides to get even with her by ramping up the memories of Valdemar’s crimes in her head while she is using the device. Oops, he can’t switch the device off and now she’s dead.
Worse, due to the mental link between her and Valdemar when she dies, Arianne is now captive of Valdemar in the afterlife. Valdemar is said to be a mesmerist, probably having sold his soul to the Devil, when he was alive, and his crimes were heinous, so now Elliot can’t sleep easy knowing that she’s probably being tortured Saw-style within every inch of her ghostly self, thanks to him. Even worse, he realizes that Arianne didn’t sell him out – she sent his research behind his back to help him secure some grant to further his research.
Now, he believes that she is sending him signs from the afterlife, signs that he will use to improvise on his device in order to save her. He begins experimenting on female corpses, basically becoming another doomed Dr Viktor Frankenstein type, and even when he thinks he has succeeded, oops, he has brought back Valdemar along with Arianne. It seems like he has to sacrifice her for the greater good – so that the sadistic serial killer will not be able to return to this world. Oh, the dilemma.
Report from the Grave is one episode in which the budget reduction really shows: Elliott’s “high-tech lab” resembles used computers purchased from a flea market with shiny papers and blinking lights pasted all over them to pass them off as “new technology”. That aside, is it a good episode? Well, it depends.
If I am to look at this as a creep show episode, it’s not exactly up there with the rest. Roger Ashton-Griffiths is very creepy as the demonic ghost, but the episode is too slow and draggy and the scares are few and in between. But if I look at this as a tragic love story, James Frain’s wide, sad eyes really deliver the pathos of a man who, in a moment of irrational anger, loses everything in the worst way possible, and the melodrama of the whole tragedy gets under my skin and makes me feel a bit choked up by the time the episode ends. The pathos and the emotions are there, even if the episode itself can seem haphazard and choppy. Perhaps if it had been a longer show, it might have worked better. As it is, well, it’s an average episode, but it’s one that may stick to my mind for quite some time yet due to all those feels.