Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank in to obscurity.

In this installment we uncover the “Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House“…

Aired from 1996 – 1997
Aired on CBS

The eighties and nineties were a golden age for game shows marketed toward kids. Oftentimes the game shows involved testing kids’ brains and physical abilities, framed with some grand gimmick that could also involve audiences at home. With networks trying to compete with Nickelodeon, who’d cornered the market on game shows for kids, every network from FOX (I loved “Gladiators 2000”), and the Family Channel (Remember “Masters of the Maze”?), to even CBS were trying to build their own hit series. 

Among one of the weirdest examples was “Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House.” Filmed on the back lot of Universal Studios, the CBS Saturday afternoon game show exemplified how popular the Cryptkeeper and “Tales from the Crypt” had become in mainstream pop culture. The Cryptkeeper by 1996 had managed to become so much more than a narrator for a very adult horror series. He’d become an accessible, charming mascot in the vein of Freddy Krueger, garnering dolls, toys, a cartoon, and yes, a short lived game show for kids.

Although the gimmick was kind of confusing at times, the basic framework was two teams of two would enter the Cryptkeeper’s haunted house to compete for points and a big prize. The show was hosted by Steve Saunders, who’d greet the teams and lay out the instructions; the pair of teams would have to endure a bunch of obstacles throughout the CGI enhanced (with the help of a ton of green screen) haunted house, while also answering basic trivia about science, pop culture, and geography.

The ring leader was the Cryptkeeper, voiced once again by John Kassir. He wasn’t the host (which would have made a lot more sense) so much as an entity who sat in a booth mocking the preteen contestants from afar and spewing out pre-recorded messages like “Bo-ring!”, “Poor Baby!” and “This is going to get Messy!” Oddly enough the Cryptkeeper never doles out any of his classic, morbid word puns, despite the fact that there is an event called “The Swamp from Hell.”

The kids are encouraged to react with the CGI scenery and they do a pretty good job of it. One contestant is antagonized by an animated skull that taunts him as he lingers on a rickety bridge during “Fireball Alley,” and another event is animated to look like the player is hanging off of a high rock wall in “The Abyss.” There was the occasional dangerous obstacle where the kids had to compete in an honest to goodness wind tunnel. The final event “Skullduggery” is very similar to the final event of “Legends of the Hidden Temple” where our team has to navigate through the Cryptkeeper’s dark, labyrinthine mansion with lights mounted on their helmets, while looking for a certain number of skulls.

For the most part, despite the enhanced mood with the great set design, fun CGI, and welcome presence of the Cryptkeeper, “Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House” is just okay, never really rising above being a small novelty. And the novelty sadly wears off pretty quickly, especially when other shows have managed to pull off this kind of concept much better. The energy is kind of lackluster, especially from the contestants, all of whom feel coached in their interactions with one another and the host. In the end the prizes don’t really add up to much as the winners go home with a Macintosh Computer, while the runners up get a complete Encyclopedia set.

That said, “Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House” did garner a daytime Emmy nomination, but only lasted thirteen episodes during the fall of 1996 on CBS. Around this period, CBS was completely re-formatting their weekend morning line-up, so they axed their entire kids programming line up and replaced it with nothing but news shows and infomercials. It was basically the last hurrah for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” as well as newcomer “Timon & Pumbaa,” as news programming was ushered in and remained from 1997 and on.

It’s too bad because I think with a little more polish and much more money behind it, “Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House” could have gotten so much better, and gone on for another season. I would have loved to see much more elaborate and creative horror-themed obstacles. “Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House” never saw syndication after it was taken off the air, especially as kids’ game shows stopped being marketable in the early aughts. I personally wouldn’t mind a limited reboot with better CGI and more horror oriented events.

Is It On DVD/Blu-Ray? No. It’s not even on VHS, oddly enough. At least none that I was able to find, and I looked far and wide for at least one VHS copy of this series. There are, however, clips of the show on video sites like YouTube, along with one complete episode. Here’s hoping someone makes the final twelve episodes available for viewers someday soon.

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Author : Felix Vasquez Jr

Publish date : 2019-09-11 20:10:29