Director: David Burton Morris
Writers: Kim Ketelsen, Annie Willette, and David Burton Morris
Cast: Gavan O’Herlihy, Ruth de Sosa, Paul Lieber, John Kassir, and Dante d’ Andre
Composer: Jan Hammer
Air Date: 5/1/1990
In this tragic but exceptional episode, an emotionally disturbed husband named Richard (Gavan O’Herlihy) suspects that his wife Della (Ruth de Sosa) and old friend Alan (Paul Lieber) are having an affair. As Richard later discovers, however, making uninformed judgments can lead to dire consequences.
“Three’s a Crowd” forgoes the usual camp factor in favor of a more nuanced, psychological approach to horror. Therefore, Tales from the Crypt fans of a serious inclination will enjoy the (relatively) realistic premise on which this episode operates.
In early scenes, Gavan O’Herlihy portrayed Richard as a loving but hopelessly insecure husband, whose feelings of inadequacy stem from an inability to conceive a child with Della and provide her with the luxurious life that she supposedly desires. Dimly lit surroundings combine with Jan Hammer’s haunting score so as to highlight Richard’s distraught state of mind, thus allowing audiences to sympathize with this miserable character prior to his first line of dialogue. As Richard grows increasingly uncertain of his wife’s loyalty, a building sense of paranoia drives him to commit heinous acts and in doing so, complete his transition from misunderstood husband to fearsome antagonist. Richard’s slow descent into madness is always convincing as a result of O’Herlihy’s subtle performance, which takes an unexpected turn in the intense finale.
“Three’s a Crowd” also benefits from excellent writing, which results in smooth character development and a high level of suspense from start to finish. Though some fans may find a lack of traditional horror elements to be disappointing, a harrowing twist in the final scene culminates in arguably the most disturbing conclusion to any episode featured in Tales from the Crypt’s line-up.
The final act is presented in a campier style than previous scenes. However, it’s worth noting that this abrupt shift in tone is necessary to convey the final stage of Richard’s insanity.
Whereas many Tales from the Crypt episodes examine human nature from a somewhat tongue-in-cheek perspective, the characters in this scenario are forced to confront more true-to-life circumstances. Notably, Richard’s perceived inadequacies as a husband could, when coupled with the suspicious behavior of a seemingly unfaithful wife, be sufficient to drive a particularly unstable man over the edge, even in a real-world setting. For this reason, “Three’s a Crowd” teaches a valuable lesson on the importance of family members communicating with one another when intentions are in doubt, lest imaginations run wild in the worst of ways.
A most unique Tales from the Crypt offering, “Three’s a Crowd” maintains a gripping edge despite an utter absence of supernatural elements. Additionally, the powerful twist ending serves to haunt viewers with its horrifying implications.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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