The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998 – 1999) – Horror TV Shows We Miss

The Horror TV Shows We Miss series looks back at The Crow: Stairway to Heaven, starring Mark Dacascos as Eric Draven

Let’s dream the crow black dream. I’m Niki Minter and this week on the Eric Draven files, we have The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. This is the first time we have a series that I feel lukewarm about. However, this is one that does have its fans and there’s a reason, aside from the upcoming reimagining, that we’re discussing it. This should be a fun time.

Okay, so, I caught Stairway on the Sci-Fi channel a few times here and there during its initial run. It caught my interest but never enough to start it from the beginning. What’s interesting about this is that it’s based on the 1994 movie adaptation which was pulled from James O’Barr’s original comic. Mark Dacascos would be the one and only person ever to fill the role once held by Brandon Lee. This is an interesting take, right? I think most of us, including myself, often compare any Crow iteration to the original. I’ve watched all the Crow related movies because I’m always curious about the next person’s vision. The only one that’s gotten several viewings from me aside from the OG is City of Angels. Do whatever you want with that info.

The show, which was created and sometimes written by Bryce Zabel, known for his work on Dark Skies and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, follows what feels like a cop-and-sidekick crime-solving format, with Eric Draven trying to reunite with Shelly throughout the series. Additionally, various characters are after the actual crow for its immortality properties, a plot device that seems to appear in nearly every episode. I’d also like to add that instead of Eric just putting on make-up and seeking vengeance, it’s a bit different here. The Crow persona is activated when Eric reaches his maximum breaking point then when everything is calm he goes back to being just plain ol’ Eric.

I believe Mark took great care in portraying Eric. However, there are moments when his portrayal of Eric feels more like a caricature rather than his own unique interpretation. Don’t get me wrong here—Mark is a total badass. He’s studied his father’s style of martial arts, Wun Hop Kuen Do, Muay Thai, and holds a 4th-degree black belt. With roles in Brotherhood of the Wolf, John Wick: Chapter 3, Cradle 2 the Grave, Redemption: Kickboxer 5, Tales from the Crypt, and Double Dragon, among others, he’s proven his versatility and skill. The action and fighting in the series were particularly impressive, especially since Mark performed most of his own stunts.

I also will fight anyone who is annoyed by Katie Stuart’s portrayal of Sarah. She’s annoying because she’s fucking nailing it and it’s endearing just like Rochelle Davis. There’s more adult actors in this that aren’t pulling their weight, but I also often point back to the scripts. Seeing someone else take on the role of Albrecht is just as challenging as seeing someone else step into Eric’s shoes. Ernie Hudson had so much heart that someone like Marc Gomes never had a chance. You almost have to think of it like two separate things, like Van Halen. Oh, and if you ever wanted to see another take on the Skull Cowboy who didn’t make the cut of the original film, this one has Kadeem Hardison who you may remember as Dwayne from A Different World.

The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998 - 1999) – Horror TV Shows We Miss

A high note the series also hits is the music. There are tracks from artists like Oleander, Semisonic, Cracker, Fuel, Rob Zombie, and Days of the New if that does anything for you. It does for me but also… Fun fact: Pre-Linkin Park band, Xero comes up in the episode My Brother’s Keeper with Corey Feldman. They play an early version of Forgotten which at the time was titled Rhinestone. I would hear Linkin Park anywhere. Now on to the episodes…

Souled Out– Episode 2: Eric meets Bogs from Shawshank. Yeah, I didn’t choose episode one. There’s also a large gap between episodes from this one to the next in terms of what really drew me in. Back to Bogs, he’s controlling his scorcher of a wife, India, played by Julie Dreyfus who I wish I could have seen much more of. He also has this weird relationship with a rather large snake. It comes into play later. I like that they flesh out Shelly and Eric’s first meeting, with Shelly as a photographer at Blackout to photograph Eric’s band, Hangman’s Joke. It wasn’t until the final episode that I was able to figure out if I actually enjoyed Sabine Karsenti’s portrayal of Shelly, but honestly, I think it might edge out Sofia Shinas. We find out that Bogs, um, Mace Reyes played by Mark Rolston ordered Eric to be killed because if Eric and Shelly’s spirits combined it would make Eric too powerful. Mace agrees that he did indeed make Eric the way he is now, and Shelly is in limbo. He adds that if India is killed then Shelly would be set free. Obviously, Eric isn’t going to do that and helps India to rid them of Mace by stabbing the snake. Mace’s “Crow” make-up is interesting here and takes you a little out of it, but Rolston makes for a good adversary. The last interaction between India and Eric is one of my favorite scenes of the whole show.

Through a Dark Circle– Episode 11: I’m not so much for the main baddie arc of this episode as I am the side attraction. Sarah is in some geocities, goth chat about “death & crows & stuff” talking to some entity named Nytmare, played by Alex Karzis, who she later meets up with solo outside of Blackout. We’ve all done it! Don’t worry– later, Eric does reprimand Sarah for meeting some weirdo on the net and takes over the meetups from there. I kind of hoped Nytmare would pop back up, and he did but it was a different actor with a different tone and I was wishing I didn’t. I was intrigued about them expanding on the Land of the Damned and this whole Lone Gunmen vibe. As for the main villain quest, Eric, desperate to get Shelly, opens up the portal and lets a serial killer through. I wasn’t into the pseudo-Shocker vibes of some guy who looks like Spider from Powerman 5000, but it is one of the three darker episodes nevertheless. Bonus, there’s a scene with Albrecht getting down with Cordie to some slow r&b jams. It’s the late 90s, you gotta love it.

The People Vs. Eric Draven– Episode 13: I feel it odd that this is the most compelling of all the episodes aside from the last episode. Classic court drama though with Eric’s fate hanging in the balance. His attorney annoyed me. Laughing at Sarah annoyed me. The fact that Albrecht was doubted annoyed me. Shit, do I actually care about these characters? I could not stop watching this. I was even talking to the television, and maybe the characters, during the duration. I think the most annoying thing about the whole thing is that the jury believed Fun Boy’s testimony pinning Shelly’s death on Eric, and this Fun Boy is WAY less likable than the one originally portrayed by Michael Massee. You can’t see it but my head is exploding. It’s plausible though– Eric’s wasn’t in the casket and his fingerprints match that of the actual Eric Draven. How Eric came back from the dead is not an easy thing to explain, nor is it easy to convince anyone that it was actually true. Eric even manages to show his attorney his special set of skills by stabbing himself and healing, but this seems to do nothing other than freak the guy out. ALSO, why didn’t they have Darla testify to discredit Fun Boy? I do like the closing argument given by Eric’s attorney which is probably so good because the writer did some work on 20/20. This episode continues to cement Mark’s Eric good guy persona and you warm up more to someone other than Brandon playing the role. I would recommend not skipping this episode as it will come up in later episodes.

Dead to Rights & A Gathering Storm– Episode 21 & 22: We’re throwing these two together. I love Anthony Michael Hall especially when he plays a villain. Aside from Mase Reyes, he’s probably my favorite bad guy of the series. Eric tries to fight becoming The Crow to stop the cycle of violence and vengeance, but has to bring him out once more to finally take down Hall as Truax. I really love the lines spoken by the Crow to Traux, acknowledging how the violence in Truax’s home shaped him into the person he is today: ”Everybody’s got their reasons, but who cares? Suffer your torments, let the peace of death be denied to you as it is to me.” Moving on to the final episode– It’s kind of wild but is one of the darker episodes which is why I chose it, other than the fact that it made me come to several realizations about the series as a whole. For those of you who haven’t watched this series, or maybe watched half like me, I would ask you to step out of your comfort zone to absorb this take. I’m going to default to one of my old phrases: It’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s not the worst. Also, where is Shelly? Shit, do I actually care about these characters? Ugh, I do.

The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998 - 1999) – Horror TV Shows We Miss

Where to Watch: Not on streaming cable. You can find it if you dig around though. Physical release is out there but the cheapest copies appear to be bootlegs.

What happened? What’s the outlook?

The series was a victim of a merger when Universal bought Polygram Productions. Zabel wanted to make a 6-hour miniseries to give the show a true ending and some closure for the fans but that has long since expired. That’s it.

Just saying this out loud—have we perhaps elevated The Crow to a mythological status? It seems like nothing that comes after can measure up, no matter who’s involved. The movie feels nearly perfect in every aspect, from the casting to the cinematography to the soundtrack. Have we simply acknowledged its greatness, or has its legacy made it impossible to surpass?

It’s worth considering that part of the film’s enduring legacy might stem from the tragic circumstances surrounding its production, particularly the untimely death of Lee. This real-life tragedy has undoubtedly contributed to the film’s mystique and emotional impact. Moreover, The Crow captured the essence of the 90s alternative culture, with its dark, gothic aesthetic and a soundtrack that perfectly encapsulates the era’s musical landscape. So, while nostalgia and tragedy play significant roles in its legendary status, the film’s quality and cultural resonance cannot be denied. The original is as sacred to us as the story itself is to O’Barr.

So, while The Crow: Stairway to Heaven may not fully capture the film’s magic, it provides a comforting familiarity and expands the story in fun ways. As Eric says, “It can’t rain all the time.” The show, despite its flaws, has its own unique place in the Crow legacy.

A couple previous episodes of Horror TV Shows We Miss can be seen below. If you’d like to see more, and check out the other shows we have to offer, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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