Horror and sci-fi anthology tv shows seem to have been around for as long as televisions themselves: Tales of Tomorrow in 1951; The Twilight Zone in 1959; The Outer Limits in 1963; Night Gallery in 1970; Ghost Story in 1972; The Hitchhiker in 1983; Tales from the Darkside in 1984; Monsters and Freddy’s Nightmares in 1988.
Until the last decade, most horror-themed television shows were watered down due to the ratings policies of general broadcast television. But there was one show, born from cable tv and found its way to late-night syndication with less editing than expected, that still claims the throne of the televised horror anthology: Tales from the Crypt.
Season 1 Episode 02: And All Through the House (first aired June 10th, 1989)
Source Story: Vault of Horror #35
Director: Robert Zemeckis took a break in the middle of his Back to the Future franchise run to direct this episode. He had also directed Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and would soon direct Death Becomes Her, which had all the gore and comedy of a Tales from the Crypt episode. It should also be noted that Fred Dekker of House, Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad fame wrote the screenplay.
Plot: A woman murders her husband on Christmas Eve. Luckily, a maniac dressed in a Santa suit escapes from a mental asylum and comes to visit, giving her the perfect scapegoat… if she can survive.
Murderous Moral of the Story: You probably don’t need to back-track a murder too much when you’re trying to pin it on a serial killer.
Critique: The killer Santa Claus motif was not new when “And All Through the House” air. Besides the obvious head-nod to Silent Night, Deadly Night, this episode was a direct adaptation to one of the stories from the Tales from the Crypt horror anthology released by Amicus Productions in 1972. But while those movies used the contradictions of emotion between horror and the holiday to make themselves more frightening, Tales from the Crypt makes it more comical.
Right out of the gate, we have cheery Christmas music in the intro, only to have the festive opening cut short by a seemingly out-of-the-blue murder. The episode continues this balance of horror and comedy with the wife’s interactions with the deranged Santa: sometimes with a sneaky jump-scare, other times with campy slapstick fighting. It’s a parity that Tales from the Crypt is at its best with in future episodes.
Body Count: 2: one on-screen, one implied.
1 by poker to the head, asphyxiation by plastic bag, and an axe to the head postmortem.
1 by axe somehow… implied, since we don’t actually see the kill, but you know that wife gets it.
Actors/Actresses of Note: Mary Ellen Trainor headlines this episode with past roles such as Mikey and Brand’s mom in The Goonies and Sean’s mom in The Monster Squad, so it was fun to see her pull a 180 from prim and proper mother and wife to stone-cold murderess. We also have Marshall Bell as the murdered husband whose other acting achievements include the kinky Coach Schneider in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Gordie and Denny’s dad in Stand By Me, and Kuato’s transportation unit in Total Recall. Finally, our maniacal Santa is none other than than Larry Drake of Dr. Giggles and Darkman fame. Oh, the little girl had a cameo as one of the hover-board kids in Back to the Future Part 2, if we want to finish off the entire cast.
Quote: “Naughty… or nice?” – Santa
Watchability: 4 out of 5. The mix of horror and comedy in this episode set the standard for everything that would come.