Way back when, I used to contribute various articles and recaps to Entertainment Weekly‘s Community blog/fan site. While the site is now defunct, the content lives on. Kinda, sorta. So, let’s throwback-Thursday it to last year when I recapped Tales From the Crypt‘s beloved holiday episode, “And All Though the House.”
The following piece was originally published on October 15, 2015 on the EW Community site (although, now it looks a bit wonky).
Season 1 | Episode 2 | “And All Through the House” | Aired June 10, 1989
We may be in the midst of the season of the witch, but this week’s Tales from the Crypt offers up one psycho Santa Claus in the classic episode “And All Through the House.” Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump), this Christmas gory originated in issue No. 35 of The Vault of Horror. While it was adapted for the 1972 Tales from the Crypt film, the TV rendition remains a holiday staple for many a horror fan (myself included).
After we got a dulled-down Crypt Keeper in the show’s debut, John Kassir goes full-force shrill beginning this time around. The animatronic host ups himself in the creepy department by wearing a Santa Claus mask. And as expected, the Crypt Keeper’s preamble is rife with holiday fear and Christmas goose(bumps), before the story unleashes its bloody wonderland.
Following a magical interlude of Christmas music and festive decor, a discontent wife, Elizabeth—played by the late, great Mary Ellen Trainor (The Goonies, Lethal Weapon, and married to Zemeckis at the time)—paces around her clueless husband, Joseph (Marshall Bell, Starship Troopers). After one useless comment too many, she strikes him in the head with a fireplace poker. Soon after, Elizabeth’s young daughter, Carrie, rushes down the stairs ready for bed. It’s Christmas Eve, after all! Carrie mutters a “good night” to her unresponsive (and presumably dead) stepfather before heading back to her room with her mom.
Elizabeth tucks Carrie in for a good night’s sleep and opens the bedroom window ever so slightly. Carrie is a bit warm, but come on, it’s snowing outside. Opening a window is a bad idea—for a multitude of reasons.
Downstairs, Elizabeth makes a call and leaves an all-telling message on her lover’sanswering machine. They’re free! Joseph is dead—the money is theirs! With that, Elizabeth ties a plastic bag and big red bow around her husband’s head as she sips celebratory champagne. Cheers! It’s time to dispose of the body.
Wearing a silky red nightgown and large winter coat, Elizabeth drags Joseph’s body outside as the radio continues to play jaunty holiday tunes. But just as she walks out of the house, a super-important bulletin breaks the airwaves and warns locals of an escaped, murderous mental patient. He’s killed four people already—and now he’s dressed as Santa Claus!
Outside, Joseph briefly resurrects and scares the holy bejeebus out of Elizabeth. During her struggle, an axe is seen … and then unseen. Scary Santa Claus (Larry Drake, Dr. Giggles) suddenly appears holding said axe! So while Joseph is dead (again), Elizabeth’s new challenger is far more dangerous. She manages to escape Santa’s clutches by way of icicle weaponry and runs inside the house.
Elizabeth calls the police and begins to tell them what’s up until—whoops—she remembers Joseph’s dead body. Santa throws a tire through the window, but Elizabeth eludes his wrath once more when she clocks him with the axe. At this time, she receives a call from the police about the psycho Santa. The cops are checking in on everyone in the area, so they’ll be at Elizabeth’s house very soon.
Okay, girl, it’s time to hatch a plan. But isn’t it obvious? Yes, she will blame Joseph’s murder on Santa! Perfect. She heads outside to her husband’s dead body and prepares for some limb chopping. She swings the axe twice and misses—but the third time’s a charm.
As luck would have it, Elizabeth gets locked out of her house after the wind blows the door shut. Santa disappears, and little Carrie awakens from her Christmastime slumber. Elizabeth rummages through Joseph’s body and finds a house key. She heads back inside and calls the cops. But uh-oh—Elizabeth sees that both the axe and Santa are missing.
Elizabeth rushes to find a new weapon—Joseph’s gun. But, again, luck is not on her side, and she gets trapped in the closet. Then she sees scary Santa outside the closet window, climbing a ladder up to Carrie’s bedroom. Oh, and he sees her, too.
Outside her window, Carrie—who’s a little bratty, let’s be honest—welcomes this not-so-jolly elf with open arms before exclaiming, “Where are my presents, Santa?”
Elizabeth finally gets out of the closet and rushes to Carrie’s room. Empty. As she heads downstairs, Carrie appears with Psycho Santa.
“Naughty or nice?” he asks while showing a sickening grin. And the story ends with Elizabeth hysterically screaming on the stairs.
“And All Through the House” is great holiday horror—even if the episode did originally air in June of 1989. So what could have made it better? After learning that “Santa” didn’t bring her any presents, Carrie should have pushed him out of her bedroom window. You think?
Crypt Keeper Final Thoughts:
“Well, it just goes to show ya, be very careful what you AXE for for Christmas … you might just GET IT.”
Fred Dekker wrote this episode (and four others). Dekker is best known for writing and directing the ’80s cult classics The Monster Squad (1987) and Night of the Creeps(1986). Mary Ellen Trainor also costars in The Monster Squad.
“Honey, I don’t think even Santa could wake up your stepfather.” —Elizabeth
“Oh, don’t worry about little Carrie. This particular Santa preferred older women … in pieces!” —Crypt Keeper
Note: Once the holiday season is over, I plan to revive my Tales recaps on THIS site! Yay! I’m somewhere in season 2, so stay tuned…