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Tales From The Crypt

Tales From The Crypt

By Jamie Suckley • December 18th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Warner Brothers Home Ent/HBO

Original air date: July 10th 1989
Running time: 181 minutes

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Fred Dekker
Composer: Alan Silvestri

Cast: Mary Ellen Trainor, Larry Drake, John Kassir (Voice), Marshall Bell, Lindsey Whitney Barry

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

Christmas is supposedly the most wonderful time of the year when the family sit down to watch festive films and programmes filled with uplifting imagery. Jolly elves, Santa delivering presents to all the good boys and girls of the world and the Christmas miracle coming true are conjured in my thoughts; in our house it was another story. I’ll always remember Christmas Eve of 1994. Sadly it wasn’t the night I jumped aboard the Polar Express or was taken on a magical journey with a snowman, but for the second consecutive year, I was scared to death of Christmas thanks to an episode of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt.

Following the opening credits through the grounds of a spooky mansion, and downstairs into a candlelit eerie basement, I was first introduced to the Crypt-keeper (voiced by John Kassir) dressed in a sinister Santa outfit as he opened his book to tell the 1989 tale of terror ‘And All Through The House’. A seemingly devoted wife (Mary Ellen Trainor) murders her husband (Marshall Bell) on Christmas Eve with a poker in order to gain money and pursue a new romance. Her daughter Carrie Ann (Lindsey Whitney Barry), who’s eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, almost witnesses the murder but is promptly sent back to bed.

Getting back to her plan, mum wraps his bloodied head in a plastic bag, drags him into the snow-covered garden and attempts to dispose the body down a well. Meanwhile, a mental patient (Larry Drake) who’s escaped the local mental asylum dressed as Santa, and who’s also brandishing an axe, has seen the commotion and plans to pay her a visit. The wife frantically bolts the doors and windows in the hope of staying alive but then realises she can frame the maniac for the murder of her husband and she calls the police. A deadly game of cat and mouse for survival begins.

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

Directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Fred Dekker, the overall feel of the episode is terrifying. The sense that there’s no escape from the house is claustrophobic and making us feel trapped. We’re not even provided with the protagonist’s name – we’re simply watching the terror unfold.

Based on the 1972 Tales From The Crypt segment of the same name, starring Joan Collins, which in turn was based on William Gaines 1950’s E.C comics, this was the first episode I’d watched, and it set the tone for the others. It pays tribute to Gaines’s comics 61 years after they began to be published. Whilst the previous Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The Houseversion was only just over 10 minutes in duration, this retelling lasts 29 minutes and expands on the terror induced from its predecessor. It creates a whole new level of tension and panic as the maniac is relentless in his mission to enter the house.

Zemeckis cleverly captures the spirit of Christmas; the snowy scenery, decorations around the house and the holy, peaceful music playing at the beginning of the story. It creates a false sense of security but leaves the impression that no matter what time of year it is, evil never takes a break.

One of the key themes with Tales From The Crypt, derived from the original comic, is karma. The good are generally given justice for their suffering (most of the time), whether from beyond the grave or by fuelled vengeance. The bad are always punished – in this story we could say she got what she axed for. When I originally watched this episode I was horrified. Being a mischievous eight year old, I Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The Houseremembered what my parents said about not getting any presents if I’d been naughty and slept under the cover without moving. I knew I’d been ‘occasionally’ mischievous throughout the year and was under the impression that I’d be punished.

For better or worse the killer Santa remains a part of the horror genre with films still appearing on DVD and cinema screens. The thought of a stranger entering our homes, helping himself to food and drink, before emptying his sack in our bedrooms is scary enough – but the idea of a maniac dressed as Santa is more than unnerving. As children we’re very naïve – we’d believe a man in a red and white outfit was really Santa, and could unexpectedly let a maniac into our homes.

Seventeen years later, I’ll still make sure the doors are bolted and the windows are closed. I’ll draw the blinds and dim the lights. It’s time for And All Through The House. It may have scared me as a child but nowadays I appreciate the dark humour, making it an essential part of my Christmas viewing line-up. I’m always on my best behaviour though, as you never know who’ll come knocking, asking whether you’ve been “naughty……… or nice”.

Jamie Suckley

Jamie Suckley

Jamie, editor for Cult Movies at Static Mass, is a 24 year old media studies graduate from Sheffield, who likes nothing better than watching films. If he was to star in a horror film he’d like to be the first one killed (think Drew Barrymore in Scream).

He has a keen interest in horror which started when he was a child. Due to his hyperactive behaviour his cousins made him watch films they thought would calm him down- They were wrong! It was watching Hellraiser and Killer Klowns from Outer Space that his passion for horror began. Over the years this developed into a passion for zombies, madmen, mutated animals and all things gore.

When he’s not working, in his dream world, worrying about zombie epidemics or watching films, he can be found on Twitter sharing his thoughts and bringing his dream world into reality.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieSuckley.

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