Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Warner Brothers Home Ent/HBO

Original air date: July 10th 1989
Certificate (UK, US): 18/ Unrated
Running time: 181 minutes

Year of production: 1989

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Fred Dekker
Producers: William Teitler, Joel Silver, Richard Donner
Composer: Alan Silvestri

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

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.

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

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 is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, almost witnesses the murder but is promptly sent back to bed.

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

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 has escaped the local mental asylum dressed as Santa, and who is also brandishing an axe, has seen the commotion and plans to pay her a visit.

Escaping having an axe firmly imprinted in her head she frantically bolts the doors and windows in the hope of staying alive. Deciding that she can frame the maniac for the murder of her husband she calls the police. A deadly game of cat and mouse for survival begins. But this year she’s going to find out what it means to be naughty or nice.

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

Based on the 1972 Amicus production Tales from the Crypt segment of the same name, starring Joan Collins and based on William Gaines 1950’s E.C comics, this was the first episode I had watched, and it set the tone for the other episodes. It pays tribute to Gaines’s comics 61 years after they began to be published.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, who opened my eyes to time travel with the Back to the Future trilogy (1985-1990), and written by Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) the overall feel of the episode is terrifying. The sense that there is no escape from the house is clastaphobic and makes you feel trapped. We as an audience aren’t even provided with the protagonist’s name – we are simply watching the terror unfold.

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

Whilst the previous version 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 on his mission to enter the house.

Zemeckis cleverly captures the essence 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.

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

One of the key themes with Tales From the Crypt, derived from the original comic, is that karma always comes back on you a million times worse. The good are generally given justice for there suffering (most of the time), whether from beyond the grave or by fuelled vengeance. The bad are always punished – in this story you could say she got what she axed for. When I originally watched this episode I was horrified. Being a mischievous eight year old, I remembered what my parents said about not getting any presents if I’d been naughty and slept under the bed quilts without moving.

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

I knew I’d been ‘occasionally’ mischievous through the year and was under the impression that I’d be punished. The previous year I had slept at the bottom of my parents’ bed after watching Bob Clarke’s classic 1974 film Black Christmas. To this day I’m still plagued by visions of a man singing Hush Little Baby while rocking a dead woman in the attic.

All Through The House’ had a positive impact on the horror genre and marked the arrival of the killer Santa Claus. This theme began to appear in slasher films such as To All a Good Night (1980), Christmas Evil (1980), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and Santa’s Slay (2005).

Tales From The Crypt: And All Through The House

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 your house, helping himself to food and drink, before emptying his sack in your room is scary enough – but the idea of a maniac dressed as Santa is more than unnerving. As children we are 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.


  • Harper, J. Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies, Manchester 2004), Head Press
  • Jones, A . Fright Xmas (2010), AuthorHouse
  • Muir, J. Horror films of the 1970s, Volume 22007), McFarland

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”.

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