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'Tales from the Crypt' nostalgia recap: It's Christmas in October

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.

Tales from the Crypt - Crypt Keeper as Santa Claus

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’s answering 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.

Tales from the Crypt - And All Through the House

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.

Tales from the Crypt - Mary Ellen Trainor

“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?

Tales from the Crypt - Santa Claus

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.”

Fun Fact: 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.

Notable Quotes: “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

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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