And All Through The House (1.02)
(this episode covered by John Bernhard)
“Merry Christmas, you son of a bitch!”
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?:
After slaying (!) her husband on Christmas Eve, a woman is stalked by a crazed murderer in a Santa Suit.
The big name here is series producer Robert Zemeckis in the director’s chair. The script was written by Fred Dekker, the scribe behind such anti-classics as Monster Squad, If Looks Could Kill, and Ricochet. It stars Mary Ellen Trainor of Lethal Weapon fame (she plays the police psychologist Riggs routinely badgers and humiliates), with lumpy giant Larry Drake as the Killer Santa and perennial body horror victim Marshall ‘Kuato’ Bell as the bludgeoned hubby.
HOW IS IT?:
It’s easy to forget that back in the day, Robert Zemeckis was an exciting director. His recent years spent floundering in the uncanny valley of mo-cap have taken their toll, and where his name once promised fast-paced adventure with funny, loveable characters, it now promises an unnerving fake world haunted by the soulless eyes of the damned. But lest we forget: Back To the Future, Roger Rabbit, Romancing the Stone, and hey, even Contact.
Of the big names connected with Crypt, there’s no one better suited to the material than Zemeckis. You can sense his anarchic wit everywhere, and never more so than in this entry. The direction here is a virtuoso performance, and pretty much makes the episode all on its lonesome. The camera placement, the editing, the Christmas mis-en-scene, the queasy corpse spasms, it’s all executed with damn near perfect timing. But the real Zemeckis stamp comes in the juggling of suspense gags and comedy gags.
The plotline and characters are pure bunk, a template for Zemeckis to play in. Trainor opens the show by embedding a fire poker in Bell’s scalp. Shortly after, a deranged maniac in a Santa suit shows up and starts a-choppin’, and Trainor’s initial dread gives way to the realization that fate might have just given her the ideal patsy.
It hasn’t, of course. Fate has given her a horrible karmic axey death, facilitated by her eight year old daughter, who sees Santa at the window, and naturally decides to let him in. If I were a little girl, I’d be hard pressed to trust Drake’s sweaty porcine face and yellow snaggle grin, no matter how much I wanted a Hogwarts Lego set. But then, she is a female, and therefore greedy. We’ll get right back to that.
The gruesome death occurs off screen, which is probably appropriate, considering this is a comic episode. We even get a message from the Crypt Keeper during the wrap-up, letting us know that no, the retarded Santa man-beast did NOT kill the little girl. He draws the line there. But he does make her an orphan by chopping her mother to pieces in front of her on Christmas Eve, and what the hell, probably violating her corpse bits afterwards until the police arrive and shoot him to death. Great episode.
HOW EVIL ARE THE WOMEN?:
Evil enough. One of the few bits of dialogue is Trainor leaving a hilariously incriminating message on her lover’s voicemail explaining how rich they are, now that Marshall Bell is out of the way. So there’s your first greedy murderous wife, a real milestone.
ALSO WORTH NOTING:
*DP Dean Cundey worked on this one. He’s the guy who lensed the T-Rex attack in Jurassic Park, and he doesn’t disappoint.
*The “Psycho Killer At Large” radio announcement mentions Gaines County, referencing the original Tales From the Crypt publisher William Gaines.
*Even though I’ve never seen it, I can’t help but think of Larry Drake as Dr. Giggles.
*I also far prefer the subdued Crypt Keeper.
WORST CRYPTKEEPER JOKE:
“In fact, I’ve got some Christmas Goose for you. GooseBUMPS, that is!”
It’s a really good episode, but I wouldn’t be quick to give Zemeckis all the credit. This episode is based off the same comic as the first short story from the 1972 Tales From the Crypt film, and it plays a lot like a cover song. The splat-stick comedy is pure Zemeckis (and almost a training ground for Death Becomes Her), but a lot of the shots are lifted directly from the film. The ’74 film is purportedly one of Zemeckis’ favorites, so it makes sense that he chose to pay homage to it in the show’s first season.