Monday, December 26, 2016

Holiday Horror: Tales From the Crypt's And All Through the House 1972 vs 1989

Today, I'm comparing the original depiction of Tales from the Crypt's And All Through the House in the 1972 film to the more modern version from the second episode of the TV series in 1989. Both stories depict a woman murdering her husband on the night before Christmas and trying to cover it up, but an unexpected threat comes from an insane man dressed as Santa Claus.

* 1972

I love a lot about this short film. Everything is subtle and well crafted. The film doesn't have to narrate that the old man loves his family, but instead has an establishing shot of this man lovingly putting presents under the tree. The first indication that something is wrong is an amazing shot of blood splashing on the newpaper the older man is reading when he is killed. The woman, portrayed by Joan Collins, calmly goes straight for the safe to check his life insurance, showing that her main motivation is money. The chilling aspect of this part lies in the happy child upstairs waiting for Santa, unaware of the carnage downstairs, and the peaceful choral Christmas music that contrast with the violence.

Much of the film has no dialogue because the woman is trying to clean up the murder while her daughter sleeps upstairs. So much of Joan Collins' performance is in her eyes and her facial expressions. When the psychotic Santa reveals himself, she reaches for the phone and you know by her glance at the body and her defeated facial expression that she knows she can't call the police until she cleans up. She works tirelessly cleaning up the blood, dragging her husbands body to the basement, and planting blood to make it seems like he fell. In addition to this, she has to secure the house by locking all the doors and latching all the windows before Santa comes inside. As she works, her face becomes drenched with sweat and she's visibly drained.

Unfortunately, all her hard work is for nothing because her innocent daughter let Santa in the house after she's been waiting for him all night. Overall, this film has everything I want in a Christmas horror film: murder, suspense, good performances, and a concise story told in just over 12 minutes. The only downsides are the dated decor and not very scary Santa. This classic Tales from the Crypt story combines elements of wholesome Christmas traditions with murder and mayhem and ending with the evil being punished.

My rating: 4.5/5

* 1989

As with all Tales from the Crypt episodes, the Crypt Keeper appears with his morbid puns and cheery personality to introduce the story. This creature dressed as Santa in a Santa mask with his eyes and teeth showing through is the stuff of nightmares and much scarier than the actual episode. He recites the beginning of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to lead into the story.

This house is much more homey and welcoming than the house in the original segment. Nat King Cole sings the Christmas Song while we see their beautiful decorations, cookies set out for Santa, large Christmas tree, and presents under it. Instead of a loving father, this father is alive long enough to scorn the ending of Dickens' A Christmas Carol before he is comically murdered by his wife. While the original is subtle and serious, this version is practically a parody. Everything is explicitly stated and over the top. The poker gets stuck in his head and cartoonish sounds accompany her attempts to free it. She immediately calls her sleazy boyfriend and says she did it and they have the money.

The only moment of real tension is when the girl comes downstairs to see what's happening and the dad's corpse is sitting conveniently hiding his head wound. Will the body fall when the girl can see? The mom doesn't even seem to care that the child sees her dead father (who has the silliest expression every and ruines the scene) and takes her up to bed. Unlike Joan Collins, this woman talks to herself constantly while trying to clean up the murder, take the body outside, and dump it in the conveniently placed well that I hope no one uses. The body comes back alive after having a plastic bag over its head for an extremely long time and attacks her. It's so nonsensical and unnecessary. While she's doing all this, she missed the announcement about the escaped mental patient dressed as Santa, but she sees him instead.

The psychotic Santa looks much more imposing and acts more dangerously. However, the woman makes the most stupid decisions on the face of the planet. Just a few include not making sure he's dead after axing him, stopping and investigating every time she's hears a noise (AFTER she knows the killer Santa out there) and getting trapped in the closet. In the closet, she completely freezes and sees him going up a ladder just outside the closet window. Why does a closet even have a window? Anyway, instead of getting the gun and shooting hiim through the window, she just watches him mouth agape and screams. Do something! I had some respect for Joan Collins because she acted so intelligently, but I couldn't wait for this woman to die.

The ending is exactly the same even though they try to fool you by thinking he will enter the window left open upstairs. Overall, this version is way too silly and cartoonish and doesn't add anything to the story by almost doubling the length of the original. I didn't feel scared through any of it and the only moment of suspense was ruined.

My rating: 1.5/5

The verdict:

The original 1972 version keeps the suspense and horror of the situation despite its dated trappings. The more modern one feels more familiar and has a creepier Santa, but its tone is way too comedic and obvious.

No comments: