HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972) to introduce the darker side of the holidays to viewing audiences. The Brits were one step ahead of us with the BBC’s A GHOST STORY FOR CHRISTMAS series, which debuted in 1971.
Naturally, this Christmas fear also extended into the horror anthology shows. Earlier omnibus shows like ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THE TWILIGHT ZONE and NIGHT GALLERY had shown some Christmas spirit with classic episodes like “Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid,” “The Night of the Meek” and “The Messiah on Mott Street,” respectively. But those maintained the sappy Yuletide spirit and were a little too nice for horror fans. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it wasn’t until the ‘80s that horror shows got their Xmas freak on. By far the most famous holiday horror for the small screen anthology format is the remake of “And All Through the House” for TALES FROM THE CRYPT in 1989 (I’d like to think this was a big reaction to the sappy “Santa ‘85” in AMAZING STORIES). But a few series were doing it before then, showing a darker side of the silent night where lots of creatures were stirring.
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE debuted in October 1983 and went to series the following fall. With compact tales of terror, it is actually surprising that they didn’t do a Christmas tale in the first two seasons. That was corrected in its third season with the holiday-themed episode “Seasons of Belief,” which debuted on December 29, 1986.
The following year in 1987, DARKSIDE continued on the holiday tradition with “The Yattering and Jack.” This episode was a bit of a coup for the series as it was based on a short story by Clive Barker (remember him?) and he actually did the teleplay. Barker’s feature directorial debut HELLRAISER (1987) had just hit theaters two months prior to this episode’s November 8, 1987 airdate and he was hotter than hell (ah, boo yourself).
The show drops the viewer right into the action as a father (Mark Hofmaier), his daughter Amy (Jenna Von Oy) and a guy named Carl (Brian Fitzpatrick) break into the basement of the town library. The reason for their hiding is upstairs, an alien dubbed Glim-Glim by Amy. It crashed in the town a few days previous and a virus wiped out all of the 7,000 residents save our lead trio. The four-armed, four-eyed big green being upstairs is plowing through books trying to learn about humans and how to communicate with them. Naturally, the adults want to kill the beast, but Amy is drawn to it. We are told via alien voiceover how Glim-Glim is only an explorer that crashed with natural bacteria in its intestine that is deadly to humans. The extraterrestrial has the town quarantined behind a force field to prevent it spreading and is working on an antidote, but will it be able to communicate in time with the humans.
doesn’t change her ways that she will live to regret it. When Jessica takes a bump to the head while scheming to unplug Thomas’ life support, she gets to see exactly what the doc means by peaking into her uncertain (and undead) future.
Obviously this episode was inspired by Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL and that makes sense as parts of that story are scary as hell. The updates are nice as the Scrooge character is now a woman and the story comments on the ‘80s Yuppie dreams of wealth, power and greed. I don’t know if you can accurately convey a total character transformation in 22 minutes, but the team does a good job of it. Of course, anyone would change their ways if they were haunted by rotting flesh spouses and skeleton-faced ghouls.
So there you have it. It's actually a shame both series didn't delve more into the Christmas season as it is extremely fertile ground for spooky stories. Of the four, I'd probably only call "Seasons of Belief" a must-see, just because it sets the Christmas mood so well.