creepshowIf horror films, and horror anthology films in particular, are not your thing, skip the Creepshow. If the opposite holds, well – come on in. This is good stuff.

Why does it have such a small following? Maybe the film’s rep sank after its weak sequel; after the so-so HBO series, Tales From The Crypt, and its botched movie franchise, Creepshow may seem a tad tame. But sequels don’t negate their predecessors, and the movie’s success inspired HBO and others to do their own versions.1 Still, a film like this is probably too thin for a hardcore horror fan or a jaded movie critic. When released it may have been seen as a slightly grosser throwback to pre-Exorcist juvenilia, and that’s what it is: an artfully drawn, garishly colored group of stories (you might call them fireside treats) that are not to be taken seriously. The director, George A. Romero, and the screenwriter, Stephen King, want the look and feel of a gruesome little comic book from the 1950s, set in the 1980s. And with lots of dark humor and a complete lack of archness, they pull it off.

Comprised of five stories and a vignette that bookends, Creepshow has all manner of scum getting their comeuppance. As in the EC line of horror comics, we savor the distance between us and the gruel at hand. The movie deals in shallowness, but it is mercilessly, joyously attacked. Each half-jokey scenario plays on a primal fear (getting buried, say, or eaten alive) and pricks the conscience most of us have when faced with doing something taboo. It tells a certain kind of truth: People are petty, and no-one gets away with anything — ever. Knowing this, we pine for the devices of the story (everything but the jerks themselves) to pull trump. As the outrage sparked by these people is met with an equally sick sort of justice, we can’t help but grin at the construction. We’re not even supposed to be scared. Just pleased. Pleased to see that karma is such a bitch.

“Father’s Day”: In Creepshow, shot composition matches the way an old EC comic is printed and paneled. For the juicy bits Romero uses a bold color scheme, and a synthesizer on par with John Carpenter soundtracks of the same era. As a result, the movie feels unified, even though it’s stitched together. Stylistically and otherwise, it’s of a piece.

This segment milks King’s habit for turning nasty and abusive relatives into outsized villains. It’s a semi-harrowing look at a rot-rich family. I love how Daddy’s voice sounds like coke cans being crinkled; how, prior to dying in a parody of the suddenly helpless, inexplicably immobile victim-of-death scene, Ed Harris dances the funky chicken. A-

“The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill” is a nod to the H.P. Lovecraft story, “The Colour Out Of Space,” and the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “It Came Out Of The Sky.” Jordy (Stephen King) is a hick who discovers a meteor in his yard. Before he can cash it in, though, he suffers a green demise. Casting King is brilliant, and his doom is disturbingly sad. It made me think of Jeff Goldblum’s fate in The Fly (dir. David Cronenberg). B

“Something To Tide You Over”: Once again the greed motif pops up, but King & Romero aren’t trying to make a statement about upper crustaceans. They just wanna stick it to the one Leslie Nielsen plays, a cuckold who gets even with the couple that betrayed him. The way Ted Danson is lured into a sand trap stretches credulity, but I find this tale of vengeance inventive and colorful. What’s not to like about sea zombies? A

“The Crate”: As if they had to pad the picture to two hours’ running time, King & Romero drag this one out. Maybe King loved the story too much (it’s based on a short story he wrote). Maybe it’s the fact that Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau never feel like a real couple. She’s the world’s loudest nag, and he’s a college prof who quietly seethes. Frankly, it’s absurd that they should want to be together (do total opposites attract? To the point of marriage? I guess money and/or a low self-esteem would be involved), but I know this is not Masterpiece Theater. We’re meant to count the spokes on the wheels set in motion. And for all its protractedness, “The Crate” ends on a question mark — which, to me, is a cheat. Holbrook’s character never gets HIS. It’s implied that he does, but… All in all, a misfire. The Creepshow formula loses steam here. B-

“They’re Creeping Up On You”: A fitting end, only because it’s hard to top. As a germophobic tycoon who sees people as bugs to do his bidding, lest they be sucked down the garbage chute, E.G. Marshall is ten kinds of smarm. To watch him buy the bug farm is pretty gross. B


1Creepshow was not the first of its kind, but in a boom time for horror, it helped revitalize an old format. Some of the best early examples are the classy Amicus portmanteaus from 1972 and 1973 (Tales From The Crypt, Vault Of Horror, Asylum) and the 40s gem, Dead Of Night. I also like Tales From The Hood (1995) and the more recent Trick ‘r Treat (2009). Both are a ton of fun.

Rating: B+

About Jack Cormack

Email Jack at