Friday, October 4, 2013

Creepshow (1982) - A Review

The most fun you’ll ever have…. BEING SCARED!

Anthology films are fun. I love 'em. You get 4 or 5 little mini movies all wrapped in one and most of the time they're hilarious (or hilariously bad, which is still not necessarily a bad thing). Written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, this film features a powerhouse of horror icons, including special effects by Tom Savini, King himself (in a one-man segment of the film), Adrienne Barbeau and music by John Harrison. 

Let’s dig on in, shall we?

Title: CreepshowDirector: George A. Romero
Writer: Stephen King
Producer(s): Richard P. Rubinstein
Starring: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Stephen King
Studio: Laurel Entertainment, Inc.
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Date: November 12th, 1982

”Five tales of terror are presented. The first deals with a demented old man returning from the grave to get the Father's Day cake his murdering daughter never gave him. The second is about a not-too-bright farmer discovering a meteor that turns everything into plant-life. The third is about a vengeful husband burying his wife and her lover up to their necks on the beach. The fourth is about a creature that resides in a crate under the steps of a college. The final story is about an ultra-rich businessman who gets his comeuppance from cockroaches.”

Thanks IMDB!

As with any anthology tale, you have an underlying story that normally bookends the film. Sometimes it will run throughout the segments tying them all together. In this case, we get a book ender in which a father catches his son Billy (who is actually played by King’s son, Joe) with a “Creepshowcomic book, a nod to the EC comic books of the 50’s which the film is based off of. After a stern lecture, a slap in the face or two and a tearful apology, the comic book is tossed and dad is sitting by the fire with a beer proclaiming “THAT’S WHAT GOD MADE FATHERS FOR”. Meanwhile, Billy is praying that daddy rots in hell for all of time, and we are introduced to none other than The Creep. The Crypt Keeper of Creepshow, cue title sequence and the film is off to a brilliant start!

It’s really a perfect intro to this film. The tag line says it all, this film is fun. Yes, it’s creepy, it’s spooky, it’s freaky, but much like The Cabin in the Woods (or how you may also know the source material, Tales from the Crypt)  this film is a bit of an homage to classic horror and a tip of the hat to horror lovers out there. Its campiness could set a lot of people at unease and turn them off to the film, but its stylistic choices are perfect and have made it become a cult classic among the throngs of horror fans the world over.

As mentioned, this film is based off of (and pays tribute to) the classic horror comics of the 1950’s. The Vault of Horror, The Witching Hour, House of Secrets and especially Tales from the Crypt are the muses and inspiration from which King created the screen play and Romero the cinematography. If you’ve ever read a comic book in your life, you’re well aware of the layout utilized through the use of panels. This was a fun segue/transition that Romero would use cutting between scenes. When Billy’s father tosses the comic book into the trash bin on the curb, the wind picks up and begins to blow the pages of the book. We are then sucked into the book, and the 5 terror tales that it contains. Each segment opens on an illustration that slowly fades into live action, and vice versa at the end of each segment. When each segment ends, we see (who is presumably The Creep) flicking through the pages, looking at the ads, it’s like staring directly into an old issue of Tales from the Crypt

While some segments were stronger than others, the writing was consistent. This was not psychological horror; it’s really nothing like King was writing at the time. It’s almost hard to believe that he was still riding high on the success of Carrie, The Shining and Salem’s Lot at the time because it is so different. While King’s work always had a sense of playfulness, there was always an underlying sense of dread in his work. You were always afraid of what Jack might do, or afraid of what the next girl was going to say to Carietta, however this film is pure blatant (I’m gonna say it again) fun. I think that’s part of the charm of this film. To see some of the greatest powerhouses in horror come together and make a film just out of the pure desire to have some fun is awesome. You can especially see this when King gets in front of the camera for his segment, “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”. Definitely the hokiest of the 5, it still puts a smile on your face and leaves you with a sense of wonder once we move on to the next.

I have to say that my favorite of the segments was the final, ”They’re Creeping Up On You”, which is the tale of a mysophobic, and rather ruthless, businessman by the name of Opson Pratt who lives in a hermetically sealed penthouse loft due to his fear of germs, bugs and anything that could possibly be construed as dirty. He conducts all of his business over a variety of telephones and fax machines so he never has to leave his home, but when a rolling black out and a bug infestation (of what starts with 2 or 3 cockroaches) comes his way, he realizes that there may be no escape for the old curmudgeon. I saw an overwhelming influence from The Twilight Zone in this one, which certainly doesn’t hurt in my book, through the use of symbolism in the segment. 

So yes, I’ve been on a rather large George A. Romero kick, especially since Monday night, and I had a wonderful time revisiting this 1982 classic of his. Throw in the fact that my favorite author also happened to write the screenplay and I couldn’t be happier! All in all though, it truly is a wonderful film for those of us who have a special place in our hearts reserved for the horror of yesteryear. If you haven’t seen it, I absolutely recommend it, and if you have I hope that this may have inspired you to have a viewing with friends tonight! It’s definitely a fun film to watch with friends over drinks.


- Rg Lovecraft

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