Creepshow is a 1982 American anthology horror feature film. It is a collaboration between two genre collaborators who were apparently at the top of their respective crafts, writer, Stephen King, and director, George A. Romero, alongside special effects guru, Tom Savini.
The movie stars Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen (Day of the Animals; Prom Night; Repossessed), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog; Two Evil Eyes; Burial of the Rats), E.G. Marshall (The Tommyknockers) and Hal Holbrook (Rituals).
Creepshow was heavily influenced by the horror comics of the 1950s which both King and Romero had read in their youth, particularly those published by E.C. Comics, such as Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror.
Taking this as its cue, the five stories are held together with an effective wrap-around feature, seeing young Billy (played by King’s son, Joe) punished by his father, who strongly disapproves of the Creepshow comic his son is reading.
Upstairs in his bedroom, Billy curses his father, wishing him untold misery and suchlike, when a visitation from The Creep (the ‘host’ of the stories in the comic) at his window opens up a whole world of possibilities.
As the pages of the comic fall open, we are treated to the tales therein, glimpsing the original comic art (from the hand of original EC artist, Jack Kamen) as the action begins. At various points between the five segments, comic-like effects are used to remind you of the source and inspiration.
On October 23, 2018, Scream Factory is releasing Creepshow as a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray. This will come with a rigid slipcover (like the deluxe version release of Nightbreed) that will house a Blu-ray case and a collectible booklet featuring a new essay from Michael Gingold (Fangoria, Rue-Morgue, Delirium). The newly-commissioned artwork pictured on the slipcase is by Laz Marquez (Army of Darkness, The Howling and Lifeforce steelbooks).
- Audio commentary with director of photography Michael Gornick (new)
- Audio commentary with composer/first assistant director John Harrison and construction co-ordinator Ed Fountain (new)
- Terror and the Three Rivers – Roundtable discussion on the making of the film with John Amplas, Tom Atkins, Tom Savini and Marty Schiff (new)
- Interview with costume designer Barbara Anderson (new)
- Interview with animator Rick Catizone (new)
- Interview with sound re-recordist Chris Jenkins (new)
- The Colors of Creepshow – A look at the restoration of film with director of photography Michael Gornick (new)
- Mondo Macabre – A look at Mondo’s various Creepshow posters with Mondo co-founder Rob Jones and gallery events planner Josh Curry (new)
- Collecting Creepshow – A look at original props and collectibles from the film with collector Dave Burian (new)
- Audio Commentary with director George A. Romero and special make-up effects creator Tom Savini
- Audio interviews with director of photography Michael Gornick, actor John Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Miller, and make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci
- Tom Savini’s behind-the-scenes footage
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – A look at the original filming locations
- Deleted scenes
- Theatrical trailers
- TV spot
- Radio spots
- Posters, lobby cards, and movie stills gallery
- Behind the scenes photo gallery
The first story sees insufferable and corrupt Nathan Grantham (Jon Lormer, previously glimpsed in The Boogens) murdered by his daughter, Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors from Exorcist II) who has had quite enough of her stifled life.
Cutting forward seven years to the annual family get-together (on father’s day, naturally), Bedelia visits her father’s grave, drunkenly recalling his years of emotional abuse and absently-mindedly dropping a bottle of whiskey which has the unlikely effect of stirring his remains and setting off on a vengeful killing spree.
The climax sees the rotted, putrefied corpse (played by Martin‘s John Amplas) gatecrashing their party demanding his never-received Father’s Day cake.
Although the shuffling corpse gurgling his revenge is very pleasing indeed, it is a somewhat predictable launch to the compendium, and although revenge was one of the regular themes to horror comic stories, the fact that the corpse was thoroughly deserving of his demise makes the revenge a little unsatisfying.
The five stories are all perfectly judged in terms of length and pay-off and the lurid reds and greens, coupled with the unbridled affection the creators clearly have for the comics of their youth, mean that even as one of the lesser tales, it’s lip-smackingly entertaining.
The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill
Based on King’s own previously published short-story, ‘Weeds’ the second segment sees King himself in the titular lead role, an egotistical feat that should result in loud booing and inevitable catastrophe but is actually enormous fun and played in appropriately pantomime manner. Jordy, a backwoods, dungaree-wearing simpleton, stumbles upon a grounded meteorite, dollar sings flashing up in front of his eyes.
Unfortunately, contact with the fallen rock contaminates Jordy with a strange affliction, causing the alarmingly rapid spread of a bizarre plant which begins to take over his body. Unable to resist taking a bath to cure the incessant itching, this only succeeds in causing the plant to grow even faster and he is ultimately so infested he has to resort to the only way he can think to put an end his misery.
Despite the best efforts of King’s limited acting technique, this story is extremely satisfying, hitting both the ridiculousness of the situation with an oddly affecting ending. Though played largely for laughs, the physical and mental breakdown of Jordy is similar to that later seen in Cronenberg’s The Fly. The story again touches upon themes explored in the old E.C. Comics, particularly people messing in matters they don’t understand and the inevitable consequences of greed.
Something To Tide You Over
A surprisingly maniacal Leslie Nielsen, finds out Ted Danson’s been sleeping with his wife (Gaylen Ross from Dawn of the Dead), which, in fairness, is enough to drive anyone to distraction, so he devises a particularly grim way to exact his revenge.
Forcing Ted to bury himself up to his neck in the sand at the beach near his house, he assembles a video/TV set-up to reveal his beloved is also in a similar fix. He taunts them by saying they may survive by holding their breath for long enough as the incoming tide quickly approaches.
Watching their demise from the comfort of the CCTV footage in his house, it isn’t long before the two seaweed-logged lovers make their way to deliver a taste a Nielsen’s own medicine to their killer.
Possibly the creepiest of all the stories, a sure sign of its success is the fact you find yourself holding your breath as the tide washes in. The cast are particularly successful in bringing King’s story to life, Nielsen and Danson both playing against type to great effect, the only negative point being the rather slip-shod cockle-encrusted zombies.
A straight-ahead ‘thing-in-a-box’ story, the box in question being uncovered under a set of stairs by a college janitor after being overlooked for 148 years. After convincing one of the lecturers to assist him in opening the crate, a yet-like ball of teeth and hair begins to devour all who go near it. Eventually, dusty old Hal Holbrook learns of its existence and plots to use the beast to rid himself of his drunk and abusive wife (Barbeau). It all goes swimmingly, as you’d imagine.
Beyond Savini’s fluffy, toothy creation (nicknamed ‘Fluffy’ onset), the highlights here are Holbrook and Barbeau, both no strangers to horror film. Beyond this, the segment is rather flat, once the creature has been revealed, there isn’t really anywhere to go with it, a last minute reveal perhaps a more suitable structure.
They’re Creeping Up On You
Surely, the best-loved of all the sequences, primarily due to E.G.Marshall’s superbly curmudgeonly turn as businessman, Upson Pratt, owner and resident of a luxury high-rise apartment block. Residing in his top floor penthouse, he overlooks the worthless, insect-like people below him, fastidiously cleaning his hospital-like space and becoming ever-more removed from the real world.
Comeuppance comes in the form of thousands of cockroaches, entering his domain through every available space, from telephone receivers to plugholes.
The final sequence is one that stays with you and is expertly realised, indeed the story never made it to the screen, so logistically difficult were the cockroach-wrangling requirements. E.G’s role was rumoured to have been ear-marked for Max Von Sydow.
The wrap-around concludes with Billy putting a voodoo doll he’s ordered from the comic to good use, teaching his father a valuable lesson.
Using a school as a filmset for the majority of the filming, indeed many shots show familiar sights from earlier scenes, Creepshow was one of the first films to exploit the anthology film since the golden age of early 70s Amicus efforts. It performed well at the box office, taking $21,028,755 (versus a budget of around $8 million) taking over from Stallone’s First Blood at the top of the charts and becoming Warner’s top horror film of the year.
Creepshow has continued to perform well on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray, successive generations savouring the joyous, chintzy style and has spawned two sequels, each weaker than the previous.
The score was composed by another Romero alumni, John Harrison, who after appearing as the luckless zombie to receive a screwdriver to his head in Dawn of the Dead, later went on to compose the score to Day of the Dead.
Here, his synthesised playful score is perfectly suited to each segment, the skittering piece accompanying the final tale being symptomatic of the attention to detail. The original soundtrack master tapes were apparently ‘lost’ for years before being discovered, remastered and re-released in 2014 by Waxwork Records as a deluxe vinyl package.
Daz Lawrence, HORRORPEDIA
“How much hyperbole can be heaped onto Creepshow? An indisputable all-time classic. The greatest horror anthology ever made. The gold standard by which all similar movies must be graded. Creepshow earns all of these assertions and then some.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt
“Given its age, Creepshow holds up surprisingly well. Romero has a tendency to make films that are overlong, and this is no exception, but at least the short story format ensures that even the longest tales don’t stick around for an excessive amount of time.
A few of the effects have dated badly – the Creep that we see at the beginning of the film is a somewhat rickety dummy and King’s grass-covered body is fairly unconvincing – but on the whole the movie still looks and feels pretty fresh.” David Flint, The Reprobate
Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk
In 2007, Michael Felscher directed Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow, a documentary about the movie. In July 2016, Just Desserts was released on Blu-ray by Red Shirt Pictures with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary with Director & Editor Michael Felsher
- Audio Commentary featuring interviews with Actor John Amplas, Property Master Bruce Alan Miller, and Make-Up Effects Assistant Darryl Ferrucci
- Creepshow Days – An interview with Director of Photography Director Michael Gornick
- Extended Interview Segments with George A. Romero, Tom Savini, and Bernie Wrightson
- Behind The Screams – A compilation of on-set video footage from Tom Savini
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark
- Scream Greats Volume One: Tom Savini, Master of Horror Effects with Optional Audio Commentary with Tom Savini
- Vintage 1982 Evening Magazine Segment shot on the set of the film, featuring rare cast & crew interviews
- Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery
Buy Just Desserts: Amazon.com
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