Creepshow (1982)


“The most fun you’ll ever have being scared”

Main Cast: Stephen King, Joe Hill

Director: George Romero

Seven years before HBO brought the old EC horror comics to television with the anthology series TALES FROM THE CRYPT, Stephen King and George Romero–two giants in the horror industry–paid homage to those wonderful books with their movie CREEPSHOW, which took five King short stories and put them together in one movie under the guise of stories in an issue of a CREEPSHOW comic book (it’s even shot like a comic, with dutch angles and unexpected color washes and “shock” background matte paintings behind the characters). The tag line in the trailer said it was “The most fun you’ll ever have being scared” and as goofy and dated as this movie is, it’s also, truly, the most fun you’ll ever have being scared. It’s rare to find a horror movie that really lives up to its hype.

The movie opens outside a nice suburban house from which we hear Stan (played by Tom Atkins of HALLOWEEN III and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) yelling at his son Billy (played by Stephen King’s own son, Joe) over the “piece of crap” horror comic he’s caught him reading. The offensive rag is taken out to the trash. As Billy sits in bed, fuming over his father’s insolence, a corpse appears outside his window. Billy smiles and The Creep takes us back to the garbage where the comic is blown into the street, opens to the first page, and we dive into the stories.

I love horror shorts. I love that quick fix without a lot of the boring stuff. They get straight to the point, introduce us to the characters, let us know the situation, and then bring on the monsters. That’s how I like ’em. Who needs a lot of pointless buildup when the end result is, more often than not, far from up to meeting the standards set in the rest of the movie? But the horror short is perfect. And CREEPSHOW‘s got some of the best.

A staple of the old EC stories was the revenge-seeking victim, back from the dead to give his murderer their comeuppance. This theme is in two of the stories here, Something to Tide You Over in which Leslie Nielson plays jilted husband Richard to the cheating Becky and her boyfriend Wentworth, played by a young Ted Danson. In the first story, Father’s Day, Bedelia Grantham murdered her overbearing father seven years earlier, inherited the fortune for her family members (thereby becoming the hero of the unrepentant clan) and ever since she returns to the family plot on Father’s Day. There’s a wonderful scene with Bedelia, played by Viveca Lindfors (STARGATE), in front of her father’s grave that works perfectly to establish the character of not only Bedelia, but the entire Grantham family. And all Nathan Grantham wanted that day was his Father’s Day cake.

Another classic storyline was the alien invasion story and CREEPSHOW‘s offering, The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill stands as a classic. It’s the first, and so far only, time King himself has taken a lead role and while people bash his acting skills–King himself among those detractors–I can’t imagine anyone else giving the right amount of country bumpkin to the downtrodden Jordy. One look at his property–hell, one look at his living room–and you see his luck’s not all it could be. But the meteor that crashes on his farm just makes everything worse.

The Crate goes one step beyond the other stories. It’s longer than the others and a little more complicated. A college janitor discovers an old crate from the 1800s shoved under the stairs and calls one of the professors to have a look. The one thing you’d never expect to find in something so old is a living creature, but if you did, it would obviously have one hell of an appetite, and that’s true in this case. Hal Holbrook plays the perfect cowering husband who finally gets his spine back and helps his colleague, while Adrienne Barbeau couldn’t have been more obnoxious. Great performances by both.

The final story, They’re Creeping Up On You is the story that made CREEPSHOW such a memorable movie. Reclusive millionaire Upson Pratt–played by E.G. Marshall–has a bug problem in his $3200 a month penthouse apartment. Only this is no ordinary roach problem. This isn’t an infestation, it’s an invasion. The climax is one of those you see and think, “Holy crap!” Even now, decades after it came out, I can’t eat a bowl of Raisin Bran without watching each bite closely.

It’s not often I’ll watch a movie and notice things like light, color, and score, but sometimes those things are so well-done, or done so differently from other movies, that they stand out. Michael Gornick (who also worked with Romero on his DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD movies) was cinematographer and his use of light and color was perfectly in keeping with the comic book theme here, assisted by Larry Fulton’s art direction (production designer on THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, and SIGNS). Cletus Anderson did the scenic special effects while master Tom Savini did the make-up effects and aside from the very fake-looking Upson Pratt at the end of the last segment, the effects were very well-done, much better than most other horror movies from ’82–but what else would you expect with Tom Freakin’ Savini on board?

The score was provided by Michelle Dibucci (WENDIGO) and John Harrison, who was also 1st Assistant Director. The music in CREEPSHOW provides the perfect mood, the perfect pace. The sound in this movie is intense at times. Listening to the cockroaches clatter everywhere is spine-tingling, and the sound effect on the voices of the zombies was an interesting choice.

I remember seeing this movie many times as a kid and loving it every time. I remember seeing it only a few years ago and thinking that, while it was still entertaining, it was very dated. But now with this latest viewing, I’ve begun to see past the outdated clothes, past Ed Harris with hair, and see the subtle touches that were added throughout. CREEPSHOW is definitely a movie into which a lot of thought and care went and I can only wish such attention to detail was paid to more recent horror movies. Like the tag line reads, CREEPSHOW is very much the most fun you’ll ever have being scared.

King on Film

Carrie (1976)

‘Salem’s Lot (1979)

The Shining (1980)

The Dark Half (1993)

The Tommyknockers (1993)

Needful Things (1993)

The Stand (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

The Mangler (1995)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1996)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

Thinner (1996)

The Shining (1997)

Ghosts (1997)

Chattery Teeth (1997)

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (1997)

Trucks (1997)

The Night Flier (1997)

Chinga (1997)

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

Gerald’s Game (2017)

1922 (2017)

The Stand (2021)

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