Given the recent announcement that Scream Factory is putting out a rather impressive collector’s edition release of Creepshow (which I’ve already pre-ordered), we thought it might be fun to take a look back at the classic anthology and see how it’s aged since it’s release more than 35 years ago.
Warner Bros. Pictures and Laurel Entertainment brought us the cult flick back in 1982, a camp filled horror movie compiled of five short segments written mostly by Stephen King, and directed by Night of the Living Dead creator George A Romero.
Let’s take a quick look at each of the chapters…
A very young, yet still obviously balding Ed Harris is the most notable name in this segment. It tells the story of a wealthy, dysfunctional family who gets together on Father’s Day each year to seemingly celebrate the murder of the old man by his daughter Bedelia. This one starts a bit slow, but really gets moving just before Harris is killed by the family’s zombified patriarch, who – once being reanimated by whiskey – topples a tombstone over onto Harris as slowly as is imaginable. Harris waits what feels to be about a month before deciding not to move and is subsequently crushed to death. The pacing picks up from there as the rest of the cast is murdered in what feels like less time than it took for that tombstone to fall. The lesson here, don’t murder your evil relatives or you risk a similar fate.
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill
This one is our Sci-Fi chapter. Jordy, played by Stephen King himself, is a dimwitted farmer who finds a meteor on his land that turns him into a plant-creature. It does so because Jordy can’t seem to help himself from touching said meteor and then putting his hand in his mouth. This is easily the weakest of the five stories, and King proves a much better writer than actor. Though the concept is scary enough, eliciting feelings of hopelessness and morbid fascination as Jordy is slowly devoured by his own carelessness, the problem lies in the execution.
Something to Tide You Over
In what is arguably the most remembered of the segments we see a young Ted Danson and a Leslie Nielsen who look, well, the same as always. This is probably the best chapter. Nielsen is doing something a little different from his normal slapstick routine as he plays Richard Vickers, a convincing psycho who buries his wife Becky and her lover Harry (Danson) in the sand up to their necks so the tide will finish them off slowly. It’s a pretty dark and sadistic route to go for a scorned lover. In 2018 you could probably just publicly shame them on Facebook and be done with it, but Vickers goes all out, even setting up a camera and TV set, so Harry can watch Becky die. Brutal. But he gets more than he bargained for when the murdered lovers return from their watery graves to exact revenge on the petty and vindictive man. The story ends with Vickers turn to be buried, and him eerily screaming “I can hold my breath for a long time!” – It’s a classic.
This is probably what they expected to be the big bang segment of the anthology. It stars Hal Holbrook – who was the movie’s top-billed star – as college professor Henry Northrup. Old Henry is burdened with a terrible wife and a passive existence, letting his abusive spouse Wilma walk all over him. His best friend Prof. Dexter Stanley, along with the janitor Mike, find a crate that’s been untouched for just shy of 150 years. Said crate houses a force of nature that brutally devours people. When I was a kid, this was my favorite part. After eating Mike and a grad student named Charlie, the professors decide the best course of action is to let the creature, which has apparently been chilling out in this crate since 1834, devour Wilma and make the world just a little bit better.
They’re Creeping Up on You
The final chapter of this opus is the story of a crotchety old germaphobe played by E. G. Marshall. He lives alone, hates everyone, and only seems to take pleasure in causing others pain. This allows the filmmakers to do whatever they want to him without risking the audience feeling any sympathy for him. And they waste little time before they start to undo him. As the segment proceeds his sterilized apartment is overrun by cockroaches. Marshall (12 Angry Men, Superman II) sells the insanity of the situation with a professional level of chaos that is admirable. This one, not unlike the story with the meteor, lets us peek into the final moments of a man’s life before his untimely, yet inevitable death. Knowing they are doomed only adds to the sense of dread as the story is told.
The bookends of the movie tell the story a boy named Billy and his jerk of a dad Stan – played by Tom Atkins (The Fog, Halloween III, Night of the Creeps) – who doesn’t want his kid reading crap like horror comics. Looks like Stan might have been right in his thinking (maybe not his methods) because after throwing Billy’s comic away, the garbage men (one played by Tom Savini) notice the order form for the voodoo doll has been torn out, and Stan is feeling some neck pain. It’s a nice little way to end the movie.
In 1987 Creepshow 2 came out, this time with a screenplay from Romero, based on short stories by King, but now directed by Michael Gornick. In the second installment, which featured only three segments, horror effects legend Savini, who worked on both movies, also got to play the Creep. The enduring legacy of Creepshow (and Creepshow 2 to a lesser effect) has resulted in a cemented cult following more than three decades later. It’s a film that still holds up to this day, proving much more fun than most modern horror films, while still maintaining a dark macabre atmosphere.