Welcome boys and ghouls, to another spine-tingling, pulse-pounding, spooky-scarifying issue of A Bomb in the Lasagna! It is I your humble, horrifying host of horror movie reviews., the Bomb in the LaZombie ! Enter freely and of your own will and together we’ll take a senses-shattering journey into….A REVIEW OF CREEPSHOW!
Released in 1982, Creepshow was the brainchild of horror icons/ total buds Stephen King and George Romero. An homage to gloriously lurid and controversial horror comics of the 50s like Tales From the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear, Creepshow is an anthology of five stories of supernatural and sci-fi horror, each written by King, with a prologue and epilogue wrap-around story. Presented as stories in the titular comic book, the stories cover the gamut of horror and phobic pressure points:
Father’s Day- Seven years after murdering her sadistic, invalid father, Aunt Bedalia (Viveca Lindfors) makes her annual trip back to the her father’s grave for a father’s day dinner with her relatives and young, hot Ed Harris (young, hot Ed Harris?). Little does she know, her father still wants his father’s day cake, and won’t stop a little thing like being bludgeoned to death with an ashtray stop him from getting it.
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill- In what plays like a parody of Lovecraft’s the Colour out of Space, farmer Jordy Verrill (Stephen King) has plans to sell a meteorite (it’s not a comet, I checked, internet commenters) that crashes in his fields. Unfortunately, the meteorite has plans to turn everything on the farm, including Jordy, into plant matter.
Something to Tide You Over- After discovering his wife Barbara (Gaylen Ross) having an affair with Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson), wealthy sociopath and security video enthusiast Richard (Leslie Nielsen) gets his revenge by burying the two up to their necks on his private beach as high tide rolls in. Not long afterwards, a decidedly more dead and water-logged Barbara and Harry decide to return the favor.
The Crate- Professor Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver) and janitor Mike (Don Keefer) are excited to open the 148 year old shipping crate they found hidden away under a staircase, until they find that it contains a monster that promptly eats Mike. After Mike and Stanley’s star student Charlie (Robert Harper) end up monster-food, Stanley turns to best friend and fellow professor Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook), who agrees to help his friend, but first sees an opportunity to get rid of his drunk and abusive wife Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau).
They’re Creeping Up On You!- On the eve of a city-wide blackout, evil business tycoon and germaphobe Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) answers phone calls from his penthouse apartment while combating an unnatural cockroach infestation.
Creepshow is an excellent comic book adaptation. While Creepshow was not actually one of the comics that outraged 50s parents, it captures the look and feel of those books perfectly. The colors are garish and bright, facial expressions are exaggerated and wild, and shots are frequently framed within a comic book panel. The soundtrack during each of the five shorts, melodramatic and intrusive, matches the tone of what’s happening on screen perfectly. It’s clear from the outset this is a passion project for Romero and King, their genuine love for the defiantly schlocky source material translates into not just a distinctive visual style, but to spot-on dialogue as well. Characters tend to think out loud and large chunks of flashback-aided exposition are prevalent because such was the writing style horror comic writers had to use to tell a complete story complete with a twist ending within the span of four or five pages. In an era where comic books were looked down upon by Hollywood, it’s refreshing to see the two afford the medium and the genre the respect it deserves. That’s not to say the two are taking themselves too seriously.
As you might have guessed, Creepshow is a pretty funny movie at times. The film takes a grim humor in seeing its villains punished. Ironic punishment accompanied by spectacular puns is the name of the game (did you see the name of the third story?) and the film wants the viewers in on the joke. When the first segment ends with—32 year old spoiler—a corpse holding a decapitated head covered in icing and candles and exclaiming “I got my cake” it’s pretty clear this movie is equally committed to scaring you and making you laugh. Elements even call to mind the seminal, decidedly out of vogue in 1982, 60s Batman show; characters are framed by hand-drawn effects when they scream and there are just so many Dutch angles. Like Batman, the characters of Creepshow play it bombastically straight (Stephen King excepted) in a ridiculous setting. The actors aren’t winking at the material they’re given, and that carries the film more than anything else.
The cast is an all-star line-up of film regulars and up-and-coming stars of the 80s. Nielsen, still in his transition from aging matinee idol to comedy actor plays a villain who’s both arch and chilling. Adrienne Barbeau as Hal Holbrook’s emotionally abusive wife is a comic relief character whose barbs against her husband have a real emotional sting. E.G. Marshall some serious recognition for his performance here; his character only interacts with others through the phone or through a slot in his door and does some great work without the benefit of reacting to the physical signals from other characters. Though he does have plenty of cockroaches off which to work. The most surprising performance in Creepshow is King’s. Without any characters to interact with (aside from a medical doctor/ meteor scientist and his father in fantasies), King does an admirable job. Despite being 15 minutes of King doing a wacky caricature of a rural Mainer, he manages to make Jordy Verrill a relatable human—even as he’s turning into a plant–making the end of his story surprisingly sad.
Creepshow hits a sweet spot between being funny and being genuinely scary. The stories aren’t going to win accolades for their startling originality, and instead rely on the viewer knowing what’s going to happen and anxiously awaiting it. Creepshow builds and maintains tension without sacrificing its humor, the shock ending serving more as relief than terror. This film made me genuinely uncomfortable even when it was making me smile and that’s pretty commendable. There are moments of genuine horror in the film and very few of them rely on jump scares. I’d also advise sitting the last story out if you’ve got issues with bugs.
Creepshow is exactly the kind of movie I seek out for my Halloween celebrations. It’s a brightly colored celebration of all things horror that never forgets to give its viewer a few good scares in the midst of its celebration. If you like your horror with tongue poking out the hole in its corpse-ified cheek, Creepshow is a much watch.