The Scoop: 1982 R, directed by George Romero, written by Stephen King, and starring Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen and Adrienne Barbeau
Tagline: The most fun you’ll ever have being scared!
Summary Capsule: A quintet of vile vignettes to chill the blood and rattle the bones, kiddies!
Drew’s Rating: For a knockoff Tales from the Crypt, it’s not bad. Could use a more spirited host, though. This guy’s no Cryptkeeper.
Drew’s Review: We’ve talked before about the enormous impact that EC’s horror comics from the 1950s had on an entire generation of filmmakers, authors, and artists. So what happens when two of the biggest names in horror (George Romero and Stephen King) team up to do an homage to the comics that inspired them? Well, you get Creepshow, a Tales from the Crypt-esque movie filled with gruesome stories of revenge, betrayal and poetic justice.
As with past anthologies, we’ll look at each segment individually. The framing sequence owes the greatest debt to Creepshow‘s influences, as a father angrily punishes his son for reading tasteless horror comics. Alone in his room, the boy sees a similar-but-legally-distinct
Cryptkeeper nameless ghoul beckoning from outside his bedroom window. Approaching, the boy is treated to the following tales of terror…
“Father’s Day” — As they do every year, the wealthy and annoying members of the Grantham clan gather at the family estate to commemorate the death of patriarch Nathan, a wretched S.O.B. whose constant belittling drove his daughter to snap and kill him with an ashtray. This year, though, daddy’s coming home to teach his spoiled heirs a lesson… The first segment really sets the tone for the rest of the film as far as what you can expect: it isn’t deep, it doesn’t make you think, it’s just schlocky horror with a couple of jumps, some decent makeup (for the time), and a gruesome final scene that might also make you chuckle slightly. If that’s what you signed on for, good news: the rest is like this. If you were expecting something more subtle or meaningful, turn this off and reach for a Sheridan Le Fanu book.
“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” swaps a good portion of its horror for humor, as a dimwitted hick (played by Stephen King!) finds a meteor that crashed on his property. His dreams of selling it to the local college’s “Department of Meteors” evaporate when it breaks open and spills goo all over him, but soon he has bigger problems: uncontrolled plant growth that has him looking like the unholy offspring of Gomer Pyle and Swamp Thing. It’s funny to watch Stephen King do his best inbred hillbilly, and the short running time helps this segment a lot: too long and the joke would start to wear thin, but watching the poor dumb bastard get gradually covered while his genius plans of ignoring it to watch wrestling and drink beer, as well as immersing himself in water, fail to get results. Funny, if not at all scary.
In “Something to Tide You Over,” a jealous husband learns his wife is stepping out on him, so he buries she and her lover up to their necks at the beach and lets the tide come in, complete with video monitor so the other man can witness his lover’s demise. The plan works perfectly, but if you’ve ever seen a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, you’ll know that a watery death isn’t always the end of the story. This one’s kind of interesting if only to see Leslie Nielsen in a non-comedy role. He does an okay jealous husband, completely over the top of course, but that’s kind of the point. The special effects are laughable and sometimes don’t make any sense (one second Ted Danson’s facing incoming waves, the next his head is under three feet of water and he’s still alive by then?), but not too bad overall. Probably one of the weaker segments, though.
Conversely, “The Crate” is arguably the best story, though that doesn’t stop the monster from looking like Harry (of “and the Hendersons” fame). A janitor finds a wooden crate hidden under some stairs in an old campus building, with “Arctic expedition” and the year 1847 stamped on it. It turns out to contain an immortal monster who messily devours the janitor and a grad student. Inconvenient, but one professor sees the perfect means of getting rid of his domineering shrew of a wife. Like I said, this one’s enjoyable… there’s some pawky humor, a little blood for those who like that kind of thing, and a decent level of suspense. Not the most unexpected of endings, but you can’t have everything.
We close things with “They’re Creeping Up On You!”, featuring a heartless (notice a trend here?) businessman who is concerned that cockroaches seem to be getting into his hermetically-sealed penthouse. You’ll no doubt be shocked to learn that they eventually start pouring in in huge numbers, exactly at the same time a blackout hits the city. I don’t know, this one felt kind of uninspired to me. It’s fun to see what passed for cutting-edge technology in 1982, and the ending is definitely gross if that’s your bag, but I felt like it sent the movie out with more of a whimper than a bang. Afterward, we return our attention to the boy from the framing sequence for a last tidbit of horror before the credits.
I personally got a decent amount of enjoyment out of this film, but you have to have a taste for its brand of sensationalistic horror. The Stephen King pedigree might lure potential viewers into thinking Creepshow contains a lot of abstract terror and unknowable Lovecraftian evil. Let’s dispel that notion: it’s an homage to old comics that endeavored to be as shocking, funny, tasteless, colorful, and above all entertaining as possible… not deep or thoughtful. In that, Creepshow mostly accomplishes what it set out to do. If that sounds wishy-washy, well, too bad — only you know whether that’s what you’re looking for or not. If it is, though, then have we got a show for you…
- Tom Savini is the makeup/special effects guru for the film. Savini had previously worked with George A. Romero on numerous films, including the “Living Dead” series, and gained widespread acclaim for his realistic-looking gore. He has a cameo in this film as one of the garbage men in the final framing sequence.
- A sequel, Creepshow 2, was produced in 1987 with Romero’s and King’s involvement. In addition, Romero produced an anthology TV show with a similar premise called Tales from the Darkside. Creepshow 3 was produced without input from Romero or King, and Tom Savini at one point stated that Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is the “real” Creepshow 3.
- Tons of little Stephen King references sneak in all over the place, including a road sign mentioning Castle Rock (a fictitious town from many of King’s stories) and a married couple named Tabitha and Richard (Tabitha is Stephen King’s wife, Richard [Bachman] is a pseudonym of his).
- Likewise, some elements appear in multiple segments… for instance, the ceramic ashtray used to kill Nathan Grantham can be seen in all four of the other stories.
- This is obscure even by my standards, but apparently the reason Nathan rises from the dead is because Bedelia spills whiskey on his grave. In Gaelic, the word “whiskey” translates as “water of life,” and the novel Finnegan’s Wake involves a man who returns from the dead when someone spills whiskey on his body at the wake.
- I’ve got no sympathy for the guy squished by a falling tombstone because he has all the time in the world to get out of the way. I timed it: 43 seconds from when the stone first starts shaking to when it crushes him. That’s just Darwin at work.
- I had never before heard “having your ashes hauled” used as a euphemism for getting some. Did they invent that just for this movie?
- Maybe it’s just me, but the scene where Northrup imagines killing his wife is hilarious just because of how enthusiastic everyone is afterward. “Hell of a shot, Henry!”
- You know, if I captured an immortal monster in a crate, I don’t think I would just leave it sitting under the stairs at my alma mater. Damned irresponsible if you ask me.
- Nathan: It’s Father’s Day, and I got my cake!
Jordy: That’s a meteor! I’ll be dipped in [crap] if that ain’t a meteor!
Richard: You listen to me, Harry, and listen carefully. Unless you let me in and talk to me, something verrrry nasty will happen to Rebecca. So nasty that your little mind can barely conceive of it.
Harry: I just don’t understand what you’re trying to prove.
Richard: Not trying to prove a thing. It may be on some subjects that I’m not entirely sane. The subject of what is mine, for example, I’m not sane… at all.
Dexter: Hah. If there ever really were any living specimens in there, I doubt if they’re feeling very lively after 147 years.
Pratt: I’ve got to let you go, George. You did well! Go out and [screw] somebody. But wear a damn rubber, everybody’s got the damn herpes these days.
Lenora: I just called to tell you what a monster you are, Mr. Pratt, and how I will rejoice when you’re finally dead!
Pratt: Lots of people are going to rejoice when I’m dead. Who are you?
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