Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Creepshow


Truth be told Creepshow has never been one of my favorite George Romero or Stephen King films. However, that said, it is impossible to imagine my youth without it as it was one of those films that I saw over and over again growing up. My memories of it combined with the fact that it is an undeniably fun and inventive film continue to make it quite enduring for me.
I first encounted Romero and King’s loving homage to comic books like Creepy and Eerie probably around my eleventh or twelfth birthday, although the film came to be so familiar too me that I can’t actually remember the first time I saw it. I am guessing that first time was probably an edited TV version or perhaps even a showing on HBO shortly after my family first got that back in the mid eighties. I can still remember the excitement that possessed me as I realized the possibility of watching uncut movies on the television. It seemed so novel and positively astonishing at the time.
After getting our first VCR around 85 or so, I taped Creepshow off one of the cable channels and must have nearly worn that tape out watching it so many times. Since it was an anthology film it became a prime candidate for checking out bits and pieces in the downtime between reruns of Good Times and Welcome Back Kotter. I would watch one or two segments and then leave the tape queued up for the next one and so it went. I still think Creepshow works best this way as sitting down and watching it beginning to end points out most of the key problems it has.

Those problems are pretty easy to spot and they plague most anthology pictures. It feels too long, some stories are stronger than others and the tone of the film is all over the place. Still despite these issues that seem to be inherent to the format, Creepshow works marvelously well mostly I think due to the obvious love King and Romero seem to have for the subject matter.
Book ended by a delightful rendering of the importance of fantasy in a child’s life and the way parents often try to suppress it, Creepshow features some of the most wonderfully stylish direction that Romero has ever committed to film. With a humorous tongue in cheek but always reverent style, Romero easily glides the picture through a series of homages reminding us to the power of the comic book and graphic novel. With eye popping colors, inventive connecting animated spots, far out advertisements and some wonderful uses of split screen and paneling, Creepshow remains one of the definitive comic book adaptations. It’s a film in love with its subject and it really shows.

Scored evocatively by the talented John Harrison, who would lend an equally memorable soundtrack a couple of years down the road for Romero’s Day Of The Dead, and featuring lovely photography by frequent Romero collaborater Michael Gornick, Creepshow is stylistically a winner through and through. The cast, including some of the most notable film and television actors of the period, Romero and King assembled is also one of the best to ever grace their films. I typically find that I like Romero best when he is working with more unknown faces but here, with such icons like Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielson, and Ed Harris, everything seems to gel for him. Creepshow is a wonderfully acted film which is quite amazing considering the screenplay’s justifiably comic like dialogue and situations. Almost everyone without exception seems to fall effortlessly in the style of the film which is quite rare for these types of adaptations.

The main downfall I think for Creepshow is that the film seems unbalanced between some of the stories which are positively great (Something To Tide You Over) and those that fall flat (The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill). Of course this was a hallmark of Creepy magazine but on film it still throws the tone and mood of the piece off, which is why I still think it works better watching it in sections.
My favorite episode, and I have no idea how this corresponds with other peoples take on it, is indeed Something To Tide You Over. Featuring a sinister laid back performance by Nielson, one of the most inventive and cruel double murders on film and a predictable but still extremely cool ending, Something To Tide You Over is a short little film I never tire of revisiting. Others suffer from being too slight (Jordy Verrill) to way too long (The Crate)…still none of the episodes are unwatchable and I prefer them all to the Michael Gornick directed follow up film from 1987, although admittedly I am nowhere near as familiar with this film.

Creepshow is of course also marked by the wonderful special effects work by Cletus Anderson and Ed Fountain. I am especially fond of the creature in The Crate and the EG Marshall bug infested dummy at the end that might look primitive to modern eyes but seem more and refreshing year after year as CGI becomes more and more prominent in horror films. Many of the makeup effects supervised by legendary Tom Savini, who also has a nice cameo at the end of the film, are also very well done and totally unforgettable.
Creepshow had over ten minutes cut out of it originally including some heavier gore. The fact that there isn’t a special edition of the film out reincorporating this material is very disappointing. The film is still only available on an early bare bones Region 1 disc featuring a washed out and disappointing print. A Region 2 special edition is available and the extras on it look out of sight.


Creepshow isn’t among the best films that the names George Romero and Stephen King have been attached to but it is still a hell of a lot of fun and it has aged surprisingly well. Give it another look if it has been a while and lets all cross our fingers for an eventual fully loaded Region 1 special edition of it.

9 comments:

Steve Langton said...

Great post on this entertaining film. Took me back to my first viewing on VHS. I don't have the Region 2 DVD but a friend of mine tells me it's one of the prides of his collection.

PJB said...

If you're region free capable, I can recommend the r2 disc highly. The extras are fantastic: a TON of interviews, a full commentary with Romero and Savini and copious behind the scenes making-of footage. It's a great special edition. I just wish I still had my over-sized comic book adaptation to go with it; I read that thing to pieces.

Rogue Spy 007 said...

This was one of my favorite movies to watch back in the 1980's. I was a big Stephen King fan back then. My brother and I would watch some of the stories when there was nothing else on. My least favorite is the Jordy one with Stephen King. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't all that interesting. It's hard for me to pick my favorite, but I did really like Tide and Creeping a lot. I watched this again less than a year ago. I still found that I enjoyed it. There's not much out there like that these days. Great blog.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Steve,
I appreciate the nice comments and love your new Lydon avatar.

Thanks PJB,
That is great to hear...I absolutely must get that import as it sounds amazing.

Thanks Keith for your personal memories. I really miss anthology films and wish they would start cranking them out again...

Jeffrey Allen Rydell said...

This is rather pedantic, but I hope you won't mind too much.

The comics being paid tribute here are the EC horrors ("Tales From The Crypt", "Vault Of Horror, etc) of King & Romero's youth, not the Warren line (Creepy, Eerie) that was contemporaneous with their own careers in the genre.

Also, this is Savini's show through and through - including the two gags you single out for praise. I think Anderson and Fountain were in charge of the underlying mechanics of the more elaborate of Savini's designs, though.

I saw this in theaters at 10 years of age (twice), and will never get Harrison's score out of my head for as long as I live.

-Jeff

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Jeffrey,
I have always made the mistake of connecting them to Eerie and Creepy since those are what I grew up with...I appreciate the clarification on those originals.
Also thanks for the info on Savini. It has been years since I saw or read any behind the scenes stuff on this one so I couldn't remember his exact involvement.
Thanks for the help and for continuing to visit...

CG said...

Ahh, this one brings back memories. Great film, though I've always preferred the second Creepshow. The Raft segment has stuck with me forever. And, of course, who can forget, "Thanks for the ride lady!!"

The Flying Maciste Brothers said...

Jeremy! It does the FMB's hearts good to hear mention of E.G. Marshall's outstanding dummy-death in Creepshow! Romero has given us several lovingly perpetrated double-d's during his illustrious career! Hail to The Chief! (And hail to you, Jeremy, now honorary Flying Maciste Brother!)

Jeremy Richey said...

That's awesome...I will wear my Flying Maciste Brother badge proudly...thanks brother!