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.