Posted on: October 10th, 2009 TEN of TERROR #3: Creepshow

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There’s nothing quite like a good horror anthology, little morsels of single-serve, cut-to-the-chase goodness, to set the mood on a dark October night. Who better to commandeer such a project than the master of written terror, Stephen King, and one of the finest directors the genre has to offer? None better, which is why our third pick is that collaboration, 1982’s Creepshow.

Creepshow is a living breathing horror-comic, much in the spirit of Tales From The Crypt (which is even paid tribute to in the film’s opening credits); five short stories from Stephen King – two of which are adaptations of previously released short stories – brought to life through the eye of zombie-master George A. Romero. Sharp writing, covering five different facets of the horror genre, coupled with a stellar ensemble cast giving truly fun performances makes this flick a yearly tradition in my house, and more than worthy of a spot on this list.

Let’s take a look at the film’s segments, shall we?

Part I – Father’s Day

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Starring: Ed Harris, Viveca Lindfors

Creepshow hits the ground running with this first segment, written by King specifically for the film, in which a family reunion on the third Sunday in June turns to terror as the murdered family patriarch rises from the grave. He wants his cake and his money-grubbing family dead!

Father’s Day is tied for my favorite segment in Creepshow. There’s some really great lines to go with some wonderfully-scene-chewing acting from old crazy aunt Bedelia. A shockingly-young Ed Harris dances up a storm, which must be seen to be believed, and the monster-costume is pretty cool. Romero dips into Dario Argento’s basket of lighting tricks to have some really gorgeous and colorful shots. Note that the score in this segment (provided by John Harrison), is kick-ass.

Part II – The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill

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Starring: Stephen King

The film’s writer himself is the lead in this segment, an almost one-man-show, as Jordy Verrill, a less-than-educated hillbilly (aka, hillwilliam) that becomes infected with a strange mutating disease after a meteorite crash-lands on his property. This segment, adapted from a pre-existing short-story titled Weeds, is the most light-hearted of the film, mainly from Stephen King’s acting. It really is a terrible performance, but given the sheer idiocy of the character, it works perfectly – and I’ll bet a dime or two that King went over-the-top on purpose. If anything, this segment feels like a tribute to bad campy horror, and it works wonderfully, all the way up to the grim, mossy end.

Watching Stephen King in overalls chugging a near vertical bottle of hooch is so lol-worthy you will pause and re-wind, I guarantee.

Part III – Something to Tide You Over

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Starring: Leslie Neilson, Gaylen Ross, Ted Danson

To me, this is the gem of the anthology. The great Leslie Neilson turns in a relatively serious performance as a rich man who sadistically deals with his cheating wife and her lover. From start to finish, this is just a great segment, very cold and subtle and it all burns up to a wicked ending. Leslie Neilson is awesome and totally outside of his range of recognition, as is Ted Danson.

This segment has again a great score, and some really classic imagery – how can you forget a man buried neck-deep in the sand while the tide rushes in? Like Father’s Day, Stephen King wrote this segment expressly for the film.

Part IV – The Crate

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Starring: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau

Adapted from a previously published short-story, The Crate tells the tale of a timid college professor who discovers a crate – over 100 years old – in the basement of the college. In that crate, a feral creature and the perfect way to dispose of an emotionally-abusive wife.

The Crate didn’t really stand out to me the first time I saw Creepshow, but the more I revisit the film, the more I get it; the real monster in this segment isn’t the creature from the crate at all, but rather the way we justify extreme actions when our spirits have been broken. Hal Holbrook gives what could be the most dramatic performance in the entire anthology; his character is so perfectly sympathetic and entirely believable. It’s this display of subtlety and story-telling that takes our mind off the brutal monster puppet they used. Adrienne Barbeau also shines as the slightly-over-the-top mega-bitch.

Part V – They’re Creeping Up On You

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Starring: E.G. Marshall

The final segment of Creepshow, written just for the film, is kind of the odd man out; it’s not bad, by any means, but I wouldn’t classify it as a horror short. It would fit perfectly at home as an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. That’s not to say it’s not a great addition to the film, it is just tonally different than the four previous chapters.

E.G. Marshall plays Upson Pratt, a rich and ruthless businessman who lives his life sealed in his apartment, where he balances his time between perpetuating his corporate greed and battling his crippling mysophobia – a pathological fear of dirt, germs and contamination. Karma rears its ugly head when hordes of cockroaches begin to invade his plastic prison of perfection.

Although this is my least favorite segment in the film, and in my opinion an odd pic to end the movie, E.G. Marshall is so awesomely despicable and that alone makes this one fun.


creepshow_xl_01filmAThe film opened in November of 1982 – a huge year for movies on the whole – fairly successful, making it’s budget back in five days and ultimately taking in $21 million. Though the film was met with mixed reviews from critics, Creepshow is quite celebrated by fans of the genre.

The film received the sequel treatment with Creepshow 2 in 1987. The film was written by George A. Romero and based on short-stories by Stephen King. Though the film – directed by Michael Gornick – is totally watchable, and features three interesting horror-shorts, it just doesn’t deliver on the same level as the first film. There seemed to be a lack of heart, and it’s less of a celebration of the culture that preceded it.

If anything, Creepshow works as an homage to the camp and cheesiness of the genre. If you take it seriously, you’re never going to be satisfied, but if you’re in the mood for fun, exploitative and vibrantly adapted comic-book horror, you’re in for a treat.

Trivia

  • Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, plays the young boy in the book-end segments of the film.
  • The marble ashtray, used as the deadly weapon in the Father’s Day segment, appears in every segment in the film.
  • A road-sign for Castle Rock appears at the end of The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill. Castle Rock is, of course, the fictitious Maine town featured in most of Stephen King’s writings.
  • Max Von Sydow was, apparently, originally cast as Upson Pratt in They’re Creeping Up On You.
  • George A. Romero nicknamed the monster from The Crate “Fluffy”.

That wraps up TEN of TERROR #3… stay tuned for #4…

One Response to “TEN of TERROR #3: Creepshow”

  1. Dale Pidlisny Says:
    October 14th, 2009 at 10:00 am

    I love the trivia sections at the end of these posts. Ten of Terror is definitely getting me in the Halloween spirit!

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