The King of Summer: Creepshow (1982)
Stephen King and George Romero teamed up and made a film in our lifetime—this is something that still makes me happy to say aloud. And wouldn't you know, the damn thing is relentlessly entertaining from beginning to end. Creepshow is the self-aware horror anthology that never misses an opportunity to deliver both horrific and comedic gags, seemingly conceived in a fever dream. King’s hilarious take on how stupid and shitty people, paired with Romeo’s tight direction, make it a rewatchable classic in the anthology realm, the ultimate Halloween banger.
Creepshow’s wraparounds feature a shithead dad (played by the mighty Tom Atkins) taking away his son’s (Joe Hill) horror comic book claiming all comics are absolute trash. He scolds his son, threatening to spank him so hard that he won't sit for a week. Brutal stuff for a little child but all is well because he begins to curse his dad in a demonic voice and a skeleton dressed in a dark robe is chilling outside, just waiting to be his best friend. The wonderfully animated credit sequence that follows pulls you right in, stressing this is a comic book film in tune with EC’s Vault of Horror. What evil was in this comic little Joe Hill had? Well, Romero shows us with a ton of style. Throughout the film, comic panels fill the entire frame as the story come to life. “Page Turning” wipes, on par with anything found in Star Wars, submerge us into the comic, and incredible colored filters are laid over scenes enhancing the crazy world. John Harrison’s score is a total masterwork, effortlessly nailing the tone with the image that it accompanies, which is saying a hell of a lot because these stories are so wildly varied. Creepshow really goes all out in terms of presentation succeeding in the majority of its choices allowing the film to endure decades later.
So, about those stories. I found it only fair that I break them down individually real quick because they are all so hilarious and weird and it would be disrespectful to gloss over even one of them.
Young Ed Harris has a dance move in this chapter where he shakes his head like a coked up disco prince and it rules (that is not what this story is about but I’d lose sleep if I didn’t mention it). A verbally abusive father from a very wealthy family is killed by his own daughter in "Father’s Day". The family gets together to ignore the skeletons in their closet and eat and drink their pain away. Well, the father decides to pop out of his grave and visit his family, demanding a cake. Viveca Lindfors is the MVP of this story. Her portrayal of the haunted Aunt Bedelia is indelible, setting the tone for the height of acting we’ll see throughout the remaining stories. Hilarious kills and that Ed Harris dance make this a great place to start.
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill
As a child, I knew Stephen King wrote scary books but I had no clue what he looked like. Imagine my surprise as an adult when I found he actually was the poor overalls-wearing soul who unfortunately touches the wrong damn meteor. Simple and compact, King’s comedic turn in this tragedy is just right because it never gets stale. Complete with those great filters and amazing page-turning wipe,"Jordy Verrill" is one of the shorter but better-looking stories of the bunch.
Something to Tide You Over
Jealousy! Betrayal! Leslie Nielsen is a petty sociopath! Ted Danson can bench press 300 pounds! An affair causes an angry husband to go after his wife and her lover. Soap opera cues evoke the scandalous melodrama and then it’s almost as if King said, "Oh shit, this is a horror story," and gave us seaweed zombies. This one is my least favorite, but I still love it. My good friend once said the horror science of this story made no sense causing me to cry laughing. While he was right, Creepshow is never aiming for accuracy when dispatching humans.
Easily my favorite story of the film. Mean and primal, "The Crate" is a story about a bad marriage as much as it is about a monster in a box. An old crate rests underneath the stairs of a school for many years, unmolested. A janitor discovers the box and calls on a professor to open it, both extremely curious about what lies within. Well, it contains a monkey-like beast with exceptionally sharp claws and fangs who is quite hungry. He destroys the janitor and another faculty member that stumbles across this hullabaloo, sending the professor running for the hills. Our traumatized professor tells his friend Henry (Hal Holbrook) about the monster and Henry lights up. You see Henry has a belligerent drunkard wife (played wonderfully by Adrienne Barbeau) that he actively daydreams about killing. The story goes to hilarious places as it asks: do some people just deserve to die because they are constantly shitty?
They Are Creeping Up On You
“I hope you get cancer in the worst way!” These are the kind insults hurled at germaphobe Upson Pratt (E. G. Marshall). Conducting his business from an expensive germ-proof penthouse, Pratt is that asshole who constantly complains if he never gets his way, the cutthroat in the workplace, constantly stressing out his coworkers. This complete ass of a human being sees a cockroach in his apartment and loses his damn mind. He calls and terrorizes the building manager demanding immediate service or he'll have their jobs. The story is one of isolation and being closed off from your fellow man, only to be breached by the one thing you hate most. Just desserts with a super gross finale, this story may possibly be the leanest story of the bunch. I never looked at roaches the same after this story, that’s for sure.
To say I love this film would be an understatement. A VHS staple it made King a household name for me and this was my third Romero picture after Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Living Dead. Creepshow, ladies and gentlemen, is a full-stop horror anthology masterpiece. At all times it knows its place while juggling imagination, wit, and creativity with deft handling. Stephen King and George Romero are two grown men playing children, managing to create a comedy picture that wears a Halloween mask.