I took care of it. That's why God made fathers, babe. That's why God made fathers.
When I think of "Creepshow," I think fondly of my childhood. I think of renting the videotape, and being scared out of my wits just at the early-'80s Warner Bros. logo, knowing full-well (because I'd seen it so many times) what was about to come. I think of the opening scene, thick in atmosphere and spooky as anything. I think of the jack-o'-lantern glowing in the window of a suburban home. I think of Tom Atkins' spiteful portrayal of an abusive father who thinks he knows better and snatches away his young son's comic book. I think of the father throwing the comic in the garbage can, the night brightening in a flash of lightning and the sound of a demonic cackle faintly heard in the distance. And, I think of the son (played by Stephen King's real-life son, Joe), smiling as he sees the corpse-like Creep standing outside his bedroom window, silently assuring the boy that his father will live only to regret the way he's mistreated him all his life.
A gloriously faithful ode to the E.C. Comics of the 1950s, "Creepshow" ranks as one of the very best horror anthology films (none better instantly come to mind). The collaboration between director George Romero (one-upping his 1968 classic "Night of the Living Dead") and screenwriter Stephen King (who also penned an actual comic book based on the film) is something special, indeed, eliciting an unmistakable graphic novel feel and an irresistible blend of lighthearted darkness and darkhearted lightness. When most horror movies of the 1980s were either exploitative, depressing, or both, "Creepshow" reintroduced a sense of fun back into the genre. It was okay to be scaredand make no mistake, viewers would bebut it was also okay to be completely entertained and cheering the entire time.
Beyond the wraparound sequences, the picture is comprised of five short stories, each one beginning and ending with a segue from the animated comic drawing to live-action, or vice versa. There isn't a weak one in the bunch. The party starts with "Father's Day" (my personal favorite as a kid of about seven or eight), wherein an annual family get-together on the anniversary of the patriarch's death (which also happened to be the title holiday) is interrupted by his return from the grave and a mission to finally get his Father's Day cake. Viveca Lindfors is comic dynamite as the booze-swilling Aunt Bedelia ("Screeches to a halt, as they say!"), as is Carrie Nye as tell-it-like-it-is family member Sylvia Grantham ("Turn that music down! Turn it down, and turn it down right now!"). The clever ending of the tale, set in the murky kitchen of the estate, the dinner boiling on the stove, is perfection.
Next up is "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," wherein a lunkheaded farmer (Stephen King) witnesses a meteorite crash to earth and makes the wrong decision in touching it. As green hair spouts over his entire body and an infestation of fern grows outside, Jordy has no choice but to make amends with the crummy life that is about to end. In his most prominent acting role to date, Stephen King is terrific as Jordy Verrill ("I'll be dipped in shit if that ain't a meteor!"), mixing humor with pathos as if he were a professional actor. Jordy is a born loser, and he knows it, but he's also so gosh-darn likable that you hate to see him reach for that rifle at the end.
The third macabre offering is "Something to Tide You Over," starring Leslie Nielsen as Richard, a wealthy husband who seeks revenge on his cheating wife (Gaylen Ross) and her boyfriend (Ted Danson) by burying them alive on the beach. The couple die, drowned by the sea, but return as waterlogged corpses to haunt Richard. Leslie Nielsen is delicious at playing cold-blooded ("I can hold my breath for a looooooong time!"), a far cry from the spoof movies he became most known for, and the climax where he receives his just desserts is fittingly suspenseful and, finally, amusing.
The fourth story is also the longest, clocking in at almost forty-five minutes. "The Crate" stars Hal Holbrook as Henry Northrop, a henpecked college professor husband who discovers a crate concealing an insatiable monster and uses it to get back at the people who have wronged him. Adrienne Barbeau is hilarious as wife Wilma ("Just call me Billie, everyone does!"), a loudmouthed, obnoxious sort who annoys everyone around her and hasn't a clue that they hate her. "The Crate" could have probably been trimmed a little in its midsection, but the characters are enjoyable and well-developed and the creature, when revealed, is as chilling as one could hope.
Finally, "They're Creeping Up on You" is a gross-out satire in which terminally clean grouch Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) finds his sterile, all-white apartment invaded by cockroaches. When a blackout hits, the insects prepare to make their attack. E.G. Marshall chews up the scenery as the insufferable, bigoted Upson Pratt ("Now, if you'll excuse me, I have this bug problem..."), and the ending of the tale shows off some mischievously gruesome effects work. For anyone who hates bugs, this segment will have you wriggling in your seat, and for anyone who doesn't mind them, it may make you reconsider your stance.
Intricately and eye-poppingly photographed by Michael Gornick, taking on the stylized look and feel of a vintage horror comic, "Creepshow" is a feast for anyone who enjoys a case of the heebie-jeebies and wants to have a grand time in the process. The brilliantly malevolent, piano-tinged music score by John Harrison keeps the pace moving, each story seamlessly gliding into the next. It's too bad George Romero and Stephen King have not worked together more often; they fit each other like a snug, bloodily battered glove. All of the pieces of "Creepshow" come together in a smorgasbord of ghastly images, welcome humor, and solid, old-fashioned storytelling. This film, horror and comic book fans, is a very special treat, ideal for the Halloween season or any time at all.