Creepshow

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Year: 1982
Director: George A. Romero
Writer: Stephen King
Special Make-Up Effects: Tom Savini
Starring: Hal Holbrook, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, Warner Shook, Elizabeth Regan, Viveca Lindfors, Stephen King, Don Keefer, Tom Atkins, Carrie Nye

I began to wonder, where did they go? I mean…how much could it eat? I think maybe at the very end it began to suspect what was happening.

In 1982 I hadn’t read any of Stephen King’s work (Well, I had read Marvel Comic’s Bizarre Adventures #29 with the Lawnmower Man adaptation), it would be four years later when I picked up a paperback copy of IT and I would join the millions of other of his literary horror fans. I had seen a fair number though of his cinematic adaptations by this point in my youth. Carrie, the Shining, and Salem’s Lot, so I knew that Stephen King stood firmly for horror, at least that is how my sugar buzzed brain equated it. I also was a very huge fan of the Creepy and Eerie anthology magazines that I was able to pick up from my local grocery store a couple of years earlier, the issues I was picking up were reprints by this point, but my said sugar addled brain was more than willing to watch, read, or listen to anything that was horror related. So after watching a segment of Livewire! on Nickelodeon I was excited to see this creepy animatronic skeleton/ghoul that was going to appear in a new Stephen King and George A. Romero film later in the year. When it came out in my neck of the woods it didn’t arrive at the theatres but found itself appropriately enough at the local Drive-In, where my father and I and judging by the sounds of screams and laughter from the rest of the audience in their vehicles really were digging this horror anthology film.

As we begin the film we see a two story house with a grinning Jack O’Lantern in the window, a second to appear as a normal home in any suburbia. However, as a storm is approaching we then hear from inside the house Stan (Atkins) angrily berating his son for reading a horror comic, Creepshow, and we see upstairs in the bedroom the father continues to get angrier and angrier. When his son, Billy (Joe Hill, son of Stephen King), states he doesn’t see how they are any worse than the magazines his father keeps in his drawer, Stan gives the boy a sharp slap to the side of the head. When Stan’s wife says that she is worried about the windows being open and rain getting in, her husband says he’ll take care of it because he is going out to throw the comic book in the trash. He is good as his word but shivers a little as he tosses it within the trashcan, looking up as lightning brightens the area…and we hear a bit of laughter on the wind. Stan takes a seat in the living room with a can of beer, telling his wife rather smugly that he took care of the problem and, “That’s why God made fathers, babe. That’s why God made fathers.” Upstairs Billy is uttering a very dark wish for his father’s fate before a cackling skeleton/ghoul apparition appears outside his window, it clenches its fist and Billy smiles knowingly as he begins to punch a fist into his open palm. The scene switches to animation as the apparition beckons the viewer through the window pane and stabs a finger towards the trashcan, the lid flies off and we see the thrown away horror comic as the credits begin proper with illustrated panels of what we shall see in the rest of the movie, all the while deliciously evil music is playing as we come to the first tale.

As a comic book page informs us the name of this tale, Father’s Day, we are introduced to a group of wealthy aristocrats who are gathered as we later learn like they always do on the third Sunday of June. They are there to celebrate the actions of Aunt Bedelia (Lindfors) who struck down the patriarch of the clan Nathan Grantham seven years prior with a marble ash tray. Gathered in the sitting room are Richard Grantham (Shook), Aunt Sylvia (Nye), Cass Blaine (Regan), and her new husband Hank Blaine (Harris). Hank learns from his brother-in-law that Nathan had a rather unhealthy fascination with his daughter, Bedelia. Richard explains that Nathan in his old age had a stroke and that Bedelia was the family member tasked to nurse him full-time. It is also around this time that she met and fell in love with a man rather older than herself, Yarbro was the man’s name and it would seem that Nathan had the man murdered and made to look as if it was a hunting accident. When Hank asks Sylvia if she believes that her older sister did the deed she says she knows she did it and, “Bedelia was always very unstable, even when she was much younger.” At this point Bedelia has arrived at the Grantham estate where we are told by Sylvia she will make her way to her father’s grave to meditate for about an hour before joining the rest of her family to dine on a baked ham dinner. As Bedelia pauses outside the family graveyard we see her side of the story, her father slamming his cane upon the arms of his dining room chair, verbally abusing her over and over demanding his Father’s Day cake. Given that we are only subjected to about a minute of this you can almost understand it when she snaps while preparing his cake before picking up the marble ashtray and striking Nathan in the head with it. The spoilers end here for this segment of the film.

The next tale is entitled the Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill and as it opens we see the title character, Verrill (King), standing in his field at his farm as a meteor streaks across the sky, slamming into a patch of his field a few feet away. Excitedly he runs over to the meteor and foolishly touches it, burning his fingers badly. As he sucks on them to ease the pain he begins to think about how much money he could sell the meter to the local college for and with a rather humorous daydream of the event he realizes he needs to cool off the space rock. Filling a bucket full of water he splashes the meteor and stares in horror as it shoots steam upwards before cracking in half which results in an equally humorous daydream about the college and his chances of getting paid for a ‘broken meteor’. Verrill figures he has to try and picks up the two halves of the meteor, which has some kind of liquid in it that spills on the ground and the man’s hands. As he wonders if he can glue it together in the morning he enters his home and soon falls asleep in front of the television, meanwhile out where the meteor had landed, weeds have sprouted up from the liquid that was spilled on the ground…following all the way up to the front of the Verrill farmhouse. Here end the spoilers for this rather short segment.

Something To Tide You Over is the title of the next tale and as it begins we see Harry Wenworth (Danson) asleep on the sofa of his home as someone knocks on his door loudly calling his name. As he opens the door we see who we will later learn is Richard Vickers (Nielsen), who explains that if he isn’t allowed in the house something very nasty will happen to his wife, Rebecca, who we learn Harry is romantically involved with. Upon letting Richard into his home, Harry comments that he is glad that the older man has found out about the affair and that they had in fact been planning on informing him of her wishes to leave. Harry goes further by saying that Richard should be grateful to the two lovers, the older man obviously doesn’t love his wife, and there won’t be any problems with alimony nor property disputes. Richard informs the younger man, “I don’t know whether I ever loved her or not, Harry. That doesn’t matter. The point is I keep what is mine.” Which pretty much tells us all we need to know about Richard…well, maybe not, there is the fact that he is completely and ruthlessly insane. As he demonstrates by playing a recorded plea for help from Rebecca on a handheld tape recorder. Harry threatens the older man but holds himself in check when Richard advises that if anything were to happen to his well being, the younger man would never find Rebecca. We then see Harry accompanying Richard in his jeep as the older man drives out to a secluded spot on the beach, located near Richard’s beach house. The now jovial Richard calls to Harry as he jogs further up the beach, “Harry! Maiden-fair is waiting for her knight in shining corduroy.” The two approach the top of a dune where on the other side by the ocean waves is a mound with a shovel atop it in the sand. As Harry fears the worst and runs to free his love, Richard bends down and withdraws a revolver from an ankle holster. Upon reaching the mound, Harry notices that there is a hole that has been already dug and the mound is the sand from it. Richard forces the younger man to jump into the hole, kneel down, while pulling the sand into the hole. Once Harry has done so, Richard promises that he will see Rebecca again. So ends the spoilers for this segment.

The fourth tale is entitled, The Crate, and begins with Mike the Janitor (Keefer) chasing after a quarter he has dropped after flipping it, the coin rolling beneath a barred and locked space under a nearby staircase. Mike notices a crate in the back of the little space under the stairs and decides to call Dexter Stanley (Weaver) a Professor for the college and see if he what he thinks of it. Stanley is attending a dinner party to welcome some new members of the faculty and we also meet his best friend Henry Northrup (Holbrook) and his friend’s embarrassingly crass wife, Wilma (Barbeau). Stanley on the phone with Mike jokes that he is willing to bet that the crate is chock full of old National Geographic or Reader’s Digest magazines but the kindly janitor expresses his doubts, “The date on it said 1834.” This piques Stanley’s curiosity and Mike adds, “It’s stenciled right on the side. June, 19, 1834. And then something about an ‘Artic Expedition'” Stanley agrees that there might be something more interesting than periodicals after all. We learn at this time just how miserable Henry truly is as he has daydreams of killing his wife, withdrawing a pistol and shooting his wife in the head in front of the guests. Browbeating is a kind term for how Wilma treats her husband. Meanwhile at the college Stanley and Mike have removed the barred grate and reached the create beneath the staircase. The two men manage to drag the crate from under its resting spot for over a hundred and forty seven years and carry it up the stairs and into one of the open classrooms. As they set it down, Mike asks Stanley if he felt something shift inside the crate when they were carrying it…as if something moved on its own within it. End of the spoilers for this delightfully wicked monster tale.

They’re Creeping Up On You! is the title of the last tale and as we begin we see Upson Pratt (Marshall) as he is spraying a bug to death on his white spartan floor. Pratt suffers from an extreme case of Mysophobia and lives in a hermetically sealed apartment. He demonstrates his disorder by using tissues as he presses the necessary buttons to answer an incoming call, immediately stuffing them into a vacuum chute to be disposed of. The call is from George Gendron, an executive in Pratt’s vast business empire, who is constantly blocked from delivering his message by Pratt’s unreasonable anger over the building’s superintendent being unreachable on vacation, especially after he had just killed a cockroach in his supposedly sealed apartment. George tries to get a word in edge wise about a company they had just taken over, Pacific Aerodyne, but Pratt is less than interested about it, going so far as to say that the company’s president, “Norman Castonmeyer is a dinosaur! He’s too blind to find his way to the nearest tar pit.” George finally forces his way through in the conversation to inform his boss that they own the majority of stock from the smaller company, Pratt continues to verbally express his disinterest about what George is saying as he has spotted yet another cockroach. Finally exasperated the executive reveals that Castonmeyer had shot himself over an hour ago, he had committed suicide when it became clear there was no way to stop the takeover. Pratt is not even shocked by the news, in fact he is quite happy as he explains they won’t have to offer the man a seat on the board of directors. After hanging up on George, Pratt notices more and more bugs, hunting them down and exterminating them before the phone rings again, this time it is Lenora Castonmeyer and she wastes little time in describing the fate she wishes on Pratt for his ruthless business endeavors, the kind that drove her husband to take his life. The old man shows nothing in the way of remorse and when Lenora asks how many men he has killed by his actions he replies, “Only the stupid ones. Only the ones who handed me a knife and then stretched out their throats. Only the ones who, if you’ll pardon the expression, screwed up.” Later as Pratt is eating his dinner he looks out at the city skyline and compares the likes of Reynolds and Castonmeyer to bugs…before finding bugs in the very food he is eating. So end the spoilers for this final segment.

What happens to the Grantham family? What of the sad sack Jordy Verill? What is the fate of Harry and Rebecca? What might be in the crate? What is really…bugging Upson Pratt? You’ll need to watch the movie for yourself, friends. If you enjoy the old E.C. Comics Tales From the Crypt stories, or the HBO series from back in 1986 you will most certainly enjoy the dark humor and gory treats offered by Creepshow as it is very much a tip of the hat to the classic horror comic series. I bestow four and a half pumpkins out of five to Romero and King’s first cinematic partnership!

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VicSage

Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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3 thoughts on “Creepshow

  1. Doug says:

    By the way, just watched Vampire Circus on Netflix Instant Watch. I think I saw it as a kid. It isn’t modern like AD 1972, but it is good.

  2. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Horror at the drive-in was so cool! Hearing masses of people scream and laugh at themselves for doing so. The creepy darkness surrounding the car and the shadows walking around, getting snacks or eating souls.

    The near-perfect live EC-comic experience of Creepshow justified my fanatic adoration of George Romero to my friends, as we saw this on the big screen and loved it.
    Earlier, they had loved the horror/action/drama of Dawn Of The Dead (quite possibly my favorite movie of all movies that will ever exist on planet Earth), but scoffed and hooted impatiently at the leisurely pace of NOTLD (which didn’t surprise me). Then they were baffled and bored by Martin (though it also took me a while to get into it – being more a fan of Hammer’s flashier take on the draculi phenomenon). I wisely avoided mentioning the mind-numbing Season Of The Witch.
    But Creepshow’s greatness nailed it.
    I had pointed out Romero as the master of horror when Dawn came around, and turns out I had been right (I didn’t know of Argento at the time).

    and
    Vampire Circus is one that took a white-hot poker and seared its awesome horror into my ten-year-old brain, alone in front of the TV at three in the morning, watching a fright-fest marathon that started out lightly (with the beguiling The Fearless Vampire Killers) and dove into straight-out horror with VC as the night wore on (only to finish with some B&W WWII drama around 5am – just to get me to go to bed I imagine).

    Oh yeah, I’ll be joining you in watching that weird, fanged marvel again (and again).

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