Feb 5, 2017

Creeping Out With Creepshow!

“The most fun you'll ever have being scared”

by Inci German

Romero is first and foremost known as the godfather of zombies. Even though I very much appreciate his Trilogy of the Dead and enjoy watching them every now and then, my favorite work of his is and always will be another one: Creepshow (1982).

This horror-comedy-anthology consists of five stories, of which two are based on short stories by Stephen King, who also wrote the whole movie and whose literary signature is hard to miss: revenge horror, the use of suspended metaphors, complicated/three dimensional characters... One of the interesting things about this movie though, is that it's almost at once recognizable as a work by King, but also, due to the imagery and to the way living dead are used, as a Romero movie. It's a perfect collaboration of two masters of their arts, really. And talking about masters of the art, it would be unfair not to mention the work of the great special effect and make-up artist Tom Savini here, who has worked with Romero on numerous projects such as Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985).

Creepshow is basically an homage to the EC and DC horror comics from the 50's. In order to give the movie a comic-like feeling, Romero and Savini use brilliant tricks; a very distinct comic book imagery, comic panels, captions, animations as a passage between stories, flashy colors, a naive, almost hand-drawn style. Even the acting is somewhat over-dramatized; almost giddy and way too expressive with exaggerated mimics. Take THIS Marvel – Creepshow is what it feels like to watch a comic book!

The frame story consists of little Billy (played by Stephen King's son Joe King) being beaten by his father for reading trashy horror comics and the father throwing them away. Focusing on a comic in a trash bin, the viewer moves from one story to the next as the wind blows its pages open: a brutal father who raises from his grave to reclaim his Father's Day cake; a thick-headed farmer discovering and unintentionally breaking a meteorite, causing the spreading of extraterrestrial plant-growth; a super rich psychopath killing his wife and her lover in a rather creative way and subsequently being haunted by their dead bodies; a professor who uses a Yeti-like monster, that has been forgotten in the basement of a university building, for a rather unusual purpose and finally a phobic businessman being swarmed by the cockroaches he hates so much. In the end we see Billy pricking a voodoo doll in order to give his father neck pains and tells him not to touch his comic books again.

I remember George A. Romero saying in an interview that the concept behind his work derives from the fact that he was terrified by the idea of dead people wandering around. Even though the zombie trope isn't one of my favorites in horror genre and I surely don't understand the current zombie craze in popular culture, I think that in this case and context the idea of dead people coming to life actually suits the course of the stories. The physical bodies of those who have been done unjust coming back to avenge their deaths or unfulfilled desires (I want my cake!!), especially in stories one and three, makes perfect sense here. We're used to stories in which ghosts, the spiritual side of a living being, that is to say, the complete opposite of flesh, of zombies, come back to take revenge. So I think it's actually a kind of twist that is emphasized in Creepshow.

It is a mystery to me why Creepshow remains so underrated despite its brilliant concept and realization as well as top cast (Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen - especially Leslie Nielsen rocks his part as the brutal and crazy cuckold-, Ted Danson and even Stephen King himself as the dimwitted farmer Jordy Verrill) and why it is rated FSK 18 in Germany – come on! Seriously, sometimes I think that rating institutes hold a grudge against certain filmmakers and rate their movies higher so fewer people can watch them.
Nonetheless, to me, it will always be a movie that I'm very fond of and that I'll always treasure as one of the better classics in my horror collection.


  1. Would the Joe King who stars in Creepshow actually be the author Joe Hill?

    1. Yes! I have checked that and it's him. Sorry not to have mentioned that. And he does a wonderful job too.

  2. The Romero interview I'm mentioning here is actually part of Adam Simon's documentary on 70's American horror cinema "The American Nightmare" (2000) that focuses on the works of George Romero, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tom Savini and Tobe Hooper. I strongly recommend that one!

  3. I saw this movie when I was about 8 years old. I was living in Gig Harbour, Washington at the time, and my step-father had recently bought our first VHS player. We rented "Creep Show" from the local video rental place, Video People, and watched it on a Sunday morning. I was so terrified, I think I missed half the film, hiding under a blanket on the couch. I'm sure if I re-watched it today, I would find it pretty campy and good fun, but it gave me the scare of my life when I was little.

    Also, those weird horror tale comics were pretty damn awesome -- "Creepy", "Eerie", "The Vault of Horror" -- they were great. You don't really see stuff like that anymore. Not that I've been looking for it. Maybe I should...