Creepshow ReviewJoe Shaffer
In the 1940s and '50s, there was a major backlash against comic books for their gruesome depictions and subversive subject matter. Much of the flak was aimed at a legendary comic company known as EC, the brand name responsible for such publications as "Mad" and horror anthologies like "Tales from the Crypt" and "The Vault of Horror." Many people regarded these comics as low-grade trash that was both psychologically and intellectually harmful to children.
Of course, comic books were not the only past target of overly sensitive crybabies with an axe to grind. In the 1970s and '80s they targeted horror films as well. Whiners picketed the release of Silent Night, Deadly Night, and caused the censoring of films such as Last House on the Left (1972) and Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2.
It's no surprise, then, that someone would eventually come along and marry these two horror mediums into one awesome onslaught of comic book camp and splattery mayhem. And who better to usher in such a horror anthology film than author Stephen King and director George A. Romero? Ladies and gentlemen, behold Creepshow!
The basic concept behind this film was to serve as a throwback to EC's old horror comics, presented as a movie that's both fun and frightening. The flick mostly achieves this through its presentation and lighting. During certain scenes, especially those in which characters plunge into insanity, the background shifts into a comic book-like mess of colors and patterns, while garish red- and blue-tinted lights plays on the faces of the actors. The end result is a collection of stories with both a nasty bite and a kitschy mood, both almost illogically meeting in harmony and neither one detracting from the other.
It helps that Romero kept the comedy factor pretty low key at times. You're not regularly assaulted with silliness or dark comedy, which gives creepy scenes like those depicted in a segment called "The Crate" a chance to manifest to their fullest extent. In this story, we follow a professor at a university who discovers a long forgotten crate within a crawlspace. Wondering what could be contained within the box, he and a campus janitor crack it open. That's when a predatory beast leaps forth from the crate, pulls the janitor inside, and begins to feast. And he wasn't the only one who ended up dinner that night... The sense of tension leading up to each death scene in this story is phenomenal. Characters peek inside the box or stick their limbs inside of it, some even shake or pound on it. Although we know to expect a hell of a bang, the predictable nature of this story and the film's campy coloration do little to dull the impact of each vicious killing.
Like many of EC's anthology comics, Creepshow features a fair variety in the kinds of stories it tells. You have the all out assault of terror like "The Crate," but you also have the darkly comedic "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," a story in which Stephen King plays a dimwitted hillbilly who inadvertently unleashes an extraterrestrial, parasitic plant from a meteorite. Some stories are all about grue and gore like "They're Creeping Up on You!" (starring EG Marshall against an intrusion of cockroaches), while others play more with shadows and psychology like "Something to Tide You Over" (Leslie Nielsen vs. Zombie Ted Danson--no, really!).
Most of all, the film does EC Comics major justice, especially in terms of narrative. EC's stories tended to consist of fairly shallow caricatures who committed their share of crimes and social faux pas. By each story's conclusion, the character in question usually got his come-uppins in a fitting matter, usually related to his crime. The same goes with Creepshow's cast of victims, be it a germophobic miser who perishes at the hands of unclean vermin or a pack of money-grubbing inheritors at the hands of their reanimated patriarch. It's here that we find the filmmakers' love for the material that was the inspiration for Creepshow.
Unfortunately, horror film anthologies these days are not as common a they once were. There were some fantastic ones in the '70s and '80s, but few come close the excellence of Creepshow. It's one of the few films that can splice comedy and horror so seamlessly that one does not detract from the other, and it's for that reason that the movie gets my full recommendation.
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