Graphic Horror: Creepshow
One thing that I’ve been a big fan of for quite a while is the TV show Tales From the Crypt, and before that show existed it was a series of several different comic books from EC comics under titles like Shock Suspenstories, the Vault of Horror, and Weird Science. This film was made as an homage to those comics combined with the short stories of Stephen King. Last March during my first Graphic Horror Blogathon Jason Soto over at Your Face! reviewed this film and put it on my radar, but it’s taken me this long to finally get around to it. Another reason why I wanted to watch this is because Movie Reviews 101 and Movie Rob are holding a Stephen King-a-thon all this month so be sure and check out all of their Stephen King reviews while you’re at it. As far as the movie goes, it’s not quite on par with Tales From the Crypt for me, it’s much more on the comedic side of things than the horror side and that didn’t quite work for me though I could see the appeal of it.
This follows a typical anthology format where there’s a wraparound story that sets up the conceit of the anthology through this horror comic book inspired by the EC comics of old, though the stories were written by Stephen King and the film itself was directed by horror icon George Romero. Instead of the Cryptkeeper or Vaultkeeper, their host is the Creep. The Creep is a ghoulish figure in a hooded cloak with a face that’s more skeletal and decayed and less like the more mummified look of the Cryptkeeper, as well as a lot less vocal. It does a decent job at setting the tone with the exaggerated gestures and campy style of acting that generally continues through all five of the segments over the course of the two hour film. For my own viewing, I did break it up over the course of a couple days, using the segments as obvious cut points as there really isn’t anything connecting the stories aside from a visual reference that’s more of an easter egg. In all six segments including the wraparound, the ashtray used as a murder weapon in the first true segment shows up somewhere in all of the others, though there is no attention called to it, merely something for keen eyed observers to catch.
There are plenty of heightened visual cues that make this feel more like stories from a comic book aside from the animated transitions where we get to see the stories as actual panels in this Creepshow comic. But there are also several moments where shots are framed like they are a panel in a comic with a stylized border surrounding the frame and very dramatic lighting with contrasting red and blue that usually kicks in when the horror moments do. There are also plenty of special effects make up over the course of the different segments and most are pretty spectacular to behold. One of the most effective was the seaweed covered water zombies, their overall look was ok but what really sold it was when they got shot there was a bullet hole that oozed out dark green water. The biggest downside to the effects were the added use of audio effects to distort the voices, it was intended to give them a more inhuman sound, but instead it just made them sound overly digitized and silly.
Without going into detail on all of the shorts there were a couple stand outs on either side of the quality spectrum. The most interesting one was the one called “Something to Tide You Over”, mainly due to the cast. It starred Police Squad’s Frank Drebin, or Leslie Neilson as not only the straight man, but the villain of the piece. He plays the role incredibly straight and can be rather frightening in how calmly he goes on carrying out his plans. And opposite him is a young Ted Danson just before he would get his big break on Cheers as the disbelieving victim. The most entertaining segment was the one called “The Crate” which involves this mysterious crate found under the stairs at a prestigious college during an extended break. Inside the crate is a carnivorous Yeti-type monster that’s never clearly seen outside of a few quick cut close-ups. But what really sells this segment is the story surrounding it of this put upon professor and his shrew of a wife played by Adrienne Barbeau. She’s crass, loud, and drunk, and doesn’t care to try and fit in with the rest of the surrounding high society, and when her husband finds out about this creature, he uses it to kill her. It plays it up with a couple moments early on in the segment where he fantasizes about killing her and plays with the tension just enough when he finally commits the deed. It’s just well done and has the comedy in the right places where it doesn’t feel overly silly.
But aside from the good segments, there were also a few bad ones. Stephen King has his acting debut in this film playing a country bumpkin along the lines of Cletus the slack jawed yokel from the Simpsons, except he lives alone and has his own fantasies about his dead father and what he’s going to do with this mysterious meteorite that landed in his field. The biggest problem with it is that if you don’t find King’s antics funny, then it feels like a long wait until this segment is over as it gets annoying pretty quickly. The “Father’s Day” segment had a few nice moments to it, mainly due to seeing a very young Ed Harris, but it also has an extended moment of humor that is either funny or annoying in the most grating way possible when the old man keeps yelling “Where’s my cake” over and over ad nauseum. I know that there’s horror fans out there that really love this movie, but I found it just slightly on the wrong side of corny to truly enjoy it as a whole. The humor ranged from funny to annoying, and the horror was practically non-existent outside of the extreme squirm factor in the final segment that involves literally hundreds of thousands of cockroaches. Out of the five segments and wraparound, I enjoyed two, thought two were ok, and thought two were sub par. Nothing downright awful, but just a so-so experience overall. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.