Distributor: Second Sight Films
BBFC Classification: 15
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Stephen King, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen, E.G. Marshall, John Amplas, Gaylen Ross, Fritz Weaver, Joe Hill, Bingo O’Malley, Tom Savini
The horror anthology has had something of a renaissance in recent years, with the likes of Trick ‘r Treat, Tales of Halloween, the V/H/S films and the overly-ambitious The ABC’s of Death plus its sequel all being received to mixed results but proving that the style is still a viable one. Creepshow is one of the better known horror anthologies from the past, originally coming out at a time when the format had dried up a little bit after the run of successful portmanteau films of the 1960s and ’70s from the likes of Amicus Productions and the burgeoning home video market was beginning to take off, and brought together the talents of director George A. Romero (Dawn of the Dead/The Crazies) and writer Stephen King (Carrie/The Dead Zone) – two horror icons who were arguably at the top of their respective games – plus a host of well-known actors willing to have a bit of fun in what was ostensibly a low-rent genre piece.
The film contains five short stories and a wraparound – which features the legend that is Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps/Maniac Cop) as a father who confiscates his son’s Creepshow comic book – and begins with probably the weakest of the bunch, Father’s Day, a tale of patricide and revenge from beyond the grave that features a young(er) Ed Harris (The Rock) and some comedic disco dancing. Things move swiftly on with The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill, a 1950s B-movie-inspired romp featuring writer Stephen King in the titular role and discovering that things that fall from the sky are best left alone.
In Something to Tide You Over, The Naked Gun star Leslie Nielsen stars as a husband whose wife has been cheating on him with Ted Danson (Cheers) and so he plots a very cruel revenge, although this is one cheated-on husband who garners no sympathy. The Crate is more traditional monster movie fare, featuring Hal Holbrook (Magnum Force) and Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog/Swamp Thing) as a terribly mismatched couple, and finally They’re Creeping Up On You sees powerful businessman Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) being infested with cockroaches in his antiseptically-clean downtown apartment.
So five very different stories, all formatted to look like you’re reading a horror comic. Both George A. Romero and Stephen King were both influenced by the EC Comics of the 1950s and Romero effectively reproduces the panel effect during key moments, like when certain characters scream and he frames their faces with a crazy window effect. There are also plenty of neon lights saturating a lot of the action, with pinks, greens, reds and blues making some of the nastier moments more cartoonish, which is the obvious desired effect, and to cap it all off everybody involved is well aware of what film they are in and plays it accordingly.
Most notable amongst the leads is Leslie Nielsen, who plays nasty just as well as he does daft and it’s all done with a nod and a wink to the camera. Adrienne Barbeau is also a notable force, playing one of the most memorable characters (call her Billy… everybody does!) who dominates every scene she’s in, much to Hal Holbrook’s dismay. What is amusing, though, is watching Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow – the feature-length documentary included in the special features – and seeing Ed Harris almost squirm with embarrassment as he admits he only appeared in Creepshow as a favour to Romero and doesn’t appear to be very proud of it. But listening to George A. Romero enthusiastically talk about his inspirations for making the film and the process involved is quite refreshing, as are the stories told by Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, effects supremo Tom Savini and producer Richard P. Rubinstein with great affection.
Of the five stories, Father’s Day is the most throwaway but none of them are bad at all and keep to a fairly short running time. Something to Tide You Over and The Crate are the best and capture the essence of what Romero and King were trying to do by mixing genuine scares with a pulpy comic book feel, and the remaining two shorts are a bit more subtle but no less entertaining.
As well as the feature-length documentary the disc also includes commentaries from George A. Romero, Tom Savini, director of photography Michael Gornick, actor John Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Green and make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci, a behind-the-scenes featurette with Tom Savini, stills gallery, deleted scenes and trailers, which is pretty much the same package that was released in a 2-disc DVD set a few years back but having those wonderfully rich fluorescent colours and excellent comic book graphics presented in glorious HD is definitely worth the upgrade.
Overall, Creepshow is a film that continues to entertain over three decades after it first came out. There’s not a lot of gore but enough to give it a bit of an edge, although most of its charm comes from the lovingly put-together production and knowing performances. In these days of ‘realistic’ blood and guts, torture and CGI-driven ghost stories Creepshow offers up a fun alternative and for two hours you can escape into a world of ghouls and monsters (all practical) that evokes the classics of yesteryear but with a modern(ish) sensibility. Both a fine introductory horror film and a treasured rewatch, this excellent Blu-ray edition is a must-have for any horror collection.
Special Features: Audio commentary with George A. Romero and special make-up effects creator Tom Savini, audio commentary with director of photography Michael Gornick, actor John Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Miller and make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow feature-length documentary, Behind the Screams with Tom Savini featurette, deleted scenes, TV spot, trailer and stills gallery.
UK Release Date: 28th October 2013