Sunday, October 10, 2010


Thoughts upon revisiting this, one of your proprietor's favorite horror films, 28 years later:

--My mother, God love her, took me to see this theatrically. I'd first heard about it from a friend of her who was staying at our house, and told us excitedly about how they were filming this crazy movie called CREEPSHOW up in Pennsylvania where some guy killed his wife and her lover by burying them in front of the tide. Mom was appalled - I knew I had to see it. Mom remained appalled even after the film had finished (EDIT: hell, she got appalled all over again just reading this entry), but I was scarred for life with love for this crazy crazy movie, which had exceeded even my own weird expectations. Seeing it with adult, more analytical eyes, I still feel the same joy at revisiting it that I did during its frequent cable appearances during my youth. And my studies of film and storytelling have opened my eyes to other strengths of the film that I was too young to appreciate.

--It's dated, yes, but it remains George Romero's most ambitious and overtly stylized film, and balances a relative seriousness of purpose with a real willingness on the part of everyone involved, from scripter Stephen King to the experienced cast, to make it something crazy and special.

--Some segments are better than others, as with any anthology, but each piece serves its purpose in the whole. A friend with whom I watched it felt that the curtain raiser, "Father's Day", was slight enough to have been excised altogether, but I really don't think "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" would work as an opener. "Father's Day" schlocky and gore-crazed as it is (setting a rotting ghoul loose upon his remaining, rich family members), establishes the film's visual tropes beautifully, and firmly, ungently lets us know that some crazy shit's about to hit, and anything can happen at any time.

Seriously, can there be a clearer statement of purpose than the severed head as holiday cake served up by a vengeful, rotting corpse? Like the slashed eyeball in Un Chien Andalou, it just puts you on edge for the rest of the movie. Fuck, yeah.

--There is absolutely nothing subtle about Stephen King's widely-lambasted performance in "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill", but you gotta love his bug-eyed, out there commitment. Such fearlessness on the part of a first-time actor is to be praised. And listen to the television that plays during the segment - a clever and funny chorus recalling similar commentaries elsewhere (like the downright manic telethon in Karlson's TIGHT SPOT).

--"Something To Tide Your Over" changes the mood effectively, beginning as an almost noirish tale of infidelity and revenge. Lovely acting in this piece, with a pre-Cheers Ted Danson one step behind an angrily pirouetting Leslie Nielsen (whose balance between his Airplane!-style nuttery and some real, simmering rage encapsulates the film's dual shocks and silliness beautifully). Nielsen's hysteria upon receiving his comeuppance is glorious to behold.

--Though part of my love for this film is apologistic, I have no problem joining the mass opinion that "The Crate", the film's fourth and longest segment, is the most compelling reason to watch it. It offers a more complex plot than the other segments, pairing its supernatural story (of a ravenous creature in a crate discovered in a university basement) with that of a college professor's mounting frustration with his shrewish wife. Tom Savini's creature design is effective, more than matched by the performances of the segment's three leads: Hal Holbrook as the put-upon prof; Adrienne Barbeau in a fearlessly raunchy turn as his wife Billie; and particularly Fritz Weaver as Holbrook's desperate, increasingly hysterical colleague. Though many of the performances in this film successfully walk a difficult line, I have to single out Weaver's work as the finest (and possibly most believable).

--"They're Creeping Up On You" offers a perfect coda, with E.G. Marshall in fine cantankerous form as a hypochondriac/corporate tyrant who gets his in spectacularly creepy fashion, thanks to an ever-growing legion of cockroaches that invade his sterile uptown penthouse. Lovely contrast between the scuttling of the bugs and the metallic sheen of Marshall's apartment, with Marshall offering just enough real spite to give his just deserts that much oomph. David Early is just fine in a one-scene role, giving hilarious voice to a loathing of Marshall that is more than mutual.

--Plus cranky, uptight dad Tom Atkins gets his in the framing sequence. (Very happy to see, in the generous extras accompanying the film's British DVD release, that Atkins and his on-screen son Joe King had a warm and close relationship off-camera, that continues in emails from one to the other to this day.)

--In the end, no bones at all about Creepshow - my love for it continues unabated. It's a pity the franchise didn't really pan out, and though I'm not terribly optimistic about the rumored remake (thinking that the original's EC Comics source material may draw a blank from its intended audience today), I suspect I'll continue to return to Romero/King's original well into my dotage.

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