Starring: Ed Harris, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, Stephen King, EG Marshall
“You see that crap? All that horror crap? Things coming out of crates and eating people? Dead people coming back to life? People turning into weeds, for christ sake? Well, you want him reading that stuff? All right then! I took care of it. That’s why God made fathers, babe. That’s why God made fathers.” (Stan, Creepshow)
If you’ve read my previous review of Creepshow 3, you’ll have noticed that it has the dubious honour of one measly Trevor mask as its rating. This wasn’t just because Creepshow 3 is bad – it most certainly is – but also because its predecessors were so good that the third film let the entire series down. To cheer myself up then I decided to re-watch the original Creepshow over the festive period.
If you’re not familiar with it, Creepshow is a collection of five short stories written by Stephen King and directed by George A Romero (back when he was still good and not slapping his name on any old shite for a fiver). It’s an homage to the old EC comics of the 1950s like Tales From The Crypt and Vault Of Horror, and as such each story starts and ends as if it were in a comic book, with garish colours and speech bubbles. It’s an interesting style that not everyone will love but it’s fun and keeps things light-hearted. Make no mistake, this may be a collection of horror stories but (much like the EC comics themselves) its tongue is planted firmly in its rotting cheek and its five tales of morality are much funnier than they are scary.
The first story, Father’s Day, features Ed Harris and tells the tale of a family get-together that’s spoiled when the corpse of a murdered father comes back to life looking for his Father’s Day cake. It’s a fun start to proceedings and the final scene is just ridiculous, making it clear – as if there were any doubt – that Creepshow is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Following that is The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill, starring Stephen King himself in the lead role as a curious famer who finds a meteorite that’s landed in his field and, sensing an opportunity to get rich from it, tries to collect it. It doesn’t quite go as planned as he’s infected by the meteorite and begins a slow transformation process into… well, that would be telling. This is another fun, short tale with another silly ending but the real joy is in seeing Stephen King trying to ham it up and over-act as much as possible as the goofy, dim-witted farmer. King doesn’t usually star in many films and this makes it clear why, but in a film like this a bad performance only makes the cocktail sweeter.
The third tale, Something To Tide You Over, slows things down slightly and is more dialogue-heavy. In it Ted Danson plays Harry, a desperate man being held to ransom by his girlfriend’s ex-lover Richard(Leslie Nielsen). Richard has kidnapped Harry’s girlfriend and wants him to come with him to the beach so he can see her again, but it’s only when they get there that Harry realises what Richard means by this and the grisly demise he has planned for both he and his lady friend. It’s fun seeing Nielsen in a serious role again (while Creepshow definitely isn’t a serious movie for the most part he plays his part completely straight and sinister with no hint of humour) and the inevitable twist ending is like something straight out of one of Romero’s better movies, even though the final scenes leading up to it in Richard’s house are laboured a little.
If the third yarn was a little laboured then The Crate feels like an eternity. The story itself isn’t a bad one – a college janitor finds a hundred year old crate under some basement stairs and realises there’s an ancient beast living inside it. The problem is its running time, as while in any other circumstances it would be considered positively brief, when it follows three tales that are significantly shorter yet tell similarly detailed stories this one starts to feel like you’re watching a four-hour epic by comparison. It’s a shame because the story itself isn’t bad and the creature effects are decent, but had it been a bit shorter (and perhaps the previous three stories lengthened a bit) then maybe it wouldn’t have felt so never-ending.
Thankfully, Creepshow goes out on a high with the best story of the bunch, They’re Creeping Up On You. It’s a wonderfully-written, well-acted story about a mean old fuddy-duddy called Upson Pratt. A clean freak with a phobia of germs and a ruthless businessman to boot, Pratt is a nasty piece of work. At one point one of his employees’ wives calls and tells him her husband committed suicide because of the way he’d been treating him, and he responds by taunting her. He then insults the exterminator, who comes to the door after he complains about seeing a cockroach. In short, he’s a prick. He gets what’s coming to him though as his seemingly germ-proof, sterile home is invaded by a group of creepy-crawlies, one that spell a grisly end for a grisly man.
There are umpteen horror anthology films out there and Creepshow is one of the best. While The Crate is a bit too long, the other four are good fun to watch and the fact it never takes itself seriously only works in its favour. Even the prologue and epilogue, in which a young boy’s comic book is binned by his dad (the awesome Tom Atkins), are entertaining. If you get a chance, watch it to see how this sort of thing should be done.