Now I hadn’t actually planned on doing this article at all. I’ve been busy writing my multiple Halloween articles for this year as well as other writing projects I’m currently busy with too. But a few weeks back, I learned there was a Creepshow TV series and I watched it and… well I’ll get to that later.
Anyway, as I watched the TV show, it occurred to me that I’ve never really covered Creepshow on this blog. It’s has a few passing mentions here and there. But never really looked at the film(s) in detail. As I continued to watch the weekly episodic show, I realised that by the time it ends, it would be Halloween, the final episode airs tonight on the 31st of October (nice timing). Then I thought that maybe I could squeeze in a viewing of all the Creepshow films a long with the TV show and do a big ole’ Creepshow retrospective.
So here it is, my look at Creepshow… all of it. After a quick intro…
Okay, so I love Creepshow… the first film anyway. I’m a sucker for anthology story telling and have written a few short stories myself (find them on Amazon, search S. L. Perrin). For me, Creepshow is the finest of the horror anthology films. The success of the movie meant a sequel was a certainty and the Creepshow franchise was born. While not a huge franchise, Creepshow has a strong and loyal fanbase even now almost four decades since the original film was released back in 1982. Taking inspiration from the old 1950s EC Comics, the films tell multiple horror themed tales of terror with just the right amount of very dark humour. And with that, it’s time to take a look at every single story in the Creepshow franchise from all the movies and right up to the recent TV show as I offer my view on each of them. This is going to be a big one.
A guess a quick SPOILER warning before I start as most of the tales told in the films and TV show normally have some kind of stinger ending, though I’ll avoid going into too much detail for the stories and won’t give away the endings, but I’ll still offer a mild SPOILER warning just in case.
Released in 1982 and bringing together three of the best names in horror cinema of the era. Directed by George A. Romero, written by Stephen King (based on his short stories and he also wrote the screenplay) and with make up effects by Tom Savini, the holy trinity of 70s and 80s horror at the very top of their game. Creepshow features five stories… well six with the wrap around prologue and epilogue. Each story is presented in a comic book style and often use filters, and strange lighting effects to give it a real comic book feel.
Billy (Joe King, Stephen’s son) loves comic books, particularly horror ones. When his father (Tom Atkins) discovers Billy reading his latest comic, Creepshow, he comes down hard on his son as he doesn’t want him reading that “crap” as he calls it and throws the comic out in the rubbish. Billy is sent to his room where he wishes his father rots in hell. Just then, the skeletal The Creep from the cover of Billy’s comic comes knocking on his bedroom window…
The first story of Creepshow tells the tale of a cantankerous old patriarch of a rich family called Nathan (Jon Lormer). The family gather for a dinner to remember their father who died some years previously. His eldest daughter, Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors) is running late and stops off at the cemetery to have a heart to heart with her long deceased and abusive father and a bottle of whiskey. As the story unfolds, it’s revealed that it was Bedelia who killed her own father, Nathan after years of incessant demands and emotional abuse and after he killed Bedelia’s lover in an ‘accident’. It was during Father’s Day and after Nathan kept bullying and bugging Bedelia for a Father’s Day cake when she finally snapped and bludgeoned her own father to death with a marble ashtray (quick bit of trivia, the ashtray appears in all five stories and the wrap around). As Bedelia has it out with her dead father at his grave, finally letting him know how his abuse and death of her lover affected her she spills the bottle of whiskey onto his final resting place. The whiskey (for some reason) brings Nathan back from the dead and he sets out to get that Father’s Day cake he’s been craving for so long.
This is a great opener and really sets the tone for what Creepshow is. It’s scary but jet black funny too. Father’s Day is everything a Creepshow story should be and it’s one of the best stories in the entire franchise. Be on the lookout for a then unknown Ed Harris and his ‘dancing’. It also has some very moody and atmospheric cinematography, especially in and around the graveyard.
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill
Jordy (Stephen King) is a redneck, backwoods yokel who sees a meteorite crash down in his backyard. Thinking the discovery will bring him riches… well at least $200 to pay off a bank loan, he tries to pick up the meteorite but it’s too hot to touch. So Jordy decides to throw a bucket of water over the space debris to cool it down… only this just makes it crack and break open. Rendering his get rich quick (well $200) scheme redundant. However, his touching the meteor makes an organic, plant-like substance slowly grow on his fingers where he made contact with the space rock. After a while, the plant-thing spreads and grows on everything Jordy has touched. His house becomes overgrown with the stuff as does his body. It begins to itch and agitate to a point where Jordy thinks the best thing to do is take a bath… but water just makes things even worse…
When I was younger, I hated this story and always felt it was the worst of the (at that point) two films, but over the years it has grown on me (pun very much intended). I’ve grown to really appreciate Stephen King’s goofy acting and think he does a fantastic job. Considering that aside from a couple of very minor characters, he carries the whole story and is a joy to watch. It’s much more comical than the other stories in the film and works well as a bit if comic relief.
Something to Tide You Over
Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen) is a man who seems to have everything, money, property (he owns a beach), a nice house and a beautiful wife… oh and he’s also a very sick psychopath. When he learns that his wife has been having an affair with a younger man called Harry (Ted Danson), Richard pays the man a visit and manages to convince his wife’s lover to join him on his beach so they can ‘talk’ about this affair. On the beach, Richard has pre-dug a hole and persuades Harry, with the help of a gun, to get into it telling him he just wants to incapacitate him. With Harry in the hole, Richard begins to fill it up, burying Harry up to his neck. Richard then reveals he had already done the same to his wife earlier in the day further down the beach. He also says that as the tide is coming in, if Harry holds his breath then maybe the sea will loosen the sand he could break free… maybe. Richard sets up CCTV so he can watch his nefarious plan live as Harry slowly drowns and joins his lover, Richard’s wife who he had already drowned the same way earlier that day. The next day and Richard returns to the scene of his crime but no Harry or wifey, the tide must have pulled them out. At least that is what Richard thinks happened.
I love this story, best in the film for me. Leslie Nielsen is a pure joy to watch as the sick and twisted Richard Vickers. Everyone always remembers Nielsen for his comedic roles, Police Squad/The Naked Gun, Airplane!, etc. But for me, this is the role I’ll always remember him for. It also features some really amazing make-up effects by Tom Savini.
When a college janitor discovers a mysterious crate under the stairs from an Arctic expedition, he calls Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver), one of the college’s professors to come an investigate. The pair pull the crate out and attempt to open it. Inside is a Yeti-like vicious creature that attacks and kills the janitor. Dexter escapes and flees the scene to tell his friend and colleague Professor Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook) all about the monster and killing. Henry is married an overbearing wife Billie (Adrienne Barbeau) who ruins all his fun, she is obnoxious, emotionally abusive and always drunk. Henry comes up with a plan to rid himself of his wife, with a little help form the killer creature in the crate.
This one is pure Creepshow. While not my favourite of the five stories, it does come in at a very, very close second place. It’s bloody, brutal and still darkly funny to boot. Adrienne Barbeau is devilishly enjoyable to watch as the horrible wife and Henry’s fantasies of killing her are both funny and disturbing. Then of course there is the main star of the story… ‘Fluffy’, the creature in the crate. A horrible little bastard but somehow, still leaves you wanting to see more.
They’re Creeping Up on You
The fifth and final story of the film… not including the epilogue. This one is about a rich and ruthless businessman, Upson Pratt (E. G. Marshall) who suffers from mysophobia (an irrational fear of germs). He locks himself away in his hermetically sealed apartment controlled by a computer. His doors use electronic locks and he only really sees the outside world via CCTV, with contact only made via telephone or his intercom service. A severe storm knocks out the power in the city and eventually a blackout hits his tower block. His computer goes haywire and seems to have a problem with bugs… literally. He notices a cockroach, something that strikes fear into Upson, but one little bug is no problem. Soon, the cockroaches multiply and his germ-free, high cost apartment is suddenly overrun by the insects. Upson locks himself away in his seemingly bug free panic room, which perhaps was not the best idea.
There is no such thing as bad story in Creepshow… but this is the weakest of the lot. It’s a creepy story alright, but it just seems to lack the punch the others had. I didn’t find this one particularly scary or funny in that macabre way that Creepshow does so well. It just feels like a bit of a weak way to end. But E. G. Marshall as Upson Pratt is a joy to watch, the best thing about this tale.
It’s now the morning after poor Billy was sent to his room by his father for reading the Creepshow comic. A coupe of binmen are emptying the bins on the street when they discover the thrown out comic and begin to look through it. They find a few ads in the comic for gag props, x-ray specs, that kind of thing. They learn that a postal order for a voodoo doll has already been cut out and presumably send away for. Back inside the house and Billy’s father complains about suffering neck pain, the pain keeps gets worse and worse…
I liked this wrap around story. It’s not as in-depth as the main five of the film, but it works as a great into and outro, a nice little way to bookend the whole thing. One of the binmen is played by the great Tom Savini, make-up genius, part-time actor that he is. Oh and did you spot the marble ashtray in all of the stories?
I honestly love this film. Still the best anthology horror film made for me. It’s just the prefect blending of horror and deeply dark comedy that works. The performances are solid throughout and as I said before, there isn’t a ‘bad’ story in the lot. The comic book presentation really works well and pay a wonderful homage to those classic EC Comics the film was inspired by. You can even buy the actual Creepshow comic… well graphic novel. Written by Stephen King and based on the film. A must own for any Creepshow fan.
This sequel took a pretty long time to emerge, by movie standards anyway. Released in 1987, five years after the first film and things have changed. Directed by Michael Gornick, no George A. Romero this time, though he did write the screenplay. The tales are still based on Stephen King short stories though. Another change is that (due to budget issues) there are only three stories over the five from the first film. Oh and the presentation is also slightly different. The comic book idea is still kind of there and so is the prologue/epilogue concept, but now each story is inter-cut with an animated interlude telling the story of Billy… I’ll cover those along with the three main tales. Oh and The Creep himself is vastly different too.
So Billy (I don’t know if it’s supposed to be the same Billy from the original, as it’s a different actor) is eagerly awaiting the latest copy of the Creepshow comic. A truck pulls up on the street and a strange man throws out a wrapped package. At which point, the film turns to animation as the package opens to reveal the all new Creepshow comic, the cover of which is the ending scene of the first film… complete with Billy (so they are not the same Billy then?). The delivery man reveals himself to be The Creep… but he looks nothing like The Creep from the first film (is it the same Creep, I just don’t know?). Honestly, the whole opening makes no sense. Anyway, Billy starts to read the latest edition of Creepshow…
Old Chief Wood’nhead
So the first story tells the tale of an elderly married couple, Ray (George Kennedy) and Martha Spruce (Dorothy Lamour) who own and run a small town general goods store. Ray is too kind to the local folk and often lets them run up tabs they never pay, much to the disgust of his wife. One of their regular customers is Benjamin Whitemoon (Frank Salsedo) is a Native American elder who comes to the store to settle his debts and offers the Spruce’s his tribe’s most scared jewels as a collateral for payment. Ray reluctantly accepts the treasures and Martha is proven very wrong about the locals… if only for a while. Later that night and Benjamin’s estranged nephew, Sam (Holt McCallany) turns up at the store with a couple of friends and takes back the jewels by force. Both Ray and Martha are killed via Sam’s shotgun. The front of the store features a wooden statue of a brave Indian chief who doesn’t take too kindly to the killing of the people who have looked after him for so many years.
This is a nice little opener. George Kennedy is always a joy to watch and gives a great performance as the overtly trusting Ray. This is nothing more than a very basic revenge story but with a twist. It doesn’t quite have that Creepshow magic, but a good yarn none the less.
Billy is at the post office picking up a package, he sent off for one of those gag props from a previous Creepshow comic. He get’s slightly belittled by the worker who scoffs at Billy for paying good money for a fake gag from a comic before handing him the parcel. Billy tells him that it’s a bulb for a carnivorous Venus flytrap before leaving the post office as The Creep sets up the next yarn.
Four teenage students decide to go for an illicit swim at an abandoned lake. In the middle of the lake is a floating wooden raft, which the teens make a beeline for to soak up some sun. As they swim toward the raft, they notice a large black oil slick type thing that is seemingly coming after them. The students soon find themselves trapped on the wooden raft as the killer oil slick thins out their numbers until only one remains.
Yeah, there’s not much to this tale. It’s basically an 80s slasher film done in a really short space of time. Not a bad story, but for me it’s the weakest of the three. Nothing really stands out here, but nothing is terrible either. It just kind of exists. The make up effects work is top-notch though with some pretty gruesome gore. Plus there’s a bit of a stinger ending that does leave a bit of a smirk on my face.
So Billy is heading home after picking up his carnivorous Venus flytrap bulb from the post office. He is ambushed by a group of bullies who steal his parcel and smash it on the ground, one of the bullies then crushes the bulb with his foot. Billy is enraged and kicks the bully in the baby-maker before fleeing. The bullies give chase and that’s when The Creep introduces the final story.
Trophy wife, Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles) is cheating on her husband with a male escort… who can provide six (count ’em) orgasms. Annie realises that she is running late and needs to get home before her husband. She gets in her car and speeds off homeward, in a race to get back before her wealthy attorney. Annie is tired… from the extra marital sex and the fact it’s late at night and begins to yawn, as she does she drops her lit cigarette and panics. Annie loses control of the car as it swerves and smashes through road makers. She struggles to regain control of the car and hits and kills a hitch-hiker. No one else is on the road, no one saw what happened and so she speeds off into the night. A passing truck driver (Stephen King) stops at the scene of the crime and does see Annie’s car drive off into the night but it’s too dark to make a positive ID. As Annie goes over the incident in her head, practising making excuses for her husband to explain the damage to the car, see spots the very same hitch-hiker she just killed, he’s just not going to give up on a ride.
You know the saying “they saved the best for last”? Well this is true of this tale. The Hitch-hiker is by far the best story in Creepshow 2. It’s dark, horrific and yet still funny in that very dark vein of humour kind of way. The make-up effects on the hitch-hiker as the story progresses are beautifully twisted and bloody, he also has the most quotable line in the entire film. Special mention has to go to Lois Chiles playing Annie as she slowly goes mad as the events unfold. Her little chats to herself as both funny and disturbing. Just as a little bit of trivia to finish. When making the first Creepshow, the final story ran into some production problems and Stephen King suggested they make The Hitch-hiker the final tale for that film instead. But the issues were eventually worked out so and They’re Creeping Up on You did make the final cut of the film. But just imagine how much better Creepshow (which is already amazing) could’ve been if it ended with this tale instead?
And so we reach the end of Billy’s story. He is still being chased by the bullies and Billy leads them into an overgrown area with weeds and bushes. Just as the bullies set about beating the crap out of Billy, several giant Venus flytrap plants appear and eat the bullies. Suggesting that Billy had previously planted them and purposelessly lured the bullies to their deaths. The film then switches from the animated Billy story back to live action as The Creep throws out copies of the Creepshow comic from the back of a truck for all to read as the truck drives off.
I remember being really disappointed by this when I first saw it. It’s not on the same level as the original and it’s budget drop over the first one is most definitely seen on screen. But I think I’ve mellowed on it over the years. It’s not great, but it’s okay and entertaining. My main gripe (aside from the uneven story telling and presentation) is The Creep played by Tom Savini. He just does not work here. In the original, The Creep is this silent, skeletal but scary figure with a lot of character. In this sequel, he talks, looks nothing like The Creep should and makes crappy unfunny puns and jokes when linking the stories. They tired to add character to him, but ended up just making him annoying. The little Billy animated tale is rather flat too. I just much preferred the look, style and tone of the original. Creepshow 2 is okay, it’s not awful, but…
So here we are.. oh dear. I’ll make my feelings very clear in this sequel at the end of this one, but spoiler warning… I really, really don’t like this film. There was a much longer gap between sequels this time around as Creepshow 3 was released in 2006. That’s a nineteen year long gap since the last film. Everyone of any talent are gone, no more George A. Romero, no more Stephen King and certainly no more Tom Savini. Directed by Ana Clavell and James Dudelson (don’t worry, I’ve never hard of them either), Creepshow 3 gets very little right, but one of the things is does get right is to go back to the original film’s set up. Five stories with an prologue/epilogue wraparound. So here we go…
So to be fair, this isn’t so much a prologue, but more of an intro that displays just how bad the film will be. A short and badly done animation shows a hooded child walking the streets of Creepville, the fictional town all the stories take place in. The animation shows little references to the five main stories including a mysterious hot-dog salesman, before we are thrown into the first proper story of the film.
A rather self-centred and obnoxious teenager, Alice returns home after a day at school. Her family are relaxing in the living room as her father begins playing around with one of those universal TV remote control things. As he presses the buttons, the family go through various changes such as turning Hispanic. Alice is the only one not affected by the remote control and sees her family continually change with each button press. Well she is kind of affected as each time the family change, Alice mutates. She sees and tries to talk to Professor Dayton, the archetypal brains of the town, to understand what is gong on. Alice soon finds herself back home and everything appears to be normal again, she’s no longer mutating and her family are as they were. Then her father presses the off button on the remote control.
I seriously have no idea what this story is actually about. Why is the TV remote changing Alice’s family, why does she mutate, what involvement does Professor Dayton have? Seriously, no idea what is going on here or what the story is trying to say.. if anything at all. It just seems like a bunch of stuff that happens for no reason. There’s some allusion to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the girl is called Alice, there’s a white rabbit. I don’t know, the story is utter nonsensical even for Creepshow. Aside from some almost half decent effects work as Alice mutates, this tale has nothing going for it at all.
Security guard, Jerry buys a radio from a homeless man on the street. When Jerry gets the radio back to his place, it begins to talk to him. The radio convinces Jerry to commit crime, including murder. He eventually makes a run for it after the police begin to investigate his crime spree, taking with him a hooker who lives in his apartment complex. The radio then tells Jerry to kill the hooker or she will kill him, advice he refuses to take.
This yarn is okay, well okay by Creepshow 3 standards anyway. It has one of those ‘careful what you wish for’ kind of morals running through it as Jerry gets a taste for his criminal activities and lusts for more and more until he loses control of his life. A bland and uninteresting story that is wasted as it had a bit of potential.
Call girl Rachel receives a request from Victor who requests ‘servicing’. But Rachel is no ordinary lady of the night, she’s a murderer. She kills her potential customers and really, really enjoys it too. When she arrives at Victor’s home, she gets to work right away, handcuffing him to this bed and then stabbing him in the chest. She then goes for a shower to clean up, only she begins to hear Victor in her head, is he really dead?
This one is dire, not as bad a Alice for it’s ineptitude of telling a story but still bad enough. It gets a little bloody with some half decent effects. It’s a silly and asinine story that doesn’t really offer anything worth shouting about, it’s just about watchable I suppose.
The Professor’s Wife
Professor Dayton receives a visit from two former students, they have come round meet his much younger fiancée. The students are aware that Dayton has been working on a robot for the last twenty years and assume that his new bride to be is that very robot. When Professor Dayton leaves the house, the students decide to take the robot apart to see just how it works.
So I think this is the best story in the film, which isn’t saying much really as the others set the bar so low. But this at the very least has a small semblance of a Creepshow tale. Not a great yarn, but somewhat watchable with that mix of cheeky humour and horror that Creepshow is known for.
The final story tells of the cruel and careless Dr. Farwell. He ridicules the patients at the clinic where he works and makes them feel worse then when they went to see him. He buys a hot-dog from a street vendor, which he drops on the floor. Not wanting to waste the food, he gives it to a homeless man as an ‘act of kindness’. The homeless guy begins to choke and Dr. Farwell just walks away as he dies in the street. But the dead man returns to haunt the bad doctor.
This almost feels like a remake of The Hitch-hiker story from Creepshow 2… almost. There’s even a similar line said in this that is a kind of throwback to that other tale. This is no where near as well written or made as The Hitch-hiker, not at all, but it just has a similar vibe to it. Not a good watch at all, like pretty much all the other stories, so at least it’s consistent.
This one wraps up in a kind of ensemble finale where characters from the five stories all interact as Professor Dayton finally get’s married and the hot-dog vendor is revealed as being The Creep… only a really bad version of him using some awful CGI.
Creepshow 2 was definitely a step down from the original, but while it disappointed me, it’s still watchable and is entertaining. Creepshow 3 is not so much a step down, but more a case of it’s fallen of the ladder from a great height and slammed into the ground, creating a huge mess. This is awful, no other way to describe it. The stories are bland, the acting is atrocious and the effects work mostly look like something the great Tom Savini would throw out as rejects. If there is one thing about Creepshow 3 that I enjoyed, then it’s probably how all the stories tie together. Characters from one yarn will appear in another as all of them take place in the same small town. References and nods to the other tales can be found peppered though the film that work to link everything together. Quite honestly, that aspect is rather well done. But everything else is fucking terrible. The Professor’s Wife is about the only Creepshow feeling story in the film and even then, only just barely. I kind of think it’s worth watching Creepshow 3 just to see how badly the franchise fell. Honestly, watch the original and then watch this directly after. The drop in quality, the lack of any talent both behind and in front of the camera is painfully apparent. Creepshow 3 is the perfect example of how to ruin a great concept.
Well, this article is getting a little lengthy and there’s still more to cover with the new Creepshow TV series and all of it’s episodes (plus a little bonus too). So I think I’ll split this one into two parts to give both you and me a bit of a break. Plus the fact that as of the time of publishing this, I’ve not yet seen the final episode of the TV show, it airs in just a few hours. So I’ll see you in part II.