Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monster Serial: CREEPSHOW

(Halloween is like Christmas for Geeks. To mark the month-long celebration I'll be writing short pieces about horror movies throughout October in a feature called Monster Serial. It's nothing scholarly ... they're just meant to help get you in the spirit of the season.)

Creepshow should have been a dream come true for fans of vintage horror comics. Too bad it was released in 1982 during a rare tsunami of amazing films, a torrent which pretty much crushed its chances for survival. When movies like Blade Runner, Tron and The Thing can bomb, what hope did a little movie like Creepshow stand?

A collaboration between George Romero and Stephen King, the movie adapts a fictitious EC-style comic book and presents five short vignettes from a single "issue." It’s hard to pick a high point in the film, but many people favor the mean-spirited zombie tale“Father’s Day” over the final chapter, which features about 10,000 pissed-off cockroaches. "Father's Day" is the most legitimately creepy tale in the film, but Creepshow is really a comedy first and horror movie second. The liberal amounts of gore in the film tend to throw people off, as does the fact that Romero isn't really known for comedies.

Creepshow was a nice bookend to my theatrical experience in England. My family spend three years there and my first memory of going to a theater is of being traumatized by the "elevator full of blood" trailer for The Shining. It was only fair that I leave the country as terrified as I was when I arrived.

Unlike The Shining, though, Creepshow didn't leave any permanent scars. Father's Day weirded me out (and is one of the only times I was ever genuinely scared during a movie) but the remaining stories were loads of fun and felt like an R-rated version of the Adam West Batman TV show. And there are lots of performances here to love. Adrienne Barbeau and Hal Holbrook really shine as the world's most mismatched married couple in The Crate, while E.G. Marshall has a veritable one-man show in They're Creeping Up on You.

The same can be said for Stephen King in The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill, though he shares the story with another actor who plays all of the remaining parts (King's performance tends to rub some folks the wrong way, but I'm not one of them.) The segment Something to Tide You Over also calls back to a really strange time in the career of Leslie Nielsen when he seemed to only play bad guys. And King's son, who writes today under the name Joe Hill, even has a small but significant role in the film.

The movie (not to mention the Bernie Wrightson-illustrated Creepshow graphic novel) has dropped off the radar of most film fans, too, which is a damn shame. It's a love letter not only to horror, but comics and movies.

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