Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King, Warner Shook, Robert Harper, Elizabeth Regan, Gaylen Ross, Jon Lormer, Don Keefer, Bingo O'Malley, John Amplas, David Early, Nann Mogg, Iva Jean Saraceni, Joe King, Christine Forrest, Chuck Aber, Cletus Anderson, Katie Karlovitz, Peter Messer, Marty Schiff, Tom Savini, Tom Atkins
Written by: Stephen King
Directed by: George A. Romero
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 115
Date: 05/01/1982

Creepshow (1982)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Just Call Me Billie

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

George A. Romero's horror is mainly rooted in the human condition, with human behavior, fears, needs and desires at the forefront. So it only makes sense that he would have been attracted to the old EC horror comics, with their strange moral messages at the end of every grisly tale. After an attempt to film Stephen King's "The Stand" for the big screen failed, Romero and King instead teamed up for this film, a five-story anthology inspired by and modeled after those old comics. King wrote the original screenplay, though two of the stories ("The Crate" and "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill") were originally published elsewhere. I saw Creepshow many times as a kid on cable TV, and I enjoyed it again today.

The wraparound segment concerns a boy (Joe King, Stephen's son) whose mean father (Tom Atkins) takes away his horror comic and throws it in the trash. Between segments, the wind blows and turns the pages of the comic. The first story, "Father's Day," is about a ghoulish family reunion with an aunt (Viveca Lindfors) who killed her horrible, skinflint husband. Ed Harris (who had been in Romero's Knightriders) co-stars and does a memorably silly dance.

Stephen King stars by himself in the second episode, "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," about a backwoods hick who meddles with a meteor and pays a green price. "Something to Tide You Over" stars Leslie Nielsen as a wealthy techo-nerd who decides to kill his rival (Ted Danson) by burying him in the sand below the high tide mark and videotaping the show.

The longest segment, "The Crate," begins when a professor finds a hundred year-old crate underneath the stairs with something horrible inside. Hal Holbrook co-stars as another professor and a henpecked husband, with Adrienne Barbeau stealing the entire movie as his nasty wife. Finally we get the pièce de résistance, "They're Creeping Up on You," another (almost) one-man show with E.G. Marshall as a wealthy CEO locked away in his antiseptic penthouse, but nonetheless plagued with cockroaches. (He has a little waste disposal machine that apparently grinds things up and whisks away garbage with the press of a button.) The film ends with a funny epilogue featuring special effects man Tom Savini.

Romero films each segment with eerie, colorful lighting (especially the sickly, bold green in the "Jordy Verril" segmet) to simulate the four-color scheme of old comic books, as well as comic-style visual effects (jagged lines emulating from a person's head to indicate shock). However, the movie isn't as funny as it should be ad there's a kind of low-rent scuzziness that's more off-putting than appealing. Nonetheless, the segments are consistent in quality and the film is still effective and entertaining.

In the UK, Universal/Republic has released a deluxe two-disc DVD with lots of great extras, including a very good new full-length documentary and generous outtakes. Romero and Savini provide a commentary track, and Savini donates footage from his behind-the-scenes creature workshops. There's also a trailer and stills. (See also Creepshow 2.)

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