Monday, October 30, 2006

Creepshow

(1982) ***1/2


Creepshow is the definitive horror anthology and it was the first movie to cross my mind when I hatched the anthology idea. It's an homage to the old EC comic line, which featured Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror. Twenty years after I saw Creepshow for the first time, I still get a kick out of the comic book format (on a side note, when the film was adapted to comic book, Bernie Wrightson did the art. Wrightson also did the art for Swamp Thing which contains some of the richest scares in all of comics). And for those who apply the Thon measuring system specifically towards whether or not a movie is "scary," there are a number of good jolts and revolting moments here.

Father's Day

Father's Day years ago, a cranky old man with a horrific sweet tooth was brained with an ashtray by his daughter who'd had quite enough abuse. She visits his grave year after year on Father's Day to drink whiskey and curse her father's memory. Father comes back this year, moldy and shambling, and with a wicked hunger for cake. You know how when you want cake so bad, you forget all about your rotting face and tattered clothes and you just go on a rampage? Textbook case of that here.

The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill

Much as with the first chapter, this one demonstrates that you don't have to be deserving to have something awful happen to you. A meteor lands in the fields of an overall clad, shit-for-brains farmer, played completely off the wall by Stephen King, himself (who also wrote the entire screenplay. Plus, his son is featured in the bookend chapters as the child of a semi-abusive dad). Anyway, the meteor contains a radioactive juice that sprouts thick moss whenever it's combined with water.

This is still my favorite chapter in the movie. I found it even more chilling this time around when it occurred to me that the grass is less vegetation and more virus, dividing and spreading and unstoppable. Also, my apocalypse fears stoked by Dawn of the Dead, it dawned on me that one good rainstorm would send this grass-virus careening across the countryside and into heavily populated areas, and then to the ocean. This is about more than dim-witted Stephen King; this is a worldwide invasion just about to unfold.

Something to Tide You Over

Leslie Nielsen is truly chilling (I swear he is) as a murderous husband. He snookers Ted Danson into burying himself in the path of a rising tide after discovering that Danson has been boning his wife. The wife, a victim of the same fate, and Danson come back from the dead, waterlogged and draped in seaweed, and with sweet revenge on their hermit crab addled minds.

King wrote a short story called The Boogeyman, and he refers to the voice of the villain as "marshy" -- the voices of the sea monsters have that quality. Wet and squishy. As a child I heard that voice in my nightmares.

The Crate

The longest chapter in the film. A janitor at a New England college discovers a crate from an 1837 expedition under a basement stairwell. With the help of Professor Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver -- Marathon Man, Black Sunday), he opens it. Inside is a vicious, toothy beast which eats the janitor and then, later, one of the grad students. Driven beyond the bounds of sanity, Professor Stanley seeks the help of his friend Henry Northrup (the awesome Hal Holbrook). Henry sees this as a golden opportunity to rid himself of his obnoxious wife (Adrienne Barbeau).

They're Creeping Up On You

A cruel tycoon (EG Marshall) bullies his executives and everyone else in the vicinity from his sterilized, vacuum sealed New York apartment. He spots a cockroach skittering across his desk and sprays it to kingdom come. Within the hour though, that one cockroach turns into a massive infestation.

As with the Leslie Nielsen chapter and, to a lesser extent, the Adrienne Barbeau chapter, the villian gets his just desserts. I abhor cockroaches, even in small numbers. Seeing an entire room crawling with them, an army of tens of thousands, makes my stomach turn every time I see this movie.

There is talk of shooting a re-make to be released in 2008 -- It's up on IMDb, but there aren't really any details yet. Also, there's a Creepshow 3 out there somewhere. People on the IMDb message board claim to have seen it and the release date is listed as April 06, but it's also listed as "in production" and I've read elsewhere that it's slated for direct-to-dvd release sometime in 2007.

5 comments:

Jordan said...

Yeah, BERNI WRIGHTSON! Right on.

The Swamp Thing material may be the best of his I've seen, but he also did a series of pictures for the second version of "The Stand" ("Complete and Uncut") that are rather less caricatured than his other work and also extremely haunting and frightening.

His "Creepshow" adaptation was great; I agree.

Octopunk said...

I had the misfortune of finding the Creepshow comic adaptation in a bookstore before I saw the movie. Compared to Berni's fantastic art, the images from the movie are woefully disappointing. When Jordy Verrill spots the vegetation growing on his tongue, in the c-book they're creepy writhing tendrils but in the movie it's just a lump of green fuzz.

Octopunk said...

I saw an outtake from this movie in which a loud airplane flies overhead while Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson are talking on the beach. Leslie Nielsen stops in mid sentence and chases after it, firing his gun.

Jordan said...

Me too! I read the comic adaptation standing in the bookstore after school with my backpack on, ignoring the dubious stares of employees (as I did back then with a lot of stuff).

I agree the movie doesn't hold up to the Wrightson standard.

So often, you can look at the pre-production paintings for fantasy/sci-fi/horror movies, and say, Wow, that looks good; the stuff always makes the actual photographic material onscreen pale in comparison.

(Except for Lucas and Spielberg, the only guys who can make movies actually live up to pre-production paintings.)

(And maybe Terry Gilliam or Ridley Scott. But inconsistently.)

JPX said...

I had that Creepshow poster in my bedroom for years.

I miss it.