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Creepshow: The Greatest Horror Anthology?

A pop culture addict who loves to talk about movies, music, books, comics, and all of the other things that move and entertain us.


Creepshow has so may things going in it's favor, that it would have been almost impossible for me to dislike the movie. It was directed by George Romero, whose Dawn of the Dead is the first horror movie I remember watching. It was written by Stephen King, whose books I devoured more consistently than peanut butter cups and Dr. Pepper as a kid. It was inspired by the old EC Comics horror line. Any time I had extra money (and could find them, not always easy where I lived) I would buy reprints of Tales From the Crypt or Vault of Horror, and of course there would also be the Tales From the Crypt television show, which I would only get to see sporadically because we didn't have HBO, and you couldn't just find stuff on the internet back then. Creepshow also had one segment that had Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen in it. Imagine, Mayday Sam Malone and Sgt. Frank Drebin in the same movie!

The movie consists of a prologue, five short stories, and an epilogue that wraps up the story begun in the prologue. The prologue shows a father getting angry with his son. (Quick bit of trivia, the boy in the prologue and epilogue is played by Steven King's son and future author Joe Hill.) The father throws the comic book in the garbage and striking the boy. A skeletal spirit pays a visit and the wind blows the comic out of the trash. The comic book blows open and the opening panel resolves into the first story of the movie.


The first story told is Father's Day, the story of a rich family who come together on Father's Day every year, apparently to celebrate that time that eccentric Aunt Bedelia murdered the patriarch of the family. Bedelia shows up and goes directly to daddy's grave, only for him to dig his way out of the ground and attack her. Father dearest kills a couple more family members, including a poor schmuck who has only recently married into the family and the housekeeper. It ends with the very comic booky twist of showing dear old dad holding the head of one of his victims decorated like a Father's Day cake.

The second story stars the author who wrote the movie, and many dozens of horror classics, Stephen King. Mr King is the only actor in this segment, besides brief fantasy flashes involving a hypothetical scientist and the father of King's character. I think this role was chosen for King so as not to point out his lack of acting ability by having him in scenes with actual actors. The segment is dumb, but still a lot of fun. King discovers a meteorite that he imagines he will be able to sell and make a lot of money. He accidentally cracks the space rock, and in the process of trying to salvage it becomes infected with, for lack of a better description, space grass. We watch as the grass slowly grows all over King and his home, until he finally ends his suffering by blowing his head off. Then we see outside to where the space grass is flourishing, and presumably is about to infest the planet.

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Story number three is my favorite, mostly because it has both Ted Danson (Sam Malone from Cheers) and Leslie Nielsen (from the Naked Gun movies). Danson is apparently having an affair with Nielsen's wife, and Nielsen is understandably pissed. He forces Danson to go out to the beach and at gunpoint dig a hole and get in. He allows Nielsen to bury him up to his neck in the sand. Leslie then plugs in a television feed to show Danson that his unfaithful wife has received the same treatment in another part of the beach. They are both left to drown as the tide comes in. Danson and his lover don't stay dead long however, coming back as somehow very rotten zombies even though they have only been dead for a few hours. They drag Nielsen out to the beach and bury him the same way he did them, and the segment ends with the tide coming in.

Next up is a story about a crate with a monster inside that someone hid under a stairwell at a university. The janitor who finds it asks one of the professors to help him with it. The monster gets out and kills the janitor and a student, before the professor leaves and goes to get help from a fellow professor. His friend happens to be married to a drunken shrew who constantly humiliates him in public. So he slips his colleague a roofie and devises a plan to get his wife to meet him at the university and feed her to the creature. After the monster has helpfully disposed of his nagging wife, he chains the creature back in it's box and he and the other professor dump it in a large body of water. The last shot shows the creature breaking loose of the box.


The last story is the least interesting, but also has one of the best shots in the whole movie. A rich man who is obviously modeled on Howard Hughes is locked up in his penthouse conducting his business in a way that can only be described as evil. For instance, he seems happy that he has apparently driven an employee to kill himself. The millionaire is also a germaphobe, and he begins to notice cockroaches in his sterile living space. As he interacts with the building superintendent and with the widow of the recent suicide, he becomes more and more frantic as he sees more bugs. Finally the bugs swarm him and he dies of an apparent heart attack. This is where the scene I mentioned earlier happens. Roaches burst forth from the old man's body and swarm the room. It is both the creepiest and the grossest scene in the whole film.

The movie now goes back to the house where the prologue took place. Two garbage men find the comic book that the father threw out and are flipping through it. They notice that an order form for a voodoo doll has been cut out. We see Dad getting pain in his neck, followed by seeing the boy stabbing the voodoo doll in the neck with a needle. It seems weird that a movie made to celebrate horror comics seems to reinforce all the wrongheaded ideas that Dr. Wertham had about them. And the movie does make it obvious that it's an homage to old horror comics, from the animated transitions between segments to panels dividing the screen in some shots. But even with writing that sometimes seems rushed, special effects that were questionable at times (every time someone comes back from the dead they have the same look and speak with the same deep, gurgly voice, regardless if they have been dead 6 years or six hours) and acting that is at times goofy (looking at you Mr. King), this movie still holds up as being a lot of fun. It's a scary movie that was goofy when it came out, and so it doesn't matter that it looks goofy now. Being scary wasn't really ever the point. This isn't a movie that wants to make you keep a night light on. This is a movie that wants to put a grin on your face while you give a macabre chuckle thinking about Leslie Nielsen waiting for the tide to come in.

© 2022 Gracchus Gruad

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