It’s October, and as usual, we’re behind on reviewing our horror movies! Okay, this time, we’re doing Creepshow, a horror-comedy anthology from 1982. Stephen King wrote the script (and acted in one of the segments!) and George Romero directed it, so we’re dealing with horror royalty. How did the movie measure up?
Well, there are five segments, and the quality of them vary widely. The framing story is pretty simple–a kid is reading a horror comic instead of doing his chores, and his dad gets mad at him and throws out the comic. As it sits on top of the trash can outside, we see the cover–it’s titled “Creepshow” and it looks like the old EC comics of the 1950s–and the pages fly open. It turns out each of the segments in the movie correspond to a story in the comic. So right away we know these will be in the style of those old comics–horrible things will happen, but only to people who deserve it, and in such a way that their comeuppance will appear ironically appropriate. And indeed, that’s how it goes.
I think the my favorite segment was the fourth–“The Crate.” At a wine-and-cheese party, we’re introduced to nebbish professor Henry Northrup and his harridan wife, Wilma. Wilma is loud, obnoxious, drinks too much, and puts Henry down at every opportunity. Henry has little fantasies about strangling Wilma but doesn’t have the guts. Meanwhile, department head Dexter Stanley gets a call from a custodian at the college about an old crate he found under a stairwell, marked “Antarctic Expedition, 1834.” Dr. Stanley is excited about this find and leaves the boring wine-and-cheese party to see about the crate.
In a lab, Dr. Stanley and the custodian open the crate, only for something inside to reach out and grab the custodian, pulling him in and eating him as blood drips out and bones crunch. Truly frightened, Dr. Stanley grabs a grad student and they take the crate back down to the dusty stairwell, but the creature inside, which in a brief glimpse looks something like a really monstrous baboon, escapes, pulling the grad student into a dark corner for a snack.
Dr. Stanley flees to the house of his friend, Henry Northrup, who by now is at home. Dr. Stanley is in a panic but as Henry pieces the story together–voracious monstrous ape-thing on the loose and no way to get it back in its crate–he has an idea. He tells Dr. Stanley he’ll take care of things and leaves a note for his wife, who has gone out drinking with the girls. The note reads that Dr. Stanley has made sexual passes at a young co-ed who was so frightened she’s hiding in a crate at the college, and could Wilma come and help Henry coax her out? Knowing his wife will never be able to resist the gossipy note, Henry meanwhile prepares his trap, setting up the crate in just the right place and cleaning up all the blood.
Of course when Wilma arrives, Henry tricks her into looking into the crate, way back in a dusty corner, where the hidden baboon-thing attacks her, giving Henry a chance to put the lid back on, and nail and chain it up with both Wilma and monster inside. He takes the crate out to the old quarry where he drops it in the water and returns home to tell Dr. Stanley the story over their weekly chess game. Only, in the cold water back at the quarry, the crate is shaking, and finally the top bursts open, letting the creature escape….
This is tough to review, as “The Crate” and another segment titled “They’re Creeping Up on You” (about a sadistic boss who’s a germaphobe, and discovers his apartment is infested with roaches) were great, while some of the other segments held a lot less interest. The one Stephen King acted in–“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”–felt especially pointless. Let’s see if we can work this out:
Story/Plot/Characters— By necessity, stories have two-dimensional characters–there’s simply no time to develop them. However, Stephen King does throw in lots of little details to let you know these are real people with quirks. Dialogue is fairly witty, acting is pretty good (umm, except for Stephen King’s segment–good thing he had a day job). Still, while a couple segments are really good, with the black humor really effective, others feel like filler or paint-by-numbers. (2.5 points)
Special Effects–Good stuff from horror special effects savant Tom Savini–rotting corpses, monstrous baboon-things, and in one segment, roaches bursting out of a living human. (1.5 points)
Scariness–Not especially. Segments are generally played for laughs. My daughter watched this with zero problems. More disgusting in parts than scary. (.5 points)
Atmosphere/Freakiness–To an extent. The segment titled “Something to Tide You Over” had the best atmosphere, with its isolated beach house setting, miles from the next property. The final segment, “They’re Creeping Up On You,” with its thousands of roaches, was genuinely freaky. (1 point)
Total=5.5 points (Okay)
With 5.5 points, Creepshow ends up at the top of the Okay category. That seems about right. Although if the whole movie had been up to the standard of the two best segments, it would’ve scored a lot higher.