The Film: 5/5
Screenwriter Stephen King and director George Romero first collaborated on this epic horror anthology feature comprised of five self-contained stories of madness and macabre, some of which were based on earlier short works by King.
A suburban father (Tom Atkins) castigates his young son (Joe Hill, son of Stephen King and the future author of Horns and NOS42) for possessing an issue of the horror comic Creepshow. He throws the book in the trash, which does not sit well with the sullen lad. This wraparound segment then goes into the lead-off tale "Father's Day", which follows the surviving relatives of an evil millionaire who made his fortune through criminal means as they assemble at the old bastard's mansion seven years to the day that he was murdered to celebrate the titular holiday. Among them in his daughter Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors), the person who murdered him after putting up with his abuse for years. While visiting her father's grave and cursing his name Bedelia is shocked to see him tear his way out of the ground, now a hideous rotting corpse. The father has come back for revenge on the children who murdered him and tried to squander his vast fortune, but most important he wants his Father's Day cake. "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill" focuses on a moronic hillbilly farmer (played by King) who witnesses a meteor crashing to Earth in his own backyard. When he attempts to salvage the fallen object to sell to a local university the rock cracks open and a strange substance comes pouring out of the ground and onto Jordy's fingers, causing vegetation to grow everywhere - even on Jordy, turning him into a walking plant man.
Leslie Nielsen's deranged tycoon plots a horrible death for his cheating wife (Gaylen Ross) and her handsome lover (Ted Danson) but finds the tables turned on him in a very E.C. Comics manner in "Something to Tide You Over". In "The Crate", a meek college professor (Hal Holbrook) comes across a large wooden box containing a ravenous beast that kills and eats anyone it can get a hold of and realizes he has a perfect way of getting rid of his castrating shrew of a wife (Adrienne Barbeau). Finally, in "They're Creeping Up on You!", reclusive millionaire Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) does battle with an army of cockroaches that have invaded his germ-free fortress apartment during a massive power outage throughout New York City.
I've seen my share of horror anthology films in my lifetime, and there may be none better in my opinion than the original Creepshow. Say what you will about Dead of Night or Amicus' Tales from the Crypt or the classic teleflick Trilogy of Terror, but to me Creepshow is infinitely more than a brilliant anthology feature. Director George Romero and screenwriter Stephen King crafted a colorful and frightening love letter to the glory days of the 1950's when horror comics were all the rage on newsstands and authority figures drunk on their own power and consumed by self-righteousness did everything possible to quash their considerable influence on the minds of young readers across the country. It was yet another in a long line of battles that only served to demonstrate that if you try to make a piece of entertainment contraband and deem it immoral you end up inadvertently making it more desirable to those who had yet to discover what the fuss was about.
Horror comics - in particular the titles published by E.C. Comics prior to becoming known primarily for its groundbreaking humor magazine Mad - did not create a troubling rise in juvenile delinquency or lead to the downfall of civilized society. They did however influence countless generations of impressionable kids with vast imaginations and ambition to leave behind their humdrum upbringings and go forth into a fantastic new realm of genre storytelling, creating classic horror and sci-fi films, novels, comics, video games, and television series. Romero and King were two of those kids whose lives were forever altered by the chilling like of Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear. When Creepshow came along both men had built careers and reputations on their ability to deliver memorable tales of thought-provoking, nightmarish terror on film and in print. Their first collaboration would be Romero and King's way of paying homage to the comics that had influenced them to create their own unique visions of monsters and maniacs, and the results were superb and have aged surprisingly well over the years.
From its plotting to performances to cinematography and visual effects, Creepshow is a sheer delight all the way through. Each of the five segments pack in plenty of chills and thrills but with a hearty side serving of deliciously evil humor to make this movie an astonishing horror entertainment. Zombies, mutant plant people, hideous monsters, more zombies, and armies of disgusting insects give Creepshow its share of iconic screen beasts, but it's the human characters who turn out to be the most loathsome of them all. The greedy and murderous relatives in "Father's Day", dimwitted Jordy Verill, that conniving bastard Richard Vickers, boorish Wilma Northrup, and the vile Upson Pratt each deserve their horrific fates and then some, at least in terms of who is considered redeemable in modern horror storytelling. Working with the most star-studded cast of his career, Romero is no stranger to getting great performances when he's not marshalling legions of the undead into a flesh feasting frenzy. Everyone here is working at the top of their game and not disparaging the material in any way.
It's fun to watch beloved old pros Leslie Nielsen and E.G. Marshall really dig into the villain roles like savoring the juiciest prime rib as they mix it up with future stars like Ted Danson and Ed Harris - the latter having launched his big screen acting career as the star of Romero's sorely underrated Knightriders. Stephen King's performance as Verill is pure silent movie comedy acting, all bug eyes and over-the-top double takes, but it fits the character and the tone of his story well. The female characters don't fare as well though. Viveca Lindfors plays bat shit with grace and sadness, Carrie Nye the perfect cold stone of a human being, and Romero's Dawn of the Dead heroine Gaylen Ross spends most of her screen time dodging waves of salt water. Really, it's Adrienne Barbeau, that chesty badass of the B's, who gives her roaring bitch of a part humor and an odd charisma that makes you want to be in her orbit even as she's figuratively severing your short-and-curlies with a smile.
Romero and iconic special effects make-up artist Tom Savini were rightly lauded for the gory genius they concocted together on Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, but Savini's delightful foam latex creations for Creepshow rank among the most inspired work of his brilliant career in the cinema. Beloved by horror fans for the indescribably gruesome death scenes he created for the Dead movies as well as the classic slashers Friday the 13th (as well as its third sequel) and Maniac, Savini is relieved of such duties this time as the few expirations in Creepshow were relegated off-camera. Some viciously imaginative monsters are the order of the day here, including the horrific creature of "The Crate", resurrected Nathan in "Father's Day", and some water-logged walkers in "Something to Tide You Over". The demented designs of Creepshow's hideous threats from the grave and beyond seem lifted from the pages of E.C. Comics' most terrifying tales of madness and mayhem and will make the monster fan in everyone squeal with delight. Romero heightens the horror with some vibrant cinematography from his longtime director of photography Michael Gornick (who would make his directorial debut five years later on the inferior Creepshow 2) and a wide - and wild - variety of dynamic screen transitions that incorporate comic book-style layouts in a way that Ang Lee would utilize to equally strong effect on his 2003 movie Hulk.
Special credits must also be awarded to John Harrison, composer of the appropriately unnerving music score that accompanies Creepshow from first frame to last. His soundtrack is a sheer thing of beauty with haunting pianos working hand-in-hand with disquieting synthesizers. There are some tense, creeping cues as well, including a few in the "Father's Day" and "Something to Tide You Over" segments that Eli Roth borrowed for the soundtrack of his fake "Thanksgiving" trailer from 2007's Grindhouse.
A visually extravagant film like Creepshow demands the exquisite high-definition treatment that has eluded it in the past. Leave it to Second Sight to perform far above expectations. The film is presented in a 16:9 enhanced transfer remastered in 1080p high-definition and compressed from its original 1.85:1 theatrical widescreen aspect ratio to 1.78:1 for this release. The results are a wonder to behold as Romero's film has never looked as good on home video as it does here. Details are strong and clean and the vibrant color scheme sparkles with bold new life. Picture grain content is kept to a bare minimum. We get two audio options, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 PCM Stereo soundtracks. No complaints at all with either mix, but the 5.1 track gives you the full range of dialogue, music, and sound effects in shockingly clear resolution. I would recommend the 2.0 track for viewers with standard home entertainment set-ups. No subtitles have been provided.
For years I held out hope that Creepshow would one day get the special edition treatment on home video it deserved. Well it finally did in 2007, but as a two-disc Region 2 release from Universal Pictures' U.K. division not available in the States unless you owned a region-free player. The extensive bonus features on that edition were overseen by Michael Felsher and his production company Red Shirt, and for its premiere on Region B Blu-ray Second Sight has not only ported over those amazing supplements but teamed with Felsher to produce a new feature exclusive to this release.
Starting things off, we have a pair of audio commentaries, both moderated by Felsher. The first features Romero and Savini and was included on the 2007 special edition. The two old friends and creative collaborators have a ball sharing memories from making Creepshow and heaping well-earned praise on the cast and crew. Best of all, Felsher helps keep the conversation animated by acting less like an impartial moderator and more like a passionate fan who's positively in his element (which he undoubtedly is).
The second track is a newly-produced series of audio interviews conducted by Felsher with director of photography Gornick, actor John Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Miller, and makeup effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci. The topics discussed lean heavily on the technical side but the participants' recollections are well worth the listen.
The rest of the features (with one exception) make return appearances from the 2007 Universal release. Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (89 minutes) is a feature-length retrospective documentary that covers just about anything you ever wanted to know about the film's creation and features new interviews with Romero, Savini, illustrator Bernie Wrightson, producer Richard B. Rubinstein, composer John Harrison, editor Pasquale Buba, animator Rick Catizone, and actors Tom Atkins, Ed Harris, Bingo O'Malley, Adrienne Barbeau, and David Early among others. There is a fantastic amount of production stills, behind-the-scenes footage, and candid stories from the interviewees. Among my favorites were Romero's initial conception of Creepshow as having each story represent a different era of horror filmmaking (I would still love to see that), Atkins originally wanting to play the role of Jordy, and some amusing outtakes of Ted Danson and Gaylen Ross goofing around in full water-logged zombie makeup. A documentary worth its weight in gore and vintage comic books, Just Desserts is one of the best ever produced for a horror home video release.
Behind the Screams with Tom Savini (26 minute) is a collection of raw video footage featuring the creation and execution of Savini's creature effects. A very fun watch for fans of old school practical effects work, especially that of a revered genius in the field like Savini.
Deleted scenes (15 minutes) from all five stories are presented with text introductions explaining their absence from the final cut. Though the cut footage isn't in the best shape they look almost finished, indicating that they were in the movie until the end of post-production. Nothing earth shattering to be found here unless you consider hearing Adrienne Barbeau drunkenly utter the dreaded C-word (it was dubbed over by a different word in the released film).
The theatrical trailer that was also included on the 2007 release is here, as is an original television spot that wasn't. The extras close out with a treasure trove of stills presented in sixteen video galleries: Artwork, Autographed Items, Behind-the-Scenes, Books, Lobby Cards, Magazine Articles & Covers, Official Photos, Original Comic Book Art, Posters, Pressbooks, Printed Ads, Screenplay, Soundtracks, Special FX BTS, Trading Cards, and Video & DVD Covers.
A personal favorite horror film of mine has risen from the grave of subpar home video releases with a top quality audio and video presentation and an extensive array of new and held-over bonus features that range from highly informative to simply geeky and fun. Creepshow, a riot of monsters and mirth that has aged far better than most of the genre movies released in the 1980's, finally gets the treatment it richly deserves in one of Second Sight's finest Blu-ray titles. Absolutely, highly recommended.