The Test of Time: Creepshow (1982)

We all have movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? So…the point of this here column is whether of not a film stands the test of time. I’m not gonna question whether it’s still a good flick, but if the thing holds up for a modern audience.

Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, and Stephen King

The anthology movie is a dead art form, which is a shame because if it’s done correctly, it can be a hell of a thing. While the V/H/S franchise attempts to revive the format, no one has to look too deep to find where its inspiration comes from.

Under the examination: Creepshow.

It’s easy to understand why Creepshow falls under the classic category. When a project combines the inventor of the modern zombie movement with the reigning king of horror, something memorable will appear. Now today we know that Stephen King and movies don’t exactly mix. It’s little like buying seafood in Kansas. Sure, it’s probably fine and dandy, but it’s also a risk that could make a guy empty his bowels. You never know what you’re gonna get. However, back in 1982, King’s venture into moving pictures had just began and all his produced stuff had been pretty damn good (Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining). Though it wouldn’t stay that way, Creepshow became something of it’s own unique design.

Sucks to be Sam Malone...only once.

THE STORY: Since this is an anthology film, we have five different tales of horror. In case you don’t know, Creepshow feeds off from Tales From the Crypt or more specifically, the old school EC Comics from 1950s that prompted a lot of controversy and helped lead to the Comic Code. Anyway, here’s the five basic plots from Creepshow. 1) “Father’s Day” - A mean old man comes back from the dead to murder his daughter…because he didn’t get cake on Father’s Day (ok). 2) “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” - A farmer has fun with a meteor and then grows a green beard (bad). 3) “Something to Tide You Over” - A husband buries his wife and lover in the beach (best). 4) “The Crate” - A creature in a crate under some stairs at a college KILLS(good)! 5) “They’re Creeping Up On You” - A wonderful tale of cockroaches and a rich business dude (skin scrawl).

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Overall, the acting and the willingness of the cast makes the thing work, and it has a hell of a cast starting with Tom Atkins as the father who throws away a little boy’s Creepshow comic book. Then there’s the young Ed Harris (who still looks old), Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson,Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, and E.G. Marshall. That’s a cast.

Now, some will probably bitch about the special effects and crude animation, but Creepshow is another one of those time capsule flicks where the initial things that might annoy are more about it being dated rather than ineffective. For the most part, nothing over the top gets attempted. The stuff that works uses simple, practical effects, and even better Romero made an EC Comic come alive with panel transitions that look great and scene endings that "illustrate" the final moment. Love it.

Out of all the stories, “Something to Tide You Over” is my favorite for obvious and not so obvious reasons. The obvious? Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson. They’re both great, but holy shit Nielsen looks to have loved this role. Everyone from a certain generation grew up with him as the clown (a damn good one at that), but he was a fine actor too. Here, he’s one pissed off husband and fully enjoys torturing playboy Danson and his woman. The not so obvious? The story. It’s the darkest of the bunch, and the meanest. It plays what I remember feels like an old EC Comic in its brutality, and I dig it for that. And while Nielsen devours his role with pure enjoyment, Danson has a great moment when he realizes that he’s f*cked...buried in the sand while the tide comes in. Sucks to be him.

The next best story is the last, "They're Creeping Up On You." Put simply: it has killer cockroaches. I hate cockroaches more than anything, which makes this story most gruesome of all.

King isn't looking too good.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: I’m sure somebody out there digs it, but Jesus, the farmer sequence with Stephen King (as the dummy farmer) is painfully bad. I’m not sure if this is during King’s coke binge period, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was because he’s horrendous. Overacting would be compliment. Hell, if it wasn’t King he would have been fired after five minutes on the set. And because of it, I don’t think Creepshow ever finds it’s footing. The movie starts off too damn goofy with "Father's Day" and then the King moment. Those two combined is enough to make new viewers jump ship before the good stuff comes. I think it would be more effective if it’d maintained the tone of “Something to Tide You Over” – from the music to the tone. The last three stories get there, but damn it takes too long.

It's pretty clear Creepshow was done on the cheap, and it looks that way. When something bad happens like in "The Crate," the lights in the room go red. Oh no. That’s about as cheap as it gets. Even worse…the creature who just doesn’t hold up. It’s a little too Muppets like and even worse it reminds me of the gorilla outfit from Trading Places (old reference, sorry). But I’m willing to give the effects a break because as I bitched before it’s some of the stories that keep Creepshow from being truly badass. King starts with something mildly amusing, then just had to write himself a little ditty. But it’s his stories of revenge that work. The rest…not so much.

Perhaps the most frightening thing I've ever seen...

THE VERDICT: Creepshow has moments that work really well. I love the comic book aspect…especially since it’s about 20 years before comics became mainstream cool. While the movie starts off rough, it makes up for it in the end. But does it hold up? Yes and no. For the average audience, it might if they want some lighter horror and grew up in the 80s. Otherwise, the film looks, feels, and sounds dated. Perhaps Romero should have considered knocking back that two hour run time. That would have helped.





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