Night of the Living Dead (1968) director George A Romero and top terror writer Stephen King neatly capture the ironic spirit of 1950s EC horror comics in this lively anthology of ghoulishly funny fear tales.
Zombie fathers, green space fungus, caged ancient creatures and the walking dead come alive from the pages of a comic book thrown away by a concerned parent (Tom Atkins).
The first tale is called ‘Father’s Day’. Seven years ago Nathan Grantham (John Amplas), the cantankerous and apparently murderous patriarch of a rich family, was killed on Father’s Day when his daughter Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors) couldn’t stand any more of his nagging requests for his cake and hit him over the head with a big marble ashtray.
“Where’s my cake, Bedelia? Where’s my Father’s Day cake? I want my cake, you dirty bitch! I’m going to have it!”
His selfish money-grabbing relatives are gathered together all these years later for their annual Father’s Day family dinner but this year they could be in for a very big and very unpleasant blast from the past.
Next up is ‘The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill’. Verrill (Stephen King himself) is a dim redneck living alone in an isolated nowheresville who discovers a meteor in his back garden: “That’s a meteor. I’ll be dipped in shit if that ain’t a meteor!”
Jordy, who owes the bank $200, thinks the local college might be willing to buy the meteor from him and claims it as his own possession. Unfortunately for Jody, though, he pours some water on it to cool it off and the meteorite infects him with a strange weed-type organism that slowly begins to turn him into a giant plant.
The third story – ‘Something to Tide You Over’ – revolves around wealthy producer Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen) who discovers his wife Becky (Gaylen Ross) is cheating on him with bouffant haired Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson just prior to becoming a big star through Cheers).
The lovers plan to run off together but Richard plots an act of watery revenge to foil their plans. He kidnaps Harry at gunpoint and takes him to his beachside house where he buries him up to his neck in the sand behind the tide line.
Then he produces a television set showing Becky in the same situation . . .
Nielson is great fun here, both funny and wicked as the vengeful Vickers. “Found a friend, Harry?” he says moving a crab away. “I’m just wild about Harry, and Harry’s wild about me!”
In ‘The Crate’ a college janitor opens an old crate containing a bloodthirsty monster from the Arctic. Hen-pecked academic Henry Northrop (Hal Holbrook) decides this might be the perfect way to get rid of his drunken and foul-mouthed wife Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau).
Probably the strongest segment in Creepshow, ‘The Crate’ is awash with eye-popping colour and introduces a memorable monster – a creation by Tom Savini which is all fur and teeth and quite nasty and scary in a fun sort of way.
This segment is longer than the others and lacks a neat resolution but it works well with Northrop’s repressed inclinations able to come to the surface through the monster. John Carpenter favourite Adrienne Barbeau steals the show here as Wilma, with some great lines courtesy of King.
Finally, in ‘They’re Creeping Up On You!’, EG Marshall stars as Upson Pratt – a wealthy and miserable old man who has made a good living being horrible and ruthless to everyone under him. He’s also obsessed and phobic about germs and lives in a sterile hermetically sealed apartment.
Pratt becomes highly alarmed when he spots a cockroach in his apartment – insects are another personal phobia of his.
“If I don’t see the exterminators in the span of a half an hour you will have no job by midnight tonight,” barks Pratt over the phone. “Do you understand me? Then next year you can take the wife and kids to Disney World on your fucking welfare check!”
Unfortunately for Pratt, his cockroach problem is about to get a lot worse. Anyone with an insect phobia, beware! Stylishly scary stuff.
Though the five shorts seem tame and dated now, there’s still fun to be had.
E G Marshall
George A Romero