Creepshow (1982)

Creepshow, 1982; directed by George A. Romero; starring Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau

When I was a kid in the 1980s, cable TV was in it’s infancy.  My dad was one of those who at the time held the mindset that went “pay a monthly fee for television programs?!?! Why in the hell would I do that? We get the networks for free with an antenna! What is this?!  Communist Russia??! Never! I will never pay for television!  NEVER!”  

Luckily my friend Joe down the street didn’t have such patriotic parents (his father was a state senator).  So he did have cable.  And when I would visit I would be enthralled by all 20 of the  glorious channels he had.  I was especially enthralled with HBO.  We watched everything we could on HBO; comedy specials by the likes of Robert Klein, Billy Crystal and George Carlin; late night light adult fare, like the series The Hitchhiker.  But of course, it was being able to watch the movies, uncut, no commercials, all the swear words and bare flesh a 12 year old could handle.

When a movie began I remember HBO’s fancy intro would make it even more exciting – far more exciting than just watching Real People at home, on our stupid antenna TV, with my stupid patriotic dad.  (Later I would go to college, only to come home on breaks to find not only had the old man succumbed to all the glories of cable television, but he would hug that cable box with a smile on his face murmuring “how’d I ever live without you?” over and over again to it. Take that Skip Stephenson.)

One of the movies from that time I remember most was 1982’s Creepshow.  Like yesterday’s selection of Kwaidan, Creepshow is an anthology film – in this case five stories told over two hours.  But where Kwaidan is contemplative, subtle, poetic, and has its own deliberate pace, Creepshow is brash, obnoxious, cheesy, subtle as a two by four to the jaw and just trashy enough.  Perfect for a 12 year old high on the possibilities of cable TV in it’s infancy.  And perfect to get us going back into the weekend with the proper mindset and feeling.

Directed by George Romero, the man responsible for Night of the Living Dead and host of other canon Zombie flicks, and written by Stephen King, the film opens with  a boy being slapped by his father for reading a trashy comicbook (still considered trashy juvenile garbage for boys by most adults in 1982 and no where near the multi billion dollar cottage industry it is today) called “Creepshow.”  The comic is tossed in the trash, the boy sent to his room and dad goes on to justify his harsh treatment of the boy to mom.

In his room the boy, wishing all sorts of pain on dad, hears a knocking at his window. He turns to see the Creep from the cover of now trashed comicbook beckoning him.  And just like that we are into the meat of the flick. The stories are live action but always begin from the panels of a page from the illicit comic book.

The stories vary their level of creepiness, gore and black humor.   For example, in Something To Tide You Over Leslie Nielsen stars in a rare post Airplane! non-comedic role as a wealthy man jilted by his wife who then extracts a creative yet tortuously deadly revenge on her and her lover.  And while he gets his own comeuppance in the end, there’s not much blood or gore in this tale.  It plays much like a twilight zone for much of the story.

The Crate, on the other hand, which stars Hal Holbrook as a henpecked, meek professor at some unnamed university who finds an opportunity to rid himself of his wife (Adrienne Barbeau), gets quite bloody.   It was also the story that scared my 11 year old self the most – so of course it was my favorite.

Now, at 12 we had no idea who George Romero was.  But we sure knew who Stephen King was in 1982.  The revelation we had during the credits when we saw that King also starred as the goofy yokel title character in The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill blew our minds. One of our favorites in 1982, largely due to King’s goofy portrayal of Jordy, this story may not hold up as well for viewers today. This tale of a lonely country fella finding a meteorite in his yard that fuels dreams of making it rich  becoming a respected member of the community starts amusingly enough before it takes a rather dark turn (well, look at the title) and rather abrupt ending.

Creepshow is one of those delightful 80s horror productions that is equal parts trashy (but not so trashy) fun with some legitimate scares tossed in.  It is a suitable vehicle for a ride back to the darker sides of Poptoberfest.   And that kid who’s dad who tossed out his comicbook – don’t worry. He found an ad in the back pages of that same comicbook that helped him extract an appropriate revenge…

Dr. Vorhees