Creepshow was a film born from the collaboration of director George Romero and author Stephen King, driven by their shared love of E.C. Comics. These comics consisted of macabre and playful short stories hosted by a ghoulish character, and featured lurid art.
They gained popularity during the 1940s and 50s, primarily remembered for their pulpy Tales from the Crypt series. It comes as no surprise that these two titans of horror were influenced by E.C. Comics at a young age. While King’s work was on the path to becoming the definitive name in horror literature worldwide, Romero had already established himself with films like Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and The Crazies.
Both creatives were eager to collaborate, and although Romero faced difficulties in getting most of his King adaptations off the ground (he was originally supposed to direct It, The Stand, Salem’s Lot, and Pet Sematary), he struck gold with an all-original anthology project.
Before their collaboration, there had already been a few successful anthology horror movies, such as Tales from the Crypt (1972) and the made-for-TV Trilogy of Terror (1975). King and Romero’s project aimed to become the ultimate horror anthology film. Since its release in 1982, their collaboration has set the gold standard for anthology horror films. How does it hold up in 4K? Gather around, boils and ghouls, for this Creepshow review!
Production Company: United Film Distribution Company, Laurel Show, Inc.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: George A. Romero
Release Date: December 26, 1973
Creepshow is five stories and has a framing device of a boy (played by King’s son who would eventually write The Black Phone) who gets beaten by his father (Tom Atkins) for reading a horror comic. The father throws the comic in the trash and a ghoul appears to the boy and the reality shifts to the pages of the comic laying in the gutter.
Father’s Day is the first story and revolves around a group of yuppies eagerly awaiting the arrival of their Aunt Bedelia for a dinner party. Bedelia, in the past, had murdered their abusive patriarch, and every Father’s Day, she pays a visit to his grave. In true Romero fashion, the father rises from his grave as a vile, rotting corpse, and begins to kill people.
This segment is a lot of fun due to its performances and the striking appearance of the zombie. It’s also worth noting that it features a very young Ed Harris, and the payoff at the end of the segment is absolutely worth it, ensuring decades of Father’s Day memes and gifs.
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is the second story. Stephen King of all people takes up the acting duties of portraying Jordy Verrill, a mentally deficient hillbilly who comes in contact with a meteorite that causes unusual plant growth.
This is a body-horror story that oscillates between nightmarishly bleak moments and goofy shenanigans. King’s portrayal of Jordy might be divisive for some because he is playing a dumb character. It works because the poor guy is frightfully out of his depth. It’s somewhat tragic, but King surprisingly carries the entire segment, ensuring that the scenes are balanced and don’t become overbearingly depressing.
The third segment is Something to Tide You Over, and like Father’s Day, it revolves around the dead coming back to life to seek revenge. While it’s disappointing that it revisits a similar theme from earlier in the film, this story still manages to differentiate itself enough to make it worthwhile.
Something to Tide You Over features Leslie Nielson before he was heavily associated with comedic straight-man roles as seen in the Naked Gun movies. In this story, he plays Richard Vickers, a sadistic billionaire who kidnaps and tortures a couple of adulterers.
Harry Wentworth plays the man who was cheating with Vickers’ wife and is played by Ted Danson, who was just about to become famous for his role in Cheers. Vickers’ method to torment the adulterers is to bury them in the sand up to their necks at low tide.
The concept is that they will suffer a slow, drowning death as the tide rises. What makes Something to Tide You Over enjoyable are the performances by Nielsen and Danson. Nielsen comes across as affable yet incredibly threatening, and he plays off Danson’s cool anger remarkably well.
This story climaxes with some very unusual-looking zombie designs. Savini’s effects and makeup in all of the stories in Creepshow are wonderful, but these shriveled, yet bloated-looking pale husks are especially haunting and memorable.
The Crate is the fourth and longest story in Creepshow, running for approximately 40 minutes. This segment centers around college faculty members who stumble upon a mysterious crate that appears to be 140 years old, possibly used during an Antarctic expedition.
There’s a subplot involving one of the college professors married to Billie, a brilliantly played nasty woman by Adrienne Barbeau. The Arctic crate seemingly contains a bizarre and bloodthirsty creature. This monster begins to rack up a body count, and Henry Northup (Hal Holbrook) decides he can use this thing to rid himself of Billie, his obnoxious and mean-spirited wife.
This story needed to be the longest because it relies heavily on character development, requiring extra time to establish key players. Barbeau is uproarious in her portrayal of the abusive Billie. It’s a role that demands finesse to maintain the story’s tone without becoming incongruent. She embodies the character’s nastiness to a point where it’s funny, yet not so excessive that it becomes uncomfortable to watch.
They’re Creeping Up on You! is the fifth and final story in Creepshow, and it’s also the wildest. Upton Pratt is an eccentric and cruel businessman who lives in a sealed penthouse. He’s brilliantly portrayed by E.G. Marshall, who masterfully captures the unhinged mania of a germaphobe who views everyone beneath him as pests to be disposed of.
This story is one of the more stylized segments, with its stark white setting resembling something out of a Kubrick film. Marshall carries the entire sequence by himself since he is the only on-screen character and only communicates with others via telephone or a P.A. system.
Things start to spiral out of control when Pratt’s chamber gets infested with cockroaches. What follows is a darkly comedic, Tom and Jerry-esque episode of one man pitted against a horde of creepy-crawlies, culminating in one of the most memorable and gruesome deaths ever depicted in a horror film.
What makes Creepshow endure more than 40 years later is its careful balance of horror and humor. The characters are portrayed broadly because the runtime for each story is short. To effectively convey everything the viewer needs to know, the approach is to go big and bold.
Creepshow is a visually striking film that captivates with its vibrant and stylish presentation. George Romero employs an array of comic book imagery throughout the movie, not only paying homage to the E.C. Comics that influenced the film but also infusing it with a whimsical identity.
The comic book aesthetics manifest in various ways, from the framing of shots to the use of vivid colors that pop off the screen. These elements not only evoke the spirit of the source material but also create a visually engaging and playful atmosphere that distinguishes Creepshow from typical horror fare.
One notable visual technique adopted by Romero is the use of colorful lighting, a technique he learned from Italian Giallo maestro Dario Argento. Romero deploys this technique masterfully, using different hues and intensities of light to convey a range of emotions and moods.
He employs bold reds and eerie blues to instill a sense of panic or foreboding terror in certain scenes. This skillful use of lighting adds depth and dimension to the storytelling, heightening the audience’s emotional connection to the film.
The 4K image quality especially enhances the brilliant color pallet and stark lighting of Creepshow. The textures in scenes are more pronounced. Individual fibers can be counted. Dark shadows are deep and inky. Most importantly, the gory effects look more shocking and detailed than ever.
The film grain is very fine and makes every frame feel lively. The pallet is utterly rich and crisp as a clear spring morning. This 4K release boasts a new scan of the original film negatives and the effort was not wasted. This release makes the old 1080p version look cold and lifeless. For Creepshow, you want it to be bold and intense.
The soundtrack was composed by John Harrison and he incorporates a variety of musical styles to match the different segments of the anthology. Each story has its own distinct musical theme that complements the tone and style of the narrative.
The music in Creepshow carries an eerie quality that complements the film’s comic book-inspired visuals and horror themes. In addition to synthesizers, orchestral elements are utilized to enhance the cinematic quality of the soundtrack. The Dolby Atmos sound system delivers an intensely robust and crisp audio experience. The low rumble and hefty bass are palpable in certain scenes, often giving Creepshow a surprisingly modern feel.
This release of Creepshow not only has the film looking and sounding the absolute best it possibly can, but it also comes with tons of extra features. All of the old archival audio commentaries are present and accounted for; the one with Romero and Savini is a highlight, but a third new track was recorded with the director of photography, Michael Gornick.
There are numerous mini-documentaries and interviews with the cast and crew. Impressively, even Ed Harris makes an appearance and stands by his goofy performance. Everyone displayed passion and shared amusing stories from the set – even the animator who worked on the animated sequences had some fascinating anecdotes.
Creepshow has aged beautifully and retains a timeless quality. It succeeds in being both scary and funny without ever feeling cynical or dated. The 4K image quality certainly helps it hold its own against modern horror films. However, thanks to Romero’s direction and King’s mastery of short stories, Creepshow remains endlessly rewatchable, especially when the leaves begin to fall.
Creepshpw was reviewed with a 4K Bluray purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Creepshow is now available on 4K Bluray at retailers.