When most people think of comics, they think of superheroes: Superman fighting for truth, justice, and the American way; Batman battling the Joker; and the X-Men showing off their fantastic and varied powers. Just as strong of a comic book legacy are the EC horror comics of the 1950s. Titles such as Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror incited a widespread panic and moral outrage due to their content: walking corpses, monsters, serial killers, all told through a droll and wicked sense of humor.
It is in this tradition director George Romero, writer Stephen King, and special effects makeup artist Tom Savini have made Creepshow (1982). An anthology horror movie, Creepshow consists of five macabre tales (plus a wraparound). Most play as morbid morality plays with despicable people getting their just desserts for their crimes. There is also a wonderful streak of dark humor and an underlying appreciation for the material's comic book influence.
In the wraparound, a young boy is punished by his douche bag of a father (Tom Atkins) for reading a horror comic. Father's Day an abusive father rises from the grave on the holiday, and he wants his cake. The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill the eponymous rube (Steven King) finds a weird green fuzz growing on his body after a meteorite lands in on his farm. Something to Tide You Over a rich man (Leslie Neilson) buries his wife and her lover (Ted Danson) up to their necks on the beach as the tide rolls in. The Crate a professor (Hal Holbrook) sees a chance get rid of his shrew of a wife (Adrienne Barbeau) when a colleague finds a blood-thirsty monster living under a staircase at the university. They're Creeping Up On You a reclusive, cruel, agoraphobic tycoon's (E.G. Marshall) apartment is invaded by a horde of cockroaches.
For those of you who want to see name actors die horribly in gruesome ways, this is the movie for you. Though none of those stories could sustain an entire film by themselves, they are filtered through with humor and style. Romero films much of the movie with comic book style transitions, titled angles, and bright, exaggerated colors and shadows. Sure, the humor is rather juvenile and obvious, but it's endearing. I think my favorite moment is when Holbrook fantasizes about killing Barbeau, blowing her brains out at an outdoor dinner party. Everyone, rather annoyed by her too, applaud politely, and Holbrook just coyly shrugs.
The actors are all game and know they're playing caricatures. Nielson and Marshall are appropriately diabolical, Holbrook is perfectly passive-aggressive, Barbeau personifies evil bitch, and King is hysterical, overacting like crazy. All the characters commit sins that are visited upon them in cosmic, ironic means. The punishments fit the crimes. If you take nothing else away from the film, you at least learn what it takes to not be a despicable human being.
Is Creepshow tacky, in bad taste, and not very ambitious considering the pedigree behind it? Of course, but as the tagline says, it's the most fun you'll have being scared.