Published Oct 30, 2012Anthology films are perfectly suited to the bite-sized spirit of Halloween and this 1982 five-pack of pulp helped popularize the format, remaining a seasonal go-to for many nostalgic genre fans. More so than any of the films considered among Romero's classics though, Creepshow has been ravaged by the passage of time.
While each of the four chapters—framed as stories in a horror comic a boy's mean father forbids him to read—enjoy the participation of at least one famous performer, there's a pervading sense of cheapness brought on by the awkward growing pains of digital effects that not even the novelty of seeing Stephen King playing a hillbilly clothed in alien flora can ameliorate.
Still, the project is intended as a piece of superfluous pulp, so for cult audiences sentimental about a very specific aesthetic, it has a campy appeal.
"Father's Day" is the least identifiably entertaining, putting Ed Harris through the hokey story of an abusive father who rises from the grave to demand cake from the daughter who finally worked up the nerve to put him there. The subtext is as basic as the special effects.
After the bizarre amusement of King's turn in the spotlight (he also wrote the screenplay), "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," comes the collection's most satisfying and engaging chapter, "Something To Tide You Over." Starring Ted Danson and Leslie Neilson, this sinister parable about the double-edged sword of cuckold's rage is remarkably prescient, tapping into the future fad of voyeuristic torture horror well before its time.
Like most of these shorts, which are connected by themes of familial abuse cycles, a promising set up gives way to effects so campy and situations so outrageous that they often reduce the dark philosophical interests of "The Crate" and "They're Creeping Up On You" to the status of co-conspirators in spoof. Even so, for a piece of entertainment with such humble intent and so drastically dated, Creepshow points to a filmmaker with more on his mind than the vast majority of his peers and successors.
Creepshow screens at 9:30pm on October 31st, 2012 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the George A. Romero retrospective. Earlier that evening, at 7pm, there's an "In Conversation" session at the TIFF Bell Lightbox with the legendary director himself. (Warner)