Sunday, October 04, 2009

Creepshow (1982)

Creepshow creeped me out before I even saw it. This was thanks to the Berni Wrightson graphic novel that came out the same time as the movie, which my Stephen King-loving mother bought and which I gobbled up (it being a lot easier and quicker to read than, say, The Stand). And, at the age of 5, it was my first introduction to the world of the E.C.-style comics that it was homaging, full of lurid love triangles and vengeful zombies and (worst of all) toothy monsters in crates. Thanks the the nightmares the graphic novel gave me, it took me a few years to actually get around to watching the George A. Romero movie.

So imagine my surprise as a pre-teen to discover that what had been nightmare fodder in print had been transmuted into something colorful and funny in film. As a filmmaker, Romero's kind of a point-and-shoot guy, more of a concept man than a true master of form, space, and color, and he has a tendency to moralize in his lesser movies. So the opportunity to make a movie that was all about style and fun and not about making sociological points seems to have loosened him up and given him the freedom to make a movie that actually has a visual style, for pretty much the only time in his career. Granted, it's a visual style largely borrowed from his buddy Dario Argento's films Suspiria and Inferno, but whatever works.

Of course, the quality of the stories varies, with the weakest ("Father's Day") up front, with the most boring characters and worst performances in the whole movie. From that point, things start to click. "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" is basically a one-man show starring screenwriter and non-actor Stephen King, and his performance is broad and ridiculous, but thankfully Romero knows this and pitches the tone of the story around King to make everything fit. King was never going to be up for an Oscar, but at the very least you have to give him credit for fully committing to his role as a dim-witted Maine hick, with more than a few traces of autobiography. This section also functions as the film's highest moment of tragedy, not bad for a story about a guy turning into Swamp Thing.

Episode 3, "Something to Tide You Over", is probably the most successful in the film in capturing that old-fashioned E.C. feeling of dismal deeds and ghastly justice from beyond, plus Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson are both pretty good in it.

But for me, the highlight of the whole movie is "The Crate", in which we're told that Adrienne Barbeau deserves to be eaten by a baboon for committing the sin of being an Obnoxious Drunk. Barbeau is great in this segment, almost certainly the pinnacle of her acting career, and Fritz Weaver and Hal Holbrook bring their A-games as well (Weaver's incoherent babbling after each monster attack is a highlight of the movie).

Finally, the last segment, "They're Creeping Up On You" is one of the lesser ones, but (as I discovered seeing it at the New Beverly) it plays better on the big screen, where the claustrophobia and ickiness of the bugs can really take hold. E.G. Marshall demonstrates the real way to take a one-man segment and make it work (sorry, Steve King).

Ultimately, as much as I love this movie, I have to admit that the whole thing feels like something of a collection of Tales from the Darkside episodes strung together. Not that that's a bad thing either, but only in certain moments (like "The Crate") does it really take cinematic flight.

Two other tangential notes: It's an amazing thing to watch a horror movie that doesn't feature a single teenager; and Romero's version of how to make a comic-book movie is so much smarter and more appropriate than what Ang Lee tried to do in his Hulk that it's not even funny.


Helen said...

Nightmares? You never told me you had nightmares...

Anonymous said...

AllenFTW your such a fag today's films are cool too. Plus the 90s had the worst shows ever.