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DVD Review: Creepshow

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Comic books are all about team-ups, like Batman and Superman, Spider-Man and the Human Torch, Green Lantern and Flash. While it’s not based on a superhero comic, 1982′s Creepshow features one of the most impressive comic book team-up’s on film: George A. Romero and Stephen King.

The two horror giants take a page (or maybe a couple issues) from Golden Age EC horror comics like Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror with this pulpy anthology. The film features five gruesome tales written by King in shape or form (written either for the film or drawn from his previous stories). Like many EC horror comics, Creepshow is often about tales of revenge, and unlike the Klingon saying, revenge isn’t served cold; in Creepshow its served messy with a hearty helping of irony.

The first of the shorts, Father’s Day,” puts new meaning in the phrase “just deserts.” The second, “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” stars King himself as a backwoods hillbilly hoping to profit off a glowing meteor rock, and getting more than he can bargain for. Leslie Neilsen gets his revenge on an unfaithful wife and Ted Danson in “Something to Tide You Over,” but he doesn’t get away clean, while The Crate has Hal Holbrook hoping to use the contents of a crate to eliminate his harping wife, played by Adrienne Barbeau. Lastly, “They’re Creeping on You” has E.G. Marshall as a ruthless curmudgeon who finds even a hermetically sealed building can’t save him from his comeuppance. The shorts are book-ended by the plight of a abused young boy (Joe King) taking refuge in comics from his aggressive father, and who ends up taking his revenge through a certain item offered by the comic book.

Romero and King’s passion for pulp oozes into every blood drip in this campy horror anthology. An emphasis on bold color and dramatic overtones separate Creepshow from more pedestrian outings, in particular thanks to a four-color comic book framing which makes Creepshow a visually vibrant horror thriller. George Romero’s make-up artist/frequent collaborator Tom Savini is along for the ride, bringing the same colorful gore to the ghost and ghouls of Creepshow as he did in Dawn of the Dead.

That said, Creepshow is still an anthology, and subject to the limitations, which prevents this horror anthology from really working on film. Although the shorts are terrifying in their own right, watching five of them in a two-hour row can be a bit oppressive, even with all the right thrills and chills. Still, Creepshow does manage to go out on shrieking high note with “They’re Creeping on You,” which features one of the most memorable and elaborate effects in the entire film.

Though a sleeper hit for its time, Creepshow had a huge impact on pop culture. Obviously, the film set the groundwork for a direct horror anthology adaptation years later on HBO – “Tales from the Crypt.” On a more subtle level, Creepshow shined the spotlight on the EC horror comic books whose presence in comic book history is so often overlooked.

The only dead part of this DVD are the extras, or rather lack thereof. The only special feature included is a look at the trailers used to market the film during its 1982 release. Otherwise, the DVD looks especially bare. Still, it’s a great deal for bargain bin price of five bucks.

On an interesting sidebar, the 2007 film Trick ‘r Treat makes use of the same techniques used by Creepshow – right down to the comic book backdrops – while interweaving its short stories into an interlocking narrative. The result is a much more satisfying film, but Creepshow still laid the groundwork for this technique (you’ll see it in the deleted scenes). Either way, the legacy of Creepshow lurks on.

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