Here is the transcript from Fright Club historian Darrell Buxton’s Introduction to Creepshow, that screened at QUAD, Derby on 23rd June.
Hello and welcome to Fright Club, QUAD’s regular monthly foray into the world of horror. I’m Darrell Buxton, your regular host for the shows, now styling myself as “that geeky guy in the groovy glasses giving the gruesome gospel about ghosts, ghouls, graveyards, gaslight, guts, gore, Grand Guignol and other grim, ghastly, goosebump-generating goodness”.
Tonight we’re presenting 1982’s CREEPSHOW, a major example of that familiar horror film format – often termed an anthology, a compendium, or a portmanteau – whereby we get several stories for the price of one.
This multi-episode method of presentation extends right back as far as silent German horror, with films like UNHEIMLICHE GESCHICHTEN from 1919 and WAXWORKS from 1924 providing a variety of shuddersome tales – the 1945 British supernatural classic DEAD OF NIGHT perfected the form, and during the 60s and 70s Amicus Films popularised the portmanteau via DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, TORTURE GARDEN, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, ASYLUM, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE VAULT OF HORROR and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.
The benefits of making a movie like this include the ability to attract big-name talent – many actors who normally wouldn’t venture anywhere near horror can be convinced to play a part in an anthology shocker, since the roles are often fun and they are only required on set for a day or two instead of a gruelling month-long shoot. From an audience point of view, these films are easy to watch, broken down into neat bite-size pieces, and as is often commented, if you see a story you don’t like, fear not, as the next one will probably be an improvement. Great anthology episodes include ‘Method For Murder’ from THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, starring Denholm Elliott and a lurking killer named ‘Dominic’, and recently spoofed by last December’s Christmas episode of ‘Inside No. 9’; ‘Frozen Fear’ from ASYLUM, featuring dismembered body parts wrapped in brown paper but still moving; ‘Blind Alleys’ from TALES FROM THE CRYPT, set in a home for sightless people run by a tyrant against whom the residents plot savage vengeance; and ‘Amelia’ from the American made-for-TV movie TRILOGY OF TERROR, in which Karen Black is chased all over her high-rise home by a relentless and scary little carved wooden doll.
All you Fright Club regulars ought to be familiar with the work of George A. Romero and Stephen King, as we’ve screened plenty of their output in the past. Director Romero and author King became friends after expressing mutual respect for one another, and planned for some time to adapt King’s epic apocalyptic novel ‘The Stand’ for the cinema. It’s a project that was just too ambitious and which sadly never happened – but the guys’ desire to collaborate did eventually lead to the idea of creating a film based on their shared love of 1950s American horror comics, indeed the selfsame comics from which many of the Amicus films had derived source material. CREEPSHOW was to be mainly new, though – King penning the screenplay, presenting five brisk tales of terror within two hours, three originals and two based on his own published stories, along with a wraparound segment, with Romero providing the look and style of the movie, attempting to imitate the bright colours, atmospheric shading, skewed angles, and even the panelled pages, of a comic book.
The project is undoubtedly an artistic success and, to my mind, avoids many of the pitfalls of the anthology movie. For one thing, it doesn’t have a weak episode! All five stories are gripping and filled with lively over-the-top characters, situations, and scares, and it really does manage to capture the feel of the legendary horror comics. The quintet of terror tales is comprised by ‘Father’s Day’, which will leave you never quite looking at birthday cake in the same way again;
‘The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill’, based on the short story ‘Weeds’ and with Stephen King himself playing a backwoods hick fending off some weird encroaching alien plant-life;
‘Something To Tide You Over’, which enlivens its soap-opera storyline about a cuckolded husband by allowing Romero the chance to put more of his trademark zombies on screen – Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, and Gaylen Ross from DAWN OF THE DEAD act this one up for all they’re worth;
‘The Crate’ has a wooden storage box being discovered in a college basement after almost 150 years – and in a movie called CREEPSHOW, you probably don’t want to find out what’s inside;
and finally ‘They’re Creeping Up On You’ sees a cleanliness-and-security-obsessed resident of a New York apartment taking on a mass of tiny invaders.
Tom Savini had provided the spectacular gore effects for Romero’s zombie epic DAWN OF THE DEAD but was given the chance here to extend his talents, with special make-up jobs, elaborate creature puppets, and at one point having to create a room filled with creepy-crawly insects – Savini has admitted that he used piles of nuts and raisins to pad out the six-legged army, so see if you can tell the antenna-waving real thing from the spilled bags of KP dry roasted when the time comes.
Also look out for Stephen King’s son Joe Hill, nowadays a very successful novelist in his own right and the spitting image of his dad – but here, aged 9, playing the kid in CREEPSHOW’s wraparound episode and doing a pretty good job.
And if you like the look of the comic book in the movie, note that there are two versions of it on the market. Ace comics artist Bernie Wrightson teamed up with King to produce an official CREEPSHOW graphic novel* published alongside the movie on original release; more recently, Britain’s Stephen Snowden put out a limited edition run of his own version, which he copied directly from DVD screengrabs. I’ve not seen this one but apparently it contains only the artwork seen in the film, rather than complete stories. Both worth adding to your collection, and both seem to be easily available online, so you too can pretend to be little Joe Hill as you turn the pages and immerse yourself in the book’s ghastly-but-fun horrors.
Alternatively, just sit back this evening and enjoy it all on screen. We’re about to open the cover, smell that lovely inky aroma, gaze in wonder at page one, and anticipate the terrors in store. Enjoy your movie.
Next up for Fright Fans is the new Aussie shocker Hounds Of Love on Friday 28th July at 8:40pm. Tickets are on sale now!
Then in August, Director Jorg Buttgereit visits the UK and Fright Club for a very special Q&A followed by a screening of Nekromantik 2 on Thursday 24th August. Tickets on sale here.
*The Internet Archive has the out-of-print Bernie Wrightson Creepshow comic here for your perusal.