HALLOWEEN: CREEPSHOW

From the Nov. 12, 1982, Deseret News

CREEPSHOW — Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Stephen King; written by Stephen King; directed by George A. Romero; rated R (violence, profanity).

"Creepshow" is being advertised as "The Most Fun You'll Ever Have Being Scared." Well, maybe not ever, but pretty close to it.

Stephen King's first screenplay after a host of popular horror novels ("Carrie," "The Shining," "Firestarter") is a real jolter, and it's also very funny.

Based on the old horror comic books that King remembers very well from his youth, the film is an anthology of five stories, with a sixth acting as a segue device. A youngster (played by King's own son, Joe) is reading a comic book called "Creepshow" when his father clobbers him and takes it away, tossing it in the trash can. The film goes animated for a few moments as the pages turn and the stories begin.

First in line is a rather standard ghoul show about a dead man seeking revenge on the daughter who killed him. "Father's Day" reminded me very much of the stories those old comic books contained, and though it offers a scare or two, it's really pretty tame and predictable, but it sets the mood for what's to come.

Second is a down-and-out comedy sequence, with King himself playing a country bumpkin in "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill." He finds a meteorite and fantasizes about the changes it might bring to his life, then he touches it and becomes a human weedpatch. King is hammy but fun.

The terror really begins to build with "Something to Tide You Over," as Leslie Nielsen (who is terrific here) plays a man with some unique ideas on how to get revenge on an unfaithful wife and her lover. But when the latter become murder victims, they, too, have some ideas on revenge.

Next comes "The Crate," an absolutely horrifying tale of an old crate discovered in a university science building, a crate that contains a centuries-old monster. Hal Holbrook and Adirenne Barbeau star in this one. He's great as a mousy professor and she's funny, if perhaps a tad too broad, as his nagging, drunken wife.

The final tale of terror is "They're Creeping Up on You," with E.G. Marshall in a virtual one-man show as a rich man with a phobia about bugs. He lives in a sterile high-rise apartment but he's having a problem with cockroaches. After this one, you may never open a kitchen cupboard door again. Marshall is almost unrecognizable and he's wonderful in the role.

Director George A. Romero, whose "Dawn of the Dead," "Night of the Living Dead" and "Martin" are bloody, gory tales laced with sardonic humor, has pulled back on the gore here. There is some but it's fairly brief, and the R rating is as much for the almost constant profanity as for the violence.

But "Creepshow" is without question the funniest horror movie Romero has made. There are some hilarious fantasy sequences in "Jordy Verrill" and "The Crate," and a lot of black humor throughout every story. In this case, the camp attitude throws us off guard as the terror builds, just adding more tension.

But mention should also be made of the incredible editing here, especially noticeable in the "Tide" sequence and "The Crate." And those special effects — the monsters — are all extremely well done. The music is also good, with an old-fashioned horror touch. And Romero's familiar stark lighting helps raise the tension level as well.

I could have done without all the profanity, and one death in "The Crate" is particularly gory (the R rating is earned here, it's just not nearly as gory as many other horror films out right now).

But there are so many redeeming features about "Creepshow" that I can't refrain from recommending it to anyone who loves to be scared out of their wits.

Part of my enthusiasm for "Creepshow" probably comes from my love of the genre and my disdain for the "splatter" films that have taken it over. "Creepshow" is not a "splatter" film. It's a good old-fashioned creature feature — and it's made horror movies fun again.