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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George A. Romero|
|Produced by||Richard P. Rubinstein|
|Screenplay by||Stephen King|
|Music by||John Harrison|
|Box office||$21 million|
Creepshow is a 1982 American horror comedy anthology film directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King, making this film his screenwriting debut. The film's ensemble cast includes Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson and E. G. Marshall, as well as King himself (King's acting debut actually came a year prior in the Romero film Knightriders). The film was primarily shot on location in Pittsburgh and its suburbs, including Monroeville, where Romero leased an old boys academy (Penn Hall) to build extensive sets for the film.
The film consists of five short stories: "Father's Day", "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" (based on the King short story "Weeds"), "Something to Tide You Over", "The Crate" and "They're Creeping Up on You!" Two of these stories were adapted from King's short stories, with the film bookended by prologue and epilogue scenes featuring a young boy named Billy (played by King's son, Joe), who is punished by his abusive father for reading horror comics.
The film is an homage to the EC horror comics of the 1950s, such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. In order for the film to give viewers a comic book feel, Romero hired long-time effects specialist Tom Savini to replicate comic-like effects.
The film earned $21,028,755 in the United States.
A young boy named Billy gets disciplined by his father, Stan, for reading a horror comic titled Creepshow. After swiping the comic from Billy and throwing it in the garbage, Stan reminds his wife that he has to be hard on Billy because he does not want their son to be reading it, calling it "horror crap". As Billy sits upstairs, wishing that his father rots in Hell, he hears a sound at the window. The source of the noise turns out to be The Creep, the host of the comic book, beckoning him to come closer.
The first story, "Father's Day," is an original story by King written for the film. Nathan Grantham, the miserly old patriarch of a family whose fortune was made through bootlegging, fraud, extortion and murder-for-hire, is killed on Father's Day by his long-suffering spinster daughter Bedelia. Bedelia was already unstable as the result of a lifetime spent putting up with her father's incessant demands and emotional abuse, which culminated in his orchestrating the murder of her sweetheart, Yarbro.
The sequence begins in 1979 when the remainder of Nathan's descendants—including Nathan's granddaughter Sylvia, his great-grandchildren Richard, Cass, and Cass's husband Hank—get together for their annual dinner on the third Sunday in June.
Bedelia arrives and stops in the cemetery outside the family house to lay a flower at the grave site. There, she drunkenly reminisces about how she murdered her overbearing father. After she accidentally spills her whiskey bottle in front of the headstone, Nathan's putrefied, maggot-infested corpse emerges from the burial plot in the form of a revenant who has come back to claim the Father's Day cake he never got. Grantham slowly avenges himself on Bedelia and the rest of his scheming heirs, killing them off one by one before finally attaining his Father's Day cake, topped with Sylvia's severed head.
While the ending is left ambiguous in the film, with Nathan gloating over a terrified Cass and Richard in freeze-frame, the comic book based on the film gives a vague hint that Nathan's next act was to "blow out their candles."
"The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill"
This section of the film is based on King's short story "Weeds". Jordy Verrill (played by King himself), a dimwitted backwoods yokel, thinks that a meteorite landing near his farm will provide enough money from the local college to pay off his $200 bank loan. As the meteorite is too hot to touch, he douses it with water, causing it to crack open and spill a glowing blue substance that comes into contact with his skin before soaking into the earth. He then finds himself being overcome by a rapidly spreading plant-like organism that starts to grow on Jordy himself, the house and everything he has touched.
In a panic Jordy pours himself a bottle of vodka, and he falls asleep in a drunken stupor. He wakes, believing it to have been a dream but sees in a mirror that he has now grown a beard of weeds. He starts to take a bath, and he is cautioned by the ghost of his father that the plant wants water and to not get in the tub. But when the itching from the growth on his skin becomes unbearable, he succumbs to temptation and collapses into the bathwater.
By the next morning, Jordy and his farm have been completely covered with dense layers of the alien vegetation. In despair, he reaches for a shotgun and blows the top of his head off, thus killing himself. A radio weather forecast announces that heavy rains are predicted, the implication being that this will accelerate the spread of the extraterrestrial plant growth to surrounding areas.
"Something to Tide You Over"
Richard Vickers, a vicious, wealthy and ruthless man whose spry jocularity belies his cold-blooded murderousness, stages a terrible fate for his unfaithful wife, Becky, and her lover, Harry Wentworth, by separately luring them out to his secluded beach property and then, at gunpoint, burying them up to their necks below the high-tide line. He explains that they have a chance of survival—if they can hold their breath long enough for the sand to loosen once the seawater covers them, they could break free and escape.
Vickers sets up closed-circuit TV cameras so he can watch them die from the comfort of his well-appointed beach house. Looking directly into the camera, Harry vows vengeance. The next day, Richard returns to the spot he buried Harry and finds the ruined camera tripod, but no sign of Harry's corpse. Later, the two lovers return as a pair of waterlogged, seaweed-covered revenants intent on revenge. Richard attempts to barricade himself in his bedroom, but they appear inside. He tries to shoot them, but the bullets have no effect. The couple tell Richard that they intend to do the same to him what he did to them. Richard finds himself buried in the beach, facing the approaching tide—and the sight of two sets of footprints disappearing into the surf. While the tide is rising, he laughs hysterically and screams: "I can hold my breath for a long time!"
Based on the short story "The Crate". A college janitor, Mike, drops a quarter and finds a wooden storage crate marked "Arctic Expedition - June 19, 1834" hidden under a staircase. He notifies Dexter Stanley, a college professor, of the find. The two decide to open the crate and it is found to contain a multi-fanged ape-like creature (Darryl Ferrucci), which despite its diminutive size promptly kills and entirely devours Mike, leaving behind only his boot. Escaping, Stanley runs into a graduate student, Charlie Gereson, who is skeptical and investigates. The crate has been moved back under the stairs and Gereson is killed by the creature as he examines the crate. Stanley flees to inform his friend and colleague at the university, the mild-mannered Professor Henry Northrup.
Stanley, now traumatized and hysterical, babbles to Northrup that the monster must be disposed of somehow. Northrup sees the creature as a way to rid himself of his perpetually drunk, obnoxious and emotionally abusive wife, Wilma, whom he often daydreams of killing. He contrives a scheme to lure her near the crate, where the beast does indeed maul and eat her. Northrup secures the beast back inside its crate, then drops it into a nearby lake, where it sinks to the bottom. He returns to assure Stanley that the creature is no more. However, it is subsequently revealed to the audience that the beast has escaped from its crate.
"They're Creeping Up on You"
Upson Pratt is a cruel, ruthless businessman whose mysophobia has him living in a hermetically sealed apartment outfitted with electric locks and surveillance cameras. His apparent contacts with the outside world are through the telephone, where people call to denounce Pratt for ruining their families, and Mr. White, a put-upon employee who is made to run errands. During a thunderstorm, Mr. Pratt finds his flat becoming overrun by hordes of cockroaches, and a rolling blackout heads his way. As the situation rapidly becomes worse, he locks himself inside a panic room, only to find the cockroaches have already infested the room as well. With no way to escape, he is swarmed by the roaches, which induces a fatal heart attack. Later, as electricity returns to the building, Pratt's corpse is shown in the panic room, now devoid of roaches. However, Pratt's body soon begins to contort as roaches burst out of his mouth and body, re-enveloping the panic room. Mr. White calls in to report but gets no answer. He then says to himself, "What is the matter, Mr. Pratt, bugs got your tongue?"
The following morning, two garbage collectors find the Creepshow comic book in the trash. They look at the ads in the book for X-ray specs and a Charles Atlas bodybuilding course. They also see an advertisement for a voodoo doll but lament that the order form has already been redeemed. Inside the house, Stan complains of neck pain, which escalates and becomes deadly as Billy repeatedly and gleefully jabs the voodoo doll, causing his father to clutch his throat in pain as Billy finally gets revenge on his father for his past abuse.
Prologue and epilogue
"The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill"
"Something to Tide You Over"
"They're Creeping Up on You"
In keeping with Romero's tradition of filming in and around the Pittsburgh area, most of the film was shot in an empty all-girls school located outside Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The school was converted into a film studio, and the episodes "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" and "They're Creeping Up on You", as well as the prologue and epilogue, were filmed in their entirety at the former school. Filming took place at the Greensburg location throughout 1981.
Several additional locations were also used for filming:
- "The Crate" — most of the interior and exterior shots for the university sequences were filmed at Carnegie-Mellon University (Romero is a Carnegie-Mellon University alumnus), with Margaret Morrison Hall serving as Amberson Hall. The backyard party was filmed in Romero's own backyard at his former residence on Amberson Avenue in Shadyside, Pennsylvania.
- "Father's Day" was filmed on location at a mansion in the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania.
- "Something to Tide You Over" was filmed on location at Island Beach State Park, Berkeley Township, New Jersey.
In a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club, Ted Danson explained the brief shot of his character drowning underwater: "So they make a little aquarium tank. I got in a wetsuit and climbed in, and somebody would reach down with an oxygen tank ventilator thingy, and I'd breathe, and then they'd take that out. And there was a yoke made out of... I don't know, wood and fake sand, so it looked like my head was buried in the sand, underwater."
Ray Mendez, an entomologist with the American Museum of Natural History, and David Brody provided 20,000 cockroaches for the segment "They're Creeping Up on You." In the final scene of the segment—in which the room is almost filled with cockroaches—many of the apparent insects were actually nuts and raisins, as specified by Tom Savini.
Creepshow was given a wide release by Warner Bros. on Wednesday, November 10, 1982. In its opening weekend, Creepshow grossed $5,870,889 from 1,127 theatres, ranking number 1 at the U.S. box office, replacing First Blood in the top spot, and had a five-day total of $8,003,017. In total it grossed $21,028,755 in the United States and Canada, making it the highest grossing horror film for the Warner Bros. studio that year.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 73% approval rating based on 37 reviews; the average rating is 6.4/10. The site's consensus reads: "It's uneven, as anthologies often are, but Creepshow is colorful, frequently funny, and treats its inspirations with infectious reverence." Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "Romero and King have approached this movie with humor and affection, as well as with an appreciation of the macabre". In his review for The New York Times, Vincent Canby wrote, "The best things about Creepshow are its carefully simulated comic-book tackiness and the gusto with which some good actors assume silly positions. Horror film purists may object to the levity even though failed, as a lot of it is". Gary Arnold, in his review for The Washington Post, wrote, "What one confronts in Creepshow is five consistently stale, derivative horror vignettes of various lengths and defects". In his review for The Globe and Mail, Jay Scott wrote, "The Romero-King collaboration has softened both the horror and the cynicism, but not by enough to betray the sources — Creepshow is almost as funny and as horrible as the filmmakers would clearly love it to be". David Ansen, in his review for Newsweek, wrote, "For anyone over 12 there's not much pleasure to be had watching two masters of horror deliberately working beneath themselves. Creepshow is a faux naif horror film: too arch to be truly scary, too elemental to succeed as satire". In his review for Time, Richard Corliss wrote, "But the treatment manages to be both perfunctory and languid; the jolts can be predicted by any ten-year-old with a stop watch. Only the story in which Evil Plutocrat E.G. Marshall is eaten alive by cockroaches mixes giggles and grue in the right measure".
The film has become a cult horror classic.‹See TfM›[failed verification] Bravo awarded it the 99th spot on their "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments", mostly for the scene with the cockroaches bursting out on Upson Pratt's body.
In the United States, Warner Bros. released a one-disc set on October 26, 1999 with the only extra feature being the film's trailer. No other special features have ever been released with the Region 1 version. The Region 1 DVD was a two-sided disc. One side was the 1.85:1 transfer (widescreen) version of the film and the other side was the full-screen version,
A two-disc Special Edition DVD of Creepshow was released October 22, 2007 in the UK. The discs feature a brand new widescreen transfer of the film sourced from the original master, a making-of documentary running 90 minutes (titled Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow), behind-the-scenes footage, rare deleted scenes, galleries, a commentary track with director George A. Romero and make-up effects artist, Tom Savini, and more. The owner of Red Shirt Pictures, Michael Felsher is responsible for the special edition, the documentary and audio commentary in particular.
On September 8, 2009, the film was released on Blu-ray. Again the only special feature is the film's trailer. Scream Factory re-released the film on Blu-ray with new special features on October 23, 2018.
Second Sight acquired the license to release a new Blu-ray in the United Kingdom. It contains all of the special features included on the special two-disc edition which was released in 2007. It also contains a new audio commentary with Director of Photography Michael Gornick, Actor John Amplas, Property Master Bruce Alan Green and make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci.
Legacy, sequels, and adaptations
The film was adapted into an actual comic book of the same name soon after the film's release, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, (of Heavy Metal and Warren magazines fame), an artist fittingly influenced by the 1950s E.C. Comics.
A sequel, Creepshow 2, was released in 1987, and was once again based on Stephen King short stories, with a screenplay from Creepshow director George A. Romero. The film contained only three tales of horror (due to budget constraints) as opposed to the original's five stories.
Another sequel, Creepshow 3, featuring no involvement from Stephen King, George A. Romero, or anyone else involved in the production of the first two films, was released direct-to-video in 2007 (though it was finished in 2006) to mostly negative reviews. This film, in a fashion similar to the original Creepshow, features five short, darkly comedic horror stories.
Taurus Entertainment (rights holders of the original Creepshow) licensed the rights to Jace Hall, of HDFILMS, a Burbank, California company, to produce Creepshow: RAW, a web series based upon the original film. The pilot episode for Creepshow: RAW wrapped on July 30, 2008. The pilot was directed by Wilmer Valderrama and features Michael Madsen. No other episodes have been produced.
Another Creepshow television series was announced in July 2018, which will be produced by Greg Nicotero and stream on Shudder. Each episode of the series will consist of two stories. On January 16, 2019, it was announced that one of the segments of the pilot episode will be based on Stephen King's short story, "Survivor Type" from his 1985 collection, Skeleton Crew. Adrienne Barbeau will return in a new role, and Tobin Bell will contribute a role. On July 19, 2019, it was announced that the series will premiere on September 26, 2019.
On August 3, 2019, Universal Parks & Resorts announced that Creepshow would be coming to Halloween Horror Nights exclusively at its Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. The maze featured three segments from the 1982 movie as well as two others from the newly made web television version for Shudder.
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- Cavanaugh, Patrick (January 16, 2019). "First 'Creepshow' Series Details Emerge About 'The Walking Dead' Director's Entry". ComicBook. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
- "Video: Shudder Releases First "Creepshow" Trailer at San Diego Comic Con, Announces September 26 Series Debut". The Futon Critic. July 19, 2019.
- Brittani Tuttle (August 3, 2019). "'Creepshow' announced for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood". Attractions Magazine.
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