|Directed by||George A. Romero|
|Produced by||Richard P. Rubinstein|
|Screenplay by||Stephen King|
|Music by||John Harrison|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|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, Carrie Nye, E. G. Marshall, and Viveca Lindfors 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 Hopkins[a] (Joe Hill) gets disciplined by his abusive father Stan (Tom Atkins) for reading a horror comic titled Creepshow. After swiping the comic from Billy and throwing it in the garbage, Stan tells his wife (Iva Jean Saraceni) that he has to be hard on Billy because he does not want their son to read 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 film transitions to animation as the Creep removes the lid from the trash can, transitioning to the first story.
The first story, "Father's Day," is an original story by King written for the film.
Sylvia Grantham (Carrie Nye) gathers with her nephew Richard (Warner Shook), niece Cass (Elizabeth Regan), and Cass's new husband Hank (Ed Harris) at their estate for their annual dinner on the third Sunday in June. They proceed to tell Hank about the current family matriarch, Great Aunt Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors) and about her father, the former patriarch, the miserly and domineering Nathan Grantham (Jon Lormer), who accumulated the family's fortune through bootlegging, fraud, extortion and murder-for-hire.
Seven years earlier, Bedelia was rendered an unstable spinster as the result of a lifetime spent putting up with her father's incessant demands and emotional abuse, which only got worse after he suffered a stroke and she was made to nurse him full time. The abuse culminated in his orchestrating the murder of her sweetheart Peter Yarbro (Peter Messer) to keep her under his thumb. That Father's Day, Bedelia, having been driven into a murderous rage by his constant demanding for his cake, bludgeons her father to death with a marble ashtray (that is hidden throughout the other stories).
In the present, Bedelia arrives at 6 PM 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 and how Sylvia helped stage it as an accident to steal and distribute his fortune to the rest of the family. After she accidentally spills her whiskey bottle in front of the headstone, Nathan's putrefied, maggot-infested corpse (John Amplas) emerges from the burial plot in the form of a revenant, still demanding the Father's Day cake he never got. Grantham slowly avenges himself on Bedelia, strangling her to death. He moves on to kill the rest of the Granthams, murdering Hank with a falling gravestone, murdering Mrs. Danvers (Nann Mogg) the cook, and twisting Sylvia's neck. As a gruesome final joke, Nathan surprises Cass and Richard by presenting 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".
Returning to animation, the Creep turns the comic's page to the next story.
"The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill"
This section of the film is based on King's short story "Weeds".
Jordy Verrill (Stephen King), a dimwitted backwoods yokel, watches a meteorite crash land near his farm. Observing the crash site, Jordy gets his fingers burned when he tries to touch the meteorite. In a fantasy sequence, Jordy imagines selling the meteor to the local college's "Department of Meteors", hoping the sale will provide enough money to pay off his $200 bank loan. Taking precautions, he douses it with a bucket of water, causing it to crack open and spill a glowing blue liquid. In another fantasy sequence, Jordy imagines the Department of Meteors refusing to purchase the broken meteorite. Resolving to try and glue the halves together in the morning, Jordy nonchalantly dumps the liquid inside the meteor into the soil, but not before it makes contact with his skin.
As time passes, Jordy finds his fingers being overcome by a rapidly spreading plant-like organism. He attempts to call a doctor (Bingo O'Malley), but stops when he imagines (in another fantasy sequence) that the doctor will end up chopping the afflicted fingers off without anesthetic. Over time, the plants continue to grow all over Jordy's farm, everything Jordy has touched, and on Jordy's body, causing him to itch furiously. In a panic, Jordy pours himself a bottle of vodka, mixes it with orange juice, and falls asleep in a drunken stupor.
He wakes up sometime later, believing it to have been a dream. But his hopes are dashed when he sees that the plants have managed to grow inside the house and discovering in a mirror that he has now grown a beard of plants. He starts to draw a bath to relieve the itching, but he is visited by the ghost of his deceased father (Bingo O'Malley) who appears in his mirror and warns him against doing so ("You ain't going to get in that tub, are ya? It's the water that it wants, Jordy. Don't you know that? You get in that tub Jordy, you might as well sign your death warrant!"). Jordy, grimly rationalizing that not getting in would only delay the inevitable, laments on how "[he's] a goner already." When the itching from the growth on his skin becomes unbearable, Jordy succumbs to temptation and collapses into the bathwater.
The next morning, Jordy's farm has been completely covered with dense layers of the alien vegetation, with Jordy himself now transformed into a plant monster. In despair, he reaches for a shotgun, prays to God, and blows the top of his head off, thus killing himself. Immediately afterwards, a TV weather forecast announces that moderate temperatures and heavy rains are predicted, the implication being that this will accelerate the spread of the extraterrestrial plant growth to surrounding areas to the point where the Earth may be terraformed into an entirely green planet.
Returning to animation, a gust of wind turns the comic book's page (briefly passing over an advertisement for a voodoo doll that is missing its order form) to the next story.
"Something to Tide You Over"
This story was also written specifically for the film.
Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen), a vicious, wealthy, ruthless man whose spry jocularity belies his cold-blooded murderousness, pays a visit to Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson), the man his wife Becky (Gaylen Ross) is having an affair with. Rather than confront him with violence, Richard plays a recording of Becky's voice tearfully begging Harry to help her. Richard and Harry travel to Comfort Point, Richard's private beachfront estate, where Richard points out what appears to be a burial mound in the sand, Harry runs to it, whereupon Richard holds him at gunpoint, telling him to jump into the hole and bury himself.
Richard finishes burying Harry up to his neck in the sand below the high-tide line. He also sets up a closed-circuit TV camera, a VCR to record Harry, and a monitor that displays Becky, who is also buried up to her neck further down the beach and already having the tide wash over her face. Richard explains that the two of them 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. With that, Richard abandons Harry and returns to Comfort Station, his lavish beach house, where he watches Harry and Becky die in comfort and luxury. Before he is completely submerged by the advancing tide, Harry looks directly into the camera and vows revenge on Richard.
Hours later, Richard returns to the spot he buried Harry to collect the tape. He finds the ruined monitor, but no sign of Harry's corpse, though he writes this off as the body being carried away by the current. Later that night, Richard seems to hear voices calling his name as well as observing some unseen force bypassing the many security measures he has in place. The culprits happen to be Harry and Becky, the two lovers returning as a pair of waterlogged, seaweed-covered zombies intent on revenge. Richard tries to shoot them, but the bullets have no effect. Richard attempts to barricade himself in his bedroom, but they manage to appear inside. All the while, the couple taunt Richard with the same words he said to them.
Richard soon finds himself on the beach, buried up to his neck, facing both the approaching tide and the sight of two sets of footprints disappearing into the surf. With the same seaweed-covered camera he used to record Harry's death recording him, Richard laughs insanely and screams how he can hold his breath "for a long time" as the rising tide begins to wash over him.
Returning to animation, a stronger gust of wind blows the comic book out of the trash can and onto the street, where it opens to the next story.
This section of the film is based on the short story of the same name.
Mike Latimer (Don Keefer), a janitor at the prestigious Horlicks University, drops a quarter which rolls behind a grate under a basement staircase. While attempting to retrieve it, he comes across a wooden storage crate marked "Ship to Horlicks University via Julia Carpenter - Arctic Expedition - June 19, 1834" hidden underneath the staircase. He calls Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver), a biology professor, to notify him of the find, drawing Dexter away from a faculty social gathering. Also at the gathering is Dexter's good friend and colleague, the mild-mannered Professor Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook), who witnesses his perpetually drunk, obnoxious, and emotionally abusive wife Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau), whom he often daydreams of killing, annoy the guests and embarrass both herself and Henry at the gathering.
Meeting Mike at Amberson Hall, Stanley helps him remove the crate and move it into a nearby lab. While attempting to open it, Mike sticks his hand inside the crate and begins yelling in pain. The crate briefly opens to reveal that it contains a shaggy, ape-like creature with sharp fangs (Darryl Ferrucci). Despite its diminutive size, the creature promptly kills and entirely devours Mike, leaving behind only his mangled boot. Running from the lab, Dexter bumps into graduate student Charlie Gereson (Robert Harper), who he frantically tells about what has happened. While skeptical, Charlie agrees to investigate. The two return to the lab to find it covered in blood, with both the crate and the creature gone. They find that the crate has been moved back under the stairs, where they also find Mike's boot. Wanting to measure the bite marks on the boot, Charlie examines the crate closer. Unfortunately, the creature pounces on Charlie, killing him as Dexter flees and takes the boot with him.
Traumatized and hysterical, Dexter runs to Henry's house after Wilma leaves for the evening. He relates everything that has happened since the crate was discovered, and argues that the monster must be disposed of somehow. Seeing the creature as a way to rid himself of his wife, Henry appears to believe Dexter's story. To that end, Henry concocts a scheme to lure Wilma near the crate. He spikes Dexter's drink with sleeping pills, writes a note describing the fake assault of a college student by Dexter to lure Wilma into Amberson Hall, and cleans up all evidence of blood from the lab. When Wilma arrives, Henry lures her under the basement stairs where the monster seems to be unresponsive. When Wilma begins ranting at Henry for his stunt, the beast mauls and eats her.
The next morning, Henry describes to Dexter how he secured the beast back inside its crate, then dumped the crate into a nearby quarry where it sinks to the bottom. He assures Dexter that the creature has drowned and they will let the authorities handle the disappearances. However, it is subsequently revealed to the audience that the beast is still alive, and is last seen tearing the crate apart.
Returning to animation, it begins raining as the comic book turns to the next page, beginning the final story.
"They're Creeping Up on You!"
This last story was also written specifically for the film.
Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) is a cruel, wealthy, and ruthless business mogul who suffers from mysophobia, which has him living in a luxurious, futuristic, and hermetically-sealed penthouse apartment outfitted with electric locks and surveillance cameras. His apparent contacts with the outside world are primarily through the telephone and are mostly made to put-upon employees. One stormy night, Pratt receives a call from George Gendron, one of his subordinates, about the fact that his company (Pratt International) has recently bought the Pacific Aerodyne company in a corporate takeover. Gendron also informs Mr. Pratt that the takeover caused a business rival, Norman Castonmeyer, to commit suicide, much to Pratt's delight.
During the call, Pratt slowly begins finding cockroaches around his apartment. A fanatical insect hater, Pratt arms himself with bug spray in an attempt to rectify the situation. Before long, someone manages to get through on Pratt's private line. The caller turns out to be Norman Castonmeyer's widow Lenore (Ann Muffly) who tearfully recalls her husband's final moments and hysterically curses out Pratt for causing his death. After finding pieces of cockroaches in his food processor, Pratt receives a call from his building's landlord Carl Reynolds (Mike Tierno). Despite calling during his vacation in Orlando, Florida, Pratt forces Reynolds to send handyman Mr. White to call an exterminator under the threat of firing him.
Soon after, Pratt discovers more cockroaches in a box of cereal, trying and failing to crush any that he can. Mr. White (David Early) soon arrives outside Pratt's door, mockingly speaking in a stereotypical minstrel voice while talking to Pratt to mention that he is calling fumigators. Afterwards, a rolling blackout heads towards the building. During the blackout, cockroaches numbering in the hundreds of thousands begin pouring out of every nook and cranny in Pratt's apartment. As the situation rapidly becomes worse, Pratt activates the emergency power and attempts to call the police for assistance. Unfortunately, the police are unable to be of any help because of the blackout, nor is Mr. White who is stuck in the elevator.
At his wit's end, Pratt locks himself inside a climate-controlled panic room to escape the growing swarm of cockroaches only to get another call from Lenore who continues to curse at him. Pratt also discovers that the cockroaches have already infested the panic room as well. With no way to escape, he is overwhelmed by the cockroaches, which induces a fatal heart attack.
When electricity returns to the building, the apartment is now devoid of cockroaches. Pratt's corpse is shown in the panic room, where Mr. White calls in to report, but gets no answer. Mr. White mockingly quotes "What's the matter, Mr. Pratt? Bugs got your tongue?" However, Pratt's body soon begins to contort as cockroaches burst out of his mouth and body, re-enveloping the panic room. Mr. White continues to call his name to get a response and then quotes "bastard".
Returning to animation, a final gust of wind blows the comic book further down the street, where it lands on a nearby curb.
The following morning, two garbage collectors (Marty Schiff and Tom Savini) find the Creepshow comic book on the curb. They look at the ads in the book for X-ray specs and a Charles Atlas bodybuilding course. They also see the advertisement for the voodoo doll that was briefly glimpsed earlier, but lament that the order form has already been redeemed.
Inside the house, Stan complains to his wife that he is suffering from neck pain, figuring that he must have sprained it. Upstairs, Billy is revealed to have sent away for the voodoo doll seen earlier and has decorated it with a piece of his father's clothing and some of his hair. Stan clutches his throat in pain as Billy repeatedly and gleefully jabs the voodoo doll with a pin, finally getting revenge on his father for his past abuse.
Transitioning to animation for a final time, the images of Billy jabbing the doll becomes the cover of the next issue of Creepshow. The Creep is seen holding the same comic book, laughing sinisterly as a candle goes out.
Prologue and epilogue
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill
Something to Tide You Over
They're Creeping Up on You
- Although not outright stated, Billy's last name can be briefly seen on the package that the Voodoo Doll came in at the end, implying the family's last name is Hopkins.
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 74% approval rating based on 38 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.[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 was produced by Greg Nicotero and streamed on Shudder. Each episode of the series consisted 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. The series spawned a tie-in novel from Scholastic Books entitled Creepshow: The Taker, featuring two novellas inspired from the show. A follow-up novel is scheduled for release in April 2021, entitled Creepshow: The Cursed, also featuring two novellas inspired from the show. On October 30, 2019, the series was renewed for a second season, which premiered on April 1, 2021. On February 18, 2021, the series was renewed for a third season.
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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