Creepshow (1982)

PLOT:

I have selflessly waded through some real crap , searching my massive stockpile of Stephen King movies for those few gems that stand a cut above the rest. I’m trying to determine which of his bad movies are bad enough to be funny, which ones don’t take themselves too seriously, which ones are scary not just for their content, but because they have production values similar to those of the cursed VHS in The Ring, and may actually be haunted.
Creepshow is one of the gems. Directed by George Romero and released the same year I was born, it has since become a cult classic and I am far from the first person to point out it’s brilliance. Creepshow is great because it hits all the highs and all the lows at once. It is hilarious, both intentionally and unintentionally. It has parts that try to be scary and fail, and parts that try to be scary and really succeed. It has laughably bad special effects and images that have haunted me for weeks. Best of all, it has great performances by unknown actors and atrocious performances by future stars.
Creepshow consists of five short stories woven together by a flimsy framework featuring Stephen King’s own son (giving possibly the worst performance by a child actor in the history of film) as a boy who can’t get enough of his horror comic books. The first story is a classic zombie revenge fable featuring a young (not that young) Ed Harris. The second is a short rip-off of The Blob featuring a one-man cast of Stephen King himself. It’s interesting to note that while his son is a bad actor on the level of Ali Larter, King himself is pretty fun to watch. He’s the only one who seems to be consciously playing this comic book movie in a comic book style. In fact, King’s cameos in all his movies have a sort of winking awareness to them, unlike Stan Lee’s cameos in all the Marvel movies, in which he seems overly enthusiastic and occasionally disoriented.
The next short features my favorite star turns of all: Leslie Neilsen versus Ted Danson. The film catches both men at turning points in their careers: Nielsen has just done Airplane, but has yet to fully embrace his transformation from dramatic actor in campy films to campy actor in brilliant comedies. He plays it his deadpan best, but you can sense his sneaking suspicion that this film, and his entire career for that matter, might soon be enjoyed only ironically. Meanwhile, Danson has recently booked Cheers and quite visibly doesn’t give a fuck about this movie. He seems barely interested in his scenes (which feature his death, reanimation, and death again) and becomes the film’s second victim of “Larterism.”.
The final short is another one-man nightmare featuring the scariest image I have seen in months, and I watch a horror movie almost every night. I can’t think of any clever way to allude to it, so I’ll just tell you: dude gets HIS WHOLE BODY FILLED WITH COCKROACHES. Now I will be the first to admit that cockroaches freak me out. A few crawling around in my apartment, let alone my body, are enough to reduce me to the physical and mental state of an 11-year-old girl meeting the werewolf from Twilight. For me, this short scene was one of my few tastes of genuine terror since I watched a live birth in 9th Grade Health.
Even if you’re not in it for the scares, or the gross effects, or the camp value, this movie is worth checking out for the IMDB credits. It’s a wonderful example of low budget horror movies as the great star-finders that they are. Doing a horror movie is one of the only ways that an unknown actor can get screen time, since horror movies are one of the few genres that don’t require stars in order to sell them; the scares themselves are the stars. Consequently you see more horror movies at the bottom of A-List resumes than soaps & commercials combined. So if that body filled with cockroaches turns you off, just think how that effect helped get this movie made, and how this movie and many like it launched the thriving careers of some of our most popular and respected stars.
Here are a few of my favorites, and the secret shames that gave them names:
Paul Rudd – Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
Johnny Depp – A Nightmare on Elm Street
Jennifer Aniston – Leprechaun
Kevin Bacon – Friday the 13th
John Travolta – Carrie
Julianne Moore – Tales from the Darkside
Doug E. Doug – Dr. Giggles

SCORING:

  • Ambition – 3

This movie is unfortunately too good to receive high marks in this category. While Leslie Neilsen and Ed Harris might be under the impression that they’re in a legitimate horror movie, it seems like both Romero and King were on the same page and knew that they were setting out to create a campy, hoky cult classic, which is exactly what they did; too self-aware to be a truly great shitty movie.

  • Presentability – 3

The star-studded cast makes for a nice “Oh my God is that Ted Danson?” factor, but the best group activity for the movie would be to get black-out drunk every time Stephen King’s son is on screen.

  • Sex/Violence – 7

Not much sex, but the cockroaches…oh man, you have to see it to believe it. A pretty freaky zombie in the first bit too, but how could you expect any less from Romero?

  • Performances – 6

I went into more detail about this in the summary, but Stephen King takes the best actor award in this movie. The other stars are either working too hard (Neilsen) or not at all (Danson, who gets bonus point for being unable to hide his boredom).

  • Datability – 9

Again, because of the stars, this is probably the most fun part about the movie. I don’t think there is any other year before or since in which these actors with very different careers would have had the time to burn a few months doing horror-comic-book-spinoffs.

  • Script – 4

Only someone who has wasted as many years of their lives watching bad movies as I have could (or would) make the distinction between hilariously shitty writing and good writing that has been intentionally crafted to appear campy and shitty. Stephen King has nicely pulled off the latter here, which is admirable, but again, doesn’t make for a genuine bad movie experience.

  • Relevance – 8

It launched a pretty terrible franchise, but more importantly several significant careers. Have I mentioned that yet?

  • Originality – 8

It’s pretty ground-breaking for a time when comic book movies hadn’t yet been done to death. Also they walk the horror-comedy line in a way that is very difficult and rarely achieved.

  • Cinematography – 6

Romero’s talent shines here, even through the terrible animated sections. The colors, the angles, everything is pure comic book, something that a few directors of later comic adaptations could stand to study.

  • Production Design – 6

Again, they play the comic book angle to the hilt. It’s like Batman and Robin gone horribly right.

TOTAL: 60

Like changing Leslie Neilsen’s diaper while he farts wetly and bemoans the demise of his legitimate acting career. Unfortunately this movie is just too good to be good at being shitty.

BETTER MOVIES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN MADE WITH THIS TITLE:

It’s a 2018 Showgirls sequel staring a time-worn Elizabeth Berkley stalking Mark Paul Gosselaar. It’s binoculars and beef-curtains…it’s CREEPSHOW!

BETTER TITLES FOR THIS MOVIE:

Nielsen Vs. Danson: Stonecold

Or: Stephen King’s How My Son Learned to Stop Acting and Love Living in My Shadow

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~ by mgjk on January 13, 2010.

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