Much to the chagrin of their parents, an entire generation of kids growing up throughout the s and s got their first taste of horror from ghoulish comic books like Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. The tales were twisted, the art was shockingly grotesque, and kids adored all of it. Despite the banning of such comics after senate hearings concluded they were corrupting the youth, the spirit of horror comic books lived on in the hearts of the kids who grew up reading them. Two of those kids grew up to be writer Stephen King and director George A. Romero, who pay wonderful homage to their childhood treasures in CREEPSHOW, a non-stop collection of gleefully sick and twisted horror and humor that is easily the best horror anthology film ever made.
The five stories in the film are tied together with a framing story of a young boy and the trouble he gets in over his gruesome horror comic. All of the tales hold true to their Crypt-influence, with sordid characters, grim violence, and ultimately conclude with an ironic or shocking twist ending. Dead things come back to life, creatures tear people apart, and the bad guys — regardless of whether they’re just side characters or even the hero of the story — get what’s coming to them. There’s even a brief appearance by a ‘host’ character, based on Tales From the Crypt’s Cryptkeeper.
The host character (named ‘The Creep’), along with all of the film’s effects, were created by splatter-master Tom Savini. Savini, who also has a small role in the film as a garbage man, did some of his best work for CREEPSHOW, and even cites the creature from the story ‘The Crate’ as his favorite of all of his creations. Savini’s work in the film perfectly captures the garish nature of the gore from the s comics, his contributions to the film are solid throughout each of the five stories.
King’s script is both irreverent and happily macabre, and Romero’s directorial skill really shines through. He truly manages to recreate the look and feel of comic book panels, even utilizing those very panels for numerous shots in the film. Even technically speaking, CREEPSHOW is a masterpiece. The lighting in the film is astounding, full of brash color, and the sound effects give the film an impressively tangible quality often lacking in horror; especially in today’s bland market. Backing all of it is one of the most creepy and compelling scores of the film’s era, utilizing both orchestral work and synthesizers to create a truly unique sound.
Most horror anthology films generally fail for one reason or another. Often, the fault lies in unbalanced stories. In many films, one particular story will come across very strong while the others fail to impress. What is so extraordinary about CREEPSHOW is that no one story stands out above the others in terms of overall quality (although viewers will no doubt develop a favorite of the five). Each of these tales would work fine standing on its own as a cinematic horror short story, but culled together, the five tales seem to compliment one another. The wraparound story of the young boy (played by Stephen King’s own son) further solidifies the film’s sense of completeness, leaving the viewer feeling truly satisfied at the film’s conclusion.
Long before the TALES FROM THE CRYPT movies and TV show, Stephen King and George Romero struck gold with this truly remarkable blend of dark humor and horror. Bleakly humorous and deliciously grim, CREEPSHOW is a classic horror comic come-to-life, and could quite be, as its tagline states, ‘the most fun you’ll ever have being scared.’