While there have been a number of anthology horror movies that have tried to capture the look and feel of the old-fashioned horror comics of the 1950s and 1960s, none have managed to do it with quite the degree of panache or success as 1982’s CREEPSHOW. The result of three creative horror practitioners working at the top of their game (screenwriter Stephen King, director George Romero and make-up effects artist Tom Savini), it’s hard for those of us who saw this on its initial release to accept that the film is now over thirty years old. But you can’t keep a good horror movie down, and CREEPSHOW is about to be given a new lease of life thanks to a stunning new Blu-ray transfer, available soon from Second Sight films.
Little Billy (Stephen King’s son Joe, now of course a writer himself) gets caught by mirthless father Tom Atkins reading his Creepshow horror comic. Into the bin it goes, but that’s only the beginning of the story. The creepy host of the comic appears at Billy’s window, and a freak wind blows the lid off the bin to unfurl the comic’s pages, revealing to us the five short stories that take up the majority of the movie’s two-hour running time.
First up is Father’s Day, in which dead, rotting Nathan Grantham comes back from the grave to strangle his murderer, Aunt Bedelia (a superbly mad Viveca Lindfors, an age away from Joseph Losey’s THESE ARE THE DAMNED). In search of his Father's Day cake he bumps off as many of her immediate relatives as he can as well. It’s a great opener, featuring a splendid zombie resurrection sequence, some gorgeous use of colour filters that are all the more vivid in this transfer, and a jolly ending - I got my cake indeed!
Part of the joy of anthology films is their potential to vary in tone, and The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill is by far the lightest segment on offer here. Farmboy Jordy (Stephen King himself, no actor but giving it all he’s got) gets into trouble when he touches a meteorite that crash lands in his field. Soon grass is growing everywhere, including everywhere on Jordy. Based on an aborted King novel that was to be entitled ‘Weeds’, the story is almost a solo piece and while King tries hard, he isn’t quite up to carrying it.
Something to Tide You Over is next, and is actually my favourite segment. Rich, possessive cuckolded husband Leslie Nielson buries his wife (Gaylen Ross) and lover (Ted Danson) on the beach, allowing the incoming sea to slowly drown them. Of course, to quote a King story title ‘Sometimes They Come Back’ and in a George Romero film they’re definitely going to - as zombies.
The longest story is The Crate and features Fluffy the Arctic Monster on the rampage at a small town university, once he’s freed from the box where he’s been sleeping for nearly a hundred and fifty years. Hal Holbrook sees it as the ideal opportunity to dispose of his awful wife (Adrienne Barbeau in top comedy form) but then he has to get rid of the monster, too.
There were all kinds of problems with the filming of the last tale, They’re Creeping Up On You, mainly because it involves half a million cockroaches that invade the sterile apartment of rich, villainous Upson Pratt (E G Marshall). King’s story The Hitch Hiker (that can be seen in CREEPSHOW 2) was almost substituted instead, but fortunately everything eventually went to plan, which means you get to see the story that was intended to end the movie on a decidedly over the top and horrific note. It’s then time for a brief coda featuring Tom Savini as a dustman, and Billy getting his revenge on his dad and, that’s it - possibly the most fun you can have watching a two hour tribute to the comics of yesteryear.
Second Sight’s Blu-ray is a definite step up in quality from the previous 2007 Region 2 double disc release from Universal. Detailing is clear and sharp (it’s now possible to see just how good Savini’s Creep puppet and other creations are) and, as mentioned above, the lighting in the first story (and in The Crate) is comparable with Bava. There is some dirt visible on the frame at times and during The Crate there's some noticeable speckling on the far right of the screen. The disc offers both Stereo 2.0 and DTS 5.1 sound options, and all the extras from the previous release have been ported over. These include a commentary track with Romero and Savini, a feature length making-of entitled Just Desserts, Behind the Screams with Tom Savini - a lengthy featurette looking at how the effects were achieved, fifteen minutes of deleted scenes, a trailer, a TV spot and a slide gallery. New to this 2013 release is an extra commentary track that’s been put together by Red Shirt Productions’ Michael Felsher, who was also responsible for the extras on the 2007 disc. Felsher has done a grand job of tracking down the people who weren’t profiled in depth on the Just Desserts documentary and interviewing them. It’s these interviews with cinematographer Michael Gornick, actor John Amplas, property master Alan Green and make up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci (he’s the chap inside Fluffy as well) that make up this second commentary track, and a very welcome addition it is too.
The movie’s gorgeous transfer, coupled with every extra fans could possibly want, easily makes Second Sight’s CREEPSHOW Blu-ray the ultimate collector’s version of this classic horror movie. Highly recommended.
Second Sight are releasing George A Romero's CREEPSHOW on Region B Blu-ray on 28th October 2013 - just in time for Hallowe'en!