The Joy of New Discoveries (or: Why Creepshow Kicked My Ass)

One of the best things about being a film fan (or indeed a fan of books, music or most other things) is that every once in a while, you stumble across something by accident that slaps a great big smile on your face and reminds you just why you are a fan in the first place. Over the past 12 months or so I have been happily reading Ain’t It Cool‘s essays on 25 Years Ago: The Greatest Genre Year Ever. Never anything less than enthusiastic, these articles from various fans have each reviewed a movie released in the golden year of 1982, when the planets aligned, warring Gods united and Fate conspired to provides us with a generous helping of geek classics that have withstood the tests of time better than most. Sadly I was too young and sheltered at this point in my life to enjoy these greats on the big screen, save one: E.T., which my dad took me to see at the local fleapit. The others (among them Blade Runner, Poltergeist and The Thing) I eventually caught up with on TV and video, but one article centred on a film I hadn’t come across before: Creepshow.

For whatever reason, Creepshow seems to have pretty much skulked under the radar in the UK. I’m sure it has always been well known in horror geek circles of course, but in the mainstream it appears to have stayed out of the limelight. I certainly don’t recall any broadcasts on the terrestrial TV channels, though of course it might have slipped me by. This seems odd to me: directed by George A Romero (whose ‘Dead’ films still get regular airings on TV), written by Stephen King (basically as well known in the UK as in America), and featuring a strong cast, Creepshow should be much better known than it is.

Initially I ignored this article and simply presumed it to be some obscure low-budget item in the mold of Evil Dead, but eventually I did click through and read it. The great thing about these articles is their personal nature; you can almost imagine you had the same experience in your childhood (wishful thinking on my part, sadly). Halfway through the article came a bit that grabbed my attention:

“On one such outing back in ’82, we arrived at the theater and were greeted by a poster featuring a skeleton behind a ticket counter. The tagline of the film read, “The most fun you’ll ever have being scared.” Okay. I’m in, I thought.”

For some reason that pulled me in. Now, let me just put on record my geek credentials: I like a bit of horror once in a while, but I’m no gorehound. I have so far happily avoided all of the Saws and the Hostels. Give me a sci-fi horror (Alien, The Fly), or a classic horror (Dracula, Frankenstein), or a comedy horror (Evil Dead 2, Shaun of the Dead) any day. I love old-school slashers like Halloween. Beyond that I start to wimp out, I’m sorry to say. But a film that boasts about being ‘the most fun you’ll ever have being scared’… now that sounds pretty cool. Just the image of the skeleton behind the ticket counter tickled me.

So I waited for the recent SE dvd release to drop to a fiver ( if you’re interested), and took a risk. And I loved it. This was perfect Halloween-night sleepover fun (shame it’s March…). It was funny, spooky and scary, sometimes all at the same time. When it was silly, there was an edge of eeriness, and then when it was properly scary, there was a sense of gallows humour about it. Basically, this was great entertainment, expertly crafted by writer, director, cast and crew, and I want more. Now. Please.

As I said, every so often you make a new discovery that just reminds you why films are your hobby and passion. Creepshow did that for me this month. Now, do I take a risk on Creepshow 2…?

Published by Gavin Midgley

Freelance film journalist, blogger and geek.

5 replies on “The Joy of New Discoveries (or: Why Creepshow Kicked My Ass)”

  1. I suspect a major reason why Creepshow “skulked under the radar” in Britain was that it was a rare instance of a horror film receiving an AA certificate, thus admitting over-14s (great news for me, as I was 14 at the time, and duly saw it on its cinema run) but suggesting that it might be a little too tame for hardcore fans.John Carpenter’s The Fog ran into similar difficulties, and Poltergeist was reputedly given an X at the personal insistence of Steven Spielberg, even though it was borderline A/AA (and would probably get a 12A if reissued today).How times change – now, it seems to me that most genre films get a 15, including many of the ones originally proudly sporting X certificates at the time.(Creepshow 2 was pretty terrible, though)

  2. Michael – thanks for the comment. Very interesting to learn. Hollywood horror films do tend to walk a fine line between being explicit enough for the grown-up fans but marketable enough for the teenage audience. I kind of assumed it was a recent phenomenon in these days of ‘PG-13 horror’, as it has been labelled, but I guess not.

  3. The Raft skit in Creepshow 2 is good, though.Creepshow is very uneven – partly because of Romero’s trademark rough ‘n’ ready style, but also the wildly varying quality of its stories. Most fans seem to like They’re Creeping Up on You the most, but I’ve always liked Something to Tide You Over the best. The less said about King’s performance in Jordie Verrell the better.Incidentally, if you’re a fan of the film, there’s an excellent full-length Bernie Wrightson (who provided the art panels for the film intros and outros) adaptation.

  4. I actually liked the varying stories – different tales will appeal to different people, and that’s fine. Sure, some are better than others, but I still found myself enjoying each one. Even the short ‘n’ sweet Jordie Verrell episode was fun (despite – or even because of – King’s mugging). For a film inspired by a comic, it feels somehow only right that the tales are variable in quality, style and length: most comics that feature more than one strip are much the same. That’s the beauty of it – you never know what will come along next.

  5. Enjoying the original must not get you curious for the sequels. CREEPSHOW 2 is truly, truly dire. I dare not imagine how bad the third entry must be. Life is too short to waste on such awful films.

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