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Anita Verrill didn’t raise no idjits.

A house, on a street, in Anytown USA. A father (genre veteran Tom Atkins in an uncredited role) is berating his son (Joe Hill, aka Stephen King, Jr) for buying a horror comic. They argue, and Atkins throws the comic out. His son, Billy, wishing his father would ‘rot in hell’ is delighted to see a figure at his bedroom window. It’s the Creep – kinda like the Cryptkeeper, only more floaty. Transitioning gently into animation, he directs us down and into the pages of the comic, where we find our first story…

Father’s Day

In a large country house, Sylvia is awaiting the arrival of her Aunt Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors). Waiting with her are her nephew, Guy-who-does-nothing, her niece, Dancing-Cass and Cass’ husband, Ed-Harris-with-hair. Bedelia, we learn via the ever-popular flashback sequence, used to care for her father, Nathan, until one day she met herself a man. Not wanting to share his daughter, Nathan shot her lover while out hunting. This proved the final straw for Bedelia, who caved his head in with an ashtray [insert anti-smoking gag here]. Seven years later, and Bedelia has been coming to the house every father’s day to visit Nathan’s grave and dine with what’s left of her family. Arriving at the graveside, Belinda, who wears what appears to be about eighteen weasels sown together round her neck, rants at her father whilst drinking heavily. Sick of the sound of her voice, Nathan rises from his grave and strangles her. Back inside the house, Dancing-Cass is dancing, very badly, with Ed-Harris-with-hair. I guess this scene isn’t on his showreel. Ed, realising he’s dancing on camera, goes outside to look for Bedelia, and falls into Nathan’s open grave. Looking up, he sees the gravestone move, like it’s going to fall. In this situation, there are two possible options; most people would probably try to get out of the grave to avoid being crushed. Ed-Harris-with-hair chooses the other option, and stays where he is for an entire minute, watching the stone move gradually closer. Eventually, the stone falls. He is crushed. Back in the house, and Dancing-Cass is still dancing. This is what passes for character development. Sylvia, who’s probably been watching Cass dance for upwards of an hour, heads to the kitchen, where she finds the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers (clearly someone still reads du Maurier), dead, and is herself killed by zombie Nathan. Finally, Dancing-Cass stops dancing and goes with her brother to find the missing family members, only to be confronted by zombie Nathan, who has made his own cake from Sylvia’s head…

The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill

Jordy Verrill (Stephen King) is out on his farm when he sees a meteor land. Finding where it hit, and not being the brightest kid in the playground, he pokes the meteor, burning himself. Dreaming of selling it to the university, for the princely sum of $200, Jordy pours water on the rock to cool it down, but only succeeds in splitting it in two. Cursing his bad luck, he returns home to watch the wrestling, and finds that his fingers are turning green where he touched the meteor. Jordy gradually becomes more and more moss-like, a process which causes him to itch badly, so he runs himself a bath. A vision of his dead father warns him that getting the infection wet will only make it worse, but Jordy ignores him. Eventually, Jordy ends up resembling nothing so much as a green sasquatch, and shoots himself in the head, just as a weather report warns that rain is coming…

Something to Tide You Over

Richard (Leslie Nielsen) visits the home of Harry (Ted Danson), who is knocking off Richard’s wife, Becky. Warning that Becky is in danger, Richard drives Harry to a private beach, where he forces Harry at gunpoint to bury himself in the sand. With only his head above ground, Harry watches Richard leave, only to return with a TV, on which he shows live footage of Becky. She is in the same predicament, only closer to the sea. Returning home, Richard watches on remote cameras as first Becky and then Richard drown. However, later that night, they both return from the sea to wreak revenge. Pursuing Richard, the dead lovers bury him in the sand and leave him to his fate…

The Crate

A janitor at Amberson Hall drops a handful of coins, and while searching for them, finds an unopened crate under the stairs. He calls Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver), a professor, who is at a party with his colleagues Henry (Hal Holbrook) and Wilma ‘Call me Billie, everyone does’ Northrup (Adrienne Barbeau). While Dexter leaves to investigate the crate, Henry has fantasies about killing his shrewish wife. Dexter and the janitor open the crate, which, contrary to the janitor’s guess that it contains old magazines, actually has a live inhabitant. This is Fluffy, a kind of wolf / yeti hybrid. The janitor gets eaten, but Dexter flees, finding another colleague, Charlie, to whom he tells his story. Charlie is doubtful, thinking Dexter a murderer, but realises his error rather too late when he too is eaten. Dexter heads to Henry’s house, where he finds his friend alone, Wilma having left earlier. Dexter confesses all to Henry, who is less sceptical, but also sees an opportunity. He drugs Dexter and leaves a note for Wilma asking her to meet him at the college. When Wilma arrives there, Henry grabs her and feeds her to the creature, who he then locks back in the crate. Driving the crate to a nearby quarry, Henry pushes it into a lake, unaware that his attempt at containing the monster has not been successful…

They’re Creeping Up On You

Meet Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) – millionaire mysophobe who lives in a hermetically sealed, shiny white apartment. Pratt’s not a nice guy; on hearing that a business rival has committed suicide, for example, he merely laughs. Disaster strikes for Upson when he finds a cockroach in his supposedly roach-proof apartment. However, it gets much worse during a city-wide blackout, when thousands of roaches descend, flooding the whole room. Seeking refuge in his sealed bedroom proves unsuccessful and Pratt finally dies, ostensibly of fright. Eventually the power returns and, just when it seems Pratt may have imagined the whole thing, hundreds of cockroaches burst from his corpse and fill the apartment…

Returning to the wraparound story, it’s the next morning and binmen (featuring Tom Savini) are collecting rubbish. FInding Billy’s comic, they note that the voucher for a voodoo doll has been cut out. Back in the house, Billy’s father is suffering from neck pain, which gets worse as Billy is revealed upstairs stabbing his new doll…

I have a soft spot for portmanteau horror, even when it’s really bad, and I can trace this love back to Creepshow. This was one of the first VHS tapes I bought as a kid, and the first horror movie I ever owned. That being said, there are parts of this movie I really don’t like. The Jordy Verrill section is just awful – Mr King, I love your writing, but let’s keep the on-screen roles to just cameos, shall we? The other section I can’t abide is the final one, but that may be more to do with my intrinsic fear of bugs than the quality of the story. The other three sections still hold up 30 years on, and special reference must be made to Tom Savini’s practical effects make-up, which looks as good now as it always did. If you’re looking for a genuinely creepy film which will scare you – cockroaches notwithstanding – , look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a couple of hours of bright colours, over-the-top action, comedy horror and EC comics-style revenge, Creepshow‘s the way to go.

Creepshow stars Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King, Warner Shook, Robert Harper, Elizabeth Regan, Gaylen Ross, Jon Lormer and Don Keefer. It was written by Stephen King, and directed by George A. Romero.
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