In the early ‘50s, Entertaining Comics (more commonly known as EC Comics) made waves in the world of comic books. Though they told stories of war, science fiction, and crime, EC was best known for their series of horror with Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear. The sensationalized covers of these comic books drew the attention of young readers to their books but it also drew the attention of prudish adults who saw these tales of terror as a gateway to juvenile delinquency. The backlash prompted by Dr. Frederick Wertham’s The Seduction of the Innocent led to congressional hearings over comic book violence and eventually caused EC to be starved out of business, though it would survive in the form of Mad Magazine. The tragic irony to this whole situation is that EC Comics weren’t just trashy pulp stories that glorified horrific violence, but instead featured a strong sense of moralism as their horrific conclusions focused on making sure that those who were evil got their comeuppance.
Though shortlived, EC Comics left a lasting legacy on horror fans, a legacy that continues to endure. In 1982, director George A. Romero, the mastermind behind the classic Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, teamed with beloved horror author Stephen King to create their own cinematic homage to EC Comics with Creepshow. Long a cult classic, Creepshow now arrives on Blu-ray with a stunning new edition from the good people at Scream Factory, the horror imprint of Shout! Factory. Scream Factory pulled out all the stops on this new edition of Creepshow with a gorgeous 4K scan of the original camera negative, new audio commentaries, new featurettes, and a colorful booklet with essays by former Fangoria editor-in-chief Michael Gingold. This is one of the most impressive sets ever released by Scream Factory (and that’s saying something!) and it is an absolute must-own for fans of Romero, King, and their little masterwork Creepshow.
The film doesn’t hide its comic book roots, featuring bookend segments of a child (Joe King) reading horror comics and his father (Tom Atkins) lambasting him for reading such violent filth. Then the film unfolds in a number of short stories in classical EC style.
The first two segments of Creepshow are fun and establish the tone of the movie before it ramps up into its crazed peaks. “Father’s Day” really has that EC vibe where a murder no matter how long buried can always rise from the grave. The second segment is “The Lonely Death of Jordy Verrill” and it’s dynamically shot by Romero and cinematographer Michael Gornick. Stephen King isn’t much of an actor, playing the hillbilly in such an over-the-top manner that it’s more campy fun than outright horror. All of which is perfectly fine in keeping with this film’s off-kilter tone.
The final three segments of Creepshow are flat out great. In “Something to Tide You Over” Leslie Nielsen plays Richard Vickers, a wealthy man driven mad by jealousy when his wife Becky (Gaylen Ross) is having an affair with the younger, more virile Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson). Richard arranges to have her buried up to her neck in sand on the shore of his private beach, the tide slowly coming in to drown her. After making Harry watch, he commits Harry to the same watery grave as Becky. As we’ve already seen, nothing stays buried in this particular world of horror.
An ancient evil is unearthed in the hallowed halls of academia in “The Crate.” Some ghastly killing beast that has lie dormant since 1834 begins wreak havoc in a small little corner of a prestigious university. When asked to help with the deadly situation and an unwieldly beast, Professor Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook) uses it as a scheme to get rid of his obnoxious, spiteful drunk of a wife (Adrienne Barbeau). It seemed like a good idea at the time but these sorts of ting never unfold as tidily intended.
Finally, in the fifth and final segment of Creepshow, Romero and King deliver a tale that is sure to make your skin scrawl as you squirm in your seat with “They’re Creeping Up on You.” Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) is a titan of business, a master of the universe who wields enormous influence over the world by the power of the markets. The only weakness to his gruff, unforgiving exterior is a fear of germs and bugs. He lives in an apartment that sealed off, pristine white and free from insects. That is, until he notices one little bug. Then another one. Then thousands. It’s a nightmare scenario and one that provides the perfect conclusion for Creepshow…or does it? There’s a wild little epilogue that closes out the tense relationship between father and son that starts the film while still paying homage to the pages of the books that inspired it.
Creepshow is special not because it’s an extended homage to EC Comics (though that doesn’t hurt) but what stands out is the way these shorts are captured in style that reflects their inspiration, almost eerily so. Romero and cinematographer Michael Gornick twist and turn the camera during the big twists, often employing exaggerated Dutch angles as the lighting behind the characters shift from standard to hyper-stylized bursts of color. It wouldn’t be so wild if it turned out Wally Wood, Joe Orlando, or Jack Davis (famed EC artists) wound up doing the storyboards for Creepshow. Well before comic book movies became a pop culture craze that has dominated the box office, George Romero was capturing that feel on film in service to a glorious homage to horror’s comic book roots.
George A. Romero was known for working with the same people time and time again, creating a family of filmmaking collaborators. This family includes the great makeup artist Tom Savini, who did the effects for Romero’s legendary zombie film Dawn of the Dead. Here Savini continues to up his game and in so many different ways, creating bloodcurdling beasts from beyond or rotted corpses seeking revenge. All of which operates in unison to the comic book stylings that Romero and Gornick are creating with the camera.
This brand new edition of Creepshow has everything a horror fan could want in collector’s edition. It has a vintage audio commentary with Romero and Savini as well as a new commentary with cinematographer Michael Gornick. There are a number of new and vintage featurettes and interviews with the cast and crew. Rare deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage. In each of these special features you’re given great, often hilarious anecdotes and a loving homage to the legacy of George A. Romero from his collaborators.
Scream Factory has been the gold standard in horror reissues for some time, but this edition of Creepshow ups their game to a whole new level. It revives a colorful genre classic with a pristine new transfer and an array of special features. The legacy of EC Comics has lived on with Tales from the Crypt being a long-running HBO series (with a reboot supposedly in the works) but it was Creepshow that was at the forefront of remembering those horror comics with a unique moralistic streak to counteract their sensationalized covers. EC Comics were wrongfully taken from us too soon by greedy forces. However, in true EC fashion, they rose from the grave and continue to haunt us in reprinted books and the fantastic homage of Creepshow.
A glorious, colorful homage to the legendary horror stories of EC Comics, George A. Romero and Stephen King collaborated on the anthology horror film Creepshow, which now gets a comprehensive special edition from Scream Factory overflowing with special features and a gorgeous new 4K transfer.