Re:Visiting – Stephen King’s Creepshow (1982) // Creepshow 2 (1987)

Creepshow (1982) is the darkly comic Cult-Horror anthology film, that brought together a number of macabre tales dragged from the deepest depths of master author Stephen King’s imagination. The movie marked King’s debut foray into screen writing, and was directed by legendary zombie-genre filmmaker George A. Romero (Night Of The Living Dead / Dawn Of The Dead), with each story being served with a wicked dollop of dark humour, and some grotesquely visceral body-horror delivered by master B-Movie practical F/X wizard Tom Savini (Friday The 13th).

The movie is a bonafide cult classic, created in homage to the vintage Pulp-Horror comics of the fifties, such as Tales From The Crypt and The Vault Of Horror. Following the film’s success, Romero would follow up and write the screenplay for Creepshow 2 (1987), a sequel based on three further short stories of King’s. But would hand directing duties over to Michael Gornick, who had previously worked on episodes in another Horror anthology series Tales From The Darkside (1983 – 1988), which again featured works from Stephen King among other writers.

Creepshow bookends it’s segments with a wrap around story of an abusive father, who gets his comeuppance after scolding his son Billy (played by King’s son Joe Hill), after catching him reading the Horror comic, before confiscating the material and giving him a stern lecture about the contents depravity. And Billy then returns in animated form, gaining revenge on his bullies as Creepshow 2’s wrap around story is played out in an incredibly eighties, Dungeons & Dragons style cartoon.

Both Romero and King’s involvement with Creepshow would end with the second movie, although King’s work would continue to provide inspiration and material for other anthology Horror films and series, such as Tales From The Darkside (1990) and Nightmares & Dreamscapes (2006). Creepshow itself would however return to our screens with a second sequel, when the rights were acquired by the Taurus Entertainment Company (Sleepaway Camp / Day Of The Dead). And despite Creepshow III (2006) being panned by both critics and fans alike, the production company returned with the franchise providing a present day TV series hosted by Shudder, which so far since 2019 has run for three seasons.

But in taking a look back at those first two classic movies from the eighties … here is a synopsis for each grisly segment :

Father’s Day (1982)

In typical Romero style, Father’s Day tells the story of the deceased abusive patriarch of a rich family, who returns from the dead in search of the Father’s Day cake he was demanding from his children on the day of his murder, and features a young looking Ed Harris (The Abyss / The Truman Show). One particularly memorable scene, in which the heavily decomposed father claws his way out of the grave and strangles his murdering daughter (who is sobbing at his headstone on the anniversary of his death), is wonderfully filmed and pure vintage Romero.

As the night draws in Ed Harris takes a walk down to the grave in an elegantly shot scene bathed in a smoky blue haze, and is killed as he stumbles into the open hole, with the grave stone falling and crushing him to death. Father then makes his way to the house to take revenge on the rest of his family, in what is a wickedly twisted zombie tale, which nicely sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verril (1982)

Stephen King himself stars as a dim witted farm boy, who one night stumbles across a fallen meteor, that narrowly misses him as it falls from the sky. With hope of selling it to the local university, he attempts to retrieve the meteor from its smouldering hole, where it burns his fingers and oozes a green sludge from its core. He decides to leave it until the morning and settles down for a night with a beer in front of the TV. But to his astonishment his fingers start to grow green fur, and after he puts his hand to his mouth, his tongue also starts to sprout the intergalactic hair.

As the night draws on, everywhere the ooze has dripped and everything he touches starts spawning the alien fuzz, and as he is unable to control the itching that consumes his body, he also starts spreading the parasite all over himself. He finally takes a bath in an attempt to wash the fur from his body, but discovers that water only accelerates its growth, and all that’s left is for him to crawl towards his shot gun and aim it to his head. Stephen King has never really been renowned for his acting skills, and although he appeared in many cameo’s throughout his movies, this is probably his most prominent role, with the odd-ball performance nicely fitting the story.

Something To Tide You Over (1982)

A murderous tale of revenge featuring the greatest cast of the movie, as the philandering Ted Danson (Cheers) is visited by Lesley Nielsen (The Naked Gun), who confronts him for having an affair with his wife. Nielsen plays him a tape recording of the distressed woman, and demands that Danson comes down to his beach house with him, or he’ll never see her again. Once at the beach Nielsen takes him to a hole he has dug and pulls a gun on him, ordering him into the sandy grave, before burying him up to his neck.

Nielsen produces a TV screen which shows his wife buried further along the beach in a hole of her own, with the tide coming in engulfing her head with each wave, and he leaves Danson to his own similair fate. But as Neilsen retreats to his home to watch both murders play out on a surveillance screen, he soon discovers that the dead don’t always stay that way. And later that night he is paid a watery visit from beyond the grave, and must face up to his own mortality.

The Crate (1982)

A tale of a long suffering husband who fantasies about killing his alcoholic wife, grabbing the opportunity when fate deals him a hand. Dexter (Fritz Weaver Marathon Man) is a professor in zoology, who is alerted to a mysterious crate that a janitor unearths at his university. The pair pain stakingly remove the lid of the crate, but awake a beast inside which devourers the janitor with some grisly Body-Horror filmed by Romero. Dexter manages to escape and heads to his colleague Henry’s (Hal Holbrook All The President’s Men), to tell him what’s happened.

Henry drugs his terrified friend to calm him down, and heads over to the university to check-out his story. His abusive wife Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog) returns home to find that her husband has left her a note, asking her to come down and meet him at the university. When she arrives, he pushes her to her death inside the lair of the monster, before cleaning up the bloodbath and disposing of the crate by throwing it deep into a watery quarry. But we see a final shot of the submerged crate bursting open, revealing the eyes of the glaring monster as it makes its escape.

They’re Creeping Up On You (1982)

Set in the near future, E.G Marshall (12 Angry Men) plays Upson Pratt, an elderly shark of a businessman who has extreme OCD, and works from his clinical and sterile penthouse department. His home slowly starts to become infested with cockroaches over the course of an evening, in which we learn an employee of his has taken his own life, and his own sanity appears to be on a downward spiral.

During the course of the night he receives a venomous phone call from the widow of his deceased associate, blaming him for the suicide, before he calls to arrange the visit of a bug exterminator. But his obsession with the cockroaches accelerates, as the apartment becomes over run with the creatures. And when the exterminator gets trapped in the apartment buildings elevator, Upson is left to battle the insects on his own, where a truly horrifying fate awaits him.

Old Chief Wood N Head (1987)

In the declining small rural town of Dead River, an elderly couple Ray (George Kennedy Cool Hand Luke) and Martha (Dorothy Labour Road To Bali) keep their local store running despite the lack of customers. Ray has a statue of wooden Indian Chief that sits on the shops front porch, which he lovingly talks to and touches up with paint each day. They are visited by a local Navaho man, who is ashamed at the debt he and his family owe the store, bringing them a haul of treasured jewellery to hold until they are able to pay their debt, which Ray promises to guard with his life.

A gang of local robbing youths then descend on the store, terrorising and murdering the harmless couple as they relieve them of the treasure. But as the three killers retreat back to their homes, a magic stirs within the Indian statue, and it comes to life seeking revenge in a classic slasher-style. Providing a final act of vengeance for the old couple, which includes the statue relieving ring leader Holt McCallany (Mindhunter) of the pride and joy that is his long flowing hair, in a traditional bloody Navajo scalping!

The Raft (1987)

A fine imagining of one of the stand out tales in Stephen King’s second published collection of short stories The Skeleton Crew (1985). The Raft tells the tale of two teenage couples, who drunkenly decide to drive out to a deserted lake and swim to a wooden raft in the middle. However once there they discover something deadly is lurking in the water below, and become stranded from the safety of the shore.

They soon find themselves fighting for survival against something reminiscent of The Blob from the classic Sci-Fi / Horror movie of the same name, a dark and gloopy looking presence not of this earth, which surrounds their sanctuary and has the ability to devourer and consume anything it touches. Once again Tom Savini’s horrific practical effects are given time to shine in this stand out story of the series, as the deadly threat begins to slowly pick them off one by one.

The Hitchhiker (1987)

The Hitchhiker follows bored housewife Annie (Lois Chiles Moonraker), as she travels home at night after spending the evening in the bed of a gigolo. She loses control of her vehicle after dropping a cigarette, and plows straight into a vagrant male who was walking along the road, seemingly knocking him dead. With the headlights of another vehicle approaching, she flees from the scene leaving the body to be discovered by a passing trucker (Stephen King in cameo mode). As Annie drives on, she debates whether she will be able to live with what she’s done, or whether she must confess and turn herself in.

But soon she passes what appears to be the same male walking down the road, only this time he is covered in blood! The living corpse suddenly appears, knocking on her window … “How you doing lady? Thanks for the ride!” She speeds off before stopping to compose herself, when a hand suddenly comes through her sunroof proclaiming again, “Thanks for the ride lady!” A game of cat and mouse ensues as the zombified Hitcher stalks her home, and as the story progresses he becomes more and more decomposed as Annie uses her car as a weapon each time, to try and shake him off.

Words by – Mark Bates


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