Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 23, 2016):
With 1982’s Creepshow, horror legends George Romero and Stephen King united to create an anthology of scary tales. The film breaks into five separate short stories.
Father's Day: After a lifetime of abuse, Bedelia Grantham (Viveca Lindfors) murders her father Nathan (Jon Lormer). On Father’s Day years down the road, she experiences the repercussions of this action.
While I hoped Creepshow would start with a bang, “Father’s Day” seems fairly limp. Much of this stems from a lack of real drama in the tale, as it fails to develop a narrative that ever offers much of interest. It rambles on and on without much to stimulate or scare the viewer.
The acting doesn’t help. While I don’t expect naturalistic performances, Lindfors and company go so over the top that they become a distraction, one that the story’s feeble payoff can’t overcome. At least we get to see Ed Harris in a small pre-fame role.
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill: Verrill (Stephen King) finds a meteorite and hopes he can sell it to pay bills. However, the object comes with spooky powers.
After viewing “Lonesome”, I might need to rethink my criticism of the performances found in “Father’s Day”, as they look Oscar-worthy compared to King’s embarrassing turn here. Granted, I’m sure King intended to go broad, but he lacks the inherent acting talent to make his work anything other than awful.
Perhaps if “Lonesome” offered other characters or an entertaining story, it could overcome King’s poor acting. Alas, it seems even more aimless than “Father’s Day”, as it lacks real purpose or fright. It’s a forgettable tale.
Something to Tide You Over: Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen) discovers that his wife Becky (Gaylen Ross) cheated on him. He stages revenge against Becky and her beau Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson).
After two segments with bad acting, matters improve considerably via “Tide”. Both Danson and Nielsen inhabit their roles well, as they play the drama in a satisfying manner without the campy silliness of the first two chapters.
“Tide” also offers a more compelling story than its predecessors. It delivers a scarier tale, largely because much of its seems more realistic – until its fantasy ending, of course. Even the supernatural finale works, and these components combine to make “Tide” a good effort.
The Crate: A janitor (Don Keefer) discovers an old box and brings it to Professor Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver). He opens it and unleashes a monster.
After the entertainment of “Tide”, “Crate” seems more lackluster, mainly because so much of it appears predictable. The monster side of matters plods, and the conclusion of matters feels less than satisfying.
That said, “Crate” comes with some good moments, largely via a Hal Holbrook performance that allows him to occasionally become gleefully unhinged. “Crate” works better than the first two tales but it’s not great.
They're Creeping Up on You: Wealthy businessman Upson Pratt (EG Marshall) lives an isolated life due to a severe fear of germs. This haunts him when cockroaches infest his apartment.
Of the film’s five stories, “Creeping” is the only one I actually remembered 34 years after I saw the film. Does that mean it offers the best of the bunch? Yes – it gives us the one that really puts the “creep” in Creepshow, as the swarm of cockroaches inspires many involuntary shudders.
“Creeping” also comes with one of the movie’s better performances, as Marshall really carries the day. He verges on broadness, but he makes Pratt such a delightfully nasty character that he adds zest to the proceedings. “Creeping” delivers a satisfying story of karma.
Creepshow also uses two segments to bookend the movie. The first shows the way abusive father Stan (Tom Atkins) treats his son Billy (Joe King) when the boy reads a horror comic. The epilogue lets us see Stan’s inevitable comeuppance.
These segments don’t work very well, and they serve little purpose. The film could’ve started and finished with more compelling sequences – or just left out the bookends entirely.
With its mix of good and bad stories, Creepshow lacks consistency. It gives us sporadic entertainment but it never quite lives up to its potential, especially given the presence of the horror giants behind it.