Creepshow - Blu-ray Review

'a sporadically entertaining genre curiosity from a cinematic time gone by'

With its esoteric roots in the campy, creepy comics of 1950s America, the best cultural touchstone to help guide anyone from outside the USA watching Creepshow today is probably a Treehouse Of Horror Hallowe’en special episode of The Simpsons. Like any Treehouse Of Horror, Creepshow is anthological in format, made up of a series of short stories told one after another. But in the same way that very few people are likely to pick a Treehouse Of Horror as their favourite Simpsons episode, Creepshow’s compendium structure brings about some undeniable problems that mean it’s unlikely to find its way into the upper echelons of your horror collection.

The key problem here is that the five stories told within Creepshow, despite all being penned by horror head honcho Stephen King, waver in quality. We start off with a camp-as-Christmas story of paternal revenge from beyond the grave which, whilst setting the tone and style of the film as a whole (as well as providing the unforgettable image of a young Ed Harris dancing like an embarrassing uncle after one too many sherries), ends up as somewhat underwhelming.

The second story involves a meteorite being found by a dimwitted redneck (played awkwardly by Stephen King himself), which despite being the shortest of the five is by far the most tedious, feeling at best like the weak beginning of a much better story that is never told. The third tale, despite a somewhat predictable conclusion, is the most enjoyable thanks in part to a strong turn from a youthful Ted Danson opposite a genuinely creepy Leslie Nielsen, giving by far the best performance of the whole film. Story number four is entertaining enough, but goes on for too long, stretching its premise noticeably beyond its limits. The final tale is perhaps the most memorably gruesome, whilst presenting a snapshot of a world it would be interesting to explore much further, allowing Creepshow’s anthology to go out on something of a high.

What this means is, when judging Creepshow as a unified piece of work, the film forces you to weigh up an average of the success of its separate sections. The two stronger stories are essentially dragged down by the three less impressive sequences.

Thankfully, the skilled hand tying all of this together belongs to director of the dead George A. Romero. Clearly in his element producing low-budget ironically schlocky scares such as these, Romero presents plenty of satisfying classic horror cinematography and camera work throughout. The director isn’t afraid of using on-screen graphics and animation to emphasise the pulpy inspiration for his film either, with everything from comic book framing to page turns between stories helping to build up the premise.

Guiltily enjoyable as it may be overall, Creepshow ends up feeling somewhat shallow with no real substance to any of its stories (you’ll never feel that any of them could have been fleshed out into their own feature). The spiritual and structural predecessor to the likes of Pulp Fiction and Sin City this may be, but those later films fare a great deal better in delivering multiple narratives thanks to the depth within them and a much stronger connecting thread between their stories than is ever seen in Creepshow - there’s a murky underlying moral of wrongs being righted here, but it’s never clear or robust enough to have an impact. It’s hard to imagine anything like this being made today without it becoming akin to the horror edition of Movie 43; Creepshow is therefore certainly worth a look as a sporadically entertaining genre curiosity from a cinematic time gone by, but it’s hard to recommend it as anything more.

Creepshow is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 28th October.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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