At its heart, the horror-comedy anthology 'Creepshow' is a celebration and homage to the E.C. horror comics of the 1950s, such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. Bringing together two of the best-known names in the genre, George A. Romero and Stephen King, this sleeper hit from 1982 went on to spawn a sequel from a screenplay by Romero, revived interest in horror-themed comics, and made possible two television shows which followed in the same spirit, called "Tales from the Darkside" and "Monsters". The deliberately campy and kitschy movie remains a popular feature amongst fans of the genre, serving just the right ingredients of dark humor and elemental cynicism.
Weaving together five creepy tales written by King, the movie opens with a young boy (the famed author's real-life son Joe King) being punished by his abusive father for reading a horror comic. A sudden thunderstorm approaches and a howling wind picks up, rifling through the discarded comic. As the pages of the macabre book turn, the camera pushes in to reveal the first story about a deceased family patriarch exacting vengeance upon his murderous daughter Bedelia on Father's Day. That's followed by a story involving a backwoods hick engulfed by a strange plant growth from a meteor. The next is another anecdote of beyond-the-grave revenge as a husband is killed by the reanimated corpses of his cheating wife and her lover. The final two segments see a university professor use a ferocious, ancient creature locked in a crate to rid himself of his emotionally abusive wife and another in which a Howard Hughes-like business man is literally consumed by his Mysophobia. Coming full circle, the boy finally gets back at his father.
Part of what makes the film such an entertaining watch is the seriousness with which the cast members indulge their characters, of knowing just how much humanity and silliness to add to their respective roles before going over the top. These people are, after all, simple cartoon parodies, so there's plenty of room for absurdity. As with Stephen King's Jordy Verrill, a laughable performance that keeps you smiling until the grisly finale, or a young Ted Danson as the home-wrecking playboy who loses a battle of the wits to his lover's husband. Even veteran actors, Hal Holbrook and Leslie Nielson, join in on the fun as two older men only wanting to liberate themselves from those who do them wrong. But its Adrienne Barbeau's performance -- as a vicious, alcoholic wife to a demoralized and emasculated husband, who in the end, is confronted by a creature much like herself and with the same rabid mouth -- that remains memorable.
It's clear from the get-go that Romero and King approach the material with childhood abandonment and admiration for the morbid, and of the E.C. horror comics they both grew up reading as children. They spin each yarn with characters we can like and despise all at once, and with severe flaws that prove fatal. Harking back to those classic tales, their comeuppance is served on a dead, cold platter of devilish amusement and satisfaction, requiring at least a small wicked sense of humor from the audience. Be warned: poetic justice has never been so juicy, or so ghastly, as it is in these short morality plays. The caricatures of 'Creepshow' all deserve what's coming to them, including poor old Jordy Verrill, and the gruesome always tags along with the comical. Although. The Ed Harris character does seem like the odd-man out. Oh, well, it's all part of the dreadful entertainment.
The film's visuals continue the love and appreciation, with every segment commencing and ending as if culled directly from the panels of a comic book. Signaled by the use of bright colors -- chiefly reds, blues and greens -- the transition between creepy tales keeps everything amusing and easygoing. And with special make-up effects by Tom Savini, 'Creepshow' is a fun way of spending those dark, stormy nights indoors. As rumors circulate of a possible remake in the near future, horror fans ought to enjoy this classic from two masters of the genre, which made possible the reanimation of the Crypt Keeper and his weekly one-hour program of spooky stories.
Considering its age and visual style, Warner Bros. has done a pretty good job preserving the original master, as it doesn't appear to suffer too much damage. Framed in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the VC-1 encode looks rather excellent when compared to its standard definition counterpart, giving fans the best video presentation of the horror flick available.
A thin layer of film grain unobtrusively permeates the picture, for an attractive cinematic quality. Primaries receive the biggest upgrade, looking vibrant and full-bodied, while secondary hues are cleanly and correctly rendered. Contrast and brightness levels offer plenty of visible clarity and deep, true blacks, with a surprisingly pleasant depth of field. Delineation in the shadows is equally strong, and flesh tones appear natural with nice texture, especially in close-ups.
Detailing is also noticeably improved and consistent for the most part, particularly in outdoor and well-lit scenes. The image does tend to soften during those special effects sequences which reflect the movie's comic book styling. Despite these few drawbacks, as well as the occasional specks of dirt and scratches, 'Creepshow' has never looked as good as it does on Blu-ray.
Although the package indicates Dolby TrueHD 2.0, this has to be one of the best hi-rez stereo presentations I've ever heard. Faithful to the movie's original sound design, the lossless track is evenly balanced within the soundstage, exhibiting wonderful, spacious presence and cleanly rendered dynamics. The well-prioritized vocals are accompanied by discrete effects in the front channels and convincingly heard off-screen. The mix doesn't have much bass to speak of, but for the few times it's required, low frequencies provide decent weight to the action. The real surprise is the flick's musical score, which lends itself nicely into the background and creates an engagingly entertaining soundtrack for a fun movie.
Unfortunately, for the "hardcore" fans of this Romero/King classic, American audiences are once again hoodwinked into purchasing a subpar package of supplements. Looks like the UK 2-disc Special Edition still reigns supreme in terms of bonus features, what with its commentary track by Romero, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, and the very excellent 90-minute documentary entitled "Just Desserts: The Making of 'Creepshow'". Sadly, the folks on this side of the pond are merely given a standard definition trailer for the movie. No, fair, humph!
Two masters of the macabre, Stephen King and George A. Romero, joined forces to bring fans five jolting tales of terror in what became the surprise sleeper hit of 1982. 'Creepshow' is a ghoulish comedy anthology celebrating the classic E.C. horror comics of the 1950s and its popularity made possible the emergence of TV shows in the same spirit, "Tales from the Darkside" and "Tales from the Crypt". This Blu-ray edition of the movie arrives with a nicely improved audio and video presentation, but a very disappointing package of supplements. While fans will want to make the jump to this hi-def upgrade, newcomers should give this horror-favorite a rent for a fun, spooky night.
All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.
Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.