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I've always been a fan of EC Comics' style of taking the structure of a fable or parable and put a grotesque but campy horror spin on it. Of course most audiences' entry point for anything related to EC Comics is the Tales From The Crypt series, which adapted many of the stories published under the same name by EC. Creepshow isn't directly connected to EC, but is a loving and fun homage from two kids who grew up on it and then became powerhouses in the horror genre, George Romero and Stephen King. You can't find a better combination for horror royalty, especially during the early ‘80s. Split into five short films, Creepshow is an anthology project that follows in the EC Comics' formula; setting up horrible people doing horrible things, only for supernatural karma to come back to bite them in the ass in increasingly ironic ways.
The first short is the one that resembles a campfire story the most. It's about the offspring of a dead rich man who was abusive to his family when he was alive. The greedy kids want their father's will all to themselves, so they show up at his mansion to pretend to celebrate Father's Day, also the title of the short. The grotesque undead twist is predictable, but the campy over-the-top tone, and a young Ed Harris awkwardly dancing to disco keep us entertained.
The second short goes full into slapstick mode, as a hillbilly played with perfect mugging and scenery chewing by Stephen King finds a meteor and dreams about making a fortune out of it. This is basically a live action cartoon with some R-rated violence. It's short and sweet, kind of a transitional piece.
The third short is the one that follows the typical EC Comics structure, with a bad man getting his comeuppance the same way he tortured other people. Leslie Nielsen as a psychotic rich man plans some exquisitely cruel torture for Ted Danson's character, who's sleeping with his wife. The twist is easy to predict again, but the fun Nielsen has with the sheer evilry of his character keeps things fun.
The fourth is the longest and the least effective. It's about a yeti-like creature hiding inside a crate in a university. A team of professors find the crate with increasingly violent results. There's a theme of revenge against one of the professors' (Hal Holbrook) obnoxious alcoholic wife, brought to life by Adrienne Barbeau who tries a bit too hard to come across as a cartoonish villain. This section goes on for far too long, and is anti-climactic. Tom Savini's make-up in the film is exquisite, but his design for the yeti isn't very creative.
The fifth is the best short. It's a haunting and spooky chamber piece about a cruel rich old man (The pattern of rich old men as villains concludes), played with great determination by legendary character actor E.G. Marshall, who locks himself in his clinically clean apartment because he's a germaphobe. Romero's trademark use of tension is perfect here, as the old man has to face his ultimate nightmare. Those afraid or disgusted by cockroaches might want to skip this one.
Creepshow's unique comic book aesthetic is full of sudden flood lights filling the screen with crimson, blues, and greens. So the biggest danger in the video transfer would be color bleeding. Shout Factory's new 4K scan and 1080p transfer passes that with flying colors, with distinct colors and a crisp look.
The DTS-HD 5.1 track, although lacking in a lot of surround presence, except when it comes to the gothic score, is vibrant enough to accentuate the film's self-aware goofy tone.
Commentaries: We get three informative commentaries by a wide array of cast and crew members.
Terror and the Three Rivers: A roundtable discussion with some cast and crew associated with the film. We don't get the heavy hitters here, except for Tom Savini, so for hard core fans only.
Comic Book Look: The costume designer talks about some of the over the top choices.
Ripped from the Pages: An interview with the animator who created the brief animated sequences.
Colors of Creepshow: An in-depth look into the new restoration.
Into The Mix: An interview with the sound re-recordist. Another one for hard core fans.
Mondo Macabre: Mondo, a company known for their creative posters, show off their Creepshow designs.
Collecting Creepshow: An interview with a superfan who collects Creepshow memorabilia.
Behind the Scenes: Video from the production by Tom Savini.
Horror's Hallowed Grounds: This seems to appear in every Scream Factory release. The featurette visits locations from the film and see how they changed over the years.
We also get Deleted Scenes, Trailers, TV and Radio Spots, and Still Galleries.
Even though it's not entirely innovative and is paced awkwardly thanks to the fourth short, Creepshow is the perfect choice for those looking for that spooky yet a bit goofy campfire story fun. Scream Factory presents the ultimate home video experience for fans.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com