Creepshow (Home Video Review)

Starring Tom Atkins, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau

Directed by George A. Romero

Distributed by Scream Factory


The melding of two creative geniuses does not always bear delicious fruit, but when those two masterminds are director George A. Romero and author Stephen King – and an unbridled passion for all things horror generates that meld – magic did indeed happen. Sharing a love of EC Comics’ horror tales and subsequent anthology films, Tales from the Crypt (1972) and The Vault of Horror (1973), King and Romero set about to create a wholly unique horror experience – one that set the bar for horror anthology films (to which only Trick ‘r Treat (2007) has come close). The ensuing film, Creepshow (1982), is the cinema equivalent to lightning in a bottle. Romero and King, who wrote the screenplay, were two of the film’s four essential players – the others being FX legend Tom Savini and director of photography Michael Gornick. Together, these four produced one of the few comic book-inspired films that looks like a comic come to life. Colors! Panels! The lighting, color palette, splashy FX work, and caricature acting all combine to make Creepshow one of horror’s most distinct and enduring films.

We all know these stories inside and out, right? Tom Atkins plays a tough father in the wraparound, cursing his son, Billy (Joe King; yes, Stephen’s son), for reading “horror crap”. “Father’s Day” introduces viewers to the Grantham clan, their penchant for drinking and dopey dancing, and Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors), who arrives late to lay flowers at the grave of her father (Jon Lormer), whom she murdered years ago. But this year daddy wants out of the grave for a piece of his Father’s Day cake. In “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”, our eponymous lead, played by Stephen King, finds a meteorite on his property and collects it, hoping to score a big cash payout. Instead, he finds his property and himself overcome by fast-growing foliage spawned from ooze leaking from his find. “Something to Tide You Over” sees Leslie Nielsen in a gallows humor role as Richard, a jilted husband who plays a nasty game with his wife, Becky (Gaylen Ross), and her lover, Harry (Ted Danson), only to have the tide turn (sure, pun intended) when the two reunite to give Richard a dose of his own medicine.

My personal favorite segment is “The Crate”, wherein two university professors – Henry (Hal Holbrook) and Dexter (Fritz Weaver) – are alerted to a mysterious crate tucked beneath the basement stairs. Inside, a ravenous creature lurks, waiting to rip the flesh from any unlucky person nearby. Dexter sees the creature as an abomination, while Henry sees an opportunity to finally rid himself of his obnoxious drunk of a wife, Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau). Finally, “They’re Creeping Up on You” presents Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall), a rude and reclusive New York businessman who is obsessed with cleanliness and ridding his immaculate apartment of germs and bugs. While rolling blackouts leave most of the city in the dark, Pratt spends his night fastidiously eradicating a new horde of cockroaches infesting his place, though he soon learns when you see one cockroach it means there are countless more within the walls. The picture then wraps up the wraparound segment, to the dismay of militant parents everywhere.

This is a film I can watch over and over and never tire of seeing. Adapting comic books to the screen is one thing, but to give your viewers the sense they are living the comic, that’s a feat rarely achieved. Through bold lighting, color gels, Savini’s over-the-top cartoony FX work, transitions that mimic the panels of a comic book, and small digestible stories Romero weaves a colorful tapestry that exists somewhere between film and print. There are several shots that could have been ripped from an EC Comic splash page. Actors play up the necessary bravado required to emulate their comic book personas, too. Nielsen, in particular, has a grand time chewing every bit of scenery he can swallow. Humor and horror come in equal waves – and unlike many of those hybrid pictures both work well together here. And every story wraps up things with a twist, delivering minor bits of morality to go with the mayhem and murder.

A score can sometimes make or break a film and I would be remiss not to mention composer John Harrison’s incredible soundtrack. Harrison pulled double duty as both 1st A.D. and composer – not an impossible task, but both tough jobs. His cues perfectly complement each segment, delivering an audible experience in sync with the on-screen action. The music takes viewers on a journey, telling a story just as distinctly as the action on screen. Harrison only composed a handful of film soundtracks, all for Romero, and it’s a shame he never branched out further because his work is always a highlight of its respective films. I play his Creepshow and Day of the Dead (1985) scores on a regular basis.

After languishing with subpar home video releases for… ever, really, Scream Factory finally gives this cult classic the prestigious treatment it deserves. This release includes stunning a/v quality and more bonus features than fans could ever have asked for… but in order to have the complete package you’ll still need to pick up Synapse’s Blu-ray of Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (2007). While this release does share some bonus features with that edition, it is understandable why Scream Factory wasn’t able to include that mammoth documentary on their release. Even without it, fans will agree this is the release we’ve all been waiting for.

I wish Scream Factory would go back to the original camera negative (OCN) more often for their releases because the results of the new 1.85:1 1080p image, culled from a new 4K scan of the OCN supervised by D.P. Michael Gornick, are astoundingly good. It was like watching the film for the first time with clarity so sharp it’s like watching the movie unfold through a window. Details in skin and cloth and patterns and textures – all given new life thanks to the exquisite definition presented here. I was blown away from the opening frames and the picture never dulled from that moment on. The only possible complaint I could make is film grain is awfully heavy during the animated sequences, but that is to be expected given how they were photographed so it really isn’t a valid complaint at all. This is undoubtedly the best Creepshow has ever looked – only a true 4K release could top this image.

Having already raved about the score, I can only say the English DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are provided in both 2.0 and 5.1 and either option provides plenty of bang for the buck. Harrison’s score gets the most breathing room out of the surround sound track, and would be my choice for listeners. The original mix was done in Dolby Stereo, but the multi-channel isn’t such an abomination fans won’t want to add in some extra channels for greater immersion. Dialogue is a touch on the low side, though everything is consistently clean and easy to understand. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

There are a whopping FOUR audio commentary tracks included here, some new and some not, featuring: Director George A. Romero and Special Make-Up Effects Creator Tom Savini; Composer/First Assistant Director John Harrison and Construction Coordinator Ed Fountain; Director of Photography Michael Gornick; and an Audio Interviews Commentary, with Director of Photography Michael Gornick, Actor John Amplas, Property Master Bruce Alan Miller, and Make-Up Effects Assistant Darryl Ferrucci.

Terror and the Three Rivers is a new roundtable interview with John Amplas, Tom Atkins, Tom Savini, and Marty Schiff, all of whom discuss the making of “Creepshow” and Romero’s local work.

The Comic Book Look is a new interview with Costume Designer Barbara Anderson, covering how she was able to dress the cast to look like comic characters.

Ripped from the Pages is a new interview with Animator Rick Catizone, who did all of the animation seen in the film.

The Colors of Creepshow is a new interview with Director of Photography Michael Gornick, discussing the film’s striking cinematography and bold use of colors.

Into the Mix is a new interview with Sound Re-Recordist Chris Jenkins.

Mondo Macabre is a chat with a couple of the guys who work with/for Mondo, creating specialty posters for “Creepshow” among other films.

Collecting Creepshow is an interview with superfan Dave Burian, who owns many props made for the film.

Tom Savini’s Behind-the-Scenes Footage focuses mainly on the film’s FX work, as seen on set during filming.

Another hilarious and informative episode of “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” is included here, featuring the locations of “Creepshow” as they look today.

A number of deleted scenes are available, each with a brief text explanation of where they fit and why they were cut.

Two trailers, one American and one Portuguese, are included along with a TV spot and two radio spots. .

There are several still galleries included for Posters & Lobby Cards, Movie Posters, Color Stills, Special FX Makeup, and Behind the Scenes.

The attractive package also includes a rarity for Scream Factory – a thick, perfect-bound booklet with an essay by Michael Gingold and dozens of production photos. The booklet and disc case are housed within a sturdy, slick chipboard slipcase.

Creepshow is one of the all-time greats of horror and this release from Scream Factory is hotter than meteor shit. The a/v quality is excellent and there are loads of great new bonus features to go alongside a few returning favorites. Just file this sucker on the shelf, right next to Synapse’s Just Desserts release and fans officially have everything they could ask for one home video.

Special Features:

  • NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative – Color correction supervised and approved by director of photography Michael Gornick
  • Audio Commentary with Director George A. Romero and Special Make-Up Effects Creator Tom Savini
  • NEW Audio Commentary with director of photography Michael Gornick
  • NEW Audio Commentary with composer/first assistant director John Harrison and construction coordinator Ed Fountain
  • NEW Terror and the Three Rivers – a round table discussion on the making of Creepshow with John Amplas, Tom Atkins, Tom Savini and Marty Schiff
  • NEW The Comic Book Look – an interview with costume designer Barbara Anderson
  • NEW Ripped From The Pages – an interview with animator Rick Catizone
  • NEW The Colors of Creepshow – a look at the restoration of Creepshow with director of photography Michael Gornick
  • NEW Into The Mix – an interview with sound re-recordist Chris Jenkins
  • NEW Mondo Macabre – A look at Mondo’s various Creepshow posters with Mondo Co-Founder Rob Jones and Mondo Gallery events planner Josh Curry
  • NEW Collecting Creepshow – a look at some of the original props and collectibles from the film with collector Dave Burian
  • Audio Interviews with director of photography Michael Gornick, actor John Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Miller, and make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci
  • Tom Savini’s Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – a look at the original film locations hosted by Sean Clark
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spots
  • Still Galleries – Posters, Lobby Cards and Movie Stills
  • Still Galleries – Behind the Scenes photos
Creepshow (1982)
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4.8
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