Comics Are Rotten (Creepshow, 1982)

Creepshow_Poster

The Horror anthology has always been risky.  There are few true classics.  Mostly what you get are movies with a couple good tales among some duds. George Romero and Stephen King teamed up to create Creepshow.

The five stories included here are all pretty strong.  The first is Fathers Day, the story of a somewhat rotten family gathering to celebrate the birthday of the late patriarch.  This year, he intends to get his birthday cake.

The second story is the Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is about a simple-minded farmer who discovers a meteor on his land. After touching the meteor, Jordy finds frass growing uncontrollably, consuming his body.

Something to Tide You over features an adulterous couple who are discovered by the woman’s husband.  He seeks to take revenge trapping them on the beach (so to speak).

The Crate follows an older professor who is constantly belittled by his alcoholic gossip wife.  His respite is his fellow professor, Dexter.  Dexter is called to the school by a janitor who finds a mysterious crate tucked away.  The crate seems to be decades old…but to also contain something still alive.  And hungry.

Finally, They’re Creeping Up on You is about an old man obsessed with cleanliness finding his home seems to be under siege by cockroaches.

The film is framed as a comic book, with art by Jack Kamen (an E.C. comics artist, which is the inspiration for Creepshow).  As each story begins and ends, we see comic book art that fades into the live image (or Vice Versa).  The art is great and provides a unique look to the film.  The film also has an extra framing device of a story about a young boy (Played by King’s real-life son Joe) whose father (played by veteran character actor Tom Atkins) is angry when he finds him reading a horror comic book.

Tom Savini provides a great series of effects, with visuals that mimic the color of comics. The gruesome visuals are not interested in realism, rather in being lush and colorful.

The cast is really terrific.  You have veterans like E.G. Marshall and Hal Holbrook along with upcoming stars like Ed Harris and Ted Danson.

Most of the film has a tone of cartoonish horror.  The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill struggles the most in this regard because at times it gets absurdly comical.  But overall, Creepshow is still one of Romero’s straight up most fun works.

When There Is No More Room In Hell (Dawn of the Dead, 1978)

Dawn_of_the_Dead_PosterIt took about ten years for Romero to find something new to explore with zombies.  It was the Dawn of the Shopping Mall, with large insular buildings housing a variety of stores.  At the time, this encapsulated the concerns of modern life and consumerism.  George Romero looked at the shopping mall and thought “What a terrifying place!”

The film opens amidst a frenzied newsroom trying to make sense of what is happening.  It appears this may be the same night as the original film, though the film is never that explicit.  It does not reference Night of the Living Dead.  None of the films do, actually.  Each film seems to take place in an ever present “now”, regardless of if it makes sense in the greater context of all the films.

Two newsroom employees escape in a helicopter, along with two S.W.A.T. team members.  They end up landing on a mall roof.  What follows is an adventure of survival as they build a small fortress and use the mall stores to wait out the zombie situation.    At first, this works out quite well, and they get creative, building fake walls to hide stairwells from Zombies, blocked glass doors with trucks, using the mall keys to move from store to store and get supplies.

But you know their paradise cannot last as outside forces close in.  Romero keeps his central cast to a tight four.  This is a good choice, as we are allowed to connect with our leads and root for their success in a way that can be hard if there are to many people to keep track of.

The gore effects are improved over the previous effort, though as Tom Savini noted making many zombies grayish colored actually results in zombies looking blue.  And the blood splatter from some zombies seems far to large for shambling dead creatures.

This is the film that really set up the “Zombie represents mindless consumption” metaphor.  Which is kind of funny, since there have been an endless supply of bad zombie films over the years for the masses to consume.  But Dawn of the Dead is a great film and important to the horror (and especially zombie films) genre.

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