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Ranking the ‘Creepshow 1’ and ‘2’ Segments

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1982’s Creepshow is a brilliant anthology of horror shorts written by horror legend Stephen King, and directed by horror legend George A. Romero. It’s a team-up that feels so perfect, with King’s iconic ability to mold an interesting and unique tale from anything, and Romero’s stellar direction. A sequel eventually followed in 1987, not funded anywhere near as well, but it still puts forward some great shorts. Overarching all this is this highly stylized comic book theme, with the stories jumping straight from a fictional comic series (which turned into one real issue), putting all the camp and terror together in a neat little package.

More Creepshow sequels were made, but without any input or creative contribution from King, Romero, or anyone else who worked on the first two, and they’e not really worth your time. So, forgetting about the unfortunate third installment, here is a ranking the segments from the first two (including the prologue/epilogue stories) in celebration of the new Creepshow series.

10. Prologue/Epilogue (Creepshow)

The first Creepshow is drawn together by a familiar background story of a young boy whose father doesn’t approve or allow him reading his horror comics. The quick buildup of an unlikable character in the father comes rapid fire with foreshadowing, as he gives a short description of a few of the stories as examples of “crap” after throwing out his son’s Creepshow comics. The kid curses his father to rot in hell, and conveniently The Creep from the comics appears at his window to see to it that young Billy gets his revenge.

It’s a fun and straightforward tale of vengeance delivered through supernatural means, and a nice “screw you” to anyone who doesn’t approve of the old school horror comics the film themes itself after. It ties everything together well and is memorable, but it’s not all that intricate or impressive when put up against all the other stories, so it ends up bottom of the list.

Creepshow - The Creep

9. Father’s Day (Creepshow)

A tale of a dysfunctional family wrought with murder and hatred which culminates in an undead massacre. Nathan Grantham is a patriarch who orchestrated the murder of his daughter Bedelia’s partner. A miserly old asshole, on Father’s Day he demands a cake, fervently and aggressively demanding over and over for it. Bedelia, unable to put up with his rantings any more, kills her own father. Flash forward to a future Father’s Day, and the rest of the family gathers. Bedelia somehow manages to accidentally reanimate Nathan by spilling whiskey on his grave, and we enter full force into ridiculous gore as an undead Nathan hunts down his family members.

There’s not much negative to say about “Father’s Day,” but it’s hard to place where it should land on the list. It doesn’t have the shine that many other shorts do though, so it hits a lower position as well. It’s a good starting point, hitting the right notes of humor and horror, but just fades into the background amongst other segments.

8. Prologue/Epilogue 2 (Creepshow 2)

Coming together as more of a short of its own than the kind of overarching tale the first went with, Creepshow 2‘s background story is broken up into four parts spattered throughout the anthology, playing in and out of each of the other segments. It tells the story of Billy, a young boy who’s very into the Creepshow comics. He thrives for the new issues, and orders Venus flytraps via the magazine, but has to dodge bullies hell-bent on ruining his day. Tom Savini stars as The Creep, delivering issues of the magazine and giving us an intro and outro to each of the segments within. Most of this overarching story is presented as a cartoon, though it does fade into live action at the beginning and end.

Whilst nothing amazing, this storyline does capture a particular feeling that really makes me wish there was some sort of Creepshow cartoon around when I was growing up. It’s a whole lot of fun, and builds up the Creepshow world a bit more than the first one did. Both intro/outro segments do end up low, but they’re certainly worth mentioning, as they tie everything together.

Creepshow 2 - Epilogue

7. Old Chief Wood’nhead (Creepshow 2)

This satisfying tale of Native American vengeance via a warrior’s spirit residing within a wooden statue starts with an old couple running a store in a dying town aptly named Dead River. Ray and Martha Spruce are good people, though Ray is the more virtuous of them. He’s given and provided generously to the native people of the area, and has helped keep the town afloat, waiting for life to be breathed back into it. After receiving heirlooms as collateral in paying back the debts of the tribe of the town, the son of the chief robs the Spruces. The robbery turns sour as Sam Whitemoon, a self-absorbed and appearance-obsessed thug, shoots the couple and plans to head out with his gang to Hollywood. This is when Old Chief Wood’nhead, the statue outside the store, steps in to take vengeance on those who would do such a horrible thing.

It’s a nice little story with excellent buildup and tension, and when the action comes it’s delivered sharp and quick. It’s very predictable, sure, and the wooden statue’s movement looks a little janky at times, but otherwise it’s a solid beginning to the second film. However, despite being well made, Old Chief Wood’nhead himself, along with the basic plot, doesn’t really hit too hard.

6. The Hitchhiker (Creepshow 2)

The final short of the second film sees a woman fresh off having an affair, who is distracted trying to think of excuses she could give her husband for being late. Distracted in thought, she drops her cigarette, and a sharp turn causes her to swerve and crash right into an innocent hitchhiker, seemingly killing him on impact. From here it plays out just like you’d expect, with this mysterious hitchhiker doggedly coming back to haunt her on her long drive home. The hitchhiker getting more and more aggravated, but still only repeating “Thanks for the ride, lady” is a great touch, as her guilt is personified and determined to get her.

It’s a well-crafted segment and a great ending place, but it does run long and suffers a bit as focus dies down. “The Hitchhiker” is incredibly simple in concept, however, and I absolutely love the King pacing and dialogue in the middle section.

5. They’re Creeping Up On You (Creepshow)

An insidious and disturbing segment surrounding an outbreak of determined cockroaches in a clean freak’s sterile apartment. E.G. Marshall does a fantastic job at playing Upson Pratt, the crotchety tenant full of his own self importance. Pratt is shown to be a remorseless man as he receives calls from distraught and angry people denouncing him for his company ruining their lives and families. He dismisses these complaints, not caring in the least for these people’s little lives. Tormenting this man who seems to consider others as mere insects to be exterminated in order to continue prospering, are cockroaches that appear in his sealed and pristine clean home. Despite his best efforts and constant complaints to the owner of the apartment block, Pratt can’t stop the steady influx of invasive insects as they threaten to overwhelm him.

This short is one of the most unnerving, especially if bugs make you squeamish. The end scene sticks in your mind, making this one of the most standout segments to not come from a previously published short story. A lot of the segments have a B-movie quality or embrace schlock to make something entertaining; “They’re Creeping Up On You” takes that absurdity and converts it into something disturbing.

4. The Crate (Creepshow)

One of the most iconic stories present in the series, this is a tale of a mysterious discovery in a university leading to a horrible creature being unleashed on the area. When a crate marked “Arctic Expedition – June 19, 1834” is discovered by an inquisitive janitor who meets his untimely demise when pulled inside, the terror begins rolling. We next see a man named Henry Northrup, and his insufferable wife. He daydreams multiple times about ending her life, and the joy it would bring those at the gathering they’re both at. When presented with this ancient, violent creature, Northrup doesn’t see danger, but instead a convenient way to rid himself once and for all of his hated wife.

The monster itself might look a little corny by today’s standards, but the schlock is utterly charming, which accurately describes the whole short. It’s one of the most well-known parts of Creepshow for a reason, and takes a prime spot in our rankings.

Creepshow - The Crate

3. Something To Tide You Over (Creepshow)

With Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Gaylen Ross, and even an uncredited appearance from Richard Gere, “Something To Tide You Over is star studded.” Nielsen portrays a sadistic, torturous, and all together disconcerting psychopath in this almost a surreal segment, with Nielsen’s character, Richard Vickers, taking Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson) out to a private beach, burying him up to his neck, and setting up cameras to watch as the tide comes in to claim him. Whilst there are moments of absurdity, Vickers is a chilling character, and the way in which he kills his victims is disturbing.

Nielsen’s impressive range is a particular highlight here. It’s not like he wasn’t known as a solid serious actor, but as Creepshow was post-Naked Gun and post-Airplane!, it was a rarer thing to see. In most shorts, Romero’s style is apparent alongside the atmosphere and interesting dynamics of King’s writing, but this short feels much more leaning into the menacing and strange aura King creates through his short fiction. “Something To Tide You Over” holds up with some of the most memorable and iconic moments throughout both the Creepshow films.

2. The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill (Creepshow)

Simple-minded farmer Jordy Verrill has a $200 bank loan that he just can’t pay off. Faced with this insurmountable debt, he jumps at the chance for riches great enough to remove his debt after he finds a meteorite that crash-landed on his farm. Soon enough, however, he finds out that touching this alien object has resulted in some sort of invasive weed growing across his skin, and despite his ghost dad warning him about feeding it water, he can’t stand the itching, and wants to wash it off. Whatever this meteorite is made of, it’s infecting everything around it, and growing those weeds at a wild pace.

This dimwitted bumpkin is played by Stephen King himself, doing an excellent job at portraying a comedic character and putting forth all the corniness both expected and desired from this short. Pretty much everything about “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” is amazing, from King’s masterful campy acting, to the fairly intriguing yet simple plot, to the impressive set design with the weeds claiming everything in sight. Creepshow is great at mixing and flowing between comedic horror and some almost disturbing horror; “Jordy Verrill,” despite a couple solid moments of unease through the growth, is an ideal example of the former. It’s genuinely funny, and one of the segments you definitely should check out.

Creepshow - The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill

1. The Raft (Creepshow 2)

“The Raft” is a strange tale of a creature or entity that never quite reveals itself, that manages to maintain itself as a terrifying unknown. Looking a bit like an oil spill, the creature hunts a few teens who unfortunately decided it would be fun to drive out to a lake in the middle of nowhere in order to go swimming and fool around on a large raft left in the water over the holidays. After one of them dares to touch the strange shape and is pulled in and consumed by what appears to be a living tar or something of the sort, the others have to face the terrifying reality that they’re now stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no clothes and no certain way to outrun the shape in order to get back to land. It’s a tense and terrifying segment.

“The Raft” is one of my favorite King short stories, and perhaps it’s my love for it that puts it at the top of this list. Whilst the acting in this segment is very 80s, and the shape itself isn’t visually scary, “The Raft” builds tension beautifully to transform all that. It’s one of the most memorable Stephen King short stories, and it makes for our top spot as a Creepshow segment.

Creepshow 2 - The Raft

Creepshow allowed for Stephen King and George Romero to explore unique and interesting storylines and themes with a bunch of talented people working alongside them. The first two films both hold up today.

Shane Dover is a Melbourne, Australia based freelance writer contributing to Japanese punk news site Punx Save The Earth, punk publication Dying Scene, Diabolique Magazine and Goomba Stomp. Not just a fan of punk music, he's spent most of his life obsessed with the horror genre across all media, Japanese cinema, as well as pop culture in general. He plays music and writes fiction, check out his Twitter (https://twitter.com/Karzid) for updates on those projects. Follow him on Twitter, and check out his work every Wednesday on Dying Scene.

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Girl Power? The ‘Black Christmas’ Remake is About as Subtle as a Sledgehammer to the Face

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Black Christmas 2019 Review

1974’s Black Christmas is not one that is regularly referenced on Best Horror Movie lists, as it’s a standard foray into the sub-genre of slasher movies. Having already been remade in 2006 to a terrible response, it’s the kind of film ready to be re-visited — a not-so-classic in need of a boost. Directed by Sophia Takal, it’s unfortunate that 2019’s version does nothing to make the premise something worth watching, and instead falls very short of its mark.

During the Christmas break at Hawthorne College, sorority sisters Riley (Imogen Poots), Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Marty (Lily Donoghue), and Jesse (Brittany O’Grady) prepare to host an “orphan dinner” for those left at the college over the holidays, only to be harassed and eventually attacked by a group of masked, hooded men.

Black Christmas 2019

In order to make the premise more relevant for today’s crowd, writers Takal and April Wolfe update the nuts-and-bolts slasher with a feminist twist, including on-trend topics of toxic masculinity, rape culture, and female empowerment. Whilst its heart is in the right place, its execution is sloppy and comes across as condescending. Conversations about missing DivaCups and dildos are just as commonplace as those on white supremacy and the patriarchy, making it an often embarrassing watch and feeling like a cynical cash-grab.

The characters we’re supposed to be rooting for are likeable enough, but so paper-thin; a small breeze could knock them over. With one-trait personalities (PTSD-ridden, activist, loved-up, and comic relief), the film fails to create a truly well-developed female character, or one of any gender; men fall into one of two categories: chauvinist or sensitive love-interest, both to the extreme.

Black Christmas 2019 REview

Horror is a difficult genre to make work, but the fundamentals are to scare. Unfortunately, Black Christmas also lacks in the basic necessity of frightening its audience. Most supposed chilling moments come in the safe-bet form of a jump-scare, a lazy device that considers making a film-goer bolt in their seat as a result of a loud noise a win in their efforts to unsettle — and that’s if they work. Quiet for long stretches of time before the inevitable jump, the scares here will only work if this is the first horror film you’ve ever seen.

There is something to be commended in the fact that director and co-writers have attempted to differentiate from the original by adding a supernatural element to the proceedings, but by the third act, this ploy is so absurd as to be laughable (protagonists receiving text messages from a supposed ghost should never be a thing), and does nothing to enhance the story.

Black Christmas 2019 Review

It’s a shame for lead Poots, who has shown in the likes of Green Room that she is a talented actor, and worth more than the sum of this movie’s parts. Doing her best with what she’s given, Poots is a light in an otherwise dim proceeding, along with Shannon as sorority sister Kris, and the two have decent chemistry when on screen together. None of the rest of the cast stands out — most likely due to their lack of character — but the performances for a horror film of this ilk are par for the course, passable.

With good intentions, Black Christmas is a frustrating watch, with its overt dialogue and occasionally patronizing tone. It’s disappointing that a film with feminism at its core, directed by and co-written by women, misses its target by such a large distance.

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‘Richard Jewell’ is Both For and Against Character Assassination

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Sam Rockwell and Paul Walter Hauser in Richard Jewell (Warner Bros.)

With Richard Jewell, director Clint Eastwood does two things at once: tell a compelling story of something that was all over the news about 25 years ago, and seek to make an incendiary political point meant to play to very specific modern-day resentments. Let’s just say the former objective is much more defensible than the latter. 

The film tells the story of a security guard (Paul Walter Hauser) in the Atlanta area who was working in Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics when a bomb went off in the park. Jewell was first treated as a hero who rescued people during the bombing, but was later considered a suspect in the bombing by the FBI and named as such in the media. But Jewell, it turned out, was innocent, with domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph confessing to the crime years later. 

As depicted in Eastwood’s film, Richard Jewell bears more than a passing resemblance to Shawn Eckhardt, the character Hauser played two years ago in I, Tonya — a real-life creature of a sensational mid-’90s true crime case who hadn’t done much with his life, but has aspirations of something greater. In Jewell’s case, it’s thwarted dreams of becoming a cop, which haven’t kept him from worshiping and idealizing law enforcement. He’s also depicted as a man so simple-minded that he keeps doing things that made him look super-guilty, even though he isn’t.

Richard Jewell reporters

Richard Jewell takes us into how exactly the man came to be accused. The FBI, in the person of agent Jon Hamm, applied its vaunted profiling tactics — the ones you’ve seen lionized on such shows as Criminal Minds and Mindhunter — to the case, and came up with the wrong guy. 

Filmmaking-wise, what we have here is similar to most other late-period Eastwood films, and the pacing and storytelling aren’t the problem. The sequence right before the bombing, in particular, is especially harrowing and suspenseful.

While in the works for many years (Jonah Hill was at one point set to star as Jewell, and remains a producer), Richard Jewell itself was produced and completed uncommonly quickly, with production beginning in June, just six months before its release. Nevertheless, it creates a reasonable approximation of 1996 — The Macarena included! — and while seemingly the majority of studio movies these days are shot in Georgia, this one at least is actually set there.

The problem, however, is another decision the film makes. We see Hamm’s FBI agent leaking the existence of the investigation to media, specifically reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), after what’s essentially a seduction on her part. This is the film’s biggest misstep, which is in fact an act of pure character assassination against Scruggs, a real-life journalist (deceased) who is accused of horrible ethical breaches that she almost certainly never committed, including offering to sleep with sources in exchange for information. Beyond that, the character is played by Wilde as something resembling a cartoon witch. There are a lot of unique characters who exist in newsrooms, but this character isn’t one of them.

And despite what you may have read, the Richard Jewell makes the FBI look even worse than the media. It also shows Jewell, who spent his whole life wanting to be a cop, defending and making excuses for these unscrupulous agents who are falsely accusing him. The script also doesn’t really get the dynamic that takes place between media and the police/FBI quite right; in 95 percent of high-profile crime stories, the only major source is law enforcement, and media outlets just go with whatever the cops tell them. 

What the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did was report — accurately, at the time — that the FBI was looking at Jewell as a suspect. Yes, they should have done more due diligence, but they also didn’t make things up. Had Scruggs behaved the way she did in the film in real life, that would be worthy of condemnation. But she didn’t. 

Furthermore, yes, what happened to Richard Jewell was pretty terrible. But on the other hand, he was never arrested, he never did a day in jail or prison, and was cleared after about three months. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but…other wrongfully accused people have gone away for years and decades. Multiple movies this year, including Brian Banks and Just Mercy, have told the stories of such cases. 

Hauser is very good, and getting to be expert at this sort of role, although the performance ends with him delivering a long, articulate speech in which Jewell turns into essentially a different person.  Sam Rockwell, on something of a roll with Jojo Rabbit and Fosse/Verdon, is just fine as his lawyer. There’s also a performance by Kathy Bates, as Jewell’s mother, that’s been getting inexplicable praise — it’s more a regional affectation than a great performance. 

While Eastwood — the Obama invisible chair speech notwithstanding — is far from a down-the-line right-winger, the timing of this particular release is somewhat cynical. It’s clearly pitched right now in a way to exploit discontent with media misconduct and “fake news,” while also directly in line with that weird cultural tic in which cops are seen as beyond reproach, while the FBI is evil. 

Richard Jewell isn’t bad as a character study, but its agenda is a whole other story. 

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‘Apollo 11’ Leads the Best Documentaries of 2019

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Best Documentaries of 2019

2019 was a generally strong year for documentaries, with many of the best ones sharing one or more of several elements: a focus on music, a resonance with the current moment, and the word “Apollo” in the title.

The Year’s Best Documentaries

Best Documentaries 2019

1. Apollo 11. Directed by Todd Douglas Miller, this documentary made masterful use of archival footage — much of it on 70mm film long not available to the public — to tell the story of the Apollo 11 mission on its 50th anniversary. It’s one of those films that’s nerve-wracking, even as everyone watching knows exactly how it all happened. The film opened in theaters, then showed on CNN, and then returned to theaters this month. 

Best Documentaries 2019

2. The Kingmaker. The Queen of Versailles director Lauren Greenfield takes another look at the ridiculously wealthy, this time catching up with Imelda Marcos, the 90-year-old former first lady of The Philippines. For its first half hour, the film hints that it’s going to be a soft-focused look at a newsmaker of the past, before it takes a sudden turn into showing its subject as a monster who looted her own people of billions and was almost certainly complicit in horrific war crimes. The film played in theaters this fall and will debut on Showtime in early 2020. 

Best Documentaries 2019

3. Love, Antosha. The life of the beloved late actor Anton Yelchin, which ended in a freak accident in 2017, is celebrated with home movie footage, clips of his movies, and interviews with a star-studded array of his co-stars. It’s a sweet remembrance of a talent gone far too soon — while also telling the story, through both letters and interviews, of his relationship with the loving Russian immigrant parents he left behind. Now streaming from on-demand providers. 

Best Documentaries 2019

4. City of Joel. Director Jesse Sweet’s film is an astonishing work of anthropological filmmaking, as he looks at the tension and land disputes between a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who arrived in an upstate New York town, and their secular neighbors. The film, which played the Jewish film festival circuit and is now available on demand, is uncommonly evenhanded, letting both sides of the dispute have their say. 

Best Documentaries 2019

5. David Crosby: Remember My Name. There were many very strong music documentaries this year, but this film, directed by A.J. Eaton and produced and narrated by Cameron Crowe, was the best of them all. Crosby, knowing he’s in poor health and unlikely to live many more years, is uncommonly candid about his regrets, especially his many feuds with his famous musical collaborators. Now available on demand, it’s also the best film Crowe has been associated with in almost two decades.

Best Documentaries 2019

6. Cold Case Hammarskjöld. Mads Brügger’s documentary starts off by looking at the mysterious 1961 plane crash death of U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, and then goes off in all sorts of crazy directions, including a supposed plot by South Africa’s apartheid government in the 1980s to infect people with AIDS. Not everything asserted here is true (most likely), but it’s all wildly intriguing. Now available on demand. 

Best Documentaries 2019

7. The Apollo. The year’s “other” Apollo documentary takes a look back at the history of Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater, a mecca of African-American culture for nearly a century. The film looks at how the theater has waxed and waned in importance over the years, while using a staged reading of Ta’Nehesi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” as a framing device. This one played at festivals and then debuted on HBO; it’s currently available on HBO’s streaming platform. 

Best Documentaries 2019

8. Horror Noire. Director Xavier Burgin’s documentary takes a look at the history of black horror films, using 2017’s Get Out as an inflection point to look back on decades of African-American representation — as well as ugly tropes — in the horror genre. The film had some big-screen showings before streaming on Shudder. 

Best Documentaries 2019
Tell Me Who I Am CR: Netflix

9. Tell Me Who I Am. Director Ed Perkins’ documentary about a pair of twins, and the family secrets one must tell the other, is very creepy and unsettling, but still essential. It debuted on Netflix, where it’s a perfect fit, and is still streaming there now. 

Best documentaries 2019

10. Diego Maradona. This look at the 1980s soccer star, directed by Amy filmmaker Asif Kapadia, makes masterful use of archival footage to depict the rise of this one-of-a-kind athlete. The doc, which played on HBO this fall and is still streaming there now, is a must for the many Americans who have gotten into soccer for the first time in the last decade, and are unfamiliar with the stars and stories of the past. 

****

Honorable mention: Black Mother, The Human Factor, Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, Carmine Street Guitars, Mike Wallace is Here, Varda by Agnes, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, Screwball, American Factory, Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce,

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