EC Horror. Tales From the Crypt. The Vault of Horror and Journey Into Mystery. These were the chilling tales that thrilled kids and frightened their parents, prompting Fredric Wertham’s crusade against the comics industry and forever changing the landscape of horror. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Stephen King novel, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn or American Horror Story, you’ve had a taste of what made these gruesome little books so wondrously wicked. But what happens when these chilling anthologies make it to the big screen?
I LOVE this movie. And chances are, if you grew up with Goosebumps or Tales From the Crypt, chances are you probably will too, as this is essentially the same idea, in a cinematic form. It contains the unbridled, adolescent joy of bugs and slimy things, while simultaneously employing a very adult sense of satire to the various situations it portrays. And you gotta give it props for giving the finger to all the stuck-up, self righteous types who drown themselves in Jack Daniels and Playboy while condemning the evils of stories that while gruesome, actually have some semblance of a moral message. Like in Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, the ghastly and monstrous is seen as a force for punishing the real monsters. Murderers, crooks and scoundrels are dealt with in gloriously gory ways, in true camp-horror fashion.
Is it the scariest horror movie ever made? Absolutely not (and we’re saving that for next week!). But many people forget that what we call “horror” is not just the scary stuff, but any aesthetic that channels the macabre and weird, for various effects. Horror-comedy for instance, is usually just a gory take on black comedy, occasionally using gore and scary imagery for slapstick purposes. All of Creepshow‘s shorts have elements of horror comedy in place, as well as toned-down body horror, zombie horror and vermin horror, but none of them rely gratuitously upon any genre. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet of varying horror stylings, Creepshow doesn’t excel at any one particular role, but provides a wonderful sampling of different tastes, all thematically connected by the fictional comic book from whence it derives its name.
I would actually encourage that people new to horror fandom try out this movie first, as it’s not too intense or disturbing for average viewers. The comedy and cheesiness takes the edge off a lot of the gore and violence, and it wonderfully sums up the odd appeal that horror hounds such as myself find in these ghoulish little flicks. They’re subversively creative in the most wonderful way, letting us look at elements of both fantasy and reality through a warped funhouse mirror of mock violence and monster makeup. This concept is what defines horror as a genre for me, even if a film is not technically scary. That said, there are definitely intense moments peppered throughout, and those who get queasy at cockroaches, hungry yetis and head-cake should probably avoid stuff like Evil Dead and House of 1,000 Corpses at all costs.
Still, with those of us who have a taste for the dark, there’s plenty of reasons to check this puppy out. For starters, Stephen King and George A. Romero were on board, and the former even starred in one of the shorts as a plant-infected redneck. The makeup and puppetry is utterly fantastic — the whole tone of the film just oozes Halloween. And while I unfortunately can’t say any more than that without spoiling the film’s excellent shorts, I can guarantee that those with a love for twists, turns and spooky delights will get a kick out of this sick little flick.
Which, dear viewers, leaves us with just one more film remaining for our frightful little showcase. A film so terrifying and brutal, it was banned in over twenty different countries worldwide. Even in the States, this movie cannot legally be sold over the counter, though the few brave souls who’ve seen it will know it by the symbol of the Green Cat which graces its cover. We do not dare speak its name, but on the next Halloween Horror Showcase, we peek behind the curtains of carnage for a final look at one of the most shocking pieces of media ever created by a human being.
So stay tuned, ghouls. This one’s going to be good.