Young Billy (Joe King – author Stephen’s son) is chastised by his father Stan (Tom Atkins) for reading horror "crap". When Billy suggests that it’s no worse than the rude literature he’d found in his old man’s room, Stan takes the kid’s prized comic – "Creepshow" – and throws it in the bin outside.

Upstairs in his bedroom and surrounded by iconic horror paraphernalia, Billy is somewhat downhearted … until a very real version of the comic’s monstrous host appears grinning at his window.

And so begins CREEPSHOW, George A Romero’s 1982 love letter to the EC comics he grew up reading in the 1950s. Aided by Stephen King affectionate screenplay, Tom Savini’s ever-reliable FX work and a stronger cast than usual, the result is one of the genre’s better anthology efforts.

The first story to spring to life from the pages of the discarded comic is "Father’s Day". In it, a family reunion ends in grisliness when a murdered patriarch returns from the grave to claim the cake he never received on his last ever Father’s Day. A young Ed Harris is among the cast (dancing!) but the show is stole by Viveca Lindfors as dotty Aunt Bedelia.

With a cheeky sense of humour, gleefully macabre horror set-pieces and stunningly colourful production design, "Father’s Day" sets the pace well. Incidentally, that's MARTIN himself - John Amplas - portraying the zombie...

Alas, the next story – "The Lonesome Death of Jody Verrill" – is not so successful. Jody (King) is a redneck simpleton who discovers a meteorite that lands on his farmland one evening. He has dreams of it making him rich … until he touches his new find and begins spouting grass from his pores as a result.

More Looney Tunes than EC, "Jody Verrill" goes too often for broad comedy and embarrasses with exaggerated performances and desperate music cues. Its weakest link is King, who should’ve stuck to what he was good at and given the acting gig to someone less prone to goofy theatrics.

Still, things soon pick back up with the spiffing "Something to Tide You Over".

In it, buff actor Harry (Ted Danson) is visited one morning by millionaire Richard (Leslie Nielsen). Richard's found about Harry's affair with his wife, and has a little surprise for the pair of them.

Taking Harry down to the nearby beach, Richard has him dig a hole in the sand at gunpoint. Harry is then cajoled into jumping into it. Once Richard's buried Harry up to his neck in sand, he sets up a TV and video player in front of him ... along with a camera sat atop a tripod. On the other end of the beach, he tells Harry, he's buried his wife: Harry now gets to watch her drown as the tide comes in, moments before the same fate awaits him.

But, this being a George A Romero flick, the dead don't stay that way for long...

John Harrison's Gothic-tinged, piano-led score is wonderfully evocative throughout the entire film, but impresses most with its simple, Carpenter-esque pulsating key work during the tense beach scenes here. This one also works so well for me due to Michael Gornick's stunning cinematography (especially when we first get the notion of 'something' entering Richard's house) and sterling, committed performances from two leads who are playing very much against type.

Oh, Savini's undead make-up is great here too, leaving behind the primitive 'green facepaint' look of DAWN OF THE DEAD and foreshadowing the more authentic grisliness of DAY OF THE DEAD.

"The Crate" is another old favourite. It centres on Henry (Hal Holbrook), a respected college professor and much put-upon husband of drunken bully Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau).

His dreams of offing the intolerable Wilma come closer to reaching fruition when his old colleague and pal Dexter (Fritz Weaver) asks for Henry's assistance in clearing up a mess made by something found in a crate in the college cellar.

A triptych of superb performances and some, great pithy dialogue from King's pen make this one stand out. There's a fair amount of tension elicited from Romero's smart direction too, even if the monster does look a bit hokey in this day and age.

Finally, "They're Creeping up on You" finds foul-mouthed business mogul Pratt (E G Marshall) locked in his secure germ-free penthouse suite during a city-wide blackout. That wouldn't be so bad for a misanthropist like Pratt ... only, somehow, hundreds of cockroaches have managed to find their way in there too.

There's no real story to this last segment and as such it lacks the dramatic push of the others, serving simply as a scenario with which to lead us into one final gory gag. Still, the pay-off is suitably disgusting.

Wrapped around the whole thing is the bookending story of young Billy and his horror-hating dad. Theirs is a brief but satisfying denouement to end proceedings in agreeably shocking fashion.

CREEPSHOW is perhaps a tad overlong at 2 hours in length and does suffer in terms of pace mainly due to that silly "Jody Verrill" story. But these moans are trifling, especially when weighed up against the film's many, aforementioned positives. The affection all concerned have for their source inspiration is not only evident, but endearingly sincere. You can't help but smile.

There was a recent Internet rumour that Second Sight had taken the same transfer used for the US blu-ray release and subjected it to a lower bitrate, resulting in an unnecessarily compressed presentation. Happily, this isn't the case: Second Sight present CREEPSHOW in 1080p as an MPEG4-AVC file of comparable size to its US counterpart. The results are identical.

As a consequence, the film looks great in a very clean, colourful and bold 16x9 uncut transfer. Blacks are strong, detail is profound for the most part (there is minor softness on occasion) and a keen sense of depth lends the movie its most filmic look yet on home video.

In all other aspects, this 50gb dual-layer disc blows its US counterpart away.

English audio is treated to both 2.0 PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes. Both are superb, with music and sound design impressing a great deal.

The disc opens to a vivid animated main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene-selection menu allows access to the film via 20 chapters.

Extras begin with two audio commentary tracks.

The first comes courtesy of Romero and Savini, and is as jovial and anecdotal as you'd hope for. Michael Felsher moderates.

The second is a bit more chaotic and, at times, less enjoyable. Still, Gornick, Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Miller and assistant FX artist Darryl Perrucci keep things informative while having fun doing so.

The splendid 90-minute Making Of retrospective "Just Desserts", which first emerged on Universal's 2007 UK DVD special edition, makes a welcome re-appearance here. It remains an excellently produced, slick and thorough proposition with most of the principal participants interviewed.

We also get "Behind the Screams with Tom Savini". This is a 27-minute featurette comprising of video footage shot on set, mainly while performing FX make-up tests. It could've done with some commentary/narration, but as it stands it's a most worthy addition to the disc nevertheless.

12 minutes of deleted scenes are bolstered by a further 3 minutes of contextual text introductions. The most fascinating scene here is a brief morgue flashback in the "Father's Day" vignette which was inexplicably removed from the final cut of the film.

An 89-second original trailer actually contains that very same brief scene.

We also get an original TV spot and no fewer than 16 - yes, SIXTEEN - stills galleries. These cover all bases, such as DVD covers from around the world, screenplay page samples, poster design artwork, on-set photos and much more.

CREEPSHOW remains tremendous, stylised fun and Second Sight's blu-ray disc does it total justice.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Second Sight
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review