[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 29 – Creepshow (1982)

Director: George A. Romero
Cast: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors
Screenplay: Stephen King
120 mins. Rated R.

We talk a lot about anthologies, especially during the month of October because they predominantly lend themselves to the horror genre. The issue, and I’ve said it time and time again, is that anthologies are incredibly difficult to really pull off because you aren’t just making one solid horror movie. In some cases, its as many as six or more (don’t even get me started on the ABCs of Death) individual horror tales, and they each have to be great, or hopefully good at the very least. While one fowl segment doesn’t tank an entire anthology, it definitely sours it a bit. On the flipside, one great segment is not enough to save a poor anthology (we’re looking at you, VHS: Viral). It’s a very tough formula to work out, and even then, the order of the segments can have an effect on the overall strength of the film. The ordering of anthology segments requires a steady hand, much like Alfred Molina’s character in Boogie Nights waxing on the importance of the order of his musical playlists. With all that, anthologies are just plain tricky, so perhaps it was fate that brought together director George A. Romero (Land of the Dead, The Amusement Park) and novelist Stephen King (Maximum Overdrive, Cell) to put their love of EC horror comics on full display with the stylistic Creepshow. A successful film with two sequels and now a television adaptation on Shudder, let’s talk about the unique and dazzling Creepshow and see if it was able to avoid the pitfalls of so many anthologies.

Creepshow is an anthology homage to EC comics like Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror. Our framing wraparound consists of a boy caught reading one of these mind-numbing books full of gore and violence and a darkly comic view of it all. His father throws the comic book out, and then we get a chance to view the many stories within. In “Father’s Day,” a family’s yearly get-together is soured with the memories of their unbeloved patriarch come back to haunt them. In “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” King himself appears as the titular character, a doltish man who comes across a space meteor and fills his head with ideas of fame and fortune, but the meteor may prove to be more menacing than he imagined. In “Something to Tide You Over,” Leslie Neilsen (Airplane!, The Naked Gun) plays a ruthlessly conniving man out for vengeance against his wife and her lover. In “The Crate,” a college professor discovers a storage crate from an arctic expedition with a rather nasty surprise hidden inside. Finally, “They’re Creeping Up on You” is about a mysophobic businessman obsessed with ridding his home of cockroaches and other nasty bugs.

Including its wraparound framing device, Creepshow is an absolute blast from start to finish. This is a rare anthology where all five of the segments work well on their own and together, each one seemingly covering a different area of pulpy gruesome horror fun. What’s so great about this movie is that the wraparound makes the segments actually fit within the film. We see that each of these stories is a comic book tale of horror, and since they have a singular director with a singular vision, each piece fits nicely enough within the framework that this could conceivably be a living comic book, and that bleeds through the tone and style of each of the stories (in fact, as a promotion for this film, there does exist a single book of Creepshow in comic book, or graphic novel, form). Romero used filters and comic book-y borders to create the feeling that we’re peering into a single panel of a page. The words jump out, and there’s almost a freeze-frame moment just on the cusp of the action, reminding us that we’re merely the audience, and nothing can hurt us here.

The benefit of having one director and one writer when the idea is to create a living comic book is that the tone is pretty much the same throughout. That’s not to say that an anthology with a more mixed tone cannot work, but I do believe it helps to have a cohesive tone running through the narratives. That allows for a bit more collaboration with King on the stories (hell, King was the lead of one of them!), and that means hitting all the tonal beats without issue. It’s a more tonally complex movie than most would give it because you would need to understand when you are aiming for horror and when you are aiming for comedy. If you don’t think that the balance between the two is important, then I would direct you to John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man or Wes Craven’s Vampire in Brooklyn.

Let’s break down a few of these stories, shall we? First off, we get “Father’s Day.” This one feels like it came directly out of Tales from the Crypt, and it very easily could have fit into the popular HBO series as a standalone episode. We get some strong performances from Viveca Lindfors (The Exorcist III, Stargate) as Aunt Bedelia, a woman with a very curious familial secret, as well as Ed Harris (with Hair-is!) as the new member of the family, Hank. He’s our straight man in this segment, the one asking the questions we all want answers to. This story is pretty straightforward, but its simplicity offers an appetizer to whet our horror appetite.

“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” is a pretty enjoyable segment that leans more into the comedy than the horror with a nice tinge at the end, which is fine since we all know Stephen King is not a good actor. That’s not his fault, he just hasn’t been trained nor has he practiced. He actually holds his own enough here to make Jordy Verrill likable and dumb enough to keep to the sillier tone of this one. It’s weird and goofy and a whole lot of fun, probably the funniest of the segments, and it belongs right here.

Definitely vying for the best segment, “Something to Tide You Over” is a terrific little piece that combines a classic horror revenge story with a gross and mucky ending that seemingly aims for the comic codes of the 1950s or The Twilight Zone with its brilliant inversions. Nielsen is wonderfully wicked here as the jealous victim of marital cheating on the part of his wife (Gaylen Ross of Dawn of the Dead fame) and her lover (Ted Danson). The way he pulls all the strings here with his revenge plot is great, and watching his plan either come together or fall apart left me guessing.

The granddaddy of them all (and my personal favorite) is most likely “The Crate,” which utilizes great practical effects from Tom Savini (his first animatronic work is on display here). We get to seeing acting heavyweight Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild, Planes: Fire and Rescue) as the shy and underwhelming Henry Northrup, a man who is embarrassed by his loud and volatile wife Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau, Escape from New York, Exorcism at 60,000 Feet). The practical effects are terrific here, and the performances cater to those more highbrow stories from EC (I never understood the amount of rich socialites featured in their stories, but I guess a great number of them don’t fare too well, and maybe that’s the middle- or lower-class of us getting our rocks off enjoying it all). The horror is bloody and the humor is a bit more restrained here, and its placement as the fourth story is great because it’s a bit of a downer at times, but this is a clear front-runner of the pack.

The final segment, “They’re Creeping Up on You,” is most likely the weakest of the stories, but that’s because it’s just so small compared to the others. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but if we’re ranking, it would be fifth best, but I enjoy it still. In fact, it’s kind of like dessert. We pretty much know where the story is going. Our only character, Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall, 12 Angry Men, Christmas Vacation) is very unlikable and we want to see bad things happen to him. Then, there’s the element of horror that is so overdone that even many who do not fear bugs will likely find something unnerving about it. It’s a simple story, but it still works, and it leaves us in a solid place to end the film. Worked for me.

Creepshow is wholly enjoyable from beginning to end, and it’s a perfect movie for me. The Creep is a chilling character (that I wish we got more of), and the stories he gives us are exciting, funny, strange, and just plain entertaining. It’s full of actors who know what movie they are in, and they play to their strengths. George A. Romero and Stephen King crafted a perfect tone for this ghoulish jaunt through a hallowed ground of the horror world, and this movie just works every time I watch it.

5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, click here.
  • For my review of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, click here.
  • For my review of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, click here.
  • For my review of George A. Romero’s Monkey Shines, click here.
  • For my review of George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, click here.
  • For my review of George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead, click here.

[Alright Alright Alright Movies] Grandma’s Boy (2006)

Director: Nicholaus Goossen

Cast: Linda Cardellini, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Joel David Moore, Kevin Nealon, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson

Screenplay: Barry Wernick, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson

94 mins. Rated R for drug use and language throughout, strong crude and sexual humor, and nudity.

 

Hey, it’s April 20th, and we could all use a laugh right about now, so in honor of this most blessed day, let’s take a look at Grandma’s Boy, the 2006 stoner comedy from Happy Madison that kind of went unnoticed upon first release only to resurface a few years later as a dumb piece of pop culture. I remember hating the film on first release, so let’s see how we are sitting on the film today.

Alex (Allen Covert, 50 First Dates, Murder Mystery) is a stoner video game tester who’s just been booted from his apartment. With nowhere to go, Alex moves in with his grandmother Lilly (Doris Roberts, Christmas Vacation, TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond) and her two friends. Alex doesn’t want his friends to know he’s living with his grandmother, so he starts lying about his three crazy wild roommates, and it works…until the lie is undone.

I wasn’t lying when I said this film went unnoticed. It only grossed about $6 million in its theatrical run but went on to bring in $50 million in home video sales. Why was it popular? Perhaps because it’s so damn stupid. No, that’s not exactly a criticism. The first priority of a comedy is to entertain and make you laugh or, at the very least, smile. In a stoner comedy, those moments are usually derived from stupidity, and yes, there is stupidity abound, and some of it really works. Then, there are chunks of the film that do not. Let’s talk about the parts that worked for me first.

I felt that Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo, Avengers: Endgame) was great as Samantha, Alex’s new “boss” who has been sent to oversee final touches of Eternal Death Slayer 3, the video game Alex and his coworkers are working on. The overall character arc conceived for her is terrible, but she makes the most of it and is a fun presence onscreen.

I also really enjoyed Peter Dante (The Waterboy, Grown Ups 2) as Dante, the stereotypical stoner drug dealer who tries to buy a tiger in the movie. That’s pretty much all he does in the film, but everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious. Same thing with Nick Swardson (The Benchwarmers, Airplane Mode), who plays Jeff, Alex’s very childish friend. Swardson can’t really lead a film, but he works really well in a supporting role. Even Doris Roberts, who is very funny in the film playing a similar character to others but in a completely whacko movie.

But none of that, absolutely none of it, matters if the film isn’t funny. Thankfully, the guffaw laughs are far more prevalent than the eye rolls. Yes, there are a few eye rolls, but some truly funny lines, scenes, and characters exist within the frames of Grandma’s Boy. Without a doubt, this one is very funny.

So there you have it. It’s 420, and now is probably the best time to watch this stoner comedy. Yes, it’s really dumb and some of it is nonsensical and they completely waste Jonah Hill early on in his career, but it is undeniably funny for a number of scenes, and while it may not work for everyone, it will work well for its demographic.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

New Episode of Kyle & Nick on Film Discusses Christmas Vacation

Hey everyone! There’s another new episode of my web series, Kyle & Nick on Film, where Nick Palodichuk and I discuss the merits of Christmas Vacation, my all-time favorite Christmas classic.

I’ve embedded the video below, so take the time to give it a few if you can, and help support independent content creators by liking, commenting with your thoughts on the film, and subscribing so you don’t miss the next episode!

Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Twelfth Day… My Thank You

Hey everyone. I thought I would start this last day of Christmas to give you my thanks for this past year. I started writing this blog in January but I started planning on Christmas Day. I just wanted to thank you for reading, thank you for enjoying, and thank you for passing the word along. I want to thank you for reading that first post, for watching scary movies all October, and for counting down the 12 Days of Christmas. Thanks again!

 

Today, I just want to leave you with a thought. What is your Christmas movie of choice? Everyone seems to have a fave film that gets recycled every year. Mine, of course, is Christmas Vacation.

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My girlfriend always watches Home Alone.

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My sister-in-law is A Christmas Story.

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So what is yours? Let me know down below. Merry Christmas! Here’s to 2015!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Eleventh Day… Christmas Vacation (1989)

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Director: Jeremiah Chechik

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid

Screenplay: John Hughes

97 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

So when people ask me what the ultimate Halloween movie is, I tell them it is Halloween. When they ask me what the ultimate Christmas movie, I tell them it is Christmas Vacation, the third film in the Vacation franchise from twenty-five years back.

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It stars Chevy Chase (TV’s Community, Caddyshack) as Clark Griswold, the bumbling no-brained father of two and husband to gorgeous Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo, TV’s Entourage, American History X). Clark just wants one thing: to host the ultimate Christmas weekend for his extended family. He wants the hap-hap-happiest Christmas. Too bad he keeps running into problems, from a tree too big to an unwanted guest in the form of cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid, Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Harvest), from an overcooked turkey to a good ol’ fashioned kidnapping, Clark is in for one long holiday.

It all starts with a proven formula from comedy genius John Hughes (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Hughes has been behind some of the best comedies of the 1980s. He spearheaded the original short story that started the film series. Hughes has a powerhouse screenplay here that differs in tone drastically from the previous installments. Toss in Chevy Chase, who just knows his character so well, and there is nothing that can stop this film. From the moment Clark appears onscreen, he makes the assertion that it doesn’t matter whether the tree he has picked is too big for his backyard as son Rusty claims, because it isn’t going in the backyard, it’s going in the living room, immediately addressing his inability to see things realistically.

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Christmas Vacation is what the holidays are about, whether we like them or not. It is sendup to what we do for those we love and what we have to go through to survive. I love this film and I suggest it to anyone looking to close out the holiday the right way.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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