|Jolting tales of horror… that’s what I was promised the night that I viewed George Romero’s film Creepshow for the first time. It was in the last few days of summer just before I was to enter third grade. I had already seen most of the classics from Universal Studios, theater phantoms and wolf men having established my growing taste for the macabre.
But that night in my uncle’s California home I was to witness something very different. The movie was his idea (bless him), on a double bill with Fright Night no less. As I lied there on the den floor, blanket gripped between my hands, I watched Creepshow in rapt attention, little realizing the profound effect it would have on the rest of my life.
One thing was for certain at the time though… I was scared out of my mind!
The first tangible memory I have of that initial viewing was how I shook like a windswept leaf the minute ol’ Nate’s rotted claw came bursting out of the graveyard earth, John Harrison’s shrieking score matching the intensity of terror I felt. I was squirming around and squinting through clenched fists as that stinking cadaver wrenched itself loose from its grave.
But then something strange happened. When Nate opened his wormy maw, a gurgling voice issued forth and demanded: “I want my cake, Bedelia!” I could hear my uncle chuckling from the back of the room as this zombie began strangling the life out of the woman on screen. It was something the likes of which I hadn’t encountered before.
All throughout the rest of the segment, I would feel a creeping dread come over me as Nate shambled about on his murderous path. But everytime he made that ridiculous request, things wouldn’t seem so bad.
By the story’s climax where the reanimated patriarch proudly displays the head of his slain niece complete with impromptu icing and candles adorning her crown, something miraculous happened. I was smiling and laughing along with it.
The rest of the film proved to have similar treats in store for me. As Creepshow progressed, I actually started looking forward to the scares. Up the blanket I would go when those hellishly yellow eyes from The Crate blinked out at the audience.
But then there would be the ever reliable Adrienne Barbeau, always ready with a castrating quip here and an obnoxious joke there. I secretly cheered from my seat as Fluffy popped out of his box to munch down on her juicy bitch head.
The same repulsion-relief would resurface (no pun intended) in Something To Tide You Over as Leslie Nielsen cackled madly from his sandy grave. “I can hold my breath for a loooong time!” he wailed as the rushing water swept over him.
The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill and They’re Creeping Up On You were also tinged with dark hilarity, my voice cracking between screams and laughs as the main characters each succumbed to their troubling infestations (intergalactic weeds and cockroaches, respectively).
Watching Creepshow, I was getting the full catharsis of the horror-viewing experience. My mind was being relieved by both spine-tingling scares and eerie jokes.
The comic book-derived imagery painted a lurid and ghastly picture on the screen, one that I couldn’t tear my bloodshot pupils from. That coupled with the immensely spirited performances from the entire cast just made this film such an exciting and invigorating ride. It gave me a whole new outlook on the genre, one that I carry with me to this day.
It’s because of Creepshow that I always see horror as being both simultaneously frightening...and fun. Just that faint whiff of gallows humor and hint of a tongue placed firmly in a maggoty cheek is enough to brighten my viewing of a genre film. Even today, after the passing of many autumn moons and countless viewings, Creepshow still remains to be the most fun I ever had being scared!