1982's CREEPSHOW marked George Romero's first, and really best, collaboration with Stephen King (though technically, the author did pop up in a cameo in the underrated KNIGHTRIDERS), as well as his first venture into zombies outside of his DEAD films. Though it isn't a zombie film per se, the living dead do play a pivotal role in two of the film's stories, as King and Romero pay tribute to the EC Comics stable of horror books.
For purposes of this blog, we're going to focus our attention on CREEPSHOW's two zombie stories, "Father's Day" and "Something to Tide You Over." Ironically, these are the weakest stories of the lot, though none of the tales herein would be considered deep, in keeping faithful to the source material.
"Father's Day," about an annual family gathering that coincides with the anniversary of an earlier tragedy, is particularly shallow even considering the film's intent, which is surely the reason it launches the movie. Though its Point A to Point B progression is no more developed than the dozen or so student films reviewed here lately, Romero at least spices the proceedings with a keen visual style--the comic-esque transitions are especially well-done, and the lighting scheme at the end of the segment is superb--and an interesting backstory that's admirably handled by the cast (among them, future Oscar-night luminary Ed Harris). Tom Savini's makeup expertise doesn't get much of the spotlight in this one, but his work on the revived Nathan Grantham (that's MARTIN's John Amplas under that laytex) is great, recalling the maggoty goodness of Fulci's ZOMBIE, and King displays a rare, restrained story economy; my only beef is the unexplained telepathy Grantham uses to pull the massive headstone on poor Ed. What is this guy, Carrie's grandpap?
The other dead-oriented story, "Something to Tide You Over," works as one of the more unsettling tales, despite the presence of Ted Danson (who can benchpress 300 pounds, he informs us ominously) and Leslie Nielsen as the murderous husband of Danson's lover (DAWN's Gaylen Ross, criminally underused here). Again, the storytelling style isn't exactly profound, but Nielsen's method of revenge is unique and visually interesting, if a little impractical. Watching this segment after myriad NAKED GUN sequels and misfires like MR. MAGOO, it's a little strange to see Nielsen as a cold-blooded villain, yet his recent funnyman persona doesn't compromise the story; it also helps to remember he played a fair amount of heavies in the past. Savini gets to show off his skills a little better, and the resultant makeup is rather disturbing. Like all EC morality plays, Nielsen gets his just desserts, but again I gotta ask: what's up with the powers of the dead? After locking himself in the bathroom to get away from the zombified Danson and Ross, Nielsen turns around to discover--they're in the bathroom! Startling, maybe (at least it was before the FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels co-opted this technique to death), but hard to swallow. As a whole, "Tide" isn't as fun as watching King turn into a six-foot weed, but still a worthwhile piece of the anthology.
For the record, I enjoyed the remaining stories in CREEPSHOW, especially the superior "The Crate," though I've always been curious why Romero chose not to end on this one, preferring to close with "They're Creeping Up on You," an overlong segment that feels anti-climactic after seeing Fluffy take care of business. And though it never seems to get the acclaim that NIGHT or DAWN always receives, CREEPSHOW ranks as one of Romero's best works. It's still a personal favorite, and usually gets heavy rotation when the leaves begin to change.