Halloween Every Day (for a Month)
By Andrew Neil Cole
Day 4: Creepshow (1982).
Every now and then I’ll hear or read something concerning the difference between a great horror movie and a great Halloween movie. The broad-strokes definition of a great Halloween movie is any horror movie that people look forward to watching around Halloween time. These movies are usually a little more fun and a little less intense, a little more focused on atmosphere and a little less focused on slaughter. Of course, the precise definition of what is and what is not a Halloween movie will change from person to person, but the overall point remains the same: It is possible for a horror movie to be great without being a great Halloween movie, and vice versa. For example, a friend of mine loves The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but finds the film’s tone much too dark and ominous to be a great Halloween movie. At the same time, this same friend loves the outrageously silly fun of Fright Night (the original 1985 version, of course), but only feels like watching it in the month of October, when the nostalgia factor will be significantly amped up.
Creepshow, at least for me, works as both a great horror movie and a great Halloween movie. Written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, the movie couldn’t have a better pedigree for pure horror, while the subject matter (a portmanteau-style homage to ’50s horror comics) clearly draws on the kind of nostalgia that makes Halloween (and Halloween movies) so much fun. The five short films that define the corpus of the anthology play like a walking tour of a horror-story museum: revenge from the beyond the grave, unstoppable terror from outer space, shambling corpses proving that love never dies, a ravenously wild creature in a crate, and cockroaches by the ton. The film plays out in a series of cleverly crafted, highly stylized vignettes that themselves resemble the panels of the great EC horror comics—canted angles, strikes of purple, blue, pink, and green light, a wraparound voodoo story that includes a skeletal creature leering through a boy’s bedroom window, and animated comic book-style introductions to each story.
For anyone who likes old-school horror tales, Creepshow works like gangbusters, even if, in my opinion, the final story (a cockroach infestation nightmare called “They’re Creeping Up on You”), feels totally unnecessary. Also, I won’t bother blathering on about the outstanding cast, but I will say that it is refreshing to watch an entire anthology film in which none of the stories features sullen teens in peril or angst-ridden vampires.