• Creepshow (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 23rd, 2018.
    Director: George A. Romero
    Cast: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King
    Year: 1982
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    Creepshow – Movie Review:

    Written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero in 1982, Creepshow stands the test of time remarkably well, a high point in eighties horror and one of the finest of the many anthologies that the genre has cranked out over the years.

    Inspired by a love of E.C. Comics, the film opens with a prologue wherein a kid named Billy (Joe Hill – Stephen King’s own son) gets in trouble with his cranky stepdad Stan (Tom Atkins of Maniac Cop) for reading a trashy horror comic titled Creepshow. Stan tosses the funny book into the garbage, after which a ghoulish creature dubbed The Creep shows up. It’s here that the live action intro turns into an animated sequence, a fantastic way to bring the film’s opening credits to life as it they were taken straight from the old horror comics that inspired it.

    This segues into the first story, Father’s Day. Here we learn how Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors) killed her father, a terribly abusive old man named Nathan Grantham (Jon Lormer). When she shows up at his grave to pay her respects, she’s confronted by her father’s shambling corpse, now back from the dead and as hungry for cake as for vengeance. Ed Harris also shows up in this one, a fun and gory little zombie story with an amusing twist at the end. Great zombie makeup effects on this one.

    Up next is The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill, where King himself plays the titular hillbilly farmer who figures he can get rich quick when a meteor lands on his property. When poking away at the space rock, Jordy gets covered in ‘meteor shit’ and soon enough starts to change into something more plant than man. While King plays the part for laughs, you can’t help but feel bad for poor old Jordy at the end of the story. Some great effects work and a quirky comedic tone keep this one entertaining.

    Our third story is entitled Something To Tide You Over and it follows a wealthy TV producer named Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen of Day Of The Animals) as he discovers that his younger wife Becky (Gaylen Ross of Dawn Of The Dead) has been carrying on behind his back with hunky Harry (Ted Danson). To pay them back, he concocts a pretty crazy scheme where he buries them just up to their necks on the beach and waits for the tide to come in… with a TV camera placed conveniently nearby to record the moment for prosperity. But of course, there’s a twist. This might be the best of the stories on the movie. Nielsen is fantastic here, he makes a great villain, and the effects in the later part of the short are perfect. On top of that, there’s some delightfully creepy imagery here and the concept just works really well.

    In The Crate, the janitor of a college finds a strange old box from an 1800’s era expedition in the bottom of a remote stairwell. Figuring it might be important, he brings in Professor Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver of The Legend Of Lizzie Borden) who quickly learns that the crate in question contains a dangerous beast. He brings in Professor Northrup (Hal Holbrook of Rituals) to check it out who sees it as an opportunity to get rid of his wife Billy (Adrienne Barbeau of Escape From New York) – once you meet her, you can’t half way blame him! Of course, it doesn’t go quite as planned. This one is also really good, it’s eerie and gory but also quite funny. Holbrook and Weaver are great here but it’s Barbeau who really steals the show – she’s amazingly bitchy here and absolutely walks circles around everyone else in the story. Again, the effects are solid if a little cartoony in spots, but it works.

    Last but not least is They're Creeping Up On You wherein we meet a grumpy old rich eccentric named Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall). He runs his massive empire from his home, a pristinely clean abode sealed up tight to prevent any pests from getting in. When he spies a roach one night, he sprays it dead, something that he seems to take great pleasure in. When the power goes out one night, however, he realizes how much trouble he’s in and just how infested his seemingly spotless home really is. It’s not the best of the stories in the film but it’s still pretty decent and guaranteed to get under your skin if you’re at all creeped out by bugs. If the effects here aren’t perfect, Marshall’s performance more than makes up for it. He’s great in the part, chewing just the right amount of scenery to really make it work.

    It all wraps up with an epilogue where we return to Billy’s room and find out what happened to his step-father/comic book problems – the perfect way to finish an excellent film.

    Creepshow remains a whole lot of fun. Tom Savini’s effects work holds up really well, the plot is the right mix of humor and horror and the perfect cast all do great work. It works really both as a standalone work and as an homage to E.C. Comics like Tales From The Crypt and Vault Of Horror (even more so than the Amicus titles that were named after those comics). It’s paced right, Romero’s direction is spot on and the cinematography is spot-on. Even the score is perfect – it’s no wonder this has gone on to become widely regarded as the classic that it is.

    Creepshow – Blu-ray Review:

    Creepshow was previously released on Blu-ray by Warner Brothers but for this collector’s edition release Scream Factory has sourced their transfer from a ‘new 4K scan of the original camera negative’ with ‘color correction supervised and approved by director of photography Michael Gornick.’ Slapped onto a 50GB disc and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in its proper 1.85.1 aspect ratio, the transfer quality is excellent. Detail is very strong, noticeably improved over the past edition, and colors look great as well. We get nice, solid black levels and accurate looking flesh tones while the picture retains a strong film-like quality throughout. As such, there’s some natural film grain here, and no obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about. On top of that, the picture is free of compression artifacts. It’s also a very clean transfer, showing no noticeable print damage to speak of.

    English language audio tracks are provided in DTS-HD 2.0 and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio with removable subtitles available in English only. The 2.0 track sounds just fine. Levels are nicely balanced and the track is clean, clear and free of any distortion. The score and sound effects get a bit of a nice boost from the lossless track – nothing to complain about at all. As to the 5.1 mix, the pitch is a bit off here and as a result, voices sound a little bit high. Compare the scene where Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen talk on the beach and you’ll notice the difference between the two options. That issue aside, the track is balanced fine and it sounds clean, but those who know the movie well will probably pick on up this issue and for that reason the 2.0 mix is preferable.

    The extras start off with the vintage audio commentary featuring George A. Romero and Tom Savini that was originally included on the special edition UK DVD release that came out via Second Sight in 2013. For those who haven’t had the chance to hear it, this track, which is moderated by Michael Felsher, is a treat. These two guys obviously go way back and are quite good friends and that comes through in the talk. They cover pretty much everything that you’d expect – the story, the casting, King’s involvement, the locations and of course the effects work. It’s pretty packed with information and very much worthwhile. Also carried over from the Second Sight release are a series of audio interviews featuring director of photography Michael Gornick, cast member John Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Miller and makeup effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci. These are edited together rather well and play out the same way that a commentary track would. Pretty much every one of these guys speaks quite positively about their experiences working on the project and with the guys behind it. This was put together using excerpts that Michael Felsher recorded for his Just Desserts: The Making Of Creepshow documentary on the film (sadly not available in this set but easily attainable on its own as it is on Blu-ray through Synapse Films).

    Not to be outdone, Shout! Factory have recorded two exclusive commentary tracks for this release, the first of which is with director of photography Michael Gornick. This is, as you might expect, a fairly technical track but those interested in cinematography and the like should find it interesting. Gornick talks about how he came on board to work on the film, what it was like working with Romero and the rest of the crew, his interactions with some of the cast members and how some of the more iconic shots in the film were setup. The second new commentary gets composer/first assistant director John Harrison and construction coordinator Ed Fountain together for a lively talk about their work on the film. Harrison shares some interesting insight into his creative process here, not just in terms of the music but also his work as first AD for Romero. He kept quite busy on the project and has a lot to say about the scenes that he worked on as well as the score. Fountain also chimes in quite frequently, talking about what was involved in his work on the film, how some of the sets were constructed and more. It’s great that Shout! Factory got some of the lesser known players behind the mic to record their experiences on the picture.

    There’s also a wealth of new featurettes that have been put together for this release, the first of which is Terror And The Three Rivers – A Round Table Discussion On The Making Of Creepshow. In this thirty-minute piece we sit down with John Amplas, Tom Atkins, Tom Savini and Marty Schiff for a talk moderated again by Felsher about their experiences working on the movie. This is quite a laid back and informal talk but you can tell these guys are having a good time here. They each talk about how and why they wound up on the project and then go on to share some fun stories from the set. There’s a bit of overlap here with Savini’s commentary but all in all, this is interesting and entertaining. You can never have too much Tom Atkins in your life.

    In the thirteen-minute The Comic Book Look we’re treated to an interview with costume designer Barbara Anderson. She worked with Romero not just on this film but also on Knightriders, Day Of The Dead, The Dark Half, Monkey Shines and Two Evil Eyes and also worked on Savini’s Night Of The Living Dead remake so she fit right in here. She talks about how she first came to work with Romero, having to deal with a whole bunch of different cast members and the speed under which she had to create all of the costumes featured in the film.

    Animator Rick Catizone is up next in the sixteen-minute Ripped From The Pages interview. Here we learn what went into creating and animating the film’s iconic opening sequence, how he got to know Romero way back when they were doing industrial film and commercials and how he went about creating a look that specifically replicated the horror comics of the fifties that were so clearly the inspiration for all of this in the first place.

    The Colors Of Creepshow – A Look At The Restoration of Creepshow With Director Of Photography Michael Gornick is an interesting ten-minute segment that lets Gornick discuss what went into restoring the feature into the condition that it is here and what was done as far as color grading to get it just right.

    After that, we jump Into The Mix for a thirteen-minute interview with sound recordist Chris Jenkins. Here we learn about what his job entailed and how it effected the film. He talks about creating some of the foley effects and having to tweak some of the voices a bit to get things to where they needed to be.

    In Mondo Macabre we spend ten-minutes with Mondo co-founder Rob Jones And Mondo Gallery events planner Josh Curry to discuss and show off some of the artwork that Mondo has produced over the years that was inspired by the film.

    The last new interview is a thirteen-minute Collecting Creepshow which is an interesting look at the collection of and interview with Dave Burian, who has been gathering up props and other bits and pieces from the movie’s history over the years. In this piece he shows off some of his more interesting pieces and tells the story behind them.

    From there we get a nice selection of archival material starting with Tom Savini’s Behind-The-Scenes Footage. There’s twenty-six-minutes of material in this section, all taken from tapes that Savini recorded while working on the production. Most of the main effects set pieces are featured here in one form or another and it’s interesting stuff if you haven’t seen it before.

    Also included on the disc is a sixteen-minute episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds wherein host Shawn Clark takes us around to a few of the locations that were used for the shoot and compares them as they look today with how they appeared in the film. These are always interesting and this installment is no exception to that, especially if you tend to geek out over movie locations the way that some of us do. The fact that Clark is joined by none other than Tom Atkins himself makes this installment even more exciting.

    Shout! Factory has also included sixteen-minutes of Deleted Scenes on the disc. None of this material really changes much but there’s some interesting stuff in here that makes it worth digging through: we see some of Jordy's dreams, we get a neat stop motion animation bit featuring a severed hand and some longer dialogue sequences.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film’s original theatrical trailer, a separate Spanish language trailer, a pair of TV spots, a minute’s worth of radio spots, four separate still galleries (posters and lobby cards, color stills, behind the scenes photos, behind the scenes photos special makeup FX), menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, the disc comes with some great reversible cover art (the iconic one sheet image on one side and the late, great Bernie Wrightson’s comic adaptation cover on the flip) and a very nice 40-page full color insert booklet that contains a length essay on the film penned by Michael Gingold. Both the book and the Blu-ray case fit inside a very sturdy and nicely printed slipbox – it’s a very classy looking package overall.

    Creepshow – The Final Word:

    Creepshow remains a high point in the anthology horror film and of eighties horror in general and despite the quirks with the 5.1 mix, Shout! Factory has done a mighty fine job bringing it back to Blu-ray. The transfer is excellent and the disc is stacked with extras old and new – even the packaging is top notch. This is a worthwhile double dip - highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Creepshow Blu-ray screen caps!