Monday, June 7, 2010

Side Note: I wrote this months ago for a post I was going to do on Father's Day, but then it fell to the wayside. So I present it here now, in its unedited form for your perusal. I hope you find it entertaining, useful, and , at least, comment worthy.

CREEPSHOW is a great movie. There's no denying it. And I know I'm preaching to the choir when I tell you all this. But let's just break it down real quick anyway. It's horror, it's comedy, and it blends the two perfectly, something not all movies that strive to do this can actually pull off. It's got a great cast, including two comedic actors (Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen) in rare form, a disco dancing Ed Harris, and severed head father's day cake, Adrienne Barbeau, an Artic gorilla, and zombies and roaches galore. Although I could take or leave (more likely leave) Stephen King's performance as the cursed Jordy Verill, the rest of the flick is pretty rock solid.

It's fun, it's spooky, it's directed by George Romero, it has great practical effects courtesy of Tom Savini, and it's just a great time. People get what they deserve, Tom Adkins acts all tough and stuff, and we end up laughing and being grossed out simultaneously. But the more I think about it, the more I feel like somebody's trying to tell us something...

At the heart of several segments in CREEPSHOW lies some deep familial issues. The Father's Day segment is probably the most evident of this - being as how it revolves around an arrogant bastard of a father who drives his daughter Bedilia to knock the life out of him with a marble ashtray. She blames it on a fall, gets off scot free, but returns each year to the scene of the crime to swill Jim Beam out of the bottle and loll around on dear old daddy's grave until sitting down with equally bitchy and cold hearted family members for ham.

Told through flashback, we see poor Bedilia constantly berated by her fuckface of a father, as he screams for his father's day cake. 'I want my cake!' is the refrain and Bedilia, always having been a bit unstable, can't stand it any more, especially when he calls her a bitch. I'd kill the fucker too, the way he acts. It's all deliciously over the top (the lighting and camera work help), but in a way, really fucking sad. Here's this wealthy old monied family who can't get along with one another because money has come between them. Just a matter of time before Pops kicks the bucket and the rest of the clan is rolling in loot. And is is just me, or is there a strong sense of some incest going on between Bedilia and her dad? i could swear that's alluded to. That, and the Aunt, she calls Bedilia the 'patriarch'. Weird.

No one likes each other, although some members may have gotten to know each other in the Biblical sense, and it's all about money, money, money. The message here: families are fucked up. Even rich ones. Especially rich ones. And it's entertaining even without mention of the zombie, the severed head cake, and the Ed Harris disco dancing.

Speaking of fucked up though, Jordy Verill is kinda the opposite of Bedial's clan, but fucked up nonetheless. A worn out country bumpkin with a penchant for booze, Stephen King's portrayal of this broke down soul is pretty goofy. But I kinda feel sorry for Jordy; you figure all this self beratement (he repeatedly calls himself a lunkhead) had to have come from somewhere. And of course, it came from dear old dad again, this time, instead of appearing through flashback, appears as a ghostly presence in a mirror doing a darn good Angus Schrimm impression, to chastise Jordy from beyond the grave. And all Jordy wanted to do was sell a meteor the the college to pay off a bank loan. Instead, the meteor turns Jordy into a walking plant. Jordy never asked for this station in life, but I can tell you what, daddy probably had a lot to do with it. Not the meteors and the exuberant plant life, but with Jordy's self esteem issues and probably his alcoholism as well. I know my parents have driven me to drink on more than one occasion.

Yeah, that's right, just blame it on the parents.

Although the daddy issues are more prevelant in the first two segments of the movie, I still think there are some power relationships at play in the TV segment and the Cage segment. Maybe not in the roach segment. And we cannot forget the prologue. I mean come on, after Tom Adkins disciplines his kid (Stephen King's real life kid, Joe Hill, who has come into his own as a horror author in his own right), he tells his hapless wife, 'that's why God made fathers, babe, that's why God made fathers.'

Oh, CREEPSHOW! I love you for so many reasons! Way to get all psychoanalytic on our asses and make us think for once. At least now, after twenty years of me watching you and several degrees later.


  1. You hit the nail on the head with this one, and all the fucked-up family issues, specifically with Daddy, but also in the husband/wife area in the beach zombies and Abominable Fuckcreature segments. I guess you could see the Howard-Hughes roach guy as the "money power" guy--he clearly has trouble with the black custodian he keeps talking to through the intercom, always looks like he's got a sour taste in his mouth just talking to him. And what could be lower on the power scale than roaches? I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

    The movie really keeps the EC comics vibe where nobody's ever a really good person--or if they are, they're weak and beaten down, like Jordy and the hubby in the Cage segment--and everybody gets more than what's coming to them vengeance-wise. I can see where these types of stories appealed (and continue to appeal) to pubescent kids, who always feel put upon and limited by the parental and authoritarian powers that be.

    A great movie, and one of Romero's last really good ones, imo.

  2. I think you're right about the Howard Hughes dude - roaches are totally ick and reviled - metaphors abound. I was gonna get into all the henpecked husband thing in The Cage episode, but just didn't have the time. And isn't Adrienne Barbeau absolutely wonderful/awful in that role? She mentioned it when I saw her speak at Festival of Fear in '07 and truth be told, she has never been drunk in her life and abstains completely from alcohol. She's a winner, that one.

    I love this movie and revisit it again and again. Hell, I even love the sequel.

    Poor Romero, have the mighty have fallen indeed.

    Hey, and it's good to see you :)

  3. Very nice essay Jenn. I recently re-watched the film on blu-ray (a real bargain bin score)and King's fondness for father stories does saturate the picture.

    Had no idea that the kid in the framing story was Joe Hill though, very cool. Thanks for the trivia tidbit that I will now use to amaze my friends.

  4. Barbeau is indeed a class act. Many wonderful assets, she has. ;)

    I'm afraid I can't share your love for the sequel, however. THE RAFT segment was good, but the others I didn't like. I've given it some thought, and I really believe it was hampered for me by the fact it was 3 stories instead of 5. One of the (many) great things about the first is that the stories never overstay their welcome--they get in, hit the marks, and get out--and even if there's one story you don't like that much, another one's coming up soon--like 6-page stories in comic book. ;) The sequel didn't have that pace, and it hurts it, imo.

    But hey, some people find wooden indians scarier than I do. It's a great big wonderful world!

    >>Hey, and it's good to see you :)

    I've been around. ;)

  5. @Adam. You know who else has some serious family issues? Bentley Little. Damn, that man can write a story about fucked up family situations. You should check out his short stories. Some are downright disturbing. And don't let the fact that he wrote THE WASHINGTONIANS that Peter Medak murdered in the Masters of Horror series scare you away either.

    @Scott. THE RAFT is definitely my favorite segment in CS2, but I do like the hitchhiker 'cause he scared me as a kid, and I do like the wooden Indian bit because it was the first referential scene I remember picking up on in a horror movie at a young age (PSYCHO). So I'm more nostalgic on it than anything.