How Creepshow Recaptured the EC Comics
The EC comics of the 1950s were revolutionary. In some ways, they were the decade’s only source of horror. On screen, nearly all horror was science fiction, to at least some degree. There was no separation between the two until the rise of Hammer in the late ‘50s and the resurgence of Gothic tales. The EC stories were different. They were modern, contemporary and as sick and twisted as anything being put on screen, even now. Sometimes they were supernatural, sometimes they weren’t, but they always had a jet-black sense of humor and ended on some sort of twisted punchline. The EC Comics were adapted into two films in the 1970s, Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror, respectively, as well as the immensely successful TV series based on Tales. But Creepshow is an original production that perfectly recaptures the tone and spirit of those comics.
Creepshow was made as a love letter to EC. That was its one goal and it succeeded beyond all expectations. The movie comes from two of the greatest minds in horror, both of whom were shaped by the EC stories as children: Stephen King and the late George A. Romero. King met Romero back in the 1970s when Romero was being courted to direct the film adaptation of Salem’s Lot.
He ultimately left the project when it went in the direction of a TV miniseries, but the two remained friends. They bonded over their love of the genre and the monster magazines they had both read as children. They talked about working on a project together and when the stars aligned and their schedules allowed for it, they made Creepshow. It was a pet project, a passion project for both of them.
Creepshow is an EC comic that happens to be on the screen and happens to have been made in 1982. Other than that, it hits the nail on the head in terms of sticking to the tone and style of its inspiration. What really stands out about this adaptation, though, is the sheer difference in its stories. Each kind of EC comic storyline is represented here.
You have the classic supernatural revenge story with a father returning from the grave to visit the daughter who murdered him and finally claim his Father’s Day cake. Then you have a science fiction story, where an isolated redneck is overtaken by alien weeds. The third story provides the traditional EC crime thriller with a ghostly twist, the fourth is a monster story, and the final story is about an old, racist curmudgeon who gets his when cockroaches overtake his high-rise apartment as well as his body.
Most anthology films suffer from a lack of balance between the overall stories. There are usually one or two memorable vignettes while the rest are simply forgotten. Trilogy of Terror is a good example of this. The third story, featuring the Zuni fetish doll, is a classic but the other segments are never discussed. It’s hard to even remember what they were about.
Creepshow doesn’t have this problem. Each story is different, each stands on its own, and at the same time, each story has the perfect balance of humor and horror. The tagline of Creepshow promises the most fun you’ll ever have being scared, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s demented, but funny, and invites you to have fun right along with it.
Long before movies like Sin City, Creepshow was meticulously shot and edited to look like a comic book. There are scenes that are framed in a ‘50s-styled comic book panel. The use of color is great and adheres to the four-color scheme of comics from that era. The cinematography aids King’s already great script incredibly well. With the dark humor and the wonderful color spectrum, these do not feel like short films that happen to be slapped together. Instead, they all feel like they were torn out of the same comic.
What really sells Creepshow as a pseudo-adaptation of the EC comics is the wraparound story in which a boy is scolded by his parents for possessing a copy of the Creepshow comic book, which is then promptly thrown in the garbage. It was commonplace for kids who collected these comics back in the day to be chastised for reading them. Stephen King, George Romero, and many other horror writers and filmmakers have recounted similar experiences. The boy in the segment is actually King’s son, Joe Hill, who has gone on to become a very successful horror author in his own right.
Creepshow is not only an essential anthology, but the perfect adaptation of the original EC comics. All of the stories are original, as is the title, but the tone, spirit, and black heart that made those original tales work are all present here. This is the perfect team up between two horror titans.