1982’s Creepshow is a brilliant anthology of horror shorts written by horror legend Stephen King, and directed by horror legend George A. Romero. It’s a team-up that feels so perfect, with King’s iconic ability to mold an interesting and unique tale from anything, and Romero’s stellar direction. A sequel eventually followed in 1987, not funded anywhere near as well, but it still puts forward some great shorts. Overarching all this is this highly stylized comic book theme, with the stories jumping straight from a fictional comic series (which turned into one real issue), putting all the camp and terror together in a neat little package.
More Creepshow sequels were made, but without any input or creative contribution from King, Romero, or anyone else who worked on the first two, and they’e not really worth your time. So, forgetting about the unfortunate third installment, here is a ranking the segments from the first two (including the prologue/epilogue stories) in celebration of the new Creepshow series.
10. Prologue/Epilogue (Creepshow)
The first Creepshow is drawn together by a familiar background story of a young boy whose father doesn’t approve or allow him reading his horror comics. The quick buildup of an unlikable character in the father comes rapid fire with foreshadowing, as he gives a short description of a few of the stories as examples of “crap” after throwing out his son’s Creepshow comics. The kid curses his father to rot in hell, and conveniently The Creep from the comics appears at his window to see to it that young Billy gets his revenge.
It’s a fun and straightforward tale of vengeance delivered through supernatural means, and a nice “screw you” to anyone who doesn’t approve of the old school horror comics the film themes itself after. It ties everything together well and is memorable, but it’s not all that intricate or impressive when put up against all the other stories, so it ends up bottom of the list.
9. Father’s Day (Creepshow)
A tale of a dysfunctional family wrought with murder and hatred which culminates in an undead massacre. Nathan Grantham is a patriarch who orchestrated the murder of his daughter Bedelia’s partner. A miserly old asshole, on Father’s Day he demands a cake, fervently and aggressively demanding over and over for it. Bedelia, unable to put up with his rantings any more, kills her own father. Flash forward to a future Father’s Day, and the rest of the family gathers. Bedelia somehow manages to accidentally reanimate Nathan by spilling whiskey on his grave, and we enter full force into ridiculous gore as an undead Nathan hunts down his family members.
There’s not much negative to say about “Father’s Day,” but it’s hard to place where it should land on the list. It doesn’t have the shine that many other shorts do though, so it hits a lower position as well. It’s a good starting point, hitting the right notes of humor and horror, but just fades into the background amongst other segments.
8. Prologue/Epilogue 2 (Creepshow 2)
Coming together as more of a short of its own than the kind of overarching tale the first went with, Creepshow 2‘s background story is broken up into four parts spattered throughout the anthology, playing in and out of each of the other segments. It tells the story of Billy, a young boy who’s very into the Creepshow comics. He thrives for the new issues, and orders Venus flytraps via the magazine, but has to dodge bullies hell-bent on ruining his day. Tom Savini stars as The Creep, delivering issues of the magazine and giving us an intro and outro to each of the segments within. Most of this overarching story is presented as a cartoon, though it does fade into live action at the beginning and end.
Whilst nothing amazing, this storyline does capture a particular feeling that really makes me wish there was some sort of Creepshow cartoon around when I was growing up. It’s a whole lot of fun, and builds up the Creepshow world a bit more than the first one did. Both intro/outro segments do end up low, but they’re certainly worth mentioning, as they tie everything together.
7. Old Chief Wood’nhead (Creepshow 2)
This satisfying tale of Native American vengeance via a warrior’s spirit residing within a wooden statue starts with an old couple running a store in a dying town aptly named Dead River. Ray and Martha Spruce are good people, though Ray is the more virtuous of them. He’s given and provided generously to the native people of the area, and has helped keep the town afloat, waiting for life to be breathed back into it. After receiving heirlooms as collateral in paying back the debts of the tribe of the town, the son of the chief robs the Spruces. The robbery turns sour as Sam Whitemoon, a self-absorbed and appearance-obsessed thug, shoots the couple and plans to head out with his gang to Hollywood. This is when Old Chief Wood’nhead, the statue outside the store, steps in to take vengeance on those who would do such a horrible thing.
It’s a nice little story with excellent buildup and tension, and when the action comes it’s delivered sharp and quick. It’s very predictable, sure, and the wooden statue’s movement looks a little janky at times, but otherwise it’s a solid beginning to the second film. However, despite being well made, Old Chief Wood’nhead himself, along with the basic plot, doesn’t really hit too hard.
6. The Hitchhiker (Creepshow 2)
The final short of the second film sees a woman fresh off having an affair, who is distracted trying to think of excuses she could give her husband for being late. Distracted in thought, she drops her cigarette, and a sharp turn causes her to swerve and crash right into an innocent hitchhiker, seemingly killing him on impact. From here it plays out just like you’d expect, with this mysterious hitchhiker doggedly coming back to haunt her on her long drive home. The hitchhiker getting more and more aggravated, but still only repeating “Thanks for the ride, lady” is a great touch, as her guilt is personified and determined to get her.
It’s a well-crafted segment and a great ending place, but it does run long and suffers a bit as focus dies down. “The Hitchhiker” is incredibly simple in concept, however, and I absolutely love the King pacing and dialogue in the middle section.
5. They’re Creeping Up On You (Creepshow)
An insidious and disturbing segment surrounding an outbreak of determined cockroaches in a clean freak’s sterile apartment. E.G. Marshall does a fantastic job at playing Upson Pratt, the crotchety tenant full of his own self importance. Pratt is shown to be a remorseless man as he receives calls from distraught and angry people denouncing him for his company ruining their lives and families. He dismisses these complaints, not caring in the least for these people’s little lives. Tormenting this man who seems to consider others as mere insects to be exterminated in order to continue prospering, are cockroaches that appear in his sealed and pristine clean home. Despite his best efforts and constant complaints to the owner of the apartment block, Pratt can’t stop the steady influx of invasive insects as they threaten to overwhelm him.
This short is one of the most unnerving, especially if bugs make you squeamish. The end scene sticks in your mind, making this one of the most standout segments to not come from a previously published short story. A lot of the segments have a B-movie quality or embrace schlock to make something entertaining; “They’re Creeping Up On You” takes that absurdity and converts it into something disturbing.
4. The Crate (Creepshow)
One of the most iconic stories present in the series, this is a tale of a mysterious discovery in a university leading to a horrible creature being unleashed on the area. When a crate marked “Arctic Expedition – June 19, 1834” is discovered by an inquisitive janitor who meets his untimely demise when pulled inside, the terror begins rolling. We next see a man named Henry Northrup, and his insufferable wife. He daydreams multiple times about ending her life, and the joy it would bring those at the gathering they’re both at. When presented with this ancient, violent creature, Northrup doesn’t see danger, but instead a convenient way to rid himself once and for all of his hated wife.
The monster itself might look a little corny by today’s standards, but the schlock is utterly charming, which accurately describes the whole short. It’s one of the most well-known parts of Creepshow for a reason, and takes a prime spot in our rankings.
3. Something To Tide You Over (Creepshow)
With Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Gaylen Ross, and even an uncredited appearance from Richard Gere, “Something To Tide You Over is star studded.” Nielsen portrays a sadistic, torturous, and all together disconcerting psychopath in this almost a surreal segment, with Nielsen’s character, Richard Vickers, taking Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson) out to a private beach, burying him up to his neck, and setting up cameras to watch as the tide comes in to claim him. Whilst there are moments of absurdity, Vickers is a chilling character, and the way in which he kills his victims is disturbing.
Nielsen’s impressive range is a particular highlight here. It’s not like he wasn’t known as a solid serious actor, but as Creepshow was post-Naked Gun and post-Airplane!, it was a rarer thing to see. In most shorts, Romero’s style is apparent alongside the atmosphere and interesting dynamics of King’s writing, but this short feels much more leaning into the menacing and strange aura King creates through his short fiction. “Something To Tide You Over” holds up with some of the most memorable and iconic moments throughout both the Creepshow films.
2. The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill (Creepshow)
Simple-minded farmer Jordy Verrill has a $200 bank loan that he just can’t pay off. Faced with this insurmountable debt, he jumps at the chance for riches great enough to remove his debt after he finds a meteorite that crash-landed on his farm. Soon enough, however, he finds out that touching this alien object has resulted in some sort of invasive weed growing across his skin, and despite his ghost dad warning him about feeding it water, he can’t stand the itching, and wants to wash it off. Whatever this meteorite is made of, it’s infecting everything around it, and growing those weeds at a wild pace.
This dimwitted bumpkin is played by Stephen King himself, doing an excellent job at portraying a comedic character and putting forth all the corniness both expected and desired from this short. Pretty much everything about “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” is amazing, from King’s masterful campy acting, to the fairly intriguing yet simple plot, to the impressive set design with the weeds claiming everything in sight. Creepshow is great at mixing and flowing between comedic horror and some almost disturbing horror; “Jordy Verrill,” despite a couple solid moments of unease through the growth, is an ideal example of the former. It’s genuinely funny, and one of the segments you definitely should check out.
1. The Raft (Creepshow 2)
“The Raft” is a strange tale of a creature or entity that never quite reveals itself, that manages to maintain itself as a terrifying unknown. Looking a bit like an oil spill, the creature hunts a few teens who unfortunately decided it would be fun to drive out to a lake in the middle of nowhere in order to go swimming and fool around on a large raft left in the water over the holidays. After one of them dares to touch the strange shape and is pulled in and consumed by what appears to be a living tar or something of the sort, the others have to face the terrifying reality that they’re now stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no clothes and no certain way to outrun the shape in order to get back to land. It’s a tense and terrifying segment.
“The Raft” is one of my favorite King short stories, and perhaps it’s my love for it that puts it at the top of this list. Whilst the acting in this segment is very 80s, and the shape itself isn’t visually scary, “The Raft” builds tension beautifully to transform all that. It’s one of the most memorable Stephen King short stories, and it makes for our top spot as a Creepshow segment.
Creepshow allowed for Stephen King and George Romero to explore unique and interesting storylines and themes with a bunch of talented people working alongside them. The first two films both hold up today.