As much as I love and admire George A. Romero’s zombie pictures, I may love Creepshow just a little bit more. Creepshow is a 1982 horror anthology film with elements of black comedy directed by Romero and written by Stephen King. The film’s ensemble cast included Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson and E. G. Marshall, as well as Stephen King himself. Romero again engaged makeup and special effects artist Tom Savini for this film.
It was considered a sleeper hit at the box office when released in November 1982, earning $21,028,755 domestically and remains a popular film to this day among horror genre fans. The film was shot on location in Pittsburgh and its suburbs, including Monroeville. Romero leased an old boy’s academy (Penn Hall) to build extensive sets for the film. It consists of five short stories: “Father’s Day”, “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”, “Something to Tide You Over”, “The Crate” and “They’re Creeping Up on You!” Two of these stories were adapted from King’s short stories.
The segments are tied together with brief animated sequences. The film is bookended by scenes featuring a young boy named Billy (played by King’s son, Joe King), who is punished by his father for reading horror comic books. The film is homage to the EC and DC horror comic books of the 1950s such as House of Mystery, House of Secrets, The Witching Hour, and Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear
In keeping with Romero’s tradition of filming in and around the Pittsburgh area, most of the film was shot in an empty all-girls school located outside Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The school was converted into a film studio, and the episodes “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”, and “They’re Creeping Up on You”, as well as the prologue and epilogue, were filmed in their entirety at the former school. Filming took place at the Greensburg location throughout 1981.
Several additional locations were also used for filming:
- “The Crate” — Most of the interior and exterior shots for the university sequences were filmed at Carnegie-Mellon University (Romero is a Carnegie-Mellon University alumnus), with Margaret Morrison Hall serving as Amberson Hall. The backyard party was filmed in Romero’s own backyard at his former residence on Amberson Drive in Shadyside, Pennsylvania.
- “Father’s Day” was filmed on location at a mansion in the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania.
- “Something to Tide You Over” was filmed on location at a beach-front residence in New Jersey.
The large cockroaches featured in the episode “They’re Creeping Up on You” were hissing cockroaches imported from Guatemala. Romero was unable to obtain an export permit for them, so they were imported on a temporary permit. This meant that each one had to be counted before and after each shot, and accurate records kept of the number of dead specimens. The cockroaches were stored in Styrofoam egg cartons kept inside a large van that was filled with high levels of carbon dioxide to keep the cockroaches quiet. In the final scene of the segment, in which the room is almost filled with cockroaches, many of the apparent insects were actually nuts and raisins, as specified by the legendary Tom Savini.
Intricately and eye-poppingly taking on the stylized look and feel of a vintage horror comic, “Creepshow” is a feast for anyone who enjoys a case of the heebie-jeebies and wants to have a grand time in the process. The brilliantly malevolent, piano-tinged music score by John Harrison keeps the pace moving, each story seamlessly gliding into the next. It’s too bad George Romero and Stephen King have not worked together more often; they fit each other like a snug, bloodily battered glove. All of the pieces of “Creepshow” come together in a smorgasbord of ghastly images, welcome humour, and solid, old-fashioned storytelling. This film, horror and comic book fans, is a very special treat, ideal for the Halloween season or any time at all.