The concept of the horror short story being transferred to the big screen as a sort compilation film is not unusual. Indeed King has had several of his short stories converted in this way for Cats Eye. The difference here is that this time only two of the stories are cribbed from his short story collections. Also the film has a top horror director attached in the shape of the legendary Romero. Now this would be any horror fan’s dream (except for Dark Half) but interestingly 90% of the stories are played for laughs in some sort of schlock 50’s B-movie type of way. Unfortunately quite a few critics at the time completely missed the point of the film and it was almost universally slated. This is a real shame as the film has a real sense of fun about it, as you will see.
The film opens with a nasty father confiscating a boy’s horror comic and throwing it in the trash (these types of comics were common in King’s youth). Once we zoom in on the comic the different pages flick past us and 5 different stories from the comic jump off the page to entertain us in a mixture of horror, comedy and some intentional bad acting.
This first story is a fairly weak opening. A family gathers to commemorate Father’s day even though Aunt Bedilia murdered her father 7 years previously on that very night. As with most of these stories I can’t give much away without ruining the whole story. Safe to say that 7 is a magical number and the end results are not unexpected. This is probably the weakest of the stories as it is fairly leaden and plodding. Not even Romero’s masterful camerawork can save it. There is a notable appearance by Ed Harris though… and he has hair!
The Lonely Death of Jordy Verril
Stephen King stars in this one as a, shall we say, farmer of limited intelligence. An incredibly bad special effect lands on Jordy’s property and it turns out to be a meteor. The moronic farmer touches the meteor and unfortunate things start to happen. King cannot act to save his life and watching him gurn through this is hilarious, which is OK as this is pure campy horror comedy. The bright primary colours and use of comic book effects and graphics help to remind us this is a simple pulp horror comic and should be treated as such.
Something to tide you Over
The stars just keep coming as both Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson appear in this one. Richard Vickers (Nielson) has discovered the affair between Harry Wentworth (Danson) and his wife. He has a cruel and unusual voyeuristic punishment in store but of course we are afforded a twist in the tale. The quality of the previous segment is kept up here, as Danson and especially Nielsen aren’t afraid to go way OTT to portray their despicable characters in this comedy romp. The over exaggerated expressions and use of comic book inserts makes this a real treat. As an aside, see if you can spot the cameo from John Amplas (Martin) in this one…
This is a more serious piece tinged with the irreverent comedy that permeates the previous stories. This time Hal Holbrook plays a downtrodden teacher/husband to his alcoholic boor of a wife (Adrienne Barbeau). However this seems to be a side issue as a janitor discovers a crate containing a nasty secret in the University. Anyone who investigates this unusual crate seems to regret it and this gives Henry (Holbrook) an idea. Again the characters here are painted with broad primary brush strokes to maximise the comedy, which works perfectly. The story and its conclusion are slightly more grisly in nature but this takes nothing away from the humour, which is again aided by the comic book lighting and sound.
They’re Creeping Up On You
This is quite simply a delightful conclusion. After a collection of funny comedy moments the masterful duo hit us here with a particularly gruesome and horrific last story. Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) is a rich recluse, scared of germs, who lives in an ultra high tech apartment. He is universally loathed and treats people like dirt whilst he has recently caused a man to have a heart attack during his business dealings. Unfortunately his hermetically sealed, ultra hygienic hideaway has been compromised and he has a bug problem (more specifically cockroaches). He tries everything he can to rid himself of the pests but to no avail. This is easily the most gruesome of the segments if you are even the least bit squeamish about insects. The characters are still broadly defined with OTT mannerisms and characteristics but this time the character seems a little too life like.
As you can see there is only one weak part to the ensemble and it is a shame as without this blight the film would be up there amongst Romero’s finest (albeit for different reasons). Romero’s direction is evident here in spades. His camera angles and quick cutting are at the forefront and I think any Romero fan would instantly spot this as his film even without the credit on screen. The inclusion of the comic book artwork and colour schemes is incredibly effective and help to hammer home the idea of this being a schlocky b-movie type experience. I will never understand how certain critics completely misunderstood this film.
A special mention must go to Tom Savini for the make-up effects work. I am constantly amazed by his work and this film is no exception. In the more light-hearted stories his makeup is suitably amusing, whilst the more serious segments get some grisly makeup effects. He also makes a cameo appearance in this film so keep your eye out for that as well.
The mark may seem low but remember that one fifth of the film is well below par. The rest is mostly pure magic. We get an entertaining and diverting film that rarely bores you and constantly entertains. Any Romero fan, King fan or just any horror fan should give this a try.
Warner’s are never going to give cult films like this the same sort of treatment that Anchor Bay do but they don’t do too badly. The case is a plain snapper with the chapter list giving us 41 stops. The menus are simple static stills and are functional.
The picture is in its original ratio of 1.85:1 anamorphic. The print itself is a respectable one. The grain is minimal and the damage is noticeable but light. The transfer is adequate given the source. The picture is slightly soft but the colours are reproduced well with vibrant greens and reds.
CORRECTION - I should point out that this disc is double-sided with a 4:3 version on the other side of the disc. Picture quality seems similar to the widescreen version.
The only option available here is the original mono track. The track is clear and free from hiss and the dialogue is mostly audible. I have to say that in places the dialogue was a little too quiet for my tastes, but nothing disastrous.
This is where Warner budget releases usually fall down and this one is no exception (which is a shame as Romero seems to like doing commentaries). Here we have the theatrical trailer, which is actually quite entertaining. Other than that there are some bog standard biographies and that is your lot.
Well I am a confirmed Romero fan and a great fan of King’s work so this one had a head start on me. The disc from Warner’s is adequate given the budget, source and popularity of the film. The picture is pretty good whilst the sound is variable. The extras are almost non-existent which is always a disappointment. Overall this disc is cheap and the film is a good one… it would be a shame if Romero fans and horror fans in general gave this quirky little horror-comedy a miss.