(1982, dir. George Romero)

I’ve been sitting on this one for about a week. Last Sunday, iconic horror director George Romero passed away, and it’s difficult write about his work and what it meant without simply repeating familiar praise.

While Romero is best known for inventing zombies as we know them (with Night of the Living Dead and its sequels), he also had a modest hit in 1982 with Creepshow, an anthology movie inspired by horror comic books of the 50’s, and written by none other than Stephen King. To mark the passing of this legendary maverick, I finally sat down and gave his Creepshow a look.

It’s fun! Five unrelated morality plays, each with a gruesome and horrific twist that lands them somewhere between The Twilight Zone and Hammer’s horror pictures. None of the tales are scary, exactly—the movie’s too funny and colorful to effect genuine chills—but they offer plenty of skin-crawling moments thanks to wonderful practical effects from frequent Romero collaborator Tom Savini.

The cast is full of good performers who understand what kind of movie they’re in: Leslie Nielsen, Ted Dansen, Viveca Lindfors, Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, E.G. Marshall. They all ham it up just enough to keep pace with Romero’s arch storytelling approach, which blends live action with animated transitions and hand-drawn comic-book panels. The technique perfectly evokes those old dog-eared floppies read by countless children under the blankets, trembling flashlights in hand.

Romero’s enduring legacy as a filmmaker is his use of horrific iconography to explore meaningful ideas. Famously, his zombie films are satirical social critiques, tackling topics like race, class, consumerism, militarization and immigration.

But with Creepshow, Romero simply lets the ghouls come out to play. There are no pretensions here, just savage monsters, ghosts of vengeance, and ooey-gooey body horrors—all played with a wink and a smile.

Currently rentable through VUDU.

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