Gag me with a gravestone. Here comes "Creepshow," a five-part comic anthology featuring the art of gross-out. It's an unabashedly juvenile junk movie by fiendish director George A. Romero and ghost-writer Stephen King.
Cartoonist Jack Kamen's classy splash panels chain King's stories together and give "Creepshow" that pulpy look. Presciently, Kamen's preliminary sketches showed a sinister little boy resembling King's son Joe, who ended up playing the part in the film. Just coincidence? Rod Serling wouldn't think so.
The elder King, author of "Carrie," "Night Shift"and "Salem's Lot," also acts in one episode: lawn doctors from space. He plays a hick farmer who's consumed by astral grass after touching a meteorite. King's rather funny, but he's not particularly scary.
Most of the time "Creepshow" works, though. Ghouls will be ghouls, after all, and Romero, creator of the classic ''Night of the Living Dead," does push a mean panic button. Still, "Creepshow" never goes for really high-tech special effects -- nothing so visceral as "The Thing." Romero's monsters look more like used air-sick bags turned inside out.
That's the look of the first creep. A family of spooked preppies takes tea while awaiting a visit from batty Aunt Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors), who murdered her father on Father's Day. This year, decomposing dad (Jon Lormer) is not bereft of plans for celebrating the holiday.
The next-best vignette stars a 148-year-old monkey, who's naturally starving when he's taken out of a crate found by a sweet old janitor. The janitor's devoured in short order, and closely followed by a graduate student. A meek professor (Hal Holbrook), given to Walter Mitty dreams of murdering his shrewish wife (Adrienne Barbeau), purges himself of conubialism.
There's also the one about the couple who return from a watery grave to get the jealous husband (Leslie Nielsen) who drowned them. And finally, the most talked-about story in this quintet: A fusty millionaire, with the habits of a Howard Hughes, is eaten by cockroaches. E.G. Marshall stars as the autocratic old fussbudget who finds a bug in his blender and then, during a brown-out, is blanketed with the six-leggers.
When the exterminator arrives, there's no answer. He calls out: "What's the matter, bug got your tongue?" Close-up of mouthful of roaches. It's a case of tongue and shriek. CREEPSHOW -- At area theaters.