10 Terrifying Facts About Creepshow

Scream Factory
Scream Factory

In the early 1980s, two luminaries of the horror genre got together to make a movie inspired by the gross-out horror comics they’d loved as kids. The result was Creepshow, a film that combined the playful horror fiction of Stephen King with the visual style of George A. Romero, with the creature effects of a third legend-the-making, Tom Savini, thrown in for good measure.

Creepshow’s five horror story segments and animated sequences made it an instant cult classic among genre fans, inspiring a comic book adaptation, a 1987 movie sequel, and now, a new series on Shudder.

To celebrate the streaming revival of Creepshow, here are 10 facts about how the original film was made, from Romero’s inspired direction of King in one of the film’s segments to Leslie Nielsen’s fart machine. There are also cockroaches. Lots and lots of cockroaches.

1. It began with Salem’s Lot.

The road to Creepshow began rather unceremoniously in the late 1970s, when George A. Romero was screening his vampire film Martin at film festivals. After Warner Bros. executives saw the film and enjoyed it, they approached Romero and asked if he’d be interested in meeting with Stephen King, who had just sold film rights to his novel Salem’s Lot to the studio. Romero agreed, and the two bonded after discovering each was a fan of the other’s work.

“In the end, Warners decided to make Salem’s Lot for TV and not theatrical. Steve bailed, and I was no longer invited, and that’s what they did,” Romero recalled. “But we stayed in touch.”

When Salem’s Lot didn’t work out, Romero and producer Richard P. Rubinstein traveled to Maine in 1979 to discuss the possibility of adapting King’s post-apocalyptic novel The Stand into a movie, but it became clear that the budget required to bring the epic to the screen might be a little out of their reach. From there, Romero pitched King the idea of a horror anthology tracing the history of horror movies, with each segment representing a different era. King liked the anthology idea, but with a different influence.

“Steve said ‘No, you know what? We both grew up on EC Comics. We should do a comic book.’”

According to Rubinstein, he then asked King how long it would take him to write a script. King replied “60 days,” and delivered the first draft of Creepshow exactly 60 days later. The film marked King’s screenwriting debut.

2. Creepshow was a King family affair.

Joe Hill in 'Creepshow' (1982)

Joe Hill in Creepshow (1982).

Scream Factory

As Creepshow came together, Romero got the idea that King should do more than serve as screenwriter on the project. He talked the author into doing much more than a cameo and starring in his own segment in the film, as the title character in “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” (adapted from King’s short story “Weeds”). But even that wasn’t the end of the King family’s work on the film: The little boy in the frame story of the film, who’s caught reading the Creepshow comic by his angry father, is played by King’s son Joseph Hillstrom King, better known now as horror novelist and comic book writer Joe Hill.

3. An EC Comics legend contributed art.

Because Creepshow was taking inspiration from the EC Comics horror titles that both King and Romero devoured as children, Romero endeavored to recreate the look of those comics on the screen. For the animation that runs in between the segments of the film, he turned to animator Rick Catizone, whose company shared a building with Romero’s own commercial production company in Pittsburgh, but there was also the matter of the physical copy of the Creepshow comic used as a prop in the film. For that, Romero turned to EC Comics legend Jack Kamen, whose work included classic titles like Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror.

4. Stephen King was deliberately over-the-top.

In “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” King starred as the title character, a country bumpkin from Maine who sees a meteor crash onto his land one night and, after accidentally breaking it open, discovers that his property and his body are quickly being overrun with bright green alien moss. King’s performance is marked by over-the-top mannerisms that made it seem like he was overacting, perhaps due to inexperience. According to Romero, though, that was all part of the concept.

“I don’t think Steve to this day has forgiven me, because my only direction to him was ‘Play it like the Roadrunner in the Warner Brothers cartoons ... Just go way out into left field with it and exaggerate it as much as you want,’” Romero recalled. “And of course critics came back and said ‘Well, this is not a very subtle performance,’ and it’s not supposed to be! I mean it’s supposed to be a cartoon. It basically is a cartoon.”

5. Leslie Nielsen was constantly making everyone laugh.

Because he was shooting five different standalone story segments plus a frame story, Romero was able to pack his cast with a wide array of actors, from up-and-comers to seasoned stars, comedians to Hollywood veterans. One of those actors was Leslie Nielsen, who played the villainous and vengeful husband Richard in “Something to Tide You Over.” Nielsen’s performance in the film is particularly menacing thanks to the glee he seems to be taking in killing his cheating wife and her lover (played by Ted Danson, star of Cheers and The Good Place). But according to the Creepshow crew, a lot of the glee onscreen was thanks to a fart machine Nielsen kept with him at all times. According to Romero, he’d even take the machine out to restaurants after shooting was done for the day, and according to makeup effects guru Tom Savini, his manic laugh of terror near the end of his segment is also thanks to the fart machine.

“He’s laughing because he’s got everybody laughing with the fart machine,” Savini said.

6. The Creep was made from a real skeleton.

To create the many makeup effects required for Creepshow, from covering actors in the flesh of the undead to building an entirely new monster for “The Crate,” Romero turned to Tom Savini, who’d worked with Romero already on films like Dawn of the Dead, Martin, and Knightriders. For Savini, whose pre-Creepshow credits also included the unforgettable gore effects in Friday the 13th in 1980, it was a chance to break out of the “Wizard of Gore” mold that his career to that point had placed him in.

“I wanted to make the transition to monsters and creatures and character makeups and Creepshow was the opportunity to do that,” Savini later said.

Among the many challenges Savini faced—including designing the monster in “The Crate,” which required a long consultation phone call with The Thing effects wizard Rob Bottin—was designing “The Creep,” the Cryptkeeper-style creature who introduced the film and served as its mascot. According to Savini, that animatronic creature build started in a very creepy fashion: with a real skeleton.

“When the box arrived it was labeled ‘A Product of India,’” he recalled.

7. The film’s real star is an ashtray.

Because Creepshow is an anthology, no one character carries the whole film. Even The Creep, the film’s mascot, only appears in the frame story. But there is an unlikely star that happens to have a presence in each of the film’s five short stories: In “Father’s Day,” the first segment, Nathan Grantham is murdered by his daughter Bedelia with a dark marble ashtray. That ashtray then reappears as a kind of dark omen in every other story in the film. It shows up on desks in “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” and “The Crate,” appears on a bedside table in “Something to Tide You Over,” and becomes a soap dish in “They’re Creeping Up On You.” Basically, if that ashtray is a part of your decor, something awful is about to happen to you.

8. The roaches were brought in from Trinidad, and some of them never left.

Each segment of Creepshow posed its own set of filmmaking challenges, but most of them paled in comparison to the challenges the crew faced with “They’re Creeping Up On You,” the final segment of the film which was at one point going to be cut. According to Romero, there was a concern that the film’s budget wouldn’t allow them to do the segment justice, but Romero and King “fought for it” and decided to include it. That meant they needed cockroaches. Lots and lots after cockroaches.

After discovering that ordering “New York cockroaches” out of a catalog would cost about 50 cents each, Romero and Rubinstein turned to entomologists Ray Mendez and David Brody, who became the shoot’s official “cockroach wranglers.”

To get enough cockroaches for the production, Mendez and Brody went to Trinidad and dug through caves, eventually returning to the United States with, according to Savini, around 18,000 cockroaches—which then began breeding in a special trailer on the set that was dubbed the “Roach Motel.”

Shooting with the cockroaches proved challenging for a number of reasons. Some members of the crew handled their presence better than others, and they proved so adept at scattering all over the place—including over walls that had been lined with Vaseline in an attempt to make them unclimbable—that even their wranglers started to lose track of them.

“Roaches don’t take direction. So all you could do is dump ‘em out. Dump ‘em on the desk … 20 seconds, you can’t see them. They’re gone, you can’t see one,” Romero recalled. “Now, you take apart the telephone, and inside the telephone was a telephone-shaped thing that was ... you know, just solid roach. Everything, the computers, everything. They would get in anywhere.”

After the shoot, the roaches were all exterminated because they were imported from outside the United States. That’s the official story, anyway.

“I don’t know how many got away,” assistant director and composer John Harrison said. “A lot got away.”

9. Creepshow introduced Greg Nicotero to filmmaking.

In 1981, while he was shooting Creepshow, Romero called a teenager from his hometown of Pittsburgh and asked if he’d be interested in visiting a set. The teenager, a fan who’d met Romero while on a trip to Rome, jumped at the chance, and it changed his life. His name was Greg Nicotero, and Creepshow became a defining moment for him. Out of that set visit grew a working relationship with makeup effects wizard Tom Savini, which turned into Nicotero’s own career in makeup effects, which ultimately landed him a job on The Walking Dead, where he wound up working as an executive producer and director.

Now, in 2019, Nicotero is the creator and showrunner of a new iteration of Creepshow, which arrived as a TV series on the horror streaming service Shudder in September, complete with a blessing from King himself. Nicotero has risen through his industry to become one of the most important creators in horror, and he attributes it all to visiting Creepshow when he was still a kid.

“Living in Pittsburgh, I never imagined that the film industry or special effects or doing monsters or any of this stuff—I never even knew that that was a job,” Nicotero told The New York Times. “To me, it was a hobby.”

10. Creepshow is part of the Stephen King universe.

Stephen King in front of poster for IT.
Scott Eisen/Stringer/Getty Images

Longtime Stephen King fans know that many of his stories seem to take place within a shared fictional universe, or even a shared fictional multiverse if you take his epic Dark Tower saga into account. We know this in part because of the frequent use of fictional towns King has created within his native Maine, thus forming his own version of the state’s map.

Thanks to “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” Creepshow is explicitly part of this fictional Maine landscape. That story reveals at the end that Jordy’s farm is about five miles outside of King’s most famous fictional city, Castle Rock, the setting for stories including Needful Things, The Sun Dog, The Dead Zone, and more.

Additional Sources:
Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (2007)

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Why Steve Carell Required a Cold Set on The Office

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon

Many people know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to disagree on the ideal office temperature. Some people tend to run warm, while others keep a handy stash of blankets and scarves at their desks to keep the goosebumps at bay. If you're in the latter category, you'd probably have a tough time as an actor or crew member on the set of The Office. Though it would be a cool opportunity to see the Dunder Mifflin team in action, you'd have to work on a set that was consistently kept at 64°F.

As Insider reports, Steve Carell, who played Michael Scott, insisted the set remain at such a chilly temperature because of his very active sweat glands. As silly as it might sound, it's not a myth. Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight Schrute, revealed this behind-the-scenes secret in his 2015 book, The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy.

Insider notes that Carell's requirement was not always appreciated by his castmates, who apparently suffered through the crisp temperatures until they finally got space heaters. Though the set's frequent frigid feel was rough, it probably saved the crew from having to re-shoot scenes spoiled by sweat stains.

[h/t Insider]