Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I give you to, Creepshow.
Every day, I'd get home from school and put on a movie. Either I would rent some ultra-violent sleaze-fest from Tonys’ Video down the block (Tony, who would let me rent 555, but thought Rocky Horror was inappropriate because of the "gay scenes.” ...go figure), or I would slip in the Videodisc of one of three movies; Creepshow, Altered States, and Halloween 3. All Videodiscs I still have, mind you! They are hanging with pride on the wall in the bedroom. Altered States being that mind blowing trip that fuelled my curiosity in consciousness and entheogens, which is a story for another time. As for Halloween 3.. I don't care. String me up, set me a blaze, fire up torches and the pick-axes.. get the dogs on me. I don't care what you say. Halloween 3 was my favorite of the series, and still is.
Moving onto the subject at hand, Creepshow.
George Romero and Stephen King; Definitely two of the greatest names in the horror genre, and we have them together, in one perfectly wrapped packaging. We'd see them again together for The Dark Half, which was another excellent and under-appreciated flick.
For those who haven't seen it, let me create a blurb.
In the 1950’s there were the EC Comics which told multiple tales of murder and mystery within 30 or 40 odd pages; Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, etc. Creepshow is Romero and King’s tribute to these comics.
The film, beginning sometime around Halloween, begins with the great Tom Atkins reprimanding his son, Billy, after catching him with a Creepshow comic book. The comic, filled with horror crap... Things coming out of crates and eating people, dead people coming back to life, and people turning into weeds for christ's sake. So, he took care of it, and that's why god made fathers. Daddy dearest throws the comic in the trash, and Billy is treated to a visit by the Creeper outside his window. The Creeper then looks to us, and brings us into the comic, showing us the tales that Billy had found so much delight in. These stories feature exactly what Papa Atkins had described, and then some.
The cast of characters found inside are nothing short of true scumbags. Leslie Nielsen buries Ted Danson up to his neck in sand during high-tide. Stephen King himself is the dimwitted hick that gets wayyy too close to a meteor. Hal Holbrook decides it's time to feed his bitch of a wife, Adrienne Barbeau to some centuries old creature. E.G. Marshall is tormented by a few million roaches, and Ed Harris is shown exactly what happens to you when you dance as atrociously as he does. We eventually go back to young Billy and Dad of the Year, for a vengeance one can only dream of.
Creepshow was a whole new world for me. It opened so many doors to my young, impressionable mind...
I watched this film as much as was humanly possible, and it actually scared me each and every time. I had one of those basement staircases with the open stairs, and I tore ass up those stairs every time my mother turned off the light behind her that Nathan Grantham's cake-enraged hand was going to shoot through those steps and grab my ankles.
We had a large black box in our basement as well, it had a big gold lock on it, and no there were not blankets and bed sheets in it like my mother always said. It was the Crate monster, and that fucker was just waiting for me to reach in. Roaches looked at me funny, I never liked the beach, and I'll be damned if I went near that spider plant my dad had in the living room. I still do not eat crab and/or lobster because he might want revenge for all his relatives that were stuffed and eaten.
The Chinese grocery store on the way home from school had a small rotating rack for comic books. On that rack were the (what I now know were reprints) Tales From The Crypt comic books. I would read a few pages before the guy kicked me out "Buy or leave! This no playtime!"
My early years were spent watching Creepshow countless times during the day. Then when it was bed time, Monsters, Tales From The Darkside, Twilight Zone, Freddys’ Nightmares, Amazing Stories, Tales From The Crypt.. You know what TV was like back then. It all fed into the Creepshow style of stories that I loved. If you want to split hairs, you could say Twilight Zone, or even Alfred Hitchcock Presents started it, but the comics came first, so sit on that and twirl.
Later in life in Junior High, every time we had music class, I tried to play the piano theme music. No one ever knew what the hell I was trying to do, but I tried anyway! I always pictured College to be this gigantic building, filled with unending halls, with janitors in jumpsuits creeping around every corner. Apartments in Manhattan were just big white holding cells with glass walls and keypads. And I never understood why Wilma came home and poured herself a big glass of milk.
But, that's what I took from the movie. It created a world that I was constantly a part of, in my head. As I grew up, it stayed deep within me. When I got bored in school, I would space-out and play Creepshow in my head.
In my first semester of High School, the universe gave me exactly what I needed; only I wasn't aware of it yet.
My English class that semester was given in this big room, with curtains in the back. When I first walked in, I didn’t realize what it really was. There was a big windowed wall in front of us, which we couldn’t see too well because of the giant lights they had positioned over them; but there were 3 big cameras in the room with us, pushed off to the side in the corner. One day, I asked Hersh what was up with them, and he showed me what was behind the window.
The school had just put $500,000 into building a full TV Production studio to offer Video Production as a class. Complete with three TV cameras, full sound and video board, video editing station, live monitoring, and a separate room for live computer effects. Only problem was, they hadn’t created an A/V class program for it yet. He explained how he’d been messing with some of the stuff on his off-periods, and really wanted to somehow introduce it to his classes. By the next year, I was cutting half of my days of classes to sit in the studio with him, learning the sound and video board during his classes. He eventually started incorporating it into his classes, showing the kids how to make music videos, and short stage style productions, with me and another student running the boards (we’d developed a trust relationship with Hersh, and he didn’t want the other students breaking anything). I then took a drama class in sophomore year, and combined the two fields of knowledge.
All the while, I had already joined the Art and Photography club, which had also just been put together during my freshman year. Skipping forward a few years, our band never really went anywhere, and we ended up writing more ideas for music videos than we did songs.
When I was about 9, I made my first “movie” with some friends. It was about a big furry creature from outer space that killed the neighborhood kids. We worked out how we were going to do certain things; the creature would grab someone, pull them off camera and they’d scream, then the camera would turn back and they’d be dead. It was complete with paper plate UFO’s hanging from strings and all. My buddy Patricks’ father was our cameraman, and he just kinda sat there pointing the camera at us, as we acted like morons in front of it. When someone didn’t say the line right, or turned left instead of right, I became frustrated, and I assume that made it no fun anymore.
A director from the very beginning I guess…
2 years ago, I got married, and we couldn’t do a traditional wedding. So, with my wife’s influence, we were married in an indoor Carnival. What did I bring to the table? Creepshow. Literally. All of the table centerpieces were handmade props by Mike Scardillo of Scars FX and Myself, all resembling pieces of Creepshow. Among many others (12 pieces in total,) we had a creature in a crate with glowing red eyes, bug spray and roaches, a glowing bucket with a broken meteor, a garbage can with the comic inside, and I even got to finally make a 12 inch tall Voodoo Doll. We had TV screens in the lounge area, which were playing all of our short films, and a projector in the main room, screening Creepshow. The invitations invited people to see “The Creepshow At The Carnival!” And, I designed the RSVP cards to be back-of-the-comic mail-in order forms for X Ray Specs, and every guest received a pair of upon arrival. I have a Creepshow Creeper tattoo on my left arm, and a Crypt Keeper on the right to match.
Horror movies are scary, and fun; that’s why people like them. Creepshow embodies that spirit. It is everything I ever wanted in a movie. I have always loved being scared by movies. As much as it made me go up the stairs faster, turn on the lights before entering the bathroom, double check behind me when walking down the alley beside the house… There’s still something fun about it. I love how my mind goes off the wall when I don’t know what’s going to happen next. The creature could be right there beside you, in that box that’s been in your basement for your whole life, but you’ve never had any reason to open it. And that’s what I’ve always wanted to do with my movies. I want them to be fun and scary.
There is that part of me that wants to do the truly horrifying and grotesque. The films that make you want to take a shower afterwards because you feel dirty and sickened watching it (ever see Nekromantik or Cannibal Holocaust?). But that, like Altered States on entheogens, is a story for another time…
I hope you enjoyed this long-winded narrative, and if you’ve made it this far, then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about, and you just wish I’d shut the hell up already.
My name is Manny Serrano, I am the co-founder (along with my wife Lindsay) of Mass Grave Pictures. We have produced a number of short films on our own, and worked with a few different indie crews here in NYC on their own projects. Over the past few years, we have become a part of the camera and FX crew on the TV Series Zombie Hunters: City Of The Dead produced by Patrick Devaney of Devarez Films.
We are currently producing our first feature film, Blood Slaughter Massacre, which I am the Director and Co-Writer of. Blood Slaughter Massacre is our personal tribute to 80’s slasher films, done in old-school horror movie style. In 2006, we created the first in a series of Faux-Trailers for Blood Slaughter Massacre. We submitted the first three as an “experimental short film” in the Killer Shorts competition at Saturday Nightmares. We received a great response from the crowd, and the late Michael Hein, Founder of the NYC Horror Film Festival, even gave us his praise, stating how he'd love to see it as a feature length narrative. So, after having put so much time and effort into these trailers, we decided to drop the trailer gimmick, mash up the stories of the first three trailers, and create a feature from it; equal parts of Slumber Party Massacre, Pieces, 10 to Midnight and My Bloody Valentine. You can see all of our short films, as well as the original BSM Faux-Trailers at our website, massgravepictures.com.
I had originally written this article as a submission to SlasherStudios.com, as a part of their "Inspiring Scares" series. 31 horror filmmakers, one for each of the 31 days of October. Mine was published by them today, you can see it here (same article, with more pictures).