Movie: Just Desserts: The Making of ‘Creepshow’ (2007)

W.C. Fields once famously remarked one should never work with children or animals.  Not sure if I would include cockroaches in the latter.  I doubt he could envision a future where somebody would want to use the insects in a film.  Judging from the numerous tales told about them in the documentary Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow, these may be the most difficult creatures to “direct”.

As is their nature, the insects ended up everywhere.  An expert claimed they could be trapped in the set by smearing Vaseline near the tops of the walls.  Needless to say, the barrier failed to impede their progress, and the bugs just went through it and over the top.  Tom Savini tells of a fully-fledged etymologist who suddenly found themselves so covered in roaches that they ran away, screaming for somebody to get the things off of them.

The movie was the product of the combined imaginations of George Romero and Stephen King.  Warner Brothers executives had introduced them to each other after how impressed they were with the director’s Martin.  The two shared a love of E.C. Comics, whose campy, gory output was so radical for the 1950’s that they ended up being banned.  As described by the director, these were “Balls-out horror.  Essentially sick jokes as horror stories and playing them straight.”

The resulting movie used a fake comic in the style of that company to frame the stories.  The makers of this documentary wisely chose to employ a similar conceit for each of its chapters.  Among the segments are ones focused on scripting, casting, sets, effects, animation and…well, roaches.

One of the things I learned in the segment on the cast is Tom Adkins, who played the dad in the wraparound segment, really wanted the role Stephen King went on to play. Though King does bring a certain goofy, naïve charm to that particular story, I’m sure I’m not the only person who wishes the casting had gone the other way around.  Then again, that would result in King simulating hitting his real-life son, Joe (who is now a famous author as well, writing as “Joe Hill”). 

Tom Savini did the effects for this and, as always, it is fascinating to learn the details of the horrific things he portrays on the screen.  He comes across a such an extremely nice and intelligent guy and, having met him once, I can confirm he is.  Learning about how effects are done intrigues me in the same way as learning how a master magician does their tricks, no matter how gruesome the event may be which is being simulated.  I won’t spoil any of those details here, but I did find it interesting he didn’t read E.C. Comics as a kid because he didn’t care for the graphic violence in them.

Romero interviews are always interesting, since so many of his films were independently financed, cast with people he knew and filmed in and around Pittsburgh.  Creepshow was still independently produced, but with a bigger budget than had been available to him before, so he has different types of stories this time.  Happier stories.  He was finally able to work with established actors like Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, Fritz Weaver and Andrianne Barbeau. 

Then the film was marketed at Cannes and picked up by Warners, curiously completing a circle that began with one their execs introducing Romero to King about a decade earlier.  One of my favorite moments in this documentary is one cast member describing the rush of seeing that company’s logo at the start of the film the first time it was screened.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to deny viewers the pleasure of experiencing the wealth of anecdotes first-hand.  Just Desserts is a very well-made documentary that will definitely appeal to fans of Creepshow.  It may even be of interest to those who aren’t fans, or are simply unfamiliar with, that movie.

Dir: Michael Felsher


Watched on Synapse Films blu-ray