Directed By: George A. Romero
“That’s a meteor. I’ll be dipped in shit if that ain’t a meteor!”
I’ve talked previously about the pantheon of great anthology films, which is a sadly short list. But on it would be this entry from George Romero. Typically in an anthology film different sequences would be handled by different writers/directors (I believe in the case of VHS they didn’t even meet, except to briefly make sure that no one had come up with the same idea twice). So, not only does it have one directorial voice but it also comes from the pen of Stephen King, who always stars in one of the sequences. I’m not sure if this was during his drink/drug phase but after viewing his segment I wouldn’t be surprised.
The movie is unofficially a riff on Tales From The Crypt, traditionally violent stories that often had a sting in the tail. They were largely moralistic, with bad people doing bad things and eventually getting their comeuppance from a just universe. Some of the stories here follow suit, with the first story Father’s Day about a man who visits his murderous daughter seven years after he’s died and the later sequence, Something to Tide you over in which Leslie Nielsen murders Ted Danson for sleeping with his wife, and then the fun starts.
It’s strange, I’ve seen this a few times and always forget at least two of the segments. In my mind there’s only three of them, and they play out in a different order. That’s not to put a slight on the other two, particularly since one of them features Ed Harris with hair and terrible dancing skills. Of all the segments, it’s arguably Something to Tide you over that’s the best one, with Nielsen relishing the role of the villain. Nielsen hadn’t quite moved over into parody mode at this point, but was strictly a B-Movie actor. It’s also another chance to see Danson and his immaculate hair. It’s not that dissimilar to Father’s Day but it feels a lot more in spirit with the original stories; little noir tales that typically left no one alive.
King’s acting debut, in The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is something else entirely. It’s a tall order to ask a non-actor to carry a segment on their own but King does fine. It’s not a serious role, it’s King playing a hick who is slowly being terraformed by a chunk of asteroid that he’s found. It’s a silly, slight, segment and King (And Romero) play it that way.
On that note, it’s great to see Romero not do zombie stuff for once. Not that it’s his fault. He’s admitted that he finds it hard to get funding unless he’s working with the dreaded z word, but he’s always been an interesting director, and he has a lightness of touch here that he hasn’t really shown in his other works, even if he does go way overboard with the comic-book framing in Father’s Day. Also, one for fact fans. The boy in the wraparound segments is played by Joe Hill, author of some great recent books and who also happens to be King’s son.
Finally, get a load of this Ed Harris dancing: