To continue my ‘double-feature post’ on Creepshow, as I said in my previous post on the ashtray, the segment entitled They’re Creeping Up On You deals with the best kind of revenge. Much like every story (except for The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill) deals with revenge but in this segment, it’s poetic justice. According to a class book I have, poetic justice is “an outcome in which vice is punished and virtue rewarded, usually in a manner peculiarly or ironically appropriate.” I think this segment really fits with this literary device. Let’s look at the plot:
The story is centered on Upson Pratt, a Howard Hughes inspired millionaire. Right off the bat we understand that he is having a serious cockroach problem and we know that he loathes cockroaches. During this time he converses with one of his employees about a corporate takeover of another company, but when the employee says that the owner shot himself because of it… Pratt smiles and says good riddance. In another conversation, he threatens to fire an employee who is on vacation if he does not fix his roach problem. Then, in another conversation, the widow of the man who killed himself calls as Upson mocks her and her husband’s death. Why does he do all this? He thinks that everybody, except him are nothing but a bunch of cockroaches.
“You have to watch them. Castonmeyer, Reynolds… bugs. That’s all they are. All of them. And although they’re essentially brainless… you have to watch them… ‘cause they creep up on you.”
- Upson Pratt
It’s a wonderful juxtaposition to the characters that Upson Pratt interacts with throughout the segment. As the characters become more hurt by Pratt, the cockroach problem becomes worse. Then, when the blackout hits the cockroaches decided to frighten Pratt by attacking him in swarms. When the emergency power comes back on, Pratt decides to lock himself in his bedroom only to have cockroaches burrowing out of his stomach, throat and mouth till his death. It’s one of the best stories in the whole anthology.
Here, the cockroaches don’t just act as typical bugs; they are representing all the men and women that Pratt looks down upon. They represent all the people that Pratt has ruined, fired and harassed throughout his life. Since he compared those people to cockroaches and bugs, it’s fitting to see cockroaches attack him. The roaches kill him before he could kill them, and if you look at it as poetic justice, all the people that Pratt ruined finally got revenge on him. I compare it to when Ellie Driver hides the black mamba in Bud’s money suitcase, because Ellie uses the black mamba to kill Bud in Tarantino's Kill Bill. The Bride’s codename was Black Mamba so that you can argue that The Bride did get revenge on Bud in some sense.
I was always fascinating by the idea of poetic justice and when I first saw this segment, I didn’t really like it all that much. I looked at it as a lame idea and I hated that they used cockroaches of all things. Of course, I was ignorant back then but now as I look at it… it’s a great segment and probably one of my favorites. I have to thank all these film classes that I am taking because without them, I would have never analyzed this segment and found pure poetic justice.