Botanicult Fiction: Creepshow and the Danger of Space Weed
By Alex Henderson, Curator of Collections, Royal Botanical Gardens.
Creepshow is a classic 1982 horror film written by Stephen King and produced by George A. Romero. Given the dream team collaboration and its pure pedigree (like an F1 Hybrid) it should be considered an absolute classic or unique ‘phenotype’ of Botanicult Fiction. Creepshow is an anthology featuring 5 different short stories which pay homage to the EC horror comics of the 1950s, including Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. The second story, The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill is what we shall concentrate on. Given our collective love of all things botanical and environmental, this tale is based on a short story King had previously published in 1976 called Weeds. Some aspects of Weeds (like all good cross pollination experiments) may be loosely based on The Colour Out of Space, another plant based environmental short story written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1927 (literary biodiversity)!
Antagonist, Jordy Verrill is a hick, backwoods farmer who observes the landing of a meteorite on his farm. Valuable as a museum acquisition (botanical gardens are akin to living museums) he believes his discovery will generate enough money to settle his bank loan. Upon retrieval the meteorite is hot. Dousing the strange rock in water it splits open. Immediately extra-terrestrial microbes are released into the agricultural environment and infect his skin. The situation for environment and body are not good. In time honoured male tradition Jordy Verrill ignores the land and also makes a typical male decision. Based upon a school-boy error decision, a bottle of vodka is considered preferable to seeking immediate emergency medical attention. Passing out and awaking he is horrified to observe the growth of a large beard of facial weeds. Upon taking a bath to relieve the itching, weeds spread from face to body. A prefect case of excessive irrigation (Never overwater plants)!
Dear reader, as you can imagine, the story does not end well and not because the bank loan is unpaid. The conclusion is worse. The film segment ends with an environmental warning from the local weather agency. As the sun rises the entire area of farmland is consumed by space weed. Worse, rain is predicted and alludes to the fact that the alien invasive species may consume the entire planet. Conclusion? Don’t encourage space weed or invasive plants!
In an interesting twist the film was turned into a graphic novel in 1982 to further pay tribute to EC horror comics and was published by Penguin imprint Plume and is notable for the stunning interior artwork by Bernie Wrightson and iconic cover art by Jack Kamen. If you find a copy Its well worth a read and adding to your graphic novel collection. It provides an awesome reminder not to mix meteorites, space weed and vodka! Surely that’s good advice for life……or is it?
Botanicult Fiction is an affectionate review of plants in pop culture viewed through the lens of plant nerds and curated for your reading or viewing pleasure during this challenging time of self isolation