A stern and tyrannical father named Stan (Tom Atkins) gets angry when he finds his young son Billy (Joe King) reading a grisly horror comic book entitled "Creepshow". After arguing with his wife and slapping Billy, Stan throws the comic in the garbage. A skeletal figure appears outside Billy's window, the Creep, who hosts the stories in the comic book. A wind draws the comic out of the garbage can, and the five stories within come to life, dissolving from illustrated comic frames to live-action frames at the beginning of each story, and vice-versa at the end of each story (each story is linked by short, animated interludes).
1st story: "Father's Day" -- The Granthams are a wealthy family with a macabre annual celebration. Sylvia Grantham (Carrie Nye) gathers with her family members Richard (Warner Shook) and Cass (Elizabeth Regan), and the eccentric Aunt Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors) on Father's Day. While they are waiting for Bedelia to arrive, the family members explain Bedelia's back story to Cass's new husband, Hank (Ed Harris).
It seems that Bedelia's father, the now-deceased family patriarch Nathan, was pathologically jealous of Bedelia. After Nathan had her lover murdered in what was written off as a "hunting accident", Bedelia went over the edge. While caring for the elderly Nathan, Bedelia snapped and bashed Nathan's head in with a marble ashtray. The family conspired to make it look like an accident, and Nathan's massive wealth was divided among them equally. Ever since the time of the murder, which occurred on Father's Day, Bedelia visits her father's grave at the family estate, then joins the others in the mansion for dinner.
This year, as Bedelia sits on Nathan's grave, Nathan's rotting corpse emerges from the ground and attacks her, strangling her to death. Nathan then exacts revenge on the rest of the family. Hank is squashed with a falling gravestone, the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Nann Mogg) is killed, and Nathan twists Sylvia's head off of her body. In a final gruesome joke, he 'surprises' Cass and Richard with Sylvia's head, decorated to look like a Father's Day cake, complete with burning candles.
Story #2: "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" --
Jordy Verrill (Stephen King) is a simpleton who lives alone on his family's rundown farm. A meteor crashes to Earth, landing in his field, and Jordy has aspirations to sell the meteor to the local college for a small fortune -- two hundred dollars. He tries to pick up the meteor but it's too hot, and burns his fingers. Jordy's solution is to pour a bucket of water on it, but that causes it to split in two. A dejected Jordy sees his dream of a two hundred dollar windfall go down the drain. Still, he resolves to try and sell the halves, which are now covered in a greenish liquid.
Later that night, the crater where the meteor landed is now covered in weird green plantlife, as is everything the meteor came into contact with. Jordy notices his fingers have green wounds on them, presumably from the burns, but later he discovers the alien vegetation, which has now covered the entire farm. Jordy realizes that the alien plant life is now growing on his skin. As the night progresses, Jordy becomes covered in shaggy green weeds, causing him to itch.
Jordy's itching skin causes him to run a bath, but before he can get in, the image of his deceased father appears to him in the mirror and warns him against getting into the water, since the water is what makes the weeds grow. Jordy gets in anyway, and when morning dawns, Jordy has become a gigantic lumbering mass of alien vegetation. Desperate, he shoots himself in the head with a shotgun, revealing that the deep green weeds have even penetrated his brain.
Story #3: "Something to Tide You Over" --
Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson) is awakened by a knock at his door from Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen). It seems that Harry has been having an affair with Richard's wife, Becky (Gaylen Ross), and Richard has come to confront him. Instead of attacking him, Richard plays him a cassette of Becky's terrified voice begging Harry for help. Harry accompanies Richard back to his private beachfront estate, where Richard forces him at gunpoint to climb into a hole in the sand on the beach. Burying Harry up to his neck, Richard then connects a television that displays live footage of Becky, also buried up to her neck in another location on the beach. The tide is already starting to come in and wash over her face. Harry realizes that they will both be dead soon; there is no reasoning with Richard, who seems to take great delight in his revenge. Richard abandons Harry and goes back to his beach house, where he watches the drowning deaths of both Becky and Harry on the video monitors. Before the last wave covers Harry's head, he vows revenge on Richard.
Later that night, Richard is alone in the beach house when he seems to hear voices calling him. While he showers, two shuffling figures enter his home, defying the many security cameras and alarms that Richard has in place. When Richard emerges from the shower, he hears somebody in his house and immediately thinks it's Harry, somehow still alive. He is terrified to discover that the invaders in his home are the water-logged corpses of both Becky and Harry, both of them zombies covered in seaweed with green, pruning skin. Richard's gun has no effect; the zombies taunt him the same way he taunted them, and we finally see Richard, now completely insane, buried on the beach in the same way, waiting for the tide to come in. "I can hold my breath a looooooooooong time!" Richard yells crazily.
Story #4: "The Crate" --
A janitor at Horlicks University, Mike (Don Keefer), discovers an old dusty crate behind a grate under a basement stairwell. He calls Professor Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver) to investigate with him, drawing him away from a stuffy faculty gathering. At the gathering is Dexter's good friend, Professor Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook). Henry is married to an obnoxious shrew of a woman named Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau). Wilma, who is continually drunk, embarasses herself and Henry at the party, and it seems as if she is about to ruin the friendship Henry shares with Dex. Henry, who is somewhat meek, fantasizes about ways to murder her.
Back at the university, Dex and Mike pull the crate out from under the stairs and realize that it appears to have been under there since the late 1800s. A stamp on the outside of the wooden box indicates that it contains specimens from an arctic expedition. When the two of them open it, they sense movement from inside, and Mike is attacked by something when he puts his arm in the crate. Whatever it is pulls Mike inside, apparently eating him as it goes, and Dex catches a glimpse of a horrible, shaggy beast with huge teeth.
Dex runs blindly from the lab and finds the only other person in the hall, a student named Charlie Gereson (Robert Harper). Charlie goes down into the the laboratory and finds it covered in blood, with no sign of the crate or the creature. Charlie and Dex find the crate back under the stairs, and when Charlie attempts to investigate, the creature attacks him and eats him, too.
Dex is afraid to go to the police; instead he goes to Henry's house, and he arrives while Wilma is away for the evening. He tells Henry the story about the creature, and Henry knows Dexter has to be telling the truth. Henry hatches a plan. He gives Dex sleeping pills and leaves him locked in his study, asleep. Henry writes Wilma a note, concocting a bogus story designed to lure her to the laboratory. He gets there ahead of her and cleans up the evidence of the blood. Wilma can't resist Henry's trap, and she shows up at the university as planned. Henry lures her under the stairs and her obnoxious ranting draws the creature out of its crate. It eats Wilma before Henry's eyes; Henry then chains it inside the crate and dumps the crate into the deep water of a nearby quarry.
When Dexter wakes up the next day, he and Henry vow to keep the secret of what really happened, and let the authorities deal with the disappearances. The final frames show the creature in its watery trap, tearing the crate to pieces and presumably escaping.
5th and final story: "They're Creeping Up on You!" --
Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) is a neurotic business tycoon who lives in a sterile, white penthouse apartment atop a skyscraper in a major city. He communicates with the outside world via the telephone, treating his employees and subordinates in a cutthroat, heartless manner. One phone caller informs him that an employee, Norman Castonmeyer, has committed suicide because Pratt fired him. Pratt seems delighted rather than upset.
Pratt is obsessed with cleanliness and has a huge phobia of bugs. Unfortunately, he keeps finding cockroaches in his apartment, which sets him on a rampage to correct the situation. He places telephone calls to the building superintendent and makes thinly veiled racial slurs in an attempt to intimidate the man.
As Pratt finds more bugs in his apartment, someone gets through on his private line. Norman Castonmeyer's widow, Lenore (voiced by Gwen Verdon), calls Pratt to curse him for her husband's death. Pratt is amused by her melodramatic sadness, until the cockroaches multiply. He finds them in his food processor, bits of them surfacing in the grain cereal he eats. An electrical blackout occurs, and the roaches attack, swarming by the thousands everywhere in Pratt's apartment. Pratt retreats to his "safe room", a climate-controlled sleep chamber, just as the phone rings. Lenore Castonmeyer's voice curses him over and over "I hope you die! I hope you die!", and Pratt discovers his bed swarming with roaches. The roaches quickly cover him and Pratt suffers a heart attack. The power returns, the lights come back on, and the roaches are nowhere to be seen. Pratt's body lies inside the glass sleep chamber. The superintendent knocks at Pratt's door and laughs when Pratt doesn't answer, asking "Bugs got your tongue?" Suddnely, swarms of roaches burst from Pratt's body, so many that they nearly fill the glass chamber.
The wraparound story with Billy concludes the next morning, when two garbage men (Marty Schiff and Tom Savini) discover the comic book next to the trash can in front of Billy's house. They leaf through it reverently and discover that someone has clipped a mail-in coupon for a genuine Haitian voodoo doll. Inside the house, Billy's father, Stan suddenly suffers neck pain, while up in his bedroom, Billy stabs a voodoo doll in his form of his cruel father repeatedly with a pin as payback for Stan tossing out his favorite comic book.
Like each story in the comic book, this live action scene of Billy stabbing the voodoo doll becomes an illustrated comic book picture, and as the camera pulls back, we see that the comic's macabre "host", "The Creep", is holding the second issue of the "Creepshow" comic book in his boney hands, with Billy and his voodoo doll adorning the cover. The Creep titters, and a nearby candle flame goes out, plunging the scene into darkness.
Credits begin to roll...
(At the end of the credits, we once again hear The Creep's laughter).