Creepshow Returns and it's terrifyingly good!
Horror fans rejoice! Creepshow returns- this time to the small screen as a 6-Episode, 12 story Anthology series for subscription service Shudder. Make-up effects legend Greg Nicotero inherits the mantel of show-runner for the series and also directs the first installment of the re-animated fan favorite that gleefully sits next to its movie-based predecessor with every bit as much reverence for the genre as it’s fore-bearer.
The original Creepshow (1982) was created and written by the legendary George A Romero and horror maestro Stephen King and celebrated everything they loved from the horror comics of the 50’s. Everything from creepy crawlies to the vengeful dead featured in the garishly colorful, gallows-humor drenched anthology which comprised of a wrap-around tale that sandwiched several vignettes of terror, all joyfully curated by the ghoulish Creep.
The new series, by virtue of its episodic nature, has jettisoned this framing structure and instead lets the Creep simply choose his ghastly tales from a plethora of Creepshow comics at his disposal. The series begins by immediately delivering the first of many Easter eggs from and original film installment, “The Crate”- the arctic expedition wooden box crate that housed the beasty that eats poor downtrodden, Hal Holbrook’s abusive wife (played by returning star Adrienne Barbeau).
The first of two tales is “Grey Matter”, based on a short story written by Stephen King and stars horror stalwarts Adrienne Barbeau and Tobin Bell as well as a somewhat underused Giancarlo Esposito. The episode centers around a town braced for an impending severe storm. Here a few remaining locals await what the oncoming deluge with throw at them whilst taking stock of what remains of the store after the locals have panic brought almost everything in sight.
Their tallying up is interrupted by a young man who claims to be there to buy beer for his father, only to confide in them- them being the police chief, local doctor and aforementioned shopkeeper, that all is not well with his dear old dad. As the Chief and Doc head out to investigate the teenagers claims we cut back to the shop where he recalls his father’s decent onto alcoholism after the boy’s mother passed away.
The story unfolds fairly rapidly- and to say too much might spoil the reveal. That said it’s an enjoyable, albeit brief tale- as much about an all-consuming grief and decent into substance abuse as it is a Lovecraftian romp into camp-fire story telling. The swift conclusion comes after a genuinely unsettling discovery and a pretty over-the-top resolution-Gleefully dark and oozing charm.
The second instalment, “House of the Head” is directed by John Harrison who served as Assistant Director of the original Creepshow and presents a tonal shift towards the lighter. A young girl (The Walking Dead’s Cailey Fleming) is gifted with a beautiful bespoke oversized dolls-house. Her family of dolls that inhabit the house, the “Smith-Smiths”, are seemingly haunted by the appearance of a ghastly severed head that appears out of nowhere. What makes the doll’s house extra-unsettling is that the dolls seem to move of their own volition and are discovered in various states of horrific recoil, reminiscent of any of the inhabitants of a number of domicile haunting movies. The lighter tale still manages to unsettle- not least of all because of the presence of a seemingly malign influence on something as innocent as a child’s toy but because the tale is told for the most part from the perspective of a child’s acceptance of reality.
It could be argued that both of the inaugural installments end abruptly and only serve to tease a larger story instead of providing a more satisfying conclusion- however the 22-minute chapters manage to capture some of the lurid ghoulish fun of the original film and both leave you wanting more. Whilst nothing (so far) reaches the manic operatic fervor of OG chapters such as “`Something to tide you over” or “Father’s Day” there are flourishes of macabre glee that may well stick with you after the credits roll.
Creepshow returns to Shudder on September 26th, with new episodes added weekly. You can get a 7 day free trial at Shudder.com