CREEPSHOW Season 1 Episodes 1-4 (2019)
SHUDDER’s new CREEPSHOW series is a fun and welcome addition to their ever growing lineup of quality original programming. While not all of the episodes are winners, there is a wide variety of scares and great effects on display in each. This collection of the first season was recently released on Blu-ray & DVD. I’m going to go through a handful of episodes at a time. Here goes.
Episode One: Gray Matter
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Philip de Blasi, Byron Willinger, based on a story by Stephen King
Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Nathan, Tobin Bell, Jesse C. Boyd, Andy Rusk
I have to say. This isn’t the strongest of the series and an odd episode to lead the series off on. I guess, the reason why this is the first is because it was based on a short story by Stephen King. Still, we all know that just because it is written by King, that doesn’t mean it’s good. The story decently parallels the horrors of alcoholism with horror involving themes of population overflow, I guess as the growth of population is mentioned in the first and last moments. Still, it’s an odd theme to run with since the alcoholism theme works much more effectively. A boy enters a small town store occupied by actors Adirenne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tobin Bell. He asks for a case of beer for his father and then expresses concern for his well being, prompting Esposito and Bell to go over to the kid’s house to investigate. Meanwhile, the boy tells a tale to Barbeau who tries to settle his nerves. The biggest issue with this one is that the story splits into two parts in the store and at the home, but neither are particularly original or interesting. The name actors really don’t get much character to play with, especially Barbeau who simply plays the caregiver—a mighty leap from her fantastic performance as Billy in the original CREEPSHOW. I wish someone would have concentrated a little less on the effects and more on the character in this one. The effects are decent—providing horrifying imagery of the boy’s father who is transforming into a slimy goo monster and covered with an old sheet. That’s an image I wish they would have played with more as it is iconic as the horrifying Crate, Jordy Verrill, and the Father’s Day zombie, yet it is only onscreen for a few minutes. The final practical and CG mix is a little clumsy and less effective. Showrunner Greg Nicotero directed this one and the attention to the effects over quality of story shows where his interests lay. There are bits and pieces of a good episode here, but this one falls short due to lack of character and a strong story.
Episode Two: The House of the Head
Directed by John Harrison
Written by Josh Malerman
Starring Cailey Fleming, Rachel Hendrix, David Shae, Guy Messenger, Diane D Carter, Mary Jane Hays
Now this is more like it. Though it’s light on comedy, this story of a haunted house that just so happens to be a toy house owned by a little girl is a cerebrally terrifying little ditty. Paced perfectly, the story unfolds in a way that leads you uncontrollably from one scene to the next as a little girl is forced to watch a nightmarish scenario play out with the family that occupies her doll house. The simplistic designs of the figurines, the use of their body language, and the ominous oddity of the severed head that seems to be tormenting the family are all immaculately realized. This one does everything right from the acting of the little girl (played by Cailey Fleming) to the wonderfully intricate filmwork as she shifts her focus from one room of the toy home to the next. Look for a cameo of sorts by Old Chief Woodenhead himself from CREEPSHOW II. This was probably my favorite of this week’s bunch as it maintains a devious edge while capturing the terror one feels in the dark as an innocent child.
Episode Three: Bad Wolf Down
Directed by Rob Schrab
Written by Rob Schrab
Starring Jeffrey Combs, David A MacDonald, Callan Wilson, Kid Cudi, Nelson Bonilla, Kate Freund, Dwight Tolar
While it isn’t the most original take on werewolves, this WWII set yarn has more twists and turns than one would expect. This is the most EC Horror-esque installment of the series so far as it feels like something torn straight from a comic book with high stakes action, tougher than tough characters, and bold narrative choices. The acting is decent, all of it raised to a higher level when you include Jeffrey Combs as a Nazi commander with a grudge. I really liked the way this one takes advantage of the format of mixing comic books with film by having the werewolf transformation occurring in quickly flipped comic book panels. This most likely was a way to keep the budget low so they didn’t have to make mid-transformation makeup sequences for the werewolves, but it was an ingenious way to get around the cost obstacle. It’s ingenuity like that—that allows for some fantastic sequences at a low cost. This one plays quickly and is reminiscent of DOG SOLDIERS and some other Nazi werewolf flicks, but still is a worth while installment.
Episode Four: The Finger
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by David J. Schow
Starring DJ Qualls, Antwan Mills, Jake Garber, Gino Crognale, Mistie Gibby
Where in the hell have you been, DJ Qualls? It’s pretty awesome seeing this character actor show up in this David J. Schow penned short from showrunner Greg Nicotero. Having a strong story helps in this effects heavy segment which focuses on a lonely guy in LA named Clark (Qualls) who happens upon some kind of talon on one of his lonely guy walks through the LA streets. When you add water, the finger regenerates until finally you get Bob, a gremlin type of lil’ critter who takes Clark’s word literally when he wishes revenge on those who have wronged him in the past. Qualls is what makes this episode sing though as his everyman goofiness and openness to his friendship with Bob is utterly adorable. Again, Nicotero’s roots in makeup effects are allowed to shing bright here as well as Bob is a wonderfully realized little critter that would go toe to toe with the Crate monster for coolest creature in CREEPSHOW canon. While it is lighthearted, the gore is great and the way the characters are developed makes you wish the adventures of Clark and Bob would never end. Here’s hoping Bob (and Qualls) returns to CREEPSHOW in future seasons.
I’ll cover another handful of episodes next time. But now, even if you don’t have SHUDDER (and shame on you if you don’t), you can enjoy CREEPSHOW Season One on DVD & Blu-ray.
Click here for the trailer!!