CREEPSHOW - SEASON 1 - Episode Guide, Recaps, and Reviews
Episode 1a - Gray Matter
Director: Greg Nicotero
Writer: Stephen King, adapted by Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi
Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, Tobin Bell, Christopher Nathan, Jesse C. Boyd
Summary: With a hurricane looming outside, three people learn the horrifying truth about a local boy¡¯s alcoholic father and his startling transformation.
Doc, Chief Connors, and Dixie Parmalee bunker down inside a Florida store to wait out an approaching hurricane. Local boy Timmy Grenadine enters to purchase a case of Harrow¡¯s Supreme Lager for his alcoholic father Richie.
Dixie notices a strange slime on the beer as well as Timmy¡¯s money. Timmy blurts out that he doesn¡¯t want to return home because his dad has been undergoing a terrifying transformation.
Chief and Doc elect to check on Richie firsthand by bringing him the beer. Back at the diner, Timmy recounts the story of his father¡¯s metamorphosis for Dixie.
Timmy explains that Richie became an alcoholic after Timmy¡¯s mother died. Although Richie continually promised to quit, Timmy was required to bring home a case of beer every day after school for his father. Over time, Richie began barfing up slime, became sensitive to light, and demanded that the house¡¯s temperature remain extremely hot.
At Dixie¡¯s urging, Timmy confesses that Richie¡¯s insatiable thirst grew beyond beer. Timmy began bringing home live animals for his mutating father to eat. Timmy eventually lured human victims to the house to be eaten too.
Upon investigating the dark, hot, slime-covered Grenadine home, Chief and Doc discover the skeletons of multiple animals eaten by Richie. They then discover the remains of the missing Grady twins, who were also eaten.
Having fully transformed into a monstrous slime creature, Richie attacks and kills Chief. Doc flees after seeing Richie split into two separate creatures.
Doc rushes back to the diner to tell Dixie what happened. Dixie does the math on the multiplying monsters and realizes they will take over the planet¡¯s population in six days. Creatures break through the walls and grab Doc in front of Dixie and Timmy.
The 12 separate stories making up ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± six-episode first season were shot independently. Only afterward did producers decide how best to pair the segments for arranging in a sequential order.
Considering how the premiere came together, I¡¯m uncertain how fair it is to review ¡°Gray Matter,¡± the de facto debut by virtue of airing first, as representative of ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± overall tone. Maybe I should only approach ¡°Gray Matter¡± like any other standalone episode since that¡¯s what its creators did. I think I¡¯ll simply split the difference and do a little bit of both.
Because it would be foolish not to, ¡°Creepshow¡± of course retains the key creative characteristics brought immediately to mind when one fondly remembers 1982¡¯s golden granddaddy of anthologized horror. As far as ¡°Gray Matter¡± and its companion piece ¡°The House of the Head¡± can be taken as emblematic of the entire series, ¡°Creepshow¡± keeps the cool EC Comics-esque wraparounds, including narration box ¡°Meanwhiles¡¡± as transitions. However, exaggerated expressions drenched in dance floor lighting appear to have gotten the ax. Maybe that¡¯s one step too far over the top for a program that aims to toe a tactful line between classic ¡°Creepshow¡± style and modern sensibilities.
Silent save for a sneering ¡°heh-heh-heh,¡± macabre matinee mascot The Creep hosts each tale¡¯s intro and outro in both animated and practical puppet form. Frankly, the live-action incarnation could use an animatronics upgrade. It¡¯s possibly part of ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± intention to emulate old school techniques of retro fright films. Yet The Creep weirdly wobbles like a wooden dummy whose every movement is made manually. I love horror¡¯s 1980s heyday more than anyone, which is why ¡°Creepshow¡± always appeals to my interests. But a pinch of CGI to smooth out a few sore thumb bumps couldn¡¯t hurt, no?
¡°Gray Matter¡¯s¡± pedigree likely earned it the honor of opening the series. Directed by revered FX artist and ¡°Walking Dead¡± family member Greg Nicotero, ¡°Gray Matter¡± adapts the same-named short story from Stephen King¡¯s 1978 ¡°Night Shift¡± collection.
Eagle-eyed viewers receive extra rewards, although anyone with even a passing awareness of the author¡¯s oeuvre will still see plentiful Easter eggs hiding in plain sight. ¡°Gray Matter¡± sneaks in cheeky winks at Jordy Verrill, Cujo, Pet Sematary, It, and The Shining¡¯s Grady twins among other references, and those are only the ones I casually noticed. Not since ¡°Castle Rock¡± have fans had this much need of a Pause button to lap up all of the Stephen King love crammed into every corner of the screen.
The gist of the story stays true to the source text. While Hurricane Charlie intensifies outside, a sheriff, a doctor, and a diner owner hunker down in a store to wait out the storm. Unexpectedly, a local boy walks in from the rain to buy beer for his alcoholic father. More unexpectedly, the boy appears deathly afraid to return home to dad, whom he claims is undergoing an unbelievable transformation. Chief and Doc decide to pay dad a visit while the boy stays behind to tell the diner owner the terrible truth about his father¡¯s metamorphosis.
Being made for the small screen, ¡°Gray Matter¡± features small sets and a small cast, but puts big talent on both sides of the camera. ¡°Saw¡¯s¡± Tobin Bell and ¡°Breaking Bad¡¯s¡± Giancarlo Esposito feature as Chief and Doc. Honestly, both men are bigger names than their roles require. Under ordinary circumstances, two scrubs could play these parts since outside of one instance of playful bickering at a card table, their camaraderie has next to no minutes for marinating.
Which is why Bell and Esposito end up being essential. Characterization comes from unspoken credibility. Without the recognition accompanying their r¨¦sum¨¦s, ¡°Gray Matter¡± couldn¡¯t condense their time together so tightly, and thus wouldn¡¯t come up with engaging personalities at all. Chief and Doc are understandably thin as far as the slim script goes. Yet Esposito and Bell eke out enough charm to keep momentum moving.
Adrienne Barbeau has less activity on her agenda. She¡¯s tasked primarily with reacting to the boy¡¯s increasingly astonishing story. Again, casting a veteran to do otherwise light lifting pays huge dividends. Barbeau swells her eyes with emotions that sell her expressions exquisitely, adding another fine feather to her ¡°Creepshow¡± cap, even though Mrs. Parmalee isn¡¯t anywhere near the same level of memorability as Billie Northrup.
As terror tales go, both for Stephen King and for anthology television, ¡°Gray Matter¡± still seems like a trifle, even with its apocalyptic implications. Although it only runs 22-ish minutes, the segment feels the drag of a slow build that appears to be stalling across parallel plotlines until the climactic creature finally emerges for a fangtastic finale.
Looking at the long run, it¡¯s hard to picture ¡°Gray Matter¡± becoming an all-timer often cited as a popular episode. But maybe a merely eerie appetizer is an appropriate way to open the series. ¡°Gray Matter,¡± and ¡°Creepshow¡± on the whole by extension, doesn¡¯t go as darkly comedic as the feature film that inspired it. But it does stay true to the flighty four-color complexion of its comic book roots with a setup that¡¯s only as deep as required to deliver a pop scare punchline.
Episode 1b - The House of the Head
Director: John Harrison
Writer: Josh Malerman
Stars: Cailey Fleming, Rachel Hendrix, David Shae, Guy Messenger, Diane D. Carter
Summary: An imaginative little girl stumbles into a macabre mystery when a miniature severed head begins haunting her beloved dollhouse.
Evie shows off her prized dollhouse to her parents Marsha and Randy. Evie introduces the doll family who lives inside the house as The Smith-Smiths and names their son Ethan.
Evie comes home from school to discover a miniature zombie head inside the dollhouse. Evie notices her dolls are in different places then she left them and are posed as though frightened. Evie finds blood on the tiny severed head.
After coming home from a movie, Evie finds the family repositioned again. Evie concludes her dollhouse is haunted after the head appears on a dollhouse couch before inexplicably moving to a bed.
Marsha takes Evie to the hobby shop run by Mr. Ogman, the toymaker who created the dollhouse. Evie purchases a police officer figurine thinking he can protect the doll family.
Although the cop initially appears to investigate the dollhouse, Evie later finds the figure decapitated. Evie sees the cursed head reflected in a dollhouse mirror and warns it to stay away from The Smith-Smiths as well as herself.
Evie returns to Mr. Ogman hoping to purchase a priest or rabbi doll. When Evie explains she needs a spiritual doll, Mr. Ogman directs her to a Native American figurine instead.
Evie initially sees the Indian hunting for the head in the house, but he ends up decapitated too. Evie tries warning the doll family when she sees the head stalking them from a cabinet, but she is forced to run back to bed when she hears her mom approaching.
By the time Evie returns to the dollhouse, she discovers the doll parents decapitated. Evie sees Ethan decapitated with the zombie head now atop his body. Evie grabs the head and throws it across the floor.
Evie realizes she cannot leave the head in her room. Evie recovers the head from beneath her bed only to discover it grew to life-size. Evie puts the head in the house and closes it.
At Evie¡¯s insistence, Marsha and Randy donate the dollhouse to be sold at a yard sale. A cashier peeks inside the house and sees Ethan wearing the severed zombie head.
As much as ¡°Creepshow¡± reincarnates the spirit of its feature film namesake, it¡¯s also an heir to the syndicated ¡®80s TV anthology ¡°Tales from the Darkside.¡± I might even argue this series may be more ¡°Darkside¡± than ¡°Creepshow,¡± and ¡°The House of the Head¡± offers evidence for that assertion.
Like ¡°Creepshow¡± the film, ¡°Tales from the Darkside¡± was a George A. Romero project. It featured episodes associated with his stable of regular collaborators like Tom Savini, Stephen King, and John Harrison, who comes back to the block 35 years later to helm ¡°The House of the Head.¡±
As many ¡°Darkside¡± episodes did, ¡°The House of the Head¡± has the intimate, insular feel of a cast that can be counted on one hand and a Spartan set. One of the biggest differences between ¡°Creepshow¡± and ¡°Darkside¡± is the fact that this production can afford to get off the soundstage for an afternoon and shoot exteriors that take the claustrophobic edge off the episode.
¡°The House of the Head¡± follows Evie, a cutely imaginative little girl whose designer dollhouse hosts an average family, affectionately named The Smith-Smiths. Inexplicably, The Smith-Smiths welcome an uninvited guest in the form of a decapitated zombie doll head. No matter how hard she scratches her scalp, Evie can¡¯t figure out how it got there. She also can¡¯t figure out how the head moves when she isn¡¯t looking, or why The Smith-Smiths pose with frozen faces of fright as they too move into positions Evie didn¡¯t put them in.
¡°The House of the Head¡± provides a terrifically tasty bite of fun-sized fright. Harrison¡¯s straightforward staging and the camera¡¯s simple framing rely chiefly on static shots of the dollhouse to highlight each change without anything inside actually animating. If ever there was a terror tale perfectly tailored to emulate the sequential storytelling of a comic book, this is certainly it. The crew keenly finds a fitting frame that doesn¡¯t rely on outrageous colors, cartoonish characterizations, or Batman 1966 biffs, pops, and pows for its ¡°Creepshow¡± comic texture.
As Evie¡¯s confounding conundrum evolves, ¡°The House of the Head¡± becomes a compellingly macabre mystery carried by extraordinarily charming young actress Cailey Fleming. Fleming commands excellent expressions of concern, sympathy, and suspicion to make Evie as adorably precious as she is inquisitively precocious. She too tells her story often without explicit actions and only limited dialogue, and does so with surprising maturity far exceeding her experience.
I just wish ¡°The House of the Head¡± had a better ending, or any ending at all really. It¡¯s fine for the mystery to remain unexplained. But the final frames come across like a confused copout, as though the story never knew where it wanted to end up from the outset.
All things considered, ¡°The House of the Head¡± stays satisfying enough that the disappointing aftertaste washes away quickly. But this is one episode that might have been great instead of pretty good if only its last two minutes had better tuning.
Episode 2a - Bad Wolf Down
Director: Rob Schrab
Writer: Rob Schrab
Stars: Dave MacDonald, Callan Wilson, Scott ¡®Kid Cudi¡¯ Mescudi, Nelson Bonilla, Jeffrey Combs, Kate Freund
Summary: Four American soldiers hide from Nazis inside an abandoned French police station during WWII only to discover they are trapped with a werewolf.
After the rest of their platoon is wiped out in a WWII battle with Nazi forces in France, American soldiers Captain Lawrence Talby, Sgt. Quist, Pvt. Rivers, and Doc Kessler take refuge in an abandoned police station. The four men find savagely slashed corpses of several German soldiers inside the disused building.
Rivers hastily shoots a woman in a white dress who grabs at him from behind the bars of a cell. A struggle ensues when Quist tries to execute the woman to keep her screams from alerting the Germans. Quist locks the other three soldiers inside the cell with the woman before fleeing into the forest to save himself.
Talby, Rivers, and Doc watch the woman¡¯s gunshot wound spontaneously heal. The woman explains she is an immortal werewolf who locked herself up to stop from killing people.
Looking for revenge on the Americans who killed his son, senior storm leader Reinhard Schmelzgerat surrounds the police station with several Nazi troops.
Rivers realizes the woman was grabbing at the silver cross around his neck because she wanted to kill herself with it. Rivers willingly hands over his cross and the woman swallows it.
Talby asks the woman to turn his men into werewolves so they can defend themselves against the Germans. The woman bites Talby, Rivers, and Doc before dying.
Talby baits Reinhard into coming inside. The three Americans transform into werewolves and destroy the Nazi soldiers.
Quist steps on a landmine while dashing to a rally point. Talby finds Quist on the forest floor, begins transforming, and prepares to kill him.
Two episodes in might be too early to raise this concern, but I have to wonder how much essential value The Creep adds as a stiff, silent horror host. His puppeteers might argue his awkward movements are a natural result of rigor mortis. Okay. Well then what¡¯s the takeaway from having him confusingly cackle at a palm reader for five seconds before transitioning into the first story? The Creep¡¯s live-action portions really ought to feature more personality than the static comic panels where he actually speaks while making amusingly eerie expressions.
Oh well. On to meatier matters.
Whereas ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± premiere episode tickled ¡°Tales from the Darkside¡± touchstones, writer/director Rob Schrab¡¯s ¡°Bad Wolf Down¡± strikes a slight ¡°Tales from the Crypt¡± vibe. Part of that has to do with Schrab¡¯s comic sensibilities lending late-night cable snark to go with the slaughter. Not that ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± brand isn¡¯t synonymous with a similar mix. ¡°Bad Wolf Down¡± just has a skip of HBO styling in its step.
It could also be that ¡°Bad Wolf Down¡± merely reminds me of ¡°Crypt¡¯s¡± season three episode ¡°Yellow¡± starring Kirk Douglas and Dan Aykroyd, which was similarly set during wartime, albeit WWI instead of WWII. In ¡°Bad Wolf Down,¡± four American soldiers fall back to an abandoned police station in a French forest after Nazis destroy their platoon. The quartet thinks they¡¯re out of the frying pan, except they¡¯ve stepped into the fire. Outside, an SS officer hell-bent on revenge surrounds the building with German troops. Inside, the four men find themselves trapped with a weird woman imprisoned behind a cell door. If you¡¯re somehow unclear about who/what she really is, read the episode title again.
¡°Bad Wolf Down¡± cheats with its werewolf transformations by not showing them live at all. Then again, it¡¯s arguably unfair to criticize ¡°Creepshow¡± for using comic book panels as a special effects shortcut. These are supposed to be throwback EC terror tales in film/TV form after all.
Along similar lines, Jeffrey Combs has his ¡®ham meter¡¯ dialed up to a steady five when a more subtle three would have suited his Nazi officer just fine. Once again however, I¡¯m not sure how seriously such critiques should be taken given ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± particular aesthetic. As ever, personal preference plays a large part in individual perception.
For those keeping chronological score, ¡°Bad Wolf Down¡± is the first segment of the TV series to employ the suddenly sharp colors and wavy reaction lines that memorably marked up the 1982 movie. Certain shots even seem meant to directly mirror moments from ¡°The Crate.¡±
Acting as a pared down play on the siege setup made popular by John Carpenter¡¯s ¡°Assault on Precinct 13,¡± ¡°Bad Wolf Down¡± doubles as a lengthened launching pad for a sting of savagery more than it fulfills the standards of a full-blown story. It¡¯s a fun-size Milky Way bar of miniaturized monster mayhem that¡¯ll fill your belly for a few fleeting moments, even though they¡¯re largely empty calories that¡¯ll leave you hungry for something with true nutritional value. Maybe that¡¯s all the sustenance 22 minutes will allow anyway.
Episode 2b - The Finger
Director: Greg Nicotero
Writer: David J. Schow
Stars: DJ Qualls, Antwan Mills, Jake Garber
Summary: A down on his luck nebbish finds a severed creature finger that changes his life, but with bloody consequences.
Divorced, unemployed, and constantly avoiding creditors, Clark Wilson unexpectedly finds a severed creature finger while on a regular walk throughout Los Angeles. Clark puts the finger in his fridge as a curiosity when it soaks up beer spilled from a bottle of Harrow¡¯s Light.
Clark finds that a second finger sprouted the next day. Within 24 hours, the fingers grow into an arm. Clark locks the arm inside a refrigerator in his garage.
Clark assumes the arm abandoned him when he finds it missing and the fridge lock broken. However, the arm later returns as a fully formed little creature that falls asleep inside the fridge. Clark also finds a blood trail leading to a human heart left on a table in the garage.
Detective Moseley and Detective Walsh come to the house to tell Clark that his ex-wife Samantha was found violently murdered. Realizing that it killed Samantha for him, Clark names the creature Bob and accepts it as a pet. Clark cleans up the blood trail and throws the heart in the trash.
Clark begins feeding Bob popcorn and letting him watch soap operas. Bob hears Clark curse at a debt collector on the phone.
Clark finds Samantha¡¯s heart in his fridge. Clark realizes Bob returned it as an offering. With no other option for getting rid of it, Clark puts the heart down his garbage disposal.
Clark curses at a truck driver who nearly runs him over outside. Later, Bob brings back the truck driver¡¯s testicles. Bob also vanishes and returns with the debt collector¡¯s tongue. Clark puts the body parts in his garbage disposal.
Detectives Moseley and Walsh return to inform Clark that Samantha¡¯s drug addict daughter Shannon and criminal son Ricky are missing. Bob comes home with the severed heads of Samantha¡¯s children. Knowing Bob would only retrieve them if he dropped them in the ocean, Clark tries mashing the heads into his garbage disposal. The cops arrest Clark in the act.
From a padded cell, Clark explains his belief that Bob loves him and only wanted to hurt the people who annoyed Clark, even though he concedes no one else believes Bob is real.
I suspect grumbling grumps might find ¡°The Finger¡± to be too silly. By having its star speak directly at the viewer through the camera while also providing voiceover narration, it definitely marks a stylistic shift in storytelling from other ¡°Creepshow¡± installments. I¡¯d merely remind naysayers that no matter how much comedy leaks into creepiness, ¡°The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill¡± set a high limit for over-the-top touches. ¡°The Finger¡± doesn¡¯t come close to breaking it.
Greg Nicotero directs an eccentrically angry, irreverently violent, tongue-in-cheek tale from original splatterpunk David J. Schow. In it, DJ Qualls gets typecast as Clark, a slouching sad sack who lost his wife as well as his job and spends far more time than he¡¯d like chewing out debt collectors who simply will not leave him alone.
Clark calms down with regular walks around Los Angeles. Sometimes, Clark collects interesting items found along the way. This particular time, Clark finds a detached little finger that looks like it belonged to an unusually unidentifiable creature.
Clark brings the digit home where it gradually grows, first into two fingers, then into an arm, then into something else entirely. Clark has a new friend in ¡°Bob,¡± and Bob wants to prove his reciprocal affection like any good pet. Yet while a housecat might bring home a bird or a mouse, Bob brings back body parts. But it¡¯s where Bob gets these bloody bits that presents a much bigger conundrum for Clark.
¡°The Finger¡± may be comparatively light in terms of tone, but it certainly isn¡¯t light on the splatter. A severed tongue, torn-out heart, and two decapitated heads compose some of the gruesomeness Bob and Clark get their mitts into. Add in screaming ¡°f*ck you!¡± exchanges and a jab about a skanky stepdaughter using a BJ as a bargaining chip and there¡¯s enough of an edge to file down the flippancy.
¡°The Finger¡± also effectively works with and around the evident limitations of ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± tight budget, schedule, and resources. The segment¡¯s slim cast and self-contained story don¡¯t need more space than its creatively cramped settings allow. If not for the creature¡¯s special effects needs, the crew probably could have shot everything in three days. Maybe they did.
Overall, intentionally crass commentary regarding everyday annoyances adds appeal through smirking quirk in the writing. Quall¡¯s all-in personification of a perennial loser poised to live out a relatable revenge fantasy doubles down on satire. Then viciousness in the unlikely form of a baby xenomorph mucks everything up in typical EC fashion. ¡°The Finger¡± might feel more like ¡°Creepshow¡± in conception than in execution, but that shouldn¡¯t make it any less entertaining as a sprightly stab of humorous horror.
Episode 3a - All Hallow¡¯s Eve
Director: John Harrison
Writer: Bruce Jones
Stars: Connor Christie, Madison Thompson, Jasun Jabbar, Andrew Eakle, Michael May, Julia Denton, Scott Daniel Johnson, Tom Olson, Erica Frene
Summary: Five friends fulfill a promise to keep an annual trick-or-treating tradition that unsettles their neighborhood.
Dressed in different costumes, Pete, Jill, Binky, Bobby, and Skeeter meet on Halloween night as part of an annual tradition for their ¡®Golden Dragons¡¯ gaming club.
The five friends begin their night by trick-or-treating at Mr. Boatner¡¯s house. Terrified that the children returned to his house again this year, Mr. Boatner nervously turns over his candy as the kids cryptically taunt him.
Pete, Jill, Binky, Bobby, and Skeeter next visit Mrs. Collins, who bakes them muffins. Mr. Collins angrily calls the kids monsters for terrorizing their town, destroying their lives, and taking their son from them the previous year.
When no one answers the door, the quintet breaks into Mrs. Hathaway¡¯s house. Mrs. Hathaway confronts the children with a shotgun. Pete commands Mrs. Hathaway to turn over her son Eddie while reminding the woman that she cannot harm them and it isn¡¯t their choice to do what they¡¯re doing. Eddie emerges. The five friends capture him. Mrs. Hathaway laments that the children would have found her and taken Eddie no matter what.
A flashback shows Eddie and four of his bully friends trapping the Golden Dragons in their treehouse and setting it on fire as a Halloween prank. Unable to escape, Pete, Jill, Binky, Bobby, and Skeeter burn to death.
The five friends tie Eddie to a tree and set him on fire. While Eddie burns, the costumed friends morph into charred ghouls. Afterward, Pete, Jill, Binky, Bobby, and Skeeter return to Smithville Cemetery and vanish.
It took until the third episode, but finally The Creep appears in an intro that actually induces a snicker. Weirdly, The Creep isn¡¯t even onscreen when the best bit happens, which partly contributes to the ADR comedy. If the series wasn¡¯t completely in the can before it began airing, I might theorize producers consciously chose to address complaints about the wonky practical puppet. Perhaps an actor in makeup should have played The Creep all along, as he finally feels like a remotely real personality rather than a prototype prop stolen from Terry Fator¡¯s dressing room.
With a sizable cast of ten speaking parts and several exterior settings, ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve¡± probably qualifies as ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± ¡°biggest¡± episode in terms of not feeling narrowed to a single location or three primary people. Taking place on Halloween night, the segment should additionally appeal to fans of October-set stories featuring distinctive Fall flavors.
In ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve,¡± five friends who are possibly in their early teens (it¡¯s hard to tell if their older ages are totally intentionally or just another case of actors pulling a ¡°90210¡±), assemble outside a cemetery to fulfill their treehouse club¡¯s annual trick-or-treating tradition. By the way terrified townspeople overreact when the quintet appears on their doorsteps, it¡¯s clear these kids aren¡¯t ordinary pranksters unloading eggs or threatening to throw toilet paper into trees.
Thanks to such obvious clues, ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve¡± ends up building to a reveal anyone can see coming. It¡¯s an old-fashioned revenge story, except due to the truncated timeframe, we only see vengeance exacted on one of five deserving people, which lessens the meatiness of what should be a macabre moral.
To say it succinctly with no muss or fuss, ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve¡± frankly doesn¡¯t feel like ¡°Creepshow¡± at all. It¡¯s wholly absent of dark humor. The villain¡¯s comeuppance doesn¡¯t come with a distinctively warped EC twist. And there isn¡¯t any kooky coloring to give the piece a rich comic book look.
If I want to go all the way with honesty, I have to add that the acting is wooden across the board. The cast is so stiff they make The Creep puppet look lifelike. It pains me to say so since some of these people are aspiring newcomers. But single-note performances prevent viewers from investing any empathy, which spells doom for a segment whose success depends on the audience riding a rollercoaster of emotions alongside the characters.
Nearly nothing about ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve¡± feels frightful or fun. I don¡¯t need to see the second half of the season to know this is ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± weakest link. A strong setting can¡¯t save the segment from predictable plotting and pedestrian performances. I have a sneaking suspicion ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve¡± will hit the bottom rung on most ladders when fans rank season one¡¯s 12 segments according to personal preference.
Episode 3b - The Man in the Suitcase
Director: Dave Bruckner
Writer: Christopher Buehlman
Stars: Will Kindrachuk, Ravi Naidu, Madison Bailey, Ian Gregg, Antwan ¡°Big Boi¡± Patton, Nasim Bowlus, Carey Jones
Summary: After bringing home the wrong bag from the airport, a young stoner unzips the suitcase to discover a contorted man capable of turning his pain into antique gold coins.
Stoned slacker Justin collects the wrong suitcase at an airport¡¯s baggage claim. After bringing the bag home, Justin discovers a contorted Middle Eastern man inside.
The man cryptically warns that he cannot be taken to a hospital because he fears ¡°they¡± will find him. He instead asks for Justin¡¯s help getting out of the bag. Justin tries, but the man¡¯s pain is too intense.
Unexpectedly, the man spits up a gold coin. The man explains that he produces gold coins whenever he is in pain.
The man says they should try getting him out of the bag at another time. He then goes to sleep. Justin dreams of three men in black breaking in and executing the man in the suitcase.
Justin takes the coin to a pawnbroker who identifies it as a historical antique. Justin accepts the pawnbroker¡¯s lowball offer of $275 for the coin.
Justin explains the unusual situation to his roommate Alex and ex-girlfriend Carla, whom Justin is still in love with even though she is secretly having an affair with Alex. Upon learning what the man can do, Alex throws the bag down a staircase, which produces hundreds of gold coins. The three friends agree to torture the man for 48 hours to become rich.
Justin insists on stopping their torture after the 48 hours are over. Carla violently strikes Justin in his head. Carla moves to kill Justin, but he stumbles down the stairs and collapses.
Alex and Carla plot to torture the man for one giant jackpot before going on the run. The man unexpectedly taunts Alex and Carla as he morphs into a demonic djinn. Alex and Carla are heard screaming as the djinn presents two empty suitcases.
Justin recovers in the hospital. Through a note attached to flowers, the man from the suitcase thanks Justin. The man is next seen checking two bags for a flight to Istanbul.
In ¡°The Man in the Suitcase,¡± Will Kindrachuk, a Poor Man¡¯s Jesse Eisenberg (himself a former Poor Man¡¯s Michael Cera), plays Justin, a bong-breathing slacker who brings home the wrong bag from the airport. Imagine Justin¡¯s surprise when he unzips the bag to find an unusually kind Middle Eastern man pretzel-twisted like a contorted gymnast after the worst fall imaginable. Now imagine Justin¡¯s further astonishment when he discovers the man spits up antique gold coins every time he is put through pain.
Justin¡¯s conscience isn¡¯t entirely sure what to do about this peculiar predicament. But his roommate Alex smells a jackpot. Enter Justin¡¯s ex-girlfriend too. Now you¡¯ve got a devious trio ready to turn Justin¡¯s apartment into a medieval torture chamber to greedily get the gold they desperately desire.
Like the preceding piece ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve,¡± ¡°The Man in the Suitcase¡± doesn¡¯t necessarily scream ¡°Creepshow¡± with its story or its style. Yet it¡¯s easy to see why producers paired these two segments together. While ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve¡± felt flat and inconsequential, ¡°The Man in the Suitcase¡± comes across as exponentially more entertaining. Balancing a lowlight with this highly memorable tale evens out the episode to feel more satisfying overall, or at least eliminate some of the muckmouth aftertaste left by the previous 22 minutes.
What¡¯s not to like about the weirdness of ¡°The Man in the Suitcase?¡± Affable acting embodies slightly cartoonish characters who involve themselves in terrible tactics at an innocent man¡¯s expense. Christopher Buehlman¡¯s original story keeps intrigued imaginations on their toes by not telegraphing its outcome at the outset. And creepy craziness pokes around from the first minute until the last. On second thought, maybe ¡°The Man in the Suitcase¡± is more ¡°Creepshow¡± in conception than I originally gave it credit for.
¡°The Man in the Suitcase¡± reminds me of ¡°The House of the Head¡± however, in that it has a great premise and continually captivating setup, but doesn¡¯t stick its landing. ¡°The Man in the Suitcase¡± wraps up with a ¡°wait, that¡¯s it?¡± vibe accompanying its brusque conclusion. More than that though, the main monster suffers the ill effects of cut-corner CGI causing him to look more malformed than menacing. This nagging hangnail doesn¡¯t inflict more pain than the individual episode can bear. But it will certainly influence voting when it comes time to determine the best season one segment overall.
As with ¡°The House of the Head,¡± a tighter last two minutes would have done wonders to elevate a good episode into greatness. Nevertheless, ¡°The Man in the Suitcase¡± situates itself as an early favorite in ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± first half, simply on the strength of its unusual story and effective execution.
Episode 4a - The Companion
Director: David Bruckner
Writer: Matt Venne
Stars: Logan Allen, Afemo Omilami, Carey Jones, Voltaire Council, Dylan Gage, Addison Hershey
Summary: A bullied boy discovers a supernatural scarecrow that could become his companion, if it doesn¡¯t kill him first.
Summer 1987 ¨C Smitty briefly consoles his 13-year-old friend Harold by a creek after Harold is beaten up by his bullying brother Billy. After Smitty leaves, Billy arrives to torment Harold again.
Harold flees through the woods as darkness falls. In a field, Harold encounters a skeletal scarecrow. Harold pulls a cane from the scarecrow¡¯s torso to use as protection against Billy.
Harold takes refuge in an abandoned farmhouse nearby. To Harold¡¯s astonishment, the scarecrow begins stalking him throughout the old house.
In the basement, Harold discovers a cobwebbed corpse. A letter left behind identifies the dead man as Brenner.
In his letter, Brenner recounts how after his beloved wife Mavis died, he wanted a companion to ease his loneliness. Brenner built the scarecrow using strange bones found in his field, branches, and a fabric heart that Mavis made for him as a valentine. The combination of unusual ingredients somehow gave the scarecrow life. However, it killed a Girl Scout named Susie who came to the house to sell cookies. Wracked with guilt over the girl¡¯s death, Brenner impaled the scarecrow with his cane before killing himself with a shotgun.
The scarecrow attacks Harold. Harold defends himself with Brenner¡¯s cane, which causes the creature to recoil. Harold thrusts the cane into the scarecrow¡¯s chest and it collapses.
While Billy sleeps back at home, Harold sews him into his bed. Billy wakes to the helpless horror of Harold commanding the scarecrow, who is now under his control, to attack Billy.
This has become such a broken record theme, I¡¯m not sure how useful it is to even mention anymore. Anyway, ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± fourth episode features the series¡¯ most underwhelming appearance of The Creep yet. The mute cryptkeeper cousin lights a candle, cackles at a comic for three seconds, then morphs into a cartoon before an abrupt cut to opening credits. Is this supposed to be spooky, funny, or what exactly?
People should be proudly wearing The Creep¡¯s image on clothing, tweeting about his vignettes, and generally regarding him as the signature symbol of the ¡°Creepshow¡± brand. Right now, his bits come across as cursory afterthoughts, tacked on without creative consideration for what entertainment value they contribute to each episode.
Someone really needs to throw our macabre main man a lifeline and save The Creep with some infinitely slicker segments. While they¡¯re at it, they may as well give the practical puppet, who mostly looks like he¡¯s awkwardly stretching his jaw after uncomfortable dental work, a ¡°back to the drawing board¡± makeover too.
Since I¡¯m on the subject of ¡°Creepshow¡± as a brand, we probably have to reevaluate what that title means for TV. The precedent-setting original film of course benefitted from the streamlined vision of one writer and one director. It featured identifiable earmarks like colorful cutaways and a ferociously comedic chomp.
As a TV series where rotating talents only temporarily rent the reins, ¡°Creepshow¡± is increasingly becoming more of a straightforward horror anthology than one specific to the first film¡¯s vibe. Some segments pair better with others. But if you picked five at random to fill out a feature, it¡¯s unlikely they¡¯d feel unified either by fiction or by function. Some episodes are darkly humorous. Others aren¡¯t. Some slip in callbacks to the comic book frame. Others don¡¯t. The series appears entirely unconcerned with creative consistency from one episode to the next.
However, if affording filmmakers the freedom to operate unrestricted results in more episodes as excellent as ¡°The Companion,¡± maybe it shouldn¡¯t matter. Maybe it¡¯s more important that ¡°Creepshow¡± becomes synonymous with solidly scary television than arbitrary nostalgia for 65-year-old comics. Maybe we should focus on the meat and potatoes of the material rather than worry whether The Creep¡¯s wraparound ticks a box to fall more in line with the film.
Based on a short story collaboration between Joe R. Lansdale and his children Kasey and Keith, ¡°The Companion¡± tells the tale of Harold and a sinister scarecrow. No not that one. Though anyone would obviously be forgiven for associating that name and that villain with a certain scary story to tell in the dark.
¡°The Companion¡± opens with a scene between Harold, a boy who just took another beating from a bully named Billy, and Harold¡¯s best bud Smitty. Smitty¡¯s character never comes up again and his brief interaction with Harold doesn¡¯t play a part in the plot. Yet the earnest friendship established between these two boys adds charming context to Harold¡¯s character.
With no time to spare when only 22 minutes are involved, ¡°The Companion¡± could have been solely obsessed with moving the story. Instead, this calmer moment keeps the episode from being strictly concerned with the upcoming cat-and-mouse chase between Harold, his bully, and the killer scarecrow who comes between them. Its unlikely addition expands the fiction with an emotional anchor that makes this episode endearing.
¡°Killer scarecrow¡± might normally induce another ¡°been there, done that, outgrew the t-shirt¡± eyeroll. Except ¡°The Companion¡¯s¡± farmland fear-monger looks nothing like any straw-stuffed spook ever seen before. Built from animal bones and a weird wardrobe, his unique design comes with a striking silhouette that looks even more ghoulish when drenched in deep violet lights. This is ¡°killer scarecrow¡± impressively re-imagined with an eye for maximum eeriness.
Add on immersive sets and killer props like a cobwebbed corpse and you¡¯ve got a segment whose dark tone delivers compact chills with infectious style. The fresh way director David Bruckner designs this otherwise familiar story not only gives him a perfect two for two record with ¡°Creepshow,¡± but this and his ¡°The Man in the Suitcase¡± segment vie for top spots among season one¡¯s best episodes.
Episode 4b - Lydia Layne¡¯s Better Half
Director: Roxanne Benjamin
Writer: John Harrison, Greg Nicotero
Stars: Tricia Helfer, Danielle Lyn, Michael Scialabba, Jordan Patrick
Summary: A woman wonders if she is losing her mind or being haunted when she becomes trapped in an elevator with the body of the lover she accidentally killed.
Lydia Layne, the powerful head of a successful private equity group, passes over her lover Cecilia to instead promote rival Tom Harding to a CFO position. Cecilia angrily accuses Lydia of being a fraud who only pretends to support female empowerment. The contentious encounter between the two women turns physical. A push accidentally kills Cecilia when Lydia¡¯s ¡®Woman of the Year¡¯ award gorily punctures Cecilia¡¯s head.
Lydia sneaks Cecilia¡¯s corpse into an elevator. An earthquake causes the elevator to become stuck. Trapped for 24 hours, haunting visions of Cecilia cause Lydia¡¯s sanity to crack.
Lydia tries climbing out of the elevator car. Cecilia grabs and holds Lydia halfway as the car starts moving again. The sudden movement decapitates Lydia. Two first responders open the elevator to find Cecilia¡¯s corpse cradling Lydia¡¯s severed head.
For the first time in its premiere season, ¡°Creepshow¡± concludes an episode with the weaker of its two segments. ¡°Weak¡± implies a stronger suggestion than might be appropriate. It¡¯s probably more accurate to say, whereas ¡°The Companion¡± is comparatively outstanding, ¡°Lydia Layne¡¯s Better Half¡± is merely ¡°okay.¡±
It¡¯s a classic EC-type tale where white-collar ruthlessness results in juicy justice like only an over-the-top ending can deliver. The contemporary spin puts Tricia Helfer¡¯s CEO in a same-sex relationship with a subordinate. This situation leads to stickiness when said subordinate gets passed over for a promotion. It also affords opportunities to overlay commentary about gender perception in the workplace, glass ceilings, and illusions of female empowerment.
But the teeth to those themes wear down to nubs as the circular t¨ºte-¨¤-t¨ºte between the two argumentative women goes on longer than makes sense for the setup. I¡¯m not normally someone with the gall to gate-keep what sexes or ethnicities are best qualified to handle certain subjects. Fiction is fiction and an artist/creator should be free to explore whatever ideas s/he wants. Yet sensitivity over these particular topics runs high in a post-2016 political climate. There¡¯s an uncomfortable optics issue with having two men handle this specific script, even though Roxanne Benjamin directs the segment, and it manifests as perfunctory window dressing instead of substantial subtext that deeply enhances the narrative.
Independent of any debate over its social dialogue, ¡°Lydia Layne¡¯s Better Half¡± just isn¡¯t all that exciting as a terror tale. You can¡¯t squeeze symphonic sound out of a single-note story. And you can¡¯t expect much suspense when that story¡¯s middle and end are positioned like naked dominos due to a beginning that telegraphs every beat from the outset.
Frankly, there isn¡¯t much more to say about ¡°Lydia Layne¡¯s Better Half.¡± One woman. One corpse created accidentally. One elevator stuck at an inopportune time. That¡¯s all there is to the plotline, which is as narrow as the space where Lydia finds herself trapped. The piece is functional, fine, yet also flimsy when evaluated against impressions left by ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± more memorable first season stories.
Episode 5a - Night of the Paw
Director: John Harrison
Writer: John Esposito
Stars: Bruce Davison, Hannah Barefoot, Susannah Devereux, Grace Toso, Ryan Clay Gwaltney
Summary: A fugitive woman has an unusual encounter with a grieving mortician who possesses a cursed monkey¡¯s paw.
On the run from the law after euthanizing her terminally ill husband, Angela overturns her car. Severely injured from the crash, Angela collapses on the doorstep of Avery ¡°Whitey¡± Whitlock¡¯s funeral home. Whitey performs emergency surgery, which includes amputating two fingers, to save Angela¡¯s life.
After Angela recovers, Whitey tells her she didn¡¯t come to him by happenstance. Whitey shows Angela a monkey¡¯s paw he claims can grant a host three wishes.
Whitey recounts how he didn¡¯t believe in the paw¡¯s power until his beloved wife Marjorie¡¯s wishes came true. However, for Marjorie¡¯s final wish, she wished for them to come into money that would save their failing funeral home. Marjorie soon died in an accident and Whitey received a large insurance payout.
Distraught, Whitey used the paw to wish Marjorie back to life. When she didn¡¯t return home for several weeks, Whitey realized Marjorie was trapped in her grave.
Whitey dug up Marjorie, but she bit him in his leg like a zombie. After fending off attacks from Marjorie¡¯s sentient severed limbs, Whitey wished for his wife to be dead again.
The next morning, Angela asks why Whitey saved her life. Unable to commit suicide, Whitey explains that for his final wish, he asked for a killer to come relieve him of his misery. Angela contends she isn¡¯t a murderer, but Whitey counters that he knows the truth about her husband.
Disbelieving Whitey¡¯s entire story, Angela throws the monkey¡¯s paw into the fireplace. Whitey catches fire when he frantically reaches to retrieve the paw. Consumed by flames, Whitey begs for Angela to stop his suffering. Angela shoots Whitey. The flames vanish as Whitey dies.
Angela picks up the paw. Its fist unclenches to give her three wishes. Angela sees the bite wound on Whitey¡¯s leg and realizes his story was true.
Fleeing in Whitey¡¯s car, Angela inadvertently uses two wishes to locate the keys and start the vehicle. Angela drives to the morgue where she says, ¡°get up¡± to her husband¡¯s corpse. All of the bodies in the morgue reanimate. Angela¡¯s resurrected husband kills her.
¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± fifth episode once again has me asking if producers acted upon common complaints or just came to the conclusion themselves that The Creep wasn¡¯t working out. Or, and this possibility is equally likely, schedule and budgeting didn¡¯t permit filming a formal wraparound since all we see of our horror host this time around is a quick cartoon rendering. No puppet, no live-action actor, no reason to wonder why anyone bothered to include him in inconsequential clips. Maybe ¡°extremely limited¡± is the right role for The Creep until someone finally figures out a frighteningly fun way to effectively integrate him into the series.
Horror needs another take on W.W. Jacobs¡¯ ¡°The Monkey¡¯s Paw¡± like it needs another haunted asylum investigation shot in a ¡°found footage¡± format. We get one anyway with ¡°Night of the Paw,¡± a partially reimagined variation of essentially the same tale, even though Jacobs curiously doesn¡¯t receive a ¡°based on the short story by¡± credit.
The original text¡¯s macabre morality warning to be careful what you wish for makes it a timeless classic for good reason. The problem with monkey¡¯s paw stories though is that we always know how they will turn out, i.e. not well for anyone foolish enough to think s/he can outsmart fate. ¡°Night of the Paw¡± predictably falls victim to the same curse of telegraphing its ¡°your dead loved one isn¡¯t coming back without a hitch¡± twists.
The upside is Bruce Davison brings plentiful pathos to his role as a weird widower. Davison has consistently been one of Hollywood¡¯s most reliable ¡°that guys.¡± Actually, I¡¯m not sure he qualifies as a ¡°that guy¡± since more people probably know his name than not. Regardless of arguably applicable labels, Davison is at a stage in his venerated career where it¡¯s practically impossible for him to turn in anything less than a performance you¡¯ll absolutely pay attention to, which is of course the case here.
Davison plays Whitey, a grieving mortician in possession of you-know-what. Hannah Barefoot features as Angela, a woman on the run after euthanizing her ill husband. A (not so) coincidental car crash brings Angela to Whitey¡¯s door. The paw then plays a part in drastically altering both mourners as one wishes for an unusual death while the other wishes for a reanimated life.
¡°Night of the Paw¡± doesn¡¯t really have any surprises in store. Entertainment lies in simply watching expected events unfold. Pushed along by engaging acting and a snappy structure that doesn¡¯t dilly-dally, ¡°Night of the Paw¡± basically becomes a Goldilocks episode that¡¯s not too hot, not too cold, but right in the middle at a comfortable room temperature. In that regard, it can serve as ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± control episode for the first season. Other segments may be comparatively better or worse, but ¡°Night of the Paw¡± pretty much occupies a reset position we can consider to be ¡°average.¡±
Fans can find Easter eggs in the form of music cues echoing ¡°Something to Tide You Over¡¯s¡± score. Sharp eyes and a Pause button also reveal Francesco Dellamorte of ¡°Cemetery Man¡± and none other than Herbert West himself previously visited Whitey¡¯s funeral parlor. There may be additional notable names lurking in Whitey¡¯s guestbook if you can make out their handwriting.
Episode 5b - Times Is Tough in Musky Holler
Director: John Harrison
Writer: John Skipp, Dori Miller
Stars: Dane Rhodes, Karen Strassman, David Arquette, Tommy Kane, Tracey Bonner, Kermit Rolison, Connor Hammond
Summary: In the wake of a zombie outbreak, a corrupt city official and his accomplices face justice in unexpected fashion.
Flashbacks show corrupt mayor Lester M. Barclay taking control of Musky Holler after zombies overran the small town. Once he became drunk with power, Barclay gathered anyone who opposed him underneath the high school football field and forced them to be devoured by zombies for sport.
In the present, Lottie leads a mob of vengeful townspeople in confronting the imprisoned mayor. Lottie¡¯s mob also imprisons the family of Pastor Mitchell Ryan, who encouraged Barclay¡¯s reign of terror by claiming he was doing God¡¯s will, news director Don Pomade, who willingly spread Barclay¡¯s lies, town gossip Lesliann Dowd, and Sheriff Deke among other accomplices.
As punishment, Barclay and his crooked supporters are raised by chains so only their heads emerge on the football field. In front of cheering spectators, Barclay¡¯s zombified rivals who were mercilessly displaced, raped, or killed are released to devour Barclay and his enablers.
In my review of episode three¡¯s ¡°All Hallow¡¯s Eve,¡± I arrogantly proclaimed, ¡°I don¡¯t need to see the second half of the season to know this is ¡®Creepshow¡¯s¡¯ weakest link.¡± That prediction was grossly inaccurate. Turns out that dubious crown unquestionably belongs atop ¡°Times Is Tough in Musky Holler,¡± a segment whose only positive attribute is a mildly amusing title.
¡°Times Is Tough in Musky Holler¡± is what¡¯s known as an ¡°equalizer¡± episode. TV shows resort to them when other episodes run over budget and producers need something fast and cheap to get costs and the calendar back under control. I¡¯m speculating of course, but I can¡¯t come up with a more plausible scenario to justify why this slapdash segment is conspicuously incomplete. ¡°Times Is Tough in Musky Holler¡± cuts so many corners, I¡¯m surprised enough material remained to hack together 15-ish minutes of wholly forgettable filler.
The story itself includes many memorable moments. When zombies overran the titular town, a corrupt politician used the opportunity to ascend to power. Musky Holler needed someone to steer the ship. Scores of the undead poured out of the cemetery and into the streets, their grotesque corpses illuminated by blazing fires burning through buildings.
Mayor Barclay restored order, but authority went to his head. Like a villain straight out of ¡°The Walking Dead,¡± Barclay turned the high school football field into an abattoir arena where spectators could watch craven creatures viciously devour his captive rivals for sport. It was a spectacle of ¡°Mad Max¡± proportions, featuring men with axes hacking for their lives against ghouls restrained by ropes.
Sound pretty cool? Yeah well, here¡¯s the thing. ¡°Times Is Tough in Musky Holler¡± shows literally none of what I just described. Not in live action anyway. The episode unfairly cheats so everything you should be seeing only plays out in static comic pages.
Of course, comic panel interludes are an integral part of the ¡°Creepshow¡± aesthetic. I didn¡¯t mind when ¡°Bad Wolf Down¡± used animation to avoid a complicated werewolf transformation. That was just a transition to move from one moment to the next, exactly as that technique originally intended. I also don¡¯t mind that ¡°Night of the Paw¡± handled its opening car crash the same way. That was a simple setup scene that wasn¡¯t essential to the story.
But to have virtually all action take place offscreen, and to tease through illustrations that it would have looked awesome compared to the dialogue-driven inactivity we get in its place, is just plain lazy.
The unbelievably obvious lengths this episode goes to in order to avoid showing anything interesting would be hilarious if they weren¡¯t insulting. Even when one man punches another, he throws phantom fists out of frame so we don¡¯t see the person he supposedly hit. The camera doesn¡¯t point at the crooks when they get their comeuppance either. An X simply appears over a scoreboard graphic, leaving it up to our mind¡¯s eye to fill in the acting and effects that ¡°Times Is Tough in Musky Holler¡± apparently couldn¡¯t afford to feature.
David Arquette stars as the big name, but he¡¯s barely in the episode as an entirely unimportant inclusion. That¡¯s just as well since he grates every last nerve with a gratuitously goofy country drawl. The less we have to put up with him and the other bumpkin caricatures constituting characters, the better. The bigger problem is the episode has nothing to put in their place, although it adds that nothing anyway.
¡°Times Is Tough in Musky Holler¡± was clearly an exercise in ¡°how little can we get away with?¡± The answer is, ¡°Creepshow¡± didn¡¯t get away with it at all.
Episode 6a - Skincrawlers
Director: Roxanne Benjamin
Writer: Paul Dini, Stephen Langford
Stars: Dana Gould, Chad Michael Collins, Hina Kahn, Melissa Saint-Amand, Beth Keener, Jason Graham, Darin Toonder
Summary: A solar eclipse causes deadly complications for an unorthodox weight loss treatment that uses a rare fat-sucking leech.
Desperate for a weight loss miracle cure that will turn his disappointing dating life around, Henry Quayle considers Dr. Herbert Sloan¡¯s trendy ¡®Skin Deep¡¯ treatment. In the waiting room of Dr. Sloan¡¯s clinic, Henry meets fellow overweight patient Kelly. Henry decides to not go through with the procedure when he discovers it involves a rare South American leech that feeds on fat instead of blood.
Two Weeks Later ¨C Henry unexpectedly runs into Kelly, who became thin from Dr. Sloan¡¯s treatment as well as a spokesmodel for the program. Attracted to Kelly and assured that the procedure is painless, Henry agrees to undergo the treatment live when Kelly and Dr. Sloan appear on the morning talk show ¡°AM America.¡±
During the TV show¡¯s broadcast, hosts Randy Witten and Suzy Spry intermittently cut to Professor Jim Scott who reports live from Horlicks Observatory on an impending solar eclipse. Jim, who previously underwent Dr. Sloan¡¯s procedure, begins suffering from abdominal pain while discussing how animals behave abnormally during eclipses. Jim eventually collapses and his head suddenly explodes.
Before Henry can undergo the procedure, everyone in the studio who participated in Dr. Sloan¡¯s program, including Kelly, painfully convulses before exploding into a mess of bloody worms. Henry confronts Dr. Sloan, who claims he didn¡¯t know that whatever the leeches left behind in human patients would react to the eclipse.
Dr. Sloan explodes. An enormous leech creature emerges from Sloan¡¯s corpse to attack Henry. Henry kills the creature by overturning a vending machine on top of it. Henry enjoys a candy bar from the machine while the TV studio continues erupting in chaos.
Episode six offers a second full-body look at a live-action Creep and, choosing between the two, an actor in makeup once again wins over the poor puppet. I still couldn¡¯t tell you what the character quantifiably contributes to an intro where he merely coughs up some heh-heh-hehs while working a fishing rod though. Was it really that much of a creative challenge to conceive six suitable skits that don¡¯t even constitute two minutes of total time?
Henry Quayle has a problem with his weight in ¡°Skincrawlers.¡± He¡¯s not exactly obese, but the unsightly way he bites into a burrito isn¡¯t exactly appealing either.
Dr. Herbert Sloan has Henry¡¯s solution. ¡®Skin Deep¡¯ promises a trendy miracle cure that can shed unsightly pounds in mere minutes. The catch? Instead of liposuction tubing, Dr. Sloan lets a rare South American leech do the dirty work.
Dana Gould makes for an inspired casting choice as Henry. The character¡¯s dropped-jaw optimism establishes him as a huggable ¡°gosh, wow!¡± kind of guy without any extra in front of his ordinary. Then his ¡°too creepy for me¡± reaction upon seeing the toothy creature Dr. Sloan wants to latch onto his belly complements average charm with an advisably wise second thought. The package comes together as a great combination of smartness and shagginess to make Henry a sympathetic schlub, which turns into a tailored fit for Gould¡¯s onscreen comic persona.
Henry wears his heart on his nondescript hoodie¡¯s sleeve however. So when an overweight woman who sat beside him in the clinic reveals her new spokesmodel slimness, Henry does another about face. Thinking maybe he can ready himself for romance with a makeover, Henry volunteers to undergo Dr. Sloan¡¯s buzzy new treatment live on a morning talk show.
Complications arise when the AM anchors cut to a reporter at Horlicks Observatory (wink, wink, original ¡°Creepshow¡± film). His field piece details how an impending solar eclipse adversely affects animals and- uh oh! You can see where this is going.
Complications also arise when the episode enlists sketchy FX to pull off its chaotic centerpiece sequence of bursting bodies and bloody geysers. ¡°Skincrawlers¡± has a fun idea fueling its setup, except it¡¯s essentially limited to laying out tarp for gross-out gags. ¡°Creepshow¡± arguably earned itself an episode whose only interest lies in throwing a pure gore party. But entertainment gets undercut by cheap CGI such as a digital leech lurching out of one woman¡¯s eye looking like it was rendered by an Amiga computer. Sloppy splatter seems crafted by KNB interns goofing around at the office after hours.
Even though its story is slight when compared against other segments, ¡°Skincrawlers¡± isn¡¯t an objectively ¡°bad¡± episode by any means. Awkward execution just highlights its flippancy in a less than ideal manner. Thinking of the franchise¡¯s future, ¡°Skincrawlers¡± offers additional evidence that ¡°Creepshow¡± might want to tune down its tone until imaginative ambition no longer exceeds what its budget can convincingly deliver.
Episode 6b - By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain
Director: Tom Savini
Writer: Jason Ciaramella, Joe Hill
Stars: Sydney Wease, Connor Jones, David Alexander Kaplan, James Devoti, Gena Shaw
Summary: A teen girl discovers the truth about a mythical local monster, but her abusive stepfather threatens to destroy their family because of it.
Leigh Philips admonishes her teenage daughter Rose for being obsessed with ¡®Champy,¡¯ a mythical monster rumored to live in nearby Lake Champlain. Leigh insists Champy isn¡¯t real while reminding Rose that her father William died trying to prove it exists, even though no one in town believed him.
Rose¡¯s abusive stepfather Chet threatens Rose¡¯s boyfriend Thomas regarding his romantic relationship with Rose. Chet also belittles Rose by discarding the Champy scrapbook started by her father that Rose still maintains.
Upset over her mother¡¯s defense of Chet, Rose runs to the lake. Thomas follows Rose, as does Rose¡¯s little brother Joseph. Rose unexpectedly runs into what looks like Champy¡¯s dead carcass washed up on a foggy beach. Rose notes that Champy looks smaller than she expected. Rose sends Joseph to retrieve their mother. Wanting to give credit for the discovery to Rose¡¯s father, Thomas carves Rose and William¡¯s names into the creature before Rose snaps a Polaroid picture.
Having overheard Joseph when he returned home, Chet comes to the beach planning to take credit and profit from Champy¡¯s discovery. Chet, Thomas, and Rose end up physically fighting. Chet threatens both teens with a knife. A larger creature emerges from the lake and eats Chet.
The real Champy mourns the smaller creature before pulling its body back into the water. Leigh arrives in time to see Champy¡¯s shadow in distant fog. Rose explains what happened. Leigh remarks that William may not have been crazy after all. Leigh, Rose, Joseph, and Thomas go home together.
¡°By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain¡± takes place in 1984 but doesn¡¯t make a big deal about it. I appreciate restraint when depicting throwback time periods. Until the year later appears commemorated in a carving, you only get a sense of the setting because a radio sportscaster mentions the Supersonics, a man without grey hair recalls serving in ¡®Nam, and a teen boy has an unusual obsession with Rambo. No ¡°Stranger Things¡±-style overload here.
To her disapproving mother¡¯s chagrin, teenager Rose continues honoring her deceased father¡¯s dubious legacy by carrying a torch for ¡®Champy.¡¯ In both the script¡¯s story and in actual urban legend, Champy, or Champ, is the lake¡¯s elusive Loch Ness-like creature. Rose¡¯s dad died trying to prove the mythic monster exists. Champy now connects Rose to her father as she too fights to find out the truth behind the folklore.
Rose¡¯s abusive stepfather Chet stands in the way. Not just in the way of Rose¡¯s Champy obsession, but in the way of her youthful romance as well as fostering healthy family ties. Chet is an a-hole with a capital A, chiding his wife for cold meatloaf while demanding a beer. He sits with wide knees like a preening alpha male whose ego connects to his crotch. Actor James Devoti has a Chris D¡¯Elia air in his arrogance, but pitches the prickly persona with precise amounts of sneering, leering, and unhinged attitude.
An unusually large amount of drama plays into ¡°By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain.¡± Sydney Wease tautly tugs at heartstrings with eyes whose welled water desperately demands for Rose¡¯s hurt to heal. A challenging confrontation with mom about why she stays with Chet echoes all too real excuses employed by domestic abuse victims. When threats turn physical, helpless looks wash over faces filled with resentment, disappointment, anger, and fear. The episode travels to surprisingly high emotional peaks while tying sympathetic tethers to characters and situations like no other ¡°Creepshow¡± episode does.
The kettle finally boils when Rose unexpectedly discovers Champy in the form of a carcass washed up on a beach. Now might as well be the time to address the sea beast in the room by mentioning the monster resembles an oversized rubber cereal toy. ¡°Creepshow¡± has no greater Achilles Heel than the lack of zeroes in its budget. Champy drops into a baggie as Exhibit Z.
Head-on angles and wide shots staging actors around the odd prop further amplify its obvious jankiness. Otherwise, the episode does a decent job of masking many money-related limitations. Shrouding the beach set in fog eases our ability to ignore it as a soundstage. Authentic exteriors additionally expand the environment while evening out overall atmosphere, far better than something like ¡°Times Is Tough in Musky Holler¡± anyway.
Luckily, the fiction carries a faint vibe of fairytale fantasy, which affords some forgiveness for Champy looking like an animatronic relic of early ¡®80s cinema. Once again, the episode¡¯s frayed edges, some of which end up being endearing, cause ¡°By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain¡± to come across as being more in the late-night syndication spirit of ¡°Tales from the Darkside¡± than the colorful creativity of ¡°Creepshow,¡± which isn¡¯t a bad thing at all. In fact, it may be apropos of a segment set in 1984 and whose charm comes from a heap of sentimental schmaltz and a hint of hokey horror.
¡°Creepshow¡± didn¡¯t save its best episode for last. For the record, that honor belongs to ¡°The Man in the Suitcase.¡± Particularly when framed against season starter ¡°Gray Matter¡± however, ¡°By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain¡± nevertheless makes for a pretty fitting finish to the slate.
With ¡°Gray Matter¡± and ¡°By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,¡± ¡°Creepshow¡¯s¡± first season began with a Stephen King adaptation and concluded with a Joe Hill one. With Greg Nicotero and Tom Savini as the respective directors, that puts a George A. Romero confidante and ¡°Creepshow¡± feature film alumni at each helm. I can¡¯t think of better bookends to embrace the TV show¡¯s inaugural season, and I believe ¡°Creepshow¡± creators Romero and King wouldn¡¯t want it any other way but ¡°all in the family.¡±