So I’m at the final hurdle of this Creepshow/Halloween special retrospective. It’s been a pretty uneven journey so far. A cracking and iconic first film, followed by a disappointing but still entertaining sequel… the less said about that atrocious third film the better. But at this juncture, I think it’s fair to say that Creepshow has lost it’s way and was dying as a franchise. I was pretty sure that Creepshow 3 would be the nail in the coffin of the anthology storytelling that was Creepshow and it kind of was for a good while too. But before I do get into the new TV show, there is a little Creepshow curio I want to quickly cover.
So this is a bit of an oddity and little known/forgotten about. Creepshow Raw was meant to breathe new life into the ailing franchise. Designed to be a rebirth and broadcast on the interwebs as an online web series. The idea never really took off and only one episode was ever produced, which you can find easily enough with a Google search.
Released in 2009, this little slice of Creepshow told the story of young boy Phillip (Sam Elliot Hafermalz) who suffers from insomnia. His drunken and abusive step father, Barry (Michael Madsen) shows little sympathy toward the youngster’s condition. That night and Barry soon learns just why Philip can’t sleep at night.
You know what? This was actually not too bad. I mean, it’s not classic Creepshow but a lot better then anything in Creepshow 3. The episode only runs for around eight minutes and was originally shown on the website IGN. This short goes back to roots with the comic book presentation and filters. This is what a Creepshow reboot should’ve been, but nothing ever came of it. With a bit more work and polish, this really could’ve worked. There were a total of ten episodes planned, but only this one was ever made and shown. From what I’ve managed to dig up, the production team behind Creepshow Raw just lost interest and decided not to make any more episodes. It’s a shame because this really was a step in the right direction, a bit rough I admit but it was heading in the right direction, as you can see for yourselves…
So that was it for anything Creepshow related until just a few weeks ago when the all new Creepshow TV series kicked off. I honestly had no idea it existed until I did a random search on the interwebs for Creepshow. I can’t even remember why I did it at the time, but the search bought up the trailer for the TV series and I found out that the first episode was airing just a few hours later. This really was a shock to me as I thought the franchise was dead. So I watched the trailer and thought it looked pretty decent, certainly the best looking thing with the Creepshow name since the original film thirty seven years ago.
So here we are, finally. An almost forty year journey from 1982 to 2019, the entire history of Creepshow ends here, or hopefully begins a new chapter. We’ll have to wait and see just how well this new TV series does.
Now, up to this point, I’ve followed a pattern covering the films and stories. I’ve given you the general gist of the tales and then offered my overall feelings at the end. For the Creepshow TV series, I’m doing it the other way around. I’ll give you my general feelings on the show before looking at the stories. See, the films are pretty old now and (mildly) spoiling them is something I don’t really mind doing due to their age. But this show is brand new, just a few weeks old and a lot of people most probably have not yet seen it. So even though I’m not planning on doing major SPOILERS, I’m still offering a warning and will tell you what I think about the series overall before looking at each tale in case anyone out there wants to go into the show blind. So here are my general thoughts on the show without spoilers…
This show is great, let’s just get right to it here. Executive prouder and show runner, Greg Nicotero is a name any horror fan should know. He cut his teeth doing horror effects work on flicks like Day of the Dead, Evil Dead II and of course Creepshow 2. A former protégé of horror make-up maestro Tom Savini. Greg went on to have a hugely successful career in movies and TV both in special effects and even directing… and a spot of acting too. Anyway, point is that Greg Nicotero is the real deal, he knows his horror and was a massive fan of the original Creepshow flick. Outside of resurrecting the late, great George A. Romero to head up this show, Greg was the next best thing. The attention to detail in the series is perfect Creepshow. From the comic book presentation to the crazy filters and lighting, this looks and feels like classic Creepshow. The series is also full of great little nods and background details that a true fan can enjoy, for example, you remember that marble ashtray that features in all of the stories in the first film? Well it’s in the TV show too, several times. Honestly, I could write an article just on the references in this series. I had a fear before watching Creepshow (series) that it would be Creepshow 3 bad, it’s not, it’s original Creepshow great. Now, not all the stories are brilliant (more on those later) but most of them are. I don’t think there’s a ‘bad’ story in the whole series, just ones better than others. If you’re a Creepshow fan, then this is a must watch.
An so, with that out of the way, it’s now time to take a look at each episode and every story in the show. So one last warning. I’m not going to give away any of the endings, but I will be looking at each story. So stop reading now if you want to avoid even very mild SPOILERS.
Showing on the online streaming service Shudder, Creepshow first aired on the 26th of September, 2019. The format is each episode is around forty-odd minutes long with two stories per episode. The run consists of only six episodes, but that does mean a total of ‘twelve terrifying tales of terror’ though the whole series. As previously mentioned, Greg Nicotero is the man man behind the TV show as producer but his effects studio, KNB EFX Group provide the make-up work too. Seeing as this is a TV show and not a movie, each episode and even each story has a different director, Greg being one of them. Also directing stories are David Bruckner, Roxanne Benjamin and even the awesome (and Creepshow original alumni) Tom Savini, among others. The Creep is back, but this is original, silent and rotting corpse Creep, not that annoying pun spouting thing from Creepshow 2. Each story is kind of introduced by The Creep, which, as he doesn’t talk, is done via little snippets of The Creep flicking though Creepshow comic books which he finds in a mysterious crate, the infamous crate from the original film. And so onto the first episode…
Episode 1: Gray Matter
The first story, Gray Matter is based on the Stephen King short of the same name. There have been a spate of missing animals (including some Stephen King references) and people recently in a small, almost dead town. A local general store run by Dixie (Adrienne Barbeau) is almost out of supplies as a bad storm rolls in. A distraught teenager enters the store claiming his father is really sick and needs help. Two patrons of the store, Chief (Tobin Bell) and Doc (Giancarlo Esposito) agree to go and check on the boy’s father while Dixie looks after the youngster in the store. Dixie slowly learns exactly what has happened to the boy’s father and the residents of the town, is it too late for Chief and Doc to be saved?
The House of the Head
The House of the Head is a yarn about a young girl, Evie (Cailey Fleming) and her doll’s house. A small family of dolls live in the house, a father, mother, child and a dog. Evie likes to play with the family and the house everyday. When she returns to play with the doll’s house, Evie finds the doll family have moved around on their own. Not only that, but they also seem to be startled by something, the family and whatever is scaring them only move when the doll house is closed and Evie is not in the room. So Evie closes the doll’s house and leaves them alone, but when she returns later, she finds a toy severed head in one of the rooms and that the family’s numbers are beginning to thin out every time Evie is not watching them.
The first episode gets off to a great start. Both tales are highly entertaining and everything feels like Creepshow. The stories are very creepy with the right amount of horror and dark humour. Gray Matter certainly feels very Stephen King-ish and fits perfectly with Creepshow for obvious reasons and the return of Adrienne Barbeau to the franchise is a welcome one too. The second tale is my favourite of the episode. The haunted doll house scenario has been done before in films and books over the years, but this one feels kind of fresh. I thought it was going down an obvious path, but it eventually didn’t which was a pleasant surprise. Plus Creepshow fans may want to keep a keen eye out for some of the furniture in the doll house. My only gripe with this one is the cheap jump scare at the very end. The story ends perfectly fine with an ominous resolve that works well… but then it throws in a needless jump scare that just made me roll my eyes.
Episode 2: Bad Wolf Down
The first story is set during World War II. A small group of American soldiers find themselves behind enemy lines. When one of the Yanks kills the only son of a high ranking Nazi officer (Jeffrey Combs), he comes looking for revenge. The soldiers find themselves surrounded by Nazis and trapped inside an old and disused police station. The Nazi officer gives the soldiers the chance to surrender for a quick death or stay inside and die as slowly and painful as he can make it. As the Americans search the police station, they find the badly mutilated bodies of several Nazi soldiers and a woman locked in one of the cells who might just hold the key that could get them out alive… kind of.
The Finger is a tale about Clark (DJ Qualls) a down and out kind of guy who finds rubbish on the streets and takes it home to find a use for it. One night, on one of his scavenging walks, he finds a strange, inhuman severed finger and takes it home. The finger begins to grow into an arm and eventually a fully formed horrific creature that Clark names Bob. Bob and Clark form a close bond, so close in fact that the little monster begins to kill anyone that upsets his ‘daddy’.
So Bad Wolf Down is spin on the classic werewolf story. Have you ever seen the film Dog Soldiers? Well this story is kind of like a lite version of that. Some good effects work and a cheeky, cheap but effective way of showing the werewolf transformations. Seeing horror icon, Jeffrey Combs s always a pleasure. I loved The Finger, a fantastic little tale directed by Greg Nicotero. I really don’t want to say too much about this one as it has a really nice sting in the tail at the end. But it’s full of great little touches like breaking the forth wall and having Clark talking to the viewer as he narrates his own story. This one is perfect Creepshow fodder.
Episode 3: All Hallows Eve
It’s the night of scares and fun, Halloween and a group of teenage friends decide to go trick-or-treating. Every year they follow the exact same route through the neighbourhood and always call in on the exact same houses. Only these friends are getting a little too old for the long and fun custom usually for children and decide that this will be their last trick-or-treat tour. Everyone they call on for treats is genuinely living in fear of the teens, this is no fun game, these teens harbour a dark secret. Trick-or-treating is a very, very serious business with a dark motive.
The Man in the Suitcase
The second yarn follows Justin (Will Kindrachuk) who is at the airport waiting for his luggage to turn up. A black suitcase finally arrives at the carousel, which he believes is his… it’s not. Justin takes the case home and after some food and illegal substances, he opens the suitcase. Inside is a very neatly folded man (Ravi Naidu) and he’s alive. The man in the suitcase tells Justin that people are looking for him as he has a very rewarding secret. As Justin tries to move the man and get him out of the case, his bizarre secret is revealed.
All Hallows Eve is a great tale. It’s dark, moody and very atmospheric. It’s not made clear exactly what the intention of the trick-or-treating teenagers is and they come across as very unpleasant and malevolent. But by the time the story comes to an end and all is revealed, the teens obsession and reason for trick-or-treating changes your perception. A very clever tale with a good twist. The second story is pretty decent, but for me, it’s one of the weakest of the show. There’s a bit of a mortality tale told in that distinct macabre Creepshow way. It’s tongue is very firmly planted in it’s cheek and offers some light chuckles over horror. A strange and silly story with an even stranger and sillier resolve.
Episode 4: The Companion
Teenager, Harold (Logan Allen) is picked on and beaten up by his older brother, Billy (Voltaire Council)… pretty sure it’s not THE Billy. Anyway, Harold is chased onto an abandoned farm by his bully brother and pulls out a cane that is embedded in a scarecrow in a field before hiding away in the disused farmhouse. The scarecrow comes to life and Harold soon learns where it came from and why the cane is so important. While bully boy Billy gives up the search of his little brother and goes home, the terrified youngster is hunted down by the scarecrow and becomes trapped inside the farmhouse.
Lydia Layne’s Better Half
When Tom is given a promotion to chief financial officer at work by his boss Lydia (Tricia Helfer), her secret lover, Celia (Danielle Lyn) feels she was more deserving of the job. The lovers have a argument that results is the accidental death of Celia. A distraught Lydia knows that if this death get’s out, no matter how accidental, it would mean the end of her high flying career and life. So she decides to try and cover up the Celia’s demise and get rid of the body. Taking Celia’s bloody corpse into the elevator with the plan to get it out of the building before anyone notices, there is an earthquake that results in a power cut which leaves Lydia and her dead lover trapped. She can’t call for help or her life will be ruined, but she needs to get rid of the body.
The Companion is a great little tale. Very creepy, very macabre and feels like it came right out of the original film with a fitting Creepshow ending. The scarecrow itself is a wonderful and scary creature with some great, old school effects work. There’s also a great and subtle nod to the The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill story from the first film and another nod to the opening of the original film too. Cracking story. The second yarn in this episode is also a belter, but in a very different way. For the most part, it’s just two people trapped in a lift, but what is done with such a small and cramped space is really impressive as Lydia tries to work out just how she can get rid of the body before anyone notices. There’s a real sense of suspense and terror along with some pretty good scares. Very much put me in mind of The Hitch-hiker tale from Creepshow 2 as Lydia begins to lose control while a dead body could ruin her life. Overall, this was a fantastic episode, pure Creepshow.
Episode 5: Night of the Paw
After being involved in a car accident a badly injured and wanted criminal, Angela (Hannah Barefoot) finds help at a funeral home run by Whitey (Bruce Davison). Whitey patches up and helps his guest who, at first is none to pleased, but soon learns to appreciate the help. As Whitey makes his visitor feel welcome, she begins to open up about her mysterious past. It seems that maybe fate played a hand in bringing them together as Whitey reveals he owns a magic monkey’s paw that grants three wishes. The paw has been used up and is no use to Whitey anymore… but maybe Angela can find a use for it or Whitey a use for her?
Times is Tough in Musky Holler
A small town is overrun by the undead and when it’s none to friendly and corrupt Mayor (Dane Rhodes) makes things even worse, residents of the town take matters into their own hands. Capturing and imprisoning the Mayor along with several of his cohorts, the townsfolk turn the tables on him by giving him a taste of his own medicine. Forcing the Mayor and his entourage into taking part in a sick and twisted ‘sports event’ as revenge.
I think pretty much every anthology horror franchise has had some form of the magic monkey’s paw story, even The Simpsons have done one in their Halloween specials. You know the story of a paw that can grant wishes and the user misuses them to their eventual horror. Well, Night of the Paw is Creepshow’s version and it’s pretty damn effective and original too. Bruce Davison as Whitey gives a wonderfully creepy and yet charming performance who has more than a few secrets of his own that can rival those of his criminal guest and the story does not go on the direction you may think it will at the end. The second story is a bit disappointing to be honest. Aside from some bloody, gruesome effects work at the end, there’s just not a lot going on here. It’s a bare bones tale with a paper thin revenge motif. I feel the backstory to this story (of which there are snippets shown) would’ve been much more intriguing as to just how and why the town became overrun by the undead and just how the Mayor fucked things up so badly. It just feels like a two minute ending dragged out to twenty minutes. Not a terrible tale, just not a very interesting one… with some great and bloody make up effects in the finale.
Episode 6: Skincrawlers
Dr Herbert Sloan (Chad Michael Collins) discovers a revolutionary weight loss method that doesn’t require dieting or exercise. The method can turn an obese person into a chiseled Olympian God in a matter of minutes. When overweight and donut lover, Henry Quayle (Dana Gould) turns up at Herbert’s impressive weight loss clinic and learns just how the amazing results are achieved using giant leaches that suck out the fat, he backs out of the treatment at the last minute. After crossing paths with a previously obese patient who is now super slim, Henry has a change of heart and not only agrees to the weight loss treatment, but also agrees to have it done live on TV. Meanwhile, a solar eclipse is due to plunge the city into darkness which has an effect on the fat eating leeches and just maybe, things will not work out as they should.
By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain
A mother and her children are living in a small house near a lake. Her abusive and often drunk boyfriend, who sees himself as the man of the house brings nothing but misery to the family. Despite the abuse, the mother stands by her boyfriend after the death of her husband while he was exploring the mysterious lake. One of the children, Rose (Sydney Wease) keeps an old scrapbook, the same scrapbook her father kept before his death, something he used to keep notes about things he discovered at the lake, including the supposed existence of a mythical creature living in the lake. Rose refuses to let her father’s death be in vain and soon learns that the undiscovered monster is real… but it’s dead. But can the creature still be of use?
The first yarn is pure classic Creepshow. Written by Paul Dini, a name Batman fans should recognise. This one ends in an orgy of blood and gore as the truth behind the weight loss programme is revealed. It bloody brutal and darkly amusing with some amazing OTT and old school effects work. This tale wouldn’t feel out of place in the original film. The second tale is written by Joe Hill/King, son of Stephen and Billy from the first film. It’s also directed by the great Tom Savini. So a reuniting of Creepshow originals. This one is a steadily slow tale with a lot of clichéd tropes, bully-boy stepfather/boyfriend, idiotic mother who puts the abusive boyfriend before her own children, nerdy-type daughter and a very predictable resolve. It has a very obvious Loch Ness Monster influence. Despite it’s paint by numbers approach, this is still an enjoyable story, no real surprises here and you’ll know exactly where the story is heading within two minutes. Plus there is a nice bit of bookending going on as the first episode started with a story written by Stephen King while the last episode ends with one from his son.
And that’s it. Almost forty years of Creepshow covered from the original film to the recent TV show. The franchise as a whole is a very mixed bag. The greatness of the original film still holds up today, it’s slightly weaker and disappointing sequel is entertaining enough. And the third film is a perfect example of how not to make a sequel and how to completely disrespect Creepshow fans.
However, this new TV show shows great potential. Only six episodes and twelve stories, but for me, I feel that’s just the right amount. Seeing as American TV shows tend to go on for far too long and outstay their welcome with seasons running into dozens of episodes, it’s nice to see one that dials things back a bit. Now I’ve seen the whole show, I’m excited for more instead of being bored. I really hope there is a second season next year. Greg Nicotero and everyone involved have done an amazing job putting a smile on this Creepshow fan’s face. If you’re a fan of the original film, then check out the Creepshow TV show, it’s far better then I thought it would be.
Quick update: Great news, Creepshow has been renewed for a second season.