Shudder’s Creepshow is a welcome companion to the two the two Creepshow feature films brought to us by George Romero and Stephen King (the less said about the rightfully maligned third film installment, the better). The show opens with a great nod to ‘The Crate’ sequence from Creepshow (which the series nearly included a prequel to). Kind of a bold statement, seeing as how that is one of the most beloved vignettes from the first two Creepshow films. But the creative team behind Shudder’s Creepshow have the goods to back it up. Nearly every episode is gripping, gruesome, and compelling. There are a couple segments that don’t quite stick the landing. But as a whole, this is the most fun I’ve had watching a horror series in some time.
Speaking of fun, I appreciated that the series’ casting directors Tara Feldstein and Chase Paris took great care to seek out performers that are talented of their own right but have also made important and meaningful contributions to the horror genre. Seeing Adrienne Barbeau, Tobin Bell, David Arquette, Jeffrey Combs, and Dana Gould (whose genre credits have been more recent but still quite noteworthy) appear in various episodes made watching the series that much more exciting. I couldn’t wait to get to the next episode to see who was going to pop up next and in what capacity.
Another standout component of the series is the animated scene transitions and episode intros that serve as a perfect nod to the movies and The EC comics by which the films were inspired. However, the series quickly quickly serves to separate itself from that which we have seen before by offering up fresh ideas. In doing so, the show rightfully earns its own seat at the table.
In addition to the comic-like intros and segues, Creepshow( 2019) also pays recalls the greatness of the film series with its use of gnarly, gruesome, practically-crafted effects work. But this should come as no surprise, as FX maestro Greg Nicotero served as the series’ showrunner. What Nicotero was able to do with a modest budget and a talented effects team at his beck and call is truly impressive. The tonality and gore are reminiscent of the original collaborations between Romero and King but with its own modernized spin.
If you are on the hunt for your next horror obsession, Creepshow: Season One is highly bingeable. The episodes are short and punchy. Each installment is split into two vignettes, making it even easier to breeze through. I watched the entire first season in a single sitting.
While not every vignette was a total winner, there are far more hits than misses here. I will start by touching on the episodes that really worked (of which there are many) and eventually move on to those that didn’t quit hit the mark.
The Episode one segment ‘Gray Matter’ was a standout for several reasons. First and foremost, it is based on a Stephen King short. And, moreover, it features Creepshow (1982) alum Adrienne Barbeau in a starring role. The tone of the story really captures the essence of King and occasionally nods to the original films by which the series was inspired.
Episode two’s ‘Bad Wolf Down’ (directed by Rob Schrab) offers an unexpected twist on the classic werewolf tale, quickly breaking from the ordinary and expected and giving us the kind of surprise ending we’ve come to expect from (almost) anything with the Creepshow name attached to it.
In the Greg Nicotero-helmed episode two vignette, ‘The Finger’, D.J. Quals turns in a noteworthy, layered performance that’s unlike anything I’ve seen in his past body of work. Quals is nearly unrecognizable as a bearded, slightly bulkier version of his former self. He perfectly encapsulates the intense anger that comes from feeling worthless and disenfranchised, constantly switching between grieving widower and unhinged madman. Quals also serves as the narrator of the tale and takes advantage of some great opportunities to break the fourth wall.
Episode three features a Halloween-themed vignette aptly titled ‘All Hallows Eve’. John Harrison manages to make the segment legitimately haunting with a menacing tone and also seems to pay a bit of homage to Michael Dougherty’s superb Halloween season horror flick, Trick ‘r Treat.
The David Bruckner directed vignette ‘The Man in the Suitcase’ in episode three boasts some really impressive teleplay writing by Bruce Jones and Christopher Buehlman. The segment is full of unexpected twists and leaves off on a somewhat bleak but perfectly fitting note that reminds viewers greed never pays.
Episode four’s ‘Lydia Layne’s Better Half’ (appropriately helmed by rising star Roxanne Benjamin) sees a powerful woman getting her comeuppance for choosing not to lend a helping hand to a deserving woman of color who reports to her and instead offering a promotion to a (presumably) less qualified white man. The message couldn’t be more timely.
Episode five segment ‘Times is Tough in Musky Holler’ gives viewers the pleasure of seeing David Arquette pop up as an unhinged sheriff that has absolutely nothing in common with Dewey Riley. The John Harrison directed vignette offers a welcome nod to the Scream franchise (by way of casting) but the similarities are truly only skin deep. The segment is a gritty morality tale about abuse of power that is reminiscent of The EC Comics (with some 21st century updates).
In the episode six ‘Skincrawlers’ segment, Roxanne Benjamin delivers moments of Cronenberg-esque body horror with a sometimes breezy comedic tone, all wrapped in a cautionary tale.
The Tom Savini-helmed final segment of episode six, ‘By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain’ offers a couple of easily identifiable but incredibly fun nods to John Carpenter’s The Fog. Not surprisingly, the vignette features some masterful creature effects. Savini wears the director’s hat well and delivers a story that is compelling, tonally different from a lot of the other segments, and often surprising.
As far as segments that didn’t shine as brightly: John Harrison’s ‘The House of the Dead’ vignette from episode one featured noteworthy cinematography and editing but the story itself felt half-baked and never really achieved a sustained sense of terror for this critic.
David Bruckner’s episode four vignette, ‘The Companion’ offered up some exceptional FX work but the characters came across as two-dimensional and didn’t fully draw me into their world like the key players in almost every other segment did. My other chief complaint with this vignette is that the comeuppance didn’t feel as deserved as it did in nearly every other segment with a revenge angle.
John Harrison’s ‘Night of the Paw’ vignette in episode five is by no means bad but it didn’t really capture the sheer terror of the short story ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, from which it was adapted. It wasn’t a total miss but I would have liked to have seen Harrison amp up the tension and really leverage the source material.
As far as the film’s home video release goes: The standout special feature on the Blu-ray is the easter egg featurette that takes the viewer through every easter egg in the series (and there are plenty). Even the most eagle-eyed fan may miss some of the references and it’s great to get context from the show’s creators. Moreover, there are episode commentary tracks that fans of the show will certainly want to dive into after watching the episodes for the first time.
Did I mention that the Blu-ray release comes with an entire disc of bonus content? Among the bevy of special features is more than three-hours of interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage, and a really impressive full-color comic booklet! Shudder knows what horror fans want and the love put into this Blu-ray release makes that even more apparent.
If you were a fan of the series and want the chance to dive into episode commentaries and a number of fantastic featurettes, you need to pick up the series’ Blu-ray release ASAP. And if you missed the show’s run on Shudder but are a fan of the first two Creepshow films, you still need to pick up the Blu-ray. I’m not sure I can recall the last time I had this much fun binging a horror series. From the practical effects to the nods to The EC comics and the Creepshow feature films, this was one hell of a good time.
Wicked Rating: 7.5/10