There’s a lot of change in this big, messed up world of ours, but one of the new constants is the inconsistency of Shudder’s Creepshow anthology series. Some episodes are good and deliver fun little morality tales (there are even a couple great ones) , but the show too often stumbles with some of its stories feeling as if they just don’t belong in the Creepshow universe. It’s a matter of taste, to be sure, and after covering the first two seasons both the marvelous Meg Shields and I are back for season three with the hope that lessons learned and budgets increased will make for stronger, creepier, more entertaining tales. Let’s find out together!
Season three looks to feature more familiar names and talents including Rusty Cundieff, Joe Lynch, Ethan Embry, Joe Hill, James Remar, Greg Nicotero, and more. So without further ado, let’s jump right in with Creepshow season three, episode one featuring “Mums” and “Queen Bee.”
Director: Rusty Cundieff
Writers: Greg Nicotero, David J. Schow (based on story by Joe Hill)
Jack (Brayden Benson) lives a simple life with a hippie mom (Erin Beute) and a militia-member prick of a father (Ethan Embry), but when the former tries to take Jack to see relatives, gun-loving Hank takes her away for reprogramming. That’s white nationalist code for murder, apparently, so Hank and his buddy Conner bury the dead woman in her own garden while another friend, Beth, watches over young Jack. This being Creepshow, it’s safe to say that corpse won’t stay buried for long, and when Jack notices his mom’s garden has grown strange new flowers overnight from seeds he planted he also discovers what exactly is in the dirt.
His mom. It’s his mom in the dirt.
“Mums” embraces the solid pun of its title as little Jack’s dead mom becomes both fertilizer for “special” flowers and something else entirely, but the script milks that comedic angle a bit too much with a pun-infused back and forth between the boy and Beth. Time spent on Hank’s militia leanings feels somewhat out of place as well as it has nothing to do with anything and feels as if it exists strictly to drive home that he’s a bad guy. The bigger issue, though, is an ending that, while aping Creepshow 2 in some ways, also puts the vast majority of the violence in the boy’s hands. Jack’s not merely a passive observer to fantastical acts — he’s actively a murderer, and it leaves a far grimmer taste than the episode’s tone otherwise suggests.
Performances are competent with only Embry standing out as he takes a real bite out of a prick of a character, but the episode’s main highlight are the practical effects. There’s fun to be had with plant tendrils and screaming corpses, and when one character gets a bite taken out of him it’s via a puppeted Audrey-like chomper. They’re not enough to overcome the one-note script, but they’re fun to see all the same.
Director: Greg Nicotero
Writers: Erik Sandoval, Michael Rousselet
Regina is one of the biggest pop stars in the world, and she’s rumored to be giving birth at an undisclosed location. It’s a mystery to most, but three obsessed teens discover that not only is she in a hospital nearby but that they have access as well. Trenice (Olivia Hawthorne), Debra (Hannah Kemple), and Carlos (Nico Gomez) head to the hospital, sneak in, accidentally kill a guard, and finally spy Regina herself on the delivery table. Rather than squeeze out a little baby, though, the queen of pop reveals she’s hiding a secret that separates the real fans from those who simply drone on and on about liking her music.
That’s an insect reference, by the way.
Like “Mums” above, “Queen Bee” suffers from a weak script but delights with some cool and fun practical effects. First, though, that script. While the end takes a darker turn, these teens are meant to be likable early on — playful friends, silly fans — but mere moments after causing a security guard’s death the trio are giggling again. These episodes aren’t meant to be serious dramas, but characters should ideally have some central morality that allows for worthwhile manipulation by the third act. Jerks get their comeuppance, or good guys struggle to overcome… you get the gist. Here, though, they’re obnoxious teens whose inevitable demises land with a whimper. “Is that supposed to happen?” says one of the idiots when a pregnant woman’s eyeballs explode outward with insect-like appendages. Seriously, you want these three dead quicker than the script can hope to deliver.
That said, the script does at least find room for a wee bit of commentary on fandom that ties in nicely with its more monstrous elements. No spoilers on that front except to say that more time exploring that idea and less time with the teens would have gone a long way. The highlight, as mentioned earlier, is that the episode features some creepy eyed drones (they give off something of a They Live-vibe) and some goopy practical creature work. One miniature, shot to appear full-size, is especially fun. Add in a Carpenter-lite score, a throwaway gag revealing they’re in the Haddonfield Myers Hospital, and a pop song called “Hungry for You,” and you have the better half of this week’s premiere Creepshow episode.