Shudder continues to be a devil send for horror and genre fans as the streaming service brings more gems, new and old, into our lives. While feature films are their mainstay, they’ve also dipped into the world of horror series with their most popular one being an anthology show adaptation and continuation of a certain Stephen King and George Romero classic. Now Creepshow Season 2 has begun, and they’ve already greenlit a third.
The legendary Meg Shields and I reviewed and ranked Season 1 and we were a bit underwhelmed. We each had a favorite, but the season as a whole was something of a disappointment (an opinion that admittedly put us in the minority). Still, both the premise and the promise are too great to give up hope, so we’re entering into the second season optimistic for thrills, fun, and EC Comics-style chills. We’ll once again be reviewing the episodes and then seeing how they all stack up at the end, so let’s jump in and get our feet wet once more with the Creepshow Season 2 premiere!
Director: Greg Nicotero
Writer: John Esposito
Joe’s (Brock Duncan) life isn’t great — he’s bullied outside, and he’s stressed inside by his mother’s ailing health — so he finds solace in a love for horror movies, characters, and hobbies. When his mom dies, Uncle Kevin (Kevin Dillon) and Aunt Barb (Jana Allen) take over on the parental front, but neither is truly up for the task. Kevin is a brute incapable of understanding or appreciating the boy’s interests, and that intolerance soon leads to him destroying and throwing out much of Joe’s collection. Big mistake since one of the ads in Joe’s horror magazines offers a fun little toy called a voodoo doll.
One of the issues that plagued Season 1 is a sort of clunkiness with its editing and transitions, sometimes in the stories themselves but frequently in the wraparound host segments featuring the Creep. It happens again here as his fumbling with a film projector shifts to animation right before giving a Gillman Meets the Mummy title card — then jumping into the Creepshow opening credits — and then moving back to the magazine contents and a return to the black & white Gillman film (a nod to Universal horrors inexplicably presented as a silent film). It’s a minor thing to be sure, but the disjointed feel hurts the flow.
The segment’s real issue, though, is an obvious familiarity as it takes the wraparounds from the films and turns them into a full story, but it does so without adding anything to the mix. You know immediately and completely what’s coming as Joe is pushed too far by both the uncle and a bully and calls in some supernatural assistance from the classified ads. Curiously, the troubled boy character in the film wraparounds is named Billy, but here it’s the bully who’s named Billy.
There are a couple of highlights here in the writing as Joe’s mom describes movies as “time machines” that transport viewers back to past viewings. It’s not a new concept, but it’s a nice nod towards what draws people to revisit films both with and without loved ones. Uncle Kevin is a cruel character, but his argument that it’s “hard being a man these days” speaks to an issue that still threatens society today — namely, the fragility of the male ego. More exploration here would have helped the segment stand apart from the movie wraparounds, but it’s not to be. It’s a dull disappointment no matter how you slice it, but happily, the episode rebounds mightily with segment two.
“Public Television of the Dead”
Director: Greg Nicotero
Writer: Rob Schrab
It’s just another day WQPS, a public television station in Pittsburgh, PA, and various shows are filming across a handful of soundstages. Mrs. Bookberry (Coley Campany) is charming children with her morality tales, a Bob Ross-inspired painter named Norm (Mark Ashworth) is calmly creating works of art, and the host (Peter Leake) of The Appraiser’s Road Trip is checking out his first guest’s family heirloom. The guest is Ted Raimi. And the heirloom? It’s the Necronomicon from his brother Sam’s film, The Evil Dead. “It’s been in the family for years,” says Ted, and once the host starts reading the text all hell breaks loose at WQPS.
Look, if you don’t find “Bob Ross versus the Deadites” to be a genius concept then you are not someone I want to know. Ashworth is terrific, and watching him gently intone a warning to an undead Raimi while rolling up his sleeves to expose a skull tattoo from his time in Vietnam is just a delight. The carnage comes quick as the painter, along with his producer (Marissa Hampton) and cameraman (Todd Allen Durkin), try to escape and stop the unfolding supernatural threat spreading blood splatter throughout the studio.
Nicotero manages a few Raimi-esque camera moves along the way as he floats demonically down a hallway and turns paint thinner into a fireball. It’s an energetic romp that, despite the body count, delivers a ton of fun across its short running time. Raimi is highly entertaining, both alive and dead, and more laughs come courtesy of the increasingly foul-mouthed Mrs. Bookberry. It’s an undeniably silly segment — preventing a live broadcast of the incantation becomes a necessity, but no one thinks to simply move the camera — but that playfulness succeeds in blending the tones of both Creepshow and the Evil Dead films.
Karma, an element often at the forefront of the Creepshow films and the EC Comics that inspired them, is woven through the segment — both segments, to be fair, but here it’s less one-note and more creative and satisfying — both for its characters and public television itself. The story finds value in these people, whether it be teaching art and calmness or fighting for others in the face of adversity (and monsters, and cheekily reminds viewers to contribute during the next pledge drive. It also ends the premiere episode on a high and leaves us excited for the rest of the season, and that’s no small thing.