For as long as I’ve been a horror fan, I’ve loved Creepshow, the 1982 George Romero directed anthology. Taking on the tone of classic EC Comics horror stories and depicted with a clever comic book style, it still stands as the best anthology series to ever bleed on the silver screen. Now, Shudder has brought Creepshow back in an all new anthology series, and it’s as good as ever…
…Exclusively coming to Shudder next week, the all new Creepshow series features a collection of horror all-stars, beginning with series showrunner, Greg Nicotero, best known for his long history of incredible FX work, as well as executive producer on The Walking Dead. Greg and his crew’s love for the original Romero film is obvious from the get go, with an opening title sequence referencing various fan favorites such as the crate from my personal favorite 1982 segment, The Crate, accompanied by a spooky theme that elicits thoughts of ghosts and monsters. I had the pleasure of previewing the first episode, and I’m pleased to say that the premiere episode gets things off to a wicked fun start.
Based on the short story by Stephen King and directed by Nicotero from a script by Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi, first up is Grey Matter, which tells the story of a boy named Timmy (Christopher Nathan) who arrives at a shop during a storm, refusing to go home to his alcoholic, potentially abusive father. Concerned, the town’s Chief (Tobin Bell) and Doc (Giancarlo Esposito) head out into the storm to check on him, leaving Timmy behind to tell his story to the shop owner, Adrienne Barbeau. I have to hand it to Nicotero: there’s no better way to open this series than on a dark and stormy night with Barbeau, Bell and Esposito all sitting around the soft glow of a lantern, setting the stage for an eerie story you won’t forget.
There’s a lot to love about this season opener, which features the sort of jaw-dropping effects we’ve all become accustomed to with Nicotero. With this first episode, Creepshow delivers on the old-school monster effects, and it got me giddy thinking that if this is what we’re starting with, what other horrors can we expect down the road? Though more horrifying than anything is Timmy’s father’s preference for boiled beer. Seriously though, I practically melted with excitement watching Grey Matter unfold. Nicotero crafts a tight-knit tale that starts off quietly, like any scary story told around the campfire, and quickly escalates into a pulse-pounding, imaginative nightmare that sets the bar high for the rest of the series.
A bar which other segments appear more than capable of meeting. Directed by John Harrison and written by John Malerman (Birdbox), the second installment in this premiere episode, House of the Head, is an entirely different though equally satisfying beast. This one involves a young girl named Evie (Cailey Fleming), in possession of an antique dollhouse containing a family of plastic figurines similar to her own family. I’ve always found dolls to be little instruments of terror myself, but things get especially creepy once little Evie opens up her house of horrors and discovers a plastic zombie head sitting in one of the rooms…a head that appears to be tormenting her dolls and leaving horrific expressions on their faces. Evie soon realizes that her dollhouse is haunted, and does everything she can to stop the increasingly terrifying haunting from tormenting her dolls.
Malerman’s story is one that is totally original, told entirely through the eyes of its captivating star, Evie. Taking a more psychological approach, what makes House of the Dead so interesting is that we, along with Evie, are witnessing a story within a story, watching your average, bloody haunting play out inside a dollhouse, captured in moments frozen in time, like the dolls pointing a gun up the attic stairs for a reason unbeknownst to us. The fear is in the mystery of this one, a mounting dread that takes its time to work under your skin, with a few good shocks that managed to chill me to my plastic core.
In just this first episode, it is apparent that Creepshow is going to provide weekly chills of all varieties, with the sort of practical effects that horror fans will scream over. And yes, unlike the Creepshow sequels, this series continues the tradition of leaning heavily into the comic book style, with illustrations that work as transitions to the next story, and superimposed text that comes close to making you feel like you’re holding a live comic in your hands.
The one low point of the show is that, while the Creeper himself looks great, it does seem as if Nicotero and his crew are still working out exactly how to approach the character. With a resemblance edging on the brink of the Cryptkeeper, the crew seem wary of giving the Creeper any dialogue, probably to stay away from feeling too similar to the joke-telling fiend, instead leaving the Creeper to bumble around like a goof, gulping beers and petting doll heads, so it’ll be curious to see how he evolves, if at all, throughout the season.
Regardless, this Creepshow series is a welcome return to the comic-book horror anthology format that we all crave, and I truly believe it would make Romero proud to see what Nicotero, Shudder and all of those involved have done with the property. Watching this show was like coming home to a familiar friend, cracking a beer and telling scary stories in the dark around a warm fire.
The first episode of Creepshow cackles its way onto Shudder on September 26th.
By Matt Konopka