[Review] Shudder's 'Creepshow Animated Special' is a Deliciously Disturbing Halloween Treat
The good, spooky people at Shudder have done everything possible to provide fans with more treats than tricks this Halloween season…
…From new releases to special events, the Shudder team is doing everything they can to fill our trick or treat baskets with gruesome goodies to keep us occupied during this uniquely eerie Halloween season. If it were a piece of Halloween candy, the upcoming Creepshow Animated Special would be one of those giant Snickers bars (or whatever your favorite candy is. I don’t judge).
Directed by Greg Nicotero (Shudder’s Creepshow series showrunner), the Creepshow Animated Special contains two stories, each of which will make even the most hardcore gore fans glad that these stories are animated. I’d dare to say they might be too gruesome for some fans to stomach otherwise. Hear that? If you’re choosing to watch this special, dump that candy out of whatever ghoulish bag you’re carrying and repurpose it as a Halloween-themed barf bag, because these tales are a full course meal of horror that may cause your guts to burst.
The first tale, “Survivor Type,” is based on a short story by Stephen King and adapted for the screen by Nicotero. Voicing is Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys), playing a drug-dealing surgeon who has found himself trapped on an island, basically a rock, with exactly one dead girl, an infected foot, a knife, and a whole lot of heroin. His foot throbbing red and his stomach groaning like the dead, the man soon realizes he can solve two problems at once, but hunger is a funny thing. It always comes back.
Kiefer has always been great at playing all types of characters, but he’s especially good at playing sinister, and the fun thing about his character in “Survivor Type” is that the guy is anything but likeable. Through Goodfellas style flashbacks, we learn that this man came up pushing drugs and taking advantage of others, as if it was some kind of major accomplishment. “Any asshole knows how to die. The thing to learn is how to survive,” says the shameless prick. With only Kiefer to tell the story, we get his skewed perspective, all the time knowing that the stranded bastard is anything but “good.”
The stiff, still-frame animation style doesn’t allow for much expression on the character’s faces, making the actor’s delivery all that more important, and Kiefer kills it…then rips it to shreds and eats it, too. From minute one until the bitter end, you can hear the decline in Kierfer’s sanity. His performance is one that is deliciously deranged.
At one point, Kiefer recites a lesson he once learned, “how much shock trauma can the patient stand,” to which he answers himself, “how badly does the patient want to survive?” The audience might as well ask themselves that, because “Survivor Type” fills the trough with every bit of queasy horror it can muster. The short contains gull munching. Foot sawing. Cannibalism, of both others and self. It’s the kind of short that would have audiences scrambling out of theaters to hurl if it wasn’t animated, and even then, the animation uses a grimy style that somehow makes the gore nastier than it should be. How much shock trauma can you handle? How badly do you want to finish watching?
“Survivor Type” is a fever dream of blood and madness that tests how much stomach-churning horror the audience can take.
And that’s just the warmup.
The second story, “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead,” based on a short story by Joe Hill and adapted by Melanie Dale, begins as a much more lighthearted affair, following a teen girl voiced by Joey King (The Conjuring), “dealing” with her family on a road trip while plugged into social media and keeping all sixty of her followers updated with the need to know thoughts running through her head every five minutes. Even after they stop at a circus with zombie performers that feel all too real.
“Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” doesn’t exactly have the kindest view on social media culture.
Our heroine’s Twitter handle, for one, is Tyme2Waste, and does she ever. Not one scene goes by where Joey isn’t on her phone, to the point where I’m with her mother in saying at least look up when the waitress comes by! Buried deep under teen angst and a general hatred for everything, Joey knows her mom is right, but only cares to tell her followers (and us) that, instead of dear old mom. Mom also refers to Twitter as “life validation” and says people use social media because they’re “scared to die” and hiding from life.
Jesus Christ, mom! I feel attacked!
But it’s a major theme that plays into the story, implying that we’ve all sort of forgotten how to see things as they are. Once Joey, her mom, dad and brother arrive at the out of the way, dessert circus, it’s clear nothing is right about this. Zombies are blown up by cannons. They chase the Ringleader. And they even fight a lion, another scene which a live-action short would not get away with now. All of it ignored by Joey, more intent on Tweeting away than paying attention.
“Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” is a fun, chilling and timely story that reminds us how much of a circus full of ghouls the internet can be.
Both stories in the Creepshow Animated Special are horrific, gut-wrenching shorts that let the gore rain, but perhaps more satisfying than anything is just seeing the Creeper again. It was a disappointment to us all when it was announced that season 2 of Creepshow was put on hold, and so to see the Creeper on screen for a special treat, well, it feels like a Halloween miracle. One that could work just as well for Thanksgiving with these gruesome, cannibalistic tales sure to fill horror fans bellies.
The Creepshow Animated Special is Shudder’s happy Halloween wish to us all. It arrives on the service October 29th.
By Matt Konopka
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