“Every day is trick or treat around here…”
…And with Shudder’s Creepshow, which is debuting Season 2 soon, it sure does feel like it, and that’s exactly the sort of thing horror fans need right now. This last year has been rough—real rough—and with most of us having missed out on traditional events during Halloween 2020, we’re in all in need of a spooky pick-me-up. Luckily, creator Greg Nicotero’s Creepshow is back and showering fans in all of the bloody monster mayhem they can handle with the first episode of Season 2.
Split into two deliciously monstrous shorts, the first segment, “Model Kid”, directed by Nicotero and written by John Esposito (Graveyard Shift), tells a story that will feel all too familiar to Creepshow aficionados. Set in 1972, Joe (Brock Duncan) is a through and through monster kid who spends his days dressed in monster makeup, painting models, and watching old horror movies on a projector with his cancer-stricken mother, June (Tyner Rushing). After June’s health takes a steep decline, Joe is forced to live with his aunt Barb (Jana Allen) and uncle Kevin (Kevin Dillon), a mean son of a bitch who looks down on Joe’s obsession with “all that horror crap”. When one abuse becomes too many, Joe seeks his revenge, turning to a tried and true method…an ad in a Creepshow comic.
The story probably sounds familiar because it’s directly pulled from the wraparound segment of Creepshow (1982), in which a young Joe Hill deals with an abusive, horror-hating dad, Tom Atkins. Forty years later and it’s a tale that still resonates, because a lot of us were that bullied horror kid. The revenge fantasy is a predictable formula, and there aren’t many surprises in this tale, but setting “Model Kid” apart is an emotional core underneath all of the monster makeup.
The segment opens with Joe’s daydream of one of the coolest Gill Men and ancient mummy’s to ever appear on screen--KNB’s effects never fail to make eyes pop—battling it out in black and white like an epic scene out of an old movie. The nostalgic vibe of this episode is rich, and Joe’s imagination is richer. “Model Kid” is a monster mash of a tale that treats us to ghosts, ghouls, and monsters, all of which are so well-crafted that they are guaranteed to satisfy that creature feature itch. Playing into the nostalgia are models in Joe’s room referencing iconic monsters from Universal and even Creepshow, and if you look closely, you may even spot the Creep himself.
Every horror fan watching this is going to find themselves transported to their time as kids discovering their love for creatures. “Movies, they transport us,” says June, and she’s right. Movies connect us to memories, and “Model Kid” is a direct conduit to that time as kids when monsters were still new friends to us.
Beating at the center of all of the monster mayhem and Joe’s horror-rific imagination is a heart that emanates a rare amount of warmth for a Creepshow tale. At least until the uneasy ending. “Model Kid” may be a ruthless story of vengeance against the worst goddamn uncle on the planet—Dillon is superb in the “I can’t wait for him to die” role—but Duncan’s endearing performance and the beautiful relationship he has with his mother—one who supports him and his monster love—is one that is so wonderfully executed it broke my black heart and had me weeping ghoulish tears.
The second segment, “Public Television of the Dead,” directed by Nicotero and written by Rob Schrab (Monster House), is a tale that will have Evil Dead fans shouting klaatu verata nikto!
This story takes viewers into a public access TV station, where Ted Raimi plays himself as a guy who finds the Necronomicon in his home, “it’s been in the family for years” he says (ha!), and is seeking to get its value on an appraisal show. One horrible decision leads to another, and suddenly the station is overrun by deadites, leaving it up to a trio of co-workers to stop them before they can broadcast a signal that will spread evil around the world.
Nicotero just went ahead and made a full-blown Evil Dead tribute, and it’s a scream.
While events are going down on the appraisal show, Norm (Mark Ashworth), a Bob Ross knockoff, finds himself being fired by Claudia (Marissa Hampton), a producer trying to make room for their #1 show, a kid’s program hosted by the plainly psychotic Mrs. Bookberry (Coley Campany) and her creepy bear puppet.
If you ever wanted to see Bob Ross get groovy and battle deadites, your dreams have come true with “Public Television of the Dead”. He’s no Ash—and his chin isn’t quite as sharp—but he still has a ton of charm as a calm under pressure dude who just wants to paint some damn trees.
Just like the films it pays homage to, “Public Television of the Dead” dives right into the insanity, taking mere minutes before the station erupts into Evil Dead-style carnage. It isn’t easy to capture Sam Raimi’s kinetic energy from the films, but Nicotero and cinematographer Rob Draper do their damndest with sweeping shots soaring through the building, uncomfortable close-ups of white eyed demons, flashing lights and an all-around chaos that encapsulates that Evil Dead vibe.
Everyone in the segment embraces the goofiness of their roles, playing into the campy, over-the-top style of Raimi’s movies. Trust me when I say that this is the role Ted Raimi was born to play. Ted is having the time of his life, and he is utterly delightful in this blood-splattered riot.
“Public Television of the Dead” is a segment that would make Sam Raimi proud.
In a time where the world is frankly shit and we’re all looking back on fonder memories, both “Model Kid” and “Public Television of the Dead” revel in spooky nostalgia and offer a welcome trip back in time for horror fans looking for something simple, funny, and all around entertaining.
It’s likely that neither of these segments will “scare” or even surprise you, but what each lacks in clever plot twists, it more than makes up for with wild makeup effects and inspired homages to classic Universal monsters and the Evil Dead universe. The premiere episode of Season 2 is all about giving fans something to smile about, and it succeeds beautifully. In that sense, this is by far one of the best episodes of Creepshow to date.
If you’re not grinning by the end, there’s a good chance you’ve already had your soul swallowed by a demon.
Season 2 of Creepshow premieres exclusively on Shudder April 1st.
By Matt Konopka
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