SHUDDER'S: "CREEPSHOW" Ep 1 - 3 Review
Growing up, I was a really big fan of horror movies. One of my Uncle's sat me in front of a television and played 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' for me when I was six. "Jonny, I want you to watch this movie but before you watch it I want you to know that this is not real life. It's a movie. It's pretend, ok." My uncle calmly said. "Okay" I responded.
After watching that movie I was hooked. I loved horror movies. It was my favorite genre. As I have said before growing up I had access to all these VHS tapes. We had so many that we had a binder. In the binder was a list of films in plastic protective sleeves. They were numbered 00 to 150. It was a list of films. Each VHS carried approximately 4 films (I was a lucky kid). I never had to go to Blockbuster as I had a plethora of films to choose from. Each VHS' had its own genre. I went through all the horror tapes and comedies. As far back as I can remember horror was my favorite genre and George A. Romero was my favorite director.
'DAWN OF THE DEAD' became my favorite horror movie as I was obsessed with George A. Romero movies. One of the absolute best films he ever directed was (in my opinion) 'Creepshow'! George A. Romero and Stephen King teamed up to bring us five splendid tales of horror (most having to do with zombies) but it was the style. It wasn't a typical Romero film. There was something different about it. Romero and King teamed up to pay homage to the old EC comics that made them fall in love with the horror genre. In turn they were giving me a taste of horror I and many others would enjoy and pass down to the next generation.
Ang Lee tried to direct his 'HULK' movie in a style that would make the audience feel like they were reading a comic book. He failed! George Romero decided to bring a comic book to the big screen. He succeeded. That's what it comes down to. One film is trying to present itself as a comic book from someone who I believe never had an interest in comics or never grew up with them. The other wanted to bring the comic book to life. That is why 'Creepshow' works so well. It is cheesy but it's also not. It's in that grey area. The stories are riveting. Each character is unique and we are constantly reminded that we are reading a comic. Whether it's split screens that appear like panels of a comic book, or bright graphic designs behind a character to show their shock or horror, it doesn't distract you from the film. In fact it adds to it. That and the music used in the film. The lighting reminds me of 'Suspira' (A film I never understood but marveled at it's set design and lighting). You could show a teenager 'Creepshow" today and they would enjoy it.
The sequel is also very good, not as good as the first but for me it's because there were only 3 stories and not 4 or 5. I enjoyed each story from Part 2 and as I grew up I think I enjoy the characters in 2 more than I do the ones in the first film. They are more fleshed out. Each character interesting and helps progress the narrative of the film. I enjoy both films but for different reasons. The second film was not as well-received as the first but it's hard to follow up on such a masterpiece. It's rarely been done ('The Empire Strikes Back', 'Dawn Of The Dead' and 'The Godfather Part 2' are the only other films I can think of that compare or supersede the original film).
I have to give Romero credit. It would be very easy to fall back to the same technics he did in the previous film. But he didn't. Sure he uses animation and some comic book panel transitions to inform us that we are reading from a comic but the style is uniquely different. The lighting is different and the cinematography is different. Yet he still tells three compelling stories. One thing that remains the same is the music. Music, Score, Theme, whatever you want to call it. The first two films got it just right.
Let's skip the third film as it was an abomination and not canon at all.
When I heard that Shudder was giving us a 'Creepshow' series and Greg Nicitaro (' The Walking Dead') was going to serve as an Executive Producer the series, I knew it was left in capable hands. I am a fan of 'The Walking Dead' and even though I may have stopped watching the series, I still enjoyed everything he did to help bring zombies and horror series into the mainstream. Honestly before 'The Walking Dead' the last horror series I remember was some Showtime horror anthology series and that was years before Frank Darabont's teleplay got brought to the silver screen.
12 terrifying tales told in 6 episodes. I was already a Shudder subscriber so I was just waiting for the pilot episode to be released and boy did it not disappoint. The first episode delivered on so many levels. It was Easter egg galore. The first part of the pilot reminded me of so much of both 'Creepshow' films. The second part, 'House of the Head' was also good. I loved that Chielf Wooden'head had a cameo in it. I loved the story it was trying to tell but it that just missed the mark (a bit). What I am saying is that it could have been better. At times when I think back on the first three episodes; it's episodes like this that are more reminiscent of 'Tales From The Darkside' or 'Goosebumps'. I can tell you that...so far, it's not a bad show. It's not great either. It's mediocre. Some episodes are good, and others fail to hit the mark.
A perfect example of this is that although the pilot paid homage to the original film, the first part reminded me so much of "The Lonesome Case of Jordy Verril" and "The Raft" segments from both 'Creepshow' films. Now that wouldn't be an issue if they did it better and they didn't. It was just as good. I will give it points for having Adrienne Barbeau (Willma) in it. As well as Gus Fringe and Jigsaw. It just lacked originality. The second part of this episode was my favorite and even that failed to deliver.
Here is the thing about 'Creepshow'. There is never a happy ending. 'House of the head' eludes to our lead getting away scot-free. That wouldn't have happened with Stephen King or George Romero at the helm. What would have happened and what I wanted to happen was...SPOILERS...(you've been warned)...that when the little girl takes the head out of the dollhouse and it becomes full size. After she tosses it back into the dollhouse that it wouldn't stay in there and instead would be terrorizing her and her "perfect family" just as it was terrorizing the figures in the dollhouse. Instead she just gives it away? Lackluster.
Episode 2 was a huge drop off from the first one. The first part kind of reminded me of 'The Howling' but in World War 2 Germany. Jesus did this feel like a John Travolta straight to DVD (OnDemand) movie. The only good thing about this first segment was that Jeffrey Combs ('Re-Animator') is in it. Other than that, it looked so cheap. The acting was horrendous. Set design....none. It was as if the director thought..."Ahhh. Whatever! Let's get this over with!" The second part of this episode was one of the best in the entire first three episodes.
'The Finger' did one major thing correct. It brought back an actor I didn't know I missed so much. DJ Qualls stars and narrates in this episode; about a down on his luck loner/loser. One day he discovers this small finger and just like 'Gremlins' when he accidentally gets it wet it starts to grow into this little alien type creature. This creature does Qualls dirty work for our lead. If Qualls is upset at someone, his little alien pet will kill them for him. It's an interesting part and the one that saved episode 2 for me but again there is something missing. Something that doesn't fit with the style of the films. The episode kind of ends like how I expected it to end. Although, I think it would be cool if Bob helped him escape at the end. All in all 'The Finger' was the best part of episode 2. Of the entire first three episodes when I think about it.
The problem with the series is that it doesn't end like the movies. It doesn't feel like the movies. Aside from a few segments the show feels like it is paying homage to other series. The segment in episode 3 titled 'All Hallows Eve' felt like a story straight out of 'Goosebumps'. You would assume that this is the episode that would be my favorite, but it was far from it. It was predictable from the start. The segment tells the story of a group of teens who terrorize a small neighborhood on Halloween night. Seeking revenge on the families whose children murdered them. The direction didn't fit with the tone of the story. It should have been set in the 50's or something. What I am trying to say is that it doesn't fit with the tone of 'Creepshow'. Where is the dark comedy? Where is the gore? Where are the visuals? This truly felt like Goosebumps: 'Ghost Beach' story.
Luckily, ‘The Man In The Suitcase’ makes up for the first segment being trash. It’s basically a genie in a suitcase tale but it ends as it should. I get my visuals at times. The acting is sub-par. Music was still lacking but it was more faithful to the original films. I feel like there was information left out, more scenes that were left on the cutting room floor for timing. Why? Maybe Shudder hopes some network will pick up the series in the future. The end leaves the viewer satisfied. Looking back at the first three episodes it is clear to me that this wasn’t intended to be a homage to ‘Creepshow’ but was instead as a cash grab.
“Hey, ‘The Twilight Zone’ is popular and I hear that they are bringing back ‘Are You Afraid of The Dark.’ Why don’t we buy the rights to some original property and develop it as a series?” No actual passion behind it. They got Greg Nicotero to put his name on it. I will reserve my final judgment after the release of the next 3 episodes but as of right now; it's just ok. -Jon Young