EPISODE 1.1a: “Gray Matter”
Story by: Stephen King
Teleplay by: Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Tobin Bell, Giancarlo Esposito
EPISODE 1.1b: “The House of the Head”
Written by Josh Malerman
Directed by John Harrison
Starring Cailey Fleming,
Air date: September 26, 2019
One of the most anticipated events for horror fans this year, the reimagining of Creepshow debuted last night on Shudder. As a lifelong fan of horror anthologies from the original Creepshow films (1982 and 1987) to Tales from the Crypt and Trick ‘r Treat, this original series had me super excited, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint.
Coming full circle on his amazing career, Greg Nicotero acts as executive producer of the streaming series and directed the first story of the pilot episode. Each of the eight episodes consists of two horror shorts. This Creepshow pays homage to the original while adding some new flair for an overall fun and creepy horror experience. We even get an updated Creeper in the wraparound finding Creepshow comics in a familiar crate.
Appropriately we start with a story based on the work of Stephen King, as Nicotero directs “Gray Matter,” based on the short story of the same name from King’s 1978 collection Night Shift. Opening with some blatant, yet totally fun King easter eggs, we meet three old timers in a storm-ridden town rooting down in a near-abandoned store. They are portrayed by genre icons Adrienne Barbeau (who was famously killed by the “Crate” monster in the original ’82 film), Tobin Bell (Saw series), and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad). When a young boy comes in and admits he’s scared to go home to Daddy, that sends the Chief (Bell) and Doc (Esposito) to investigate while Dixie (Barbeau) stays with the boy to hear his story. Let’s just say his dad’s drinking problem gets a little out of control and begins “consuming” him and everyone else. The cast and the King easter eggs made for a fun viewing experience overall.
The second story comes from Bird Box scribe Josh Malerman, and THIS was what I wanted from Creepshow. “The House of the Head” is a subtly eerie and totally minimalist horror tale. Cailey Fleming is Evie, a young girl with an extravagant doll house. In the house live “The Smith-Smiths,” a doll family comprised of a mom and dad, their son, and a dog. When Evie gets home from school, there’s a mysterious visitor in the dollhouse… a severed head. And this head seems to startle the Smith-Smiths as they’re in different positions. Told through the windows of the dollhouse and the perspective of these figures and Evie, we somehow begin fearing for the lives of inanimate objects. This reminded me of Toni Collette’s miniatures in Hereditary and the simplicity was so creepy and effective.
The return of Creepshow was exactly what I wanted from a horror anthology. Classic horror icons, easter eggs, and homages to the past, and some legitimate spooks and scares. While I enjoyed “Gray Matter,” “The House of the Head” wins the night for me. And at 45 minutes, this was a cool breeze to sit through. If I were to complain about anything, it would be The Creeper himself, who looks too animatronic, but his presence is still much appreciated. Can’t wait till next week!
Shudder premieres new Creepshow episodes every Thursday at 9PM. AMC’s Shudder is the best horror streaming service around. Go to shudder.com to get 7-days free and sign up for less than $5 a month.
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