Shudder’s Creepshow kicked off last week and for the most part, its first two segments succeed in treating its inspirations with infectious admiration. Much like the 1982 movie — which spawned a pair of sequels — the Shudder horror anthology series is equally frightening and funny— and like the original, not every segment is a winner. This week, Shudder premiered the second episode of Greg Nicotero’s 2019 reboot and despite some truly inspirational bursts of horror and comedy, both segments ultimately suffer from the lack of time awarded to telling a good story.
“Bad Wolf Down”
The first story written and directed by Rob Schrab, centers on a platoon of American soldiers during World War II who find themselves trapped behind enemy lines. With the Nazis closing in on them, the group looks for an escape route and stumbles upon a dilapidated police station where they discover a dying man and suspicious-looking paw prints on the floor. If you haven’t already guessed, “Bad Wolf Down” is a werewolf feature with plenty of bloody practical effects and a clever werewolf transformation via the comic book overlay which helps disguise the series’ small budget. It’s a decent-enough segment with a scene-chewing performance by Jeffrey Combs who plays an SS Commandant looking to avenge the death of his only son. Of the two segments this week, “Bad Wolf Down” does a slightly better job in capturing the essence of the original Creepshow but it also suffers from a script that seems tonally all over the place. At times, “Bad Wolf Down” feels like it is aiming for camp and yet other times the story is dark and depressing as it examines the horrors of war.
In the second segment, “The Finger”(directed by Nicotero), D.J. Qualls plays Clark, a lonely man who has an odd hobby of finding and collecting lost objects. Told from his perspective, Clark narrates the events surrounding the time he found a severed finger on the side of the road and how that finger eventually transformed into two fingers, an arm, a torso and finally into a small creature who Clark adopts as his pet and affectionately names Bob. At first, their relationship seems perfectly
normal healthy until Clark realizes that perhaps Bob is a bit too loyal to his master.
Of the two segments, “Finger” is perhaps my favourite. It’s a weird, oddball 80s-style creature feature about a murderous pet and the segment should interest fans of Frank Henenlotter’s early work, particularly Basket Case. As high on concept as it is low on budget, “Finger” is at times a lot of fun and like “Bad Wold Down,” it is also somewhat depressing as it tackles themes of depression, loneliness, and jealousy. Unfortunately, whatever themes it tries to address seem muddled behind a somewhat problematic message that feels slightly misogynistic.
That said, Greg Nicotero directs with a clever eye and wisely chooses to leave Bob mostly unseen for the majority of the running time. His choice of obscuring the creature’s appearance for most of the feature not only grabs and holds your curiosity but makes his full reveal all the more rewarding. Meanwhile, the choice of having D.J. Qualls narrate the story by breaking the fourth wall is also clever. Not only is it a refreshing change of pace from most (if not all) of Creepshow’s short stories, but it allows DJ Qualls to deliver some interesting monologues that help us understand his backstory and why he’s slowly going insane.
Time is a Valuable Thing
I realize we are only two episodes in, but in all honesty, the jury is still out on Creepshow and I’m still not sure if I recommend this show to casual horror fans or not. We all know Greg Nicotero is a master of special effects makeup. He has a solid track record working on shows like The Walking Dead and as I mentioned last week, the practical effects in Creepshow are top-notch— and not just because of Nicotero’s involvement but also because of the work of Tom Savini, a man who worked closely with George a. Romero on many of his films, including the original Creepshow. As it turns out, 98 percent of the effects for Shudder’s anthology series is comprised of practical effects — and that in itself should be applauded— but it still doesn’t make up for the biggest problem the series has which is the amount of time given to creating each segment.
While the first season of Creepshow features big-name stars and bigger name directors, I’m wondering if the time and resources awarded to creating each segment are enough in order to tell a good story, even with so many talented individuals involved? As it stands, each of the six episodes of season one consists of two shorts, with each short sharing the forty-five minute running time. Twenty minutes is not a lot of time to tell a great story especially when you compare Creepshow to other successful horror anthology shows such as American Horror Story, Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone and Channel Zero.
Granted, I’ve watched many great short films in my lifetime, and I’ve seen plenty of filmmakers (even student filmmakers) tell a good story in under twenty minutes— but it’s not just the running time of each episode that may be a problem but the limited time that Greg Nicotero and his team have to shoot each installment. In a recent interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Greg Nicotero revealed that each story has just three and a half days to film. Think about that for a split second and you’ll question how they even managed to get the show made. Three and a half days may seem like enough time to film a short fifteen-minute segment but it’s really not when you consider that Creepshow isn’t just some sitcom where actors recite words from a script on the same one or two sets. Creepshow is actually far more complicated to shoot and each segment features plenty of special effects work that must be done live on set and not in post-production. And let’s not forget that each episode features a new cast, a new set, and other complex production techniques including the comic-style panels we see throughout each segment.
Honestly, when thinking about the amount of work that goes into making the show and how little time they have to film each episode, I can’t help but want to praise the series more. Unfortunately, while episode 2 features some interesting ideas and executes them well enough, it also highlights the series’ biggest problem which is time and the time they have to not only make the show but tell a good story. Reviving the franchise that Stephen King and George A. Romero began forty years ago isn’t an easy task, but I can’t help but wish they could do more.
- Ricky D
New episodes of Creepshow premiere Thursdays at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT exclusively on Shudder.