CREEPSHOW – Season Three

creepshow: season 3 (2021)
The fictional Creepshow comic-books are brought to life in this anthology series of terrifying tales.
3 out of 5 stars

Horror anthologies have experienced a resurgence in recent years and television’s proven to be the format’s natural home. From Black Mirror to American Horror Stories, the hunger for short doses of terror shows little sign of diminishing. If Creepshow: Season Two left horror fiends clamouring for more, Creepshow: Season Three‘s finally here to feed their fear. Based on the 1982 cult classic anthology film, Shudder’s highly successful horror series returns with six more episodes. Produced by Greg Nicotero (Creepshow 2), each terrifying tale embraces the gruesome glee of George A. Romero’s (Night of the Living Dead) and Stephen King’s (Sleepwalkers) original movie. Sit back and settle your bones, Creepshow: Season Three should scratch every horror fan’s itch this Halloween season.

The first entry is an adaptation of Joe Hill’s short story from his collection Full Throttle. Directed by Rusty Cundieff (Tales From The Hood), “Mums” is a monstrous comeuppance tale that follows a young boy named Jack (Brayden Benson). After being separated from his mother, Jack’s forced to live with his abusive father, Hank (Ethan Embry), as he awaits his mother’s return it’s revealed his father’s been having an affair with Beth (Malone Thomas). Things take a turn for the paranormal when mysterious seeds are left behind in his mother’s suitcase. Once Jack discovers the flowers are carnivorous monsters, he begins to exact revenge against everyone who wronged him and his mother. “Mums” revisits similar themes to Season 2’s opener “Model Kid” and acts as an expanded retelling of the prologue in Creepshow 2 (1987). Although it removes the playful ambiguity found in the source material, “Mums” maintains the camp qualities that many associates with Creepshow. The practical effects are wonderfully gruesome, and the bloodthirsty fauna evokes the Creeping Vine in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965). Admittedly, the short duration leaves little room for character development, but it delivers a strong karmic retribution that will leave fans cackling.

It’s wonderful to see Creepshow maintain the depth and commentary that’s helped establish it as one of the finest horror series. Written by Erik Sandoval and Michael Rousselet, “Queen Bee” critiques the dangers of celebrity culture with a Creepshow twist. Directed by Nicotero, we follow three teenagers who are obsessed with a popular singer named Regina (Kaelyn Gobert-Harris). When they realise Regina is in labour, they sneak into the cordoned-off hospital to witness the birth. What the group discovers isn’t a woman giving birth but something far more sinister. Nicotero does a superb job of exploring the dangers of unsettling fandom while offering up some genuinely powerful scares. There are moments of deliciously gory body horror and the glowing eyes of the doctors and nurses create some nightmarish images. Unfortunately, the screenplay is initially quite lethargic and lacks any real tension. During its 20-minute runtime, Debra (Hannah Kepple) and Trenice (Olivia Hawthorne) spend the majority of the setup arguing over who’s the bigger Regina fan. Regardless, once it finds its footing the ending is both unpredictable and delightful. While it’s not the strongest story, “Queen Bee” serves as a modern cautionary tale with elements of classic monster horror.

The most enjoyable episodes embrace the comic-book aesthetic and gallows humour of the EC Comics. “Skeletons in the Closet” continues to lean into the dark comedy and camp horror the series has become known for. Horror enthusiast Lumpen Lampini (Victor Rivera) owns a horror movie memorabilia museum with his girlfriend Danielle (Valerie Leblanc). The night before his new exhibit opens to the general public, he’s confronted by his nemesis, Bateman (James Remar). Things soon spiral out of control for the horror-obsessed couple following a bloody murder. Written by John Esposito (Graveyard Shift), Nicotero’s wholly unafraid to embrace the camp atmosphere and absurdity of the outlandish script. Complimented by dark humour and exaggerated performances, the two leads deliver great entertainment value. Both Victor Rivera (Zombieland: Double Tap) and Valerie Leblanc (Dynasty) step into their roles with glee, delivering their dialogue with their tongue firmly planted in their cheeks. The fun pastiches of classic movies including Psycho (1960), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and The Shining (1980) enhance the playful atmosphere. One gruesome murder sequence is also perfectly framed within Creepshow’s iconic comic-book panels. The mischievous tone of “Skeletons in the Closet” captures Creepshow’s trademark aesthetic and is an absolute delight from start to finish.

Director Joe Lynch (Mayhem) returns with a wonderfully crafted segment that truly delivers the scares. Written by Josh Malerman (Birdbox), “Familiar” retains a dread-inducing tension that culminates to a genuinely unsettling climax. The story follows Jack (Andrew Bachelor) and his girlfriend Fawn (Hannah Fierman) after they visit a local psychic. Following a fake palm-reading, the mysterious soothsayer (Keith Arthur Bolden) hands Jack a note warning him “something has followed you in here”. Soon after, he begins to be haunted by an entity tied to his desires and ambitions… and Jack must deal with the haunting presence before it destroys his life. Lynch does an incredible job with the limited time and budget to build a truly disturbing atmosphere. The constant dread of a malevolent presence lurking in the shadows is unsettling and a terrific homage Poltergeist (1982) creates one of the segment’s biggest scares. This is enhanced by the incredible performances from our two leads. While most of his previous work includes comedic performances, Andrew Bachelor (The Babysitter) is terrific as Jackson. The actor’s body language and expressions convey the perfect combination of worry and trepidation. Whereas Hannah Fierman (V/H/S) is captivating as his girlfriend, Fawn. The pair make an adorable couple which is heartbreaking when the story veers into tragedy.

Additionally, Lynch delivers a pertinent story backdropped against a pandemic that’s resulted in a progressive possession of the population. Written by John Esposito, “Meter Reader” is a clever combination of a viral apocalypse with a demonic twist. In a terrifying post-apocalyptic world, Celestial Falls has succumbed to chaos and disarray as people are ravaged by possessed creatures. The “meter readers” are the last remaining few with immunity and use a mysterious tool to hunt the monsters. Dalton (Jonathan Schaech) travels across town on his motorcycle hunting the possessed and performing exorcisms. Meanwhile, his wife Maria (Cynthia Evans), daughter (Abigail Dolan), and son Michael (Boston Pierce) nervously await his return. However, things only get worse when Theresa (Abigail Dolan) notices her mother and brother started showing signs of infection. Aided by Creepshow’s traditional comic-book panels, Lynch does a tremendous amount of world-building. Set against Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) inspired wastelands, the director creates both a post-apocalyptic and incredibly relatable story. The greatest element of horror is taking real-world issues and extrapolating them to supernatural proportions. The conversations between the family as they discuss life after the pandemic is perhaps the most relatable Creepshow has been before. 

Perhaps the least conventional tale is Jefferey F. January’s “Time Out”. Devoid of any monstrous threat, most of the fear is generated from the existential dread of the passage of time. After inheriting a mysterious wardrobe, Tim (Mathew Barnes) discovers that time moves very differently inside the armoire’s confines. He discovers that he can spend hours studying while inside the antique and time passes slower on the outside. Using this to his advantage, Tim eventually accomplishes his life goals and gains a new job at a prestigious company. However, this results in tragic consequences for both him and his family. Similar to an episode of The Twilight Zone, “Time Out” feels less like a traditional horror story and more like a morality tale. Unlike most Creepshow characters, there’s a real sense of tragedy about Tim’s plight. The misguided character is selflessly trying to create a better life for his family without any ulterior motives. Tim’s internal struggle while deciding how to spend his time is incredibly relatable. Time is precious and everyone has been deprived of life’s joys due to time constraints. While many horror aficionados will predict the ending once the rules are established, “Time Out” is still incredibly effective.

After delivering a fully animated episode with A Creepshow Animated Special, Nicotero continues to commit to the concept. “The Things in Oakwood’s Past” returns to the traditional form of storytelling as a ghoulish animated segment. The town of Oakwood is celebrating an ominous anniversary after all of its citizens disappeared. Following the unearthing of a mysterious crate, Marnie (Danielle Harris), makes a startling discovery. Fearing that history could repeat itself, Marnie attempts to stop the mayor (Mark Hamill) from opening the ancient box and unleashing a plethora of monsters upon Oakwood. “The Things in Oakwood’s Past” genuinely feels like an EC Comic being brought to life. Unlike A Creepshow Animated Special, Enol Junquera and Luis Junquera’s animation truly captures the comic-book aesthetic. The dreamy and nightmarish style of animation echoes Robert Balser’s in Heavy Metal (1981). Mark Hamill (Child’s Play) is incredible as the villainous mayor of Oakwood. Similar to Larry Vaughn in Jaws (1975), he’s more concerned about the celebration than the communities safety. Whereas Danielle Harris (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers) delivers a charismatic and enjoyable performance as Marnie. Although the action might be animated, the conclusion is perhaps the most unsettling of the series. Using animation to its full effect allows Nicotero to create gruesome scenes that may have been too disturbing and expensive for live-action.

The final episode delivers perhaps one of the best Creepshow entries of the series. Directed by John Harrison, “A Girl Named Sue” is based on a short story from Craig E. Engler’s “Nights of the Living Dead” anthology. This story takes place in the same universe as George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). However, instead of repeating Romero’s classic, the story examines how a small community has been affected during the zombie outbreak. Set in 1968, the police of Monroeville County are doing their best to maintain order as the undead has risen from their graves. However, the citizens of the town have formed a vigilante group in an attempt to stop the local criminal, Cliven Ridgeway (Josh Mikel). Police Chief Foster (Christian Gonzalez) is intent on preserving law and order and tells the mob to disperse. The police chief tries to do his job and protect Cliven until he sees something that changes his mind. Eventually, Foster deviates from legal procedures and facilitates Cliven being brought to a different sort of justice. “A Dead Girl Named Sue” is undoubtedly an homage to Night of the Living Dead. The use of monochrome expertly utilises shadows to increase the tension, whereas the atmosphere, music, and performances feel akin to Romero’s seminal classic. However, the tale aptly explores how society would react when the natural order is forever upset. It examines a community and their emotions as they stare into the face of the unknown. Would society follow procedures, or would we solve problems in innovative ways and resort to violence? 

Nicotero’s adherence to creating spine-chilling moments continues as he masterfully combines CGI and practical SFX. Unfortunately, The Creep no longer introduces each episode which may disappoint Creepshow traditionalists. However, each segment is packed with either copious amounts of bloodshed or some incredible creature SFX. “Okay, I’ll Bite” features some horribly realistic creature designs that’ll leave arachnophobes squirming. Set in a prison, Elmer’s (Nicholas Massouh) pet spiders make him an easy target in the cell block. When his inmates attempt to murder him, his eight-legged friends bite back. The methodical pacing and camera trickery nicely maximise the grotesque reveal. However, the seasonal highlight is the monster featured during “Drug Traffic”. Following the border security officer Beau (Michael Rooker), he stops a mother carrying a large number of illegal drugs. The mother explains that the medication’s for her daughter, Mai (Sarah Jon). However, the truth’s even worse as Mai is actually a monster. Devised from Asian folklore, the Penanggalan is perhaps unfamiliar to Western audiences. As the head detaches from the host’s body, it glides through the air with its entrails hanging below. To satiate an unnatural hunger, it violently devours unsuspecting victims. Nicotero’s practicality and ability to create deliciously gruesome and suitably violent moments are mesmerising.

Unfortunately, Creepshow has a longstanding history of being inconsistent, and not every episode captures its ghoulish atmosphere. Although it’s worthy of the Creepshow treatment, Jeffrey F. January’s “The Last Tsuburaya” is one of season 3’s weakest. The tale follows the wealthy and antagonistic art connoisseur Wade Cruise (Brandon Quinn) after purchasing the last painting by fabled artist, Tsuburaya. During an unveiling party, Wade does the unthinkable and destroys the painting to ensure nobody else will ever see it. However, Wade unknowingly curses himself and is haunted by the terrifying image that only he has seen. Although it contained an exciting climax featuring a creature design that blends Asian and American horror. The strained pacing makes it incredibly difficult to become excited.

Another distractingly weak segment is Axelle Carolyn’s “Stranger Sings”. Barry (Chris Mayers) is a hopeless romantic and when he meets Sarah (Suehyla El-Attar), the two have an immediate connection. After she lures him into her home, he makes a horrifying discovery. Sarah demands that he performs surgery to transplant a siren’s hypnotic voice box into her own, so she can manipulate and destroy any man. Admittedly, it features an interesting monster design and mythos not represented in contemporary horror. However, the lighthearted tone is uncharacteristically optimistic for the horror series. 

With an abundance of exciting new horror series including Netflix’s Midnight Mass and Chucky TV series, Creepshow: Season Three currently faces tough competition. However, there’s a reason the series has broken records for Shudder. Nicotero and his team honour Romero and King’s original while reimagining itself for a contemporary audience. Episodes such as “Skeletons in the Closet” and “Meter Reader” fully commit to the pulpy literary inspirations. Whereas entries including “Queen Bee” and “Drug Traffic” contain an intriguing social commentary with an extra serving of bloodshed. Admittedly, the inconsistent patterns of quality continue, but it’s not for long before the weaker entries are followed by an exciting new tale. Creepshow: Season Three remains the perfect viewing for those long October nights that horror fans anticipate every year.

USA | 2021 | 230 MINUTES • 6 EPISODES | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

writers: Greg Nicotero, David J. Schow, John Esposito, Josh Malerman, John Harrison, Stephen Langford, Paul Dani, Jordana Arkin, Daniel Kraus, Mattie Do, Christopher Larsen & Heather Anne Campbell.
directors: Rusty Cundieff, Greg Nicotero, Erik Sandoval, Michael Rousselet, Joe Lynch, Jeffrey F. January, John Harrison & Axelle Carolyn.
starring: Ethan Embry, Brayden Benson, Erin Beute, Olivia Hawthorne, Hannah Kepple, Nico Gomez, Kaelynn Harris, Victor Rivera, James Remar, Valerie Leblanc, Andrew Bachelor, Hannah Fierman, Keith Arthur Bolden, Brandon Quinn, Nick Massouh, Chris Mayers, Matthew Barnes
, Michael Rooker, Christian Gonzalez & Josh Mikel.

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