Settle in, boils and ghouls, Creepshow: Season Two has finally arrived on Shudder. Based on the 1982 cult classic anthology film, Creepshow shattered all of the streaming service’s records upon release. It was followed by two specials in 2020, A Creepshow Animated Special and A Creepshow Holiday Special, and now, after being postponed due to the real-life horrors of COVID-19, the series returns with five more episodes. Produced by Greg Nicotero (Creepshow 2), each instalment contains two 20-minute long terrifying tales. Capturing the gruesome glee of the original movie, Creepshow: Season Two is a wonderful TV continuation of George A. Romero’s (Night of the Living Dead) and Stephen King’s (Sleepwalkers) legacy.
The first entry, “Model Kid”, is an expanded retelling of the prologue from the 1982 classic, starring Joe Hill and Tom Atkins. Written by John Esposito (From Dusk Till Dawn), it’s a traditional revenge tale that contains a poignant message to those who prey on the weak. Directed by Nicotero, “Model Kid” follows the turbulent life of monster fanatic Joe (Brock Duncan), a lonely boy frequently bullied by local teens and living with his terminally ill mother June (Tyner Rushing). Joe finds solace in his bedroom watching creature features, dressing as Dracula, and painting model monsters. When his Uncle Kevin (Kevin Dillon) and Aunt Barb (Jana Allen) take over parental duties, Joe’s world becomes a nightmare. Kevin is abusive and incapable of understanding or appreciating the boy’s interests. As tensions begin to rise, Joe takes matters into his own hands and purchases a voodoo doll from a Creepshow comic.
For fans of the original Creepshow, the first entry may seem predictable. However, “Model Kid” is different enough from Romero’s wraparound segments that it’s entraining in its own unique way. Esposito’s story is a melancholy homage filled with heart and appreciation for classic horror. The relationship between Joe and his mother infuses the story with an emotional depth that’s usually absent in the horror series. Admittedly, “Model Kid” is the first time a Creepshow entry brought tears to my eyes—apart from Creepshow 3 (2006) but those were for different reasons! There’s an incredibly touching moment where June talks about the eternal nature of movies. Describing them as “time machines” that transport viewers to the post subtly highlights why people revisit films. As Joe struggles to accept the real horrors of the world, he leans into the escapism of film and the everlasting memories they hold. Although the sentimental tone is unusual in comparison to the standard Creepshow fare, it’s something any horror fan can relate to. “Model Kid” serves as an endearing homage to the Universal Monster flicks while counting essences of EC’s macabre moral code.
The most enjoyable aspect of the inaugural series was how Nicotero embraces the gallows humour of the EC Comics. Creepshow: Season Two continues to lean into the dark humour and camp horror it has become synonymous for. “Public Television of the Dead” is another season highlight as Rob Schrab’s (Rick & Morty) script takes fans on a surprise excursion into the Evil Dead (1981) universe. Set in the 1970s, the story follows the TV production team for the public access channel WQPS. The station’s new executive, Claudia (Marissa Chanel Hampton), is under pressure from the children’s presenter Mrs Booksberry (Coley Company). Demanding more airtime, she asks to cancel the studio’s art show so she can have the time slot. Meanwhile, things take a turn for the worse when Ted Raimi (Skinner) brings an item to be appraised on the station’s antique show. The host (Peter Leake) immediately identifies the skin-bound book as the fabled Necronomicon. As he reads the Sumerian text aloud, the evil spirits awaken and hell breaks loose throughout the television studio.
Schrab’s outlandish comedic sensibilities are pitch-perfect, parodying PBS staples including Bob Ross and Sheri Lewis. The dry and humorous dialogue is balanced perfectly with horror, collimating Schrab’s fresh, yet familiar comedy. Nicotero utilises his experience on the set of Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992) to direct this grotesque delight. The use of floating cameras as the souls demonically move through the hallways and quick zooms wonderfully capture Raimi’s idiosyncrasies. Arguably, “Public Television Of The Dead” could easily be a continuation of the Evil Dead franchise alongside Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-18). Additionally, the cast steps into their roles with glee, delivering their lines with their tongue firmly placed in their cheek. Raimi is wickedly entertaining and the increasingly foulmouthed Company (HBO’s Watchmen) provides plenty of laughs as Mrs Booksberry. Mark Ashworth (Black Panther) gives a tremendous performance as Norm, the Bob Ross-inspired television personality. His sweet demeanour is working effortlessly to suffocate the psychological horrors he endured during the Vietnam war. It’s a loving homage to Ross, who also served in Vietnam before becoming an artist. “Public Television of the Dead” provides a wonderfully inspired entry for the series. Schrab and Nicotero’s playfulness succeeds at blending the tones of Creepshow and Evil Dead.
Unfortunately, not every episode captures the original’s ghoulish atmosphere successfully. “Dead and Breakfast” is a modern-day critique of the commercialisation of serial killers and their unsettling fandom. During this tale, we follow Sam (Ali Larter) and Pam (C. Thomas Howell) as their Murder Hotel is losing patrons. They offer the social media influencer, Morgue (Man Benson), to stay in hopes to boost their popularity. When Morgue begins to doubt the veracity of the house’s history, Joe tries to scare her straight. Although it contained some redeeming qualities including a series of flashbacks too through Creepshow’s iconic comic-book panels. The teenage-centric character and contemporary environment felt oddly reminiscent of an episode of R.L Stine’s Goosebumps (2015). Additionally, “Within the Walls of Madness” is a comparatively complex story told through a non-linear storyline and intricate flashbacks. Director John Harrison (Tales From the Darkside: The Movie) combines the suspenseful paranoia of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), through an H.P Lovecraft framing device. Admittedly, there’s nothing wrong with pushing the boundaries of the formula, and the elements of cosmic horror are executed well. However, the split narrative choice diminishes the storytelling, and “Within the Walls of Madness” becomes rather convoluted. Regardless, with a short runtime of 20-minutes, it’s not long before the weaker entries are followed by a new tale.
Returning director Joe Lynch (Mayhem) and horror author Daniel Kraus deliver a classic tale of monstrous comeuppance with “Pipe Screams“. Complimented by camp humour and exaggerated dialogue, the two leads deliver great entertainment value. As the intolerable landlady, Barbara Crampton (Dead Night) gives a deliciously evil performance. It’s remarkably fun watching the beloved genre icon theatrically portray a condescending racist who eventually gets the Creepshow treatment she deserves. Eric Edelstein (Green Room) is also extremely charming as the sympathetic plumber, Linus. “Pipe Screams” brilliance relies on the expertly handled creature effects. The incredible animatronics and practical puppetry create a terrifying gelatinous slime that’s equal parts The Blob and a Chestburster from Alien (1979). We see the bloodthirsty creature eating the flesh of its victims while wrapping its thick hairy tendrils around its prey. The gratuitous use of blood and fleshy prosthetics are delightfully disgusting. Undoubtedly “Pipe Screams” is a highlight of Creepshow: Season Two. The playful tone captures the trademark comic-book aesthetic and campy gore that fans would expect from the anthology series.
The success of the first series was mainly due to Nicotero’s appreciation of the macabre. The special effects wizard’s adherence to create spine-chilling moments continues as he masterfully combines CGI and practical SFX. Alongside the upgraded introductions from The Creep himself, Nicotero’s masterfully constructed practical VFX and gore-gags remain faithful to the original movie. Each episode is packed with copious amounts of bloodshed and creature effects. Although “The Right Snuff” and “Within the Walls of Madness” explore psychological horror, there’s plenty of gruesome moments elsewhere. A particular highlight is during the climax of Melanie Dale’s “Sibling Rivalry”. The modernistic approach to the succubus mythos echoes Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body (2009). Similar to the vampires in The Strain (2014-17) and Pennywise from It (2017), the mouth is lined with rows of nightmarish teeth. The creature’s feeding habits are both deliciously gruesome and suitably violent. As with the previous series, Nicotero’s practicality and ability to take familiar creatures and create something distinctive is mesmerising.
Although Nicotero is synonymous with his inexpensive features, Creepshow: Season Two undoubtedly benefits substantially from an improved budget. Throwing every penny onscreen, the filmmaker expands the Creepshow pantheon and delivers a variety of different stories. “The Right Snuff” explores territories never seen before as Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) and Breckin Meyer (Clueless) journey into the vacuum of space. Joe Lynch and his production team deserve immense praise for creating the Occult spaceship. The sanitised interiors and retro technologies evoke the space adventure flicks of the 1960s, including Forbidden Planet (1966) and 2001: Space Odyssey (1968). As stated in an interview, the director specifically bathed the scenes in an orange glow to replicate Kubrick’s classic. Admittedly, fans may find the aesthetic and narrative are more evocative of classic sci-fi anthologies including The Twilight Zone (1959-64) and The Outer Limits (1963-65). However, the scenic shifts combined with the morality tale transform “The Right Snuff” into a savage sci-fi. Resulting in one of the most visually unique entries of the series.
Creepshow’s largest appeal revolves around the nostalgia for comic-books, classic horror, and the original Romero-King collaborations. “Night of the Living Late Show” celebrates all of these elements with a premise that’s attractive to anyone who has dreamed of living inside a film. This splendidly unique concept follows Simon (Justin Long), an introverted scientist who has made one of the biggest breakthroughs in media technology. He’s invented “The Immersopod”, a virtual reality simulation that allows its users to fully immerse themselves into their favourite movies. Dedicating an entire 40-minute episode to this entry allows Nicotero and co-writer Dana Gould (Stan Against Evil) to completely flesh out their ideas. As Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers) enters the Horror Express (1972), one can’t help but admire the blending of original and pre-existing footage. The scenes featuring genre icons Christopher Lee (The Devil Rides Out) and Peter Cushing (Circus of Horrors) work seamlessly. However, similar to The Lawnmower Man (1992) and Virtuosity (1995), Simon’s lack of humanism and obsessive escapism ultimately ends with a suitable Creepshow comeuppance.
With an absence of quality horror television around right now, Creepshow: Season Two made a welcome return. Nicotero successfully maintained the affection for horror and literary inspirations that served as the heartbeat of the original Romero-King collaboration. Episodes such as “Television of the Living Dead” and “Pipe Screams” fully commit to the pulpy comic-book aesthetic. Whereas entries including “Sibling Rivalry” and “Pesticide” contain the gallows humour with an extra serving of bloodshed. The combination of pitch-black comedy, gruesome practical effects, and classic scares should reinvigorate genre fans. While Nicotero and Shudder prepare for the recently announced third season, there’s enough here to chew on in the meantime.
USA | 2021 | 230 MINUTES • 5 EPISODES | COLOUR | ENGLISH
Cast & Crew
writers: John Esposito, Rob Schrab, Michael Rousselet, Erik Sandoval, Frank Dietz, Paul Dini, Stephen Langford, Greg Nicotero, Melanie Dale, Daniel Kraus & Dana Gould.
directors: Greg Nicotero, Axelle Carolyn, Joe Lynch, Rusty Cundieff & John Harrison.
starring: Brock Duncan, Tyler Rushing, Kevin Dillon, Mark Ashworth, Marissa Hampton, Coley Company, Ted Raimi, Ali Carter, Josh McDermitt, Keith David, Ashely Laurence, Ryan Kwanten, Breckin Meyer, Maddie Nichols, Molly Ringwald, Eric Edelstein, Barbara Crampton, Drew Mathews, Denise Crosby, Justin Long & D’Arcy Carden.