6 Essential Creepshow Horror Stories From Season 1

6 Essential Creepshow Horror Stories From Season 1
The Creep, who introduces each segment via comic-book pages, fondles the remote in key art from season one of Shudder's Creepshow. (Image: Shudder)
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Stacked with killer talent both in front of and behind the camera, Shudder’s hit series Creepshow — based on the horror anthology films from Stephen King and George A. Romero — returns soon for season two, with a third instalment on the way. Each episode contains two stories, so we’re sharing our favourites from the six-episode (plus two bonus installments!) first season.

1) Grey Matter

The series’ kickoff segment set the tone for what was to come with a classic tale directed by series producer Greg Nicotero that pays loving homage to the first Creepshow movie. Set amid a pounding storm, “Grey Matter” introduces us to a small-town shopkeeper (Adrienne Barbeau, who starred in the 1982 film segment “The Crate” but plays a much more sympathetic character here), cop (Saw’s Tobin Bell), and doctor (The Mandalorian’s Giancarlo Esposito) who rush to help a scared teen who wanders in from the rain to get a case of beer for his alcoholic father. Thing is, booze isn’t dad’s only craving. Far from it, in fact. This tale winks at the King-starring movie segment “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” (King wrote the “Grey Matter” story, and Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi scripted) but also works in a little Shining reference and, of course, some very slimy horrors of its very own.

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2) The Finger

Nicotero also directed this segment, from a script by David J. Schow (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, The Crow), that’s basically a solo showcase for actor DJ Qualls (The Man in the High Castle) — overall, Creepshow’s stories tend to focus on very small casts. Qualls plays a lonely, bitter misanthrope named Clark who gains a new lease on life when he stumbles across a strange, disembodied finger…that soon grows into an adorably nightmarish little critter that Clark names “Bob.” Bob takes naps in the freezer, loves popcorn and TV dramas, and looks a bit like a xenomorph crossed with a chihuahua. To show his devotion to the man who rescued him, Bob takes it upon himself to eliminate anyone that angers Clark — his dreaded ex-wife, the debt collectors that incessantly ring his phone, etc. — and brings home various oozing body parts as trophies, which Clark must then figure out how to dispose of. Good boy, Bob! “The Finger” blends creature effects, delightfully horrifying gore, and clever fourth-wall-breaking humour to satisfying effect.

3) The Companion

David Brucker directs this tale — story by father-daughter-son trio Joe R. Lansdale, Kasey Lansdale, and Keith Lansdale; script by Matt Venne — about a 1980s teen named Harold (Logan Allan, who’s great; in general, Creepshow does an admirable job casting young actors) who spends nearly every moment being tortured by his arsehole bully of an older brother (Voltaire Colin Council). His fate takes a shocking turn when he meets the title character, a scarecrow creature whose inclusion here (not to mention the choice of the character name “Harold”) makes this Creepshow segment do double duty as a sly Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark homage, too.

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4) Skincrawlers

Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series) and Stephen Langford wrote this Roxanne Benjamin-directed splatterfest about a self-conscious man (Dana Gould of the late, great Stan Against Evil) who considers signing up for a seemingly miraculous weight-loss treatment — until he learns exactly what’s involved in the procedure. (It’s totally organic, yet absolutely terrifying.) You know anytime a horror show mentions an eclipse something god-awful is going to happen, and the vain pay the ultimate price in what’s probably Creepshow’s gallon-for-gallon goriest episode to date.

5) By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain

Creepshow OG and horror MVP Tom Savini directs this one from a story by fellow Creepshow OG and horror legend Joe Hill (the script’s by Jason Ciaramella). Teenager Rose (Sydney Wease) is obsessed with the legend of “Champ,” the aquatic monster said to dwell in Lake Champlain, mostly because she’s the only one who believes her late father’s story about glimpsing the cryptid. When “Champy” makes a sudden return appearance, Rose has to deal with some serious family bullshit before she can hope to make the truth known. It’s a melancholy tale — different in tone from the others — but it examines some deeply scary terrors.

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6) A Creepshow Holiday Special: Shapeshifters Anonymous

Nicotero directed and wrote (from a story by J.A. Konrath) this holiday release, a live-action, double-sized story that came on the heels of the animated Halloween special. It follows Robert (Adam Pally), who reluctantly but desperately turns up at a Shapeshifters Anonymous meeting — populated by an array of awkward were-creatures — after starting to suspect he’s transforming into a killer beast. This very wry story (every were-creature assumes they’re a werewolf at first, we learn, though some turn out to be were-bears or were-tortoises!) loops in the Christmas theme by making Kris Kringle and his minions malevolent and introducing a hilariously developed mythology around their anti-were-creature villainy. It all leads toward an epic showdown between Satanic Santa vs. various transformed human-animal hybrids, which is indeed just as goofy as it sounds.

Creepshow season two starts April 1 on Shudder.