If it seems like rather recently that we were heaping praise on Creepshow’s season two premiere — well, it was. With only five episodes in this season, Shudder’s retro horror anthology has ripped by way too fast. Ahead of tomorrow’s season finale, here’s what we’ve loved about the most recent episodes.
Creepshow’s debut season was entertaining — it paid enthusiastic tribute to the Stephen King-George A. Romero anthology films that inspired it, while also exploring some inclusive themes you would not have seen in the early 1980s — but season two has felt a little more of the moment, more directly addressing the times we’re living in now rather than simply giving us new versions of familiar stories about sentient corpses, sinister scarecrows, and monkey’s paw wishes. Thankfully it’s not too on the nose in the way the recent Twilight Zone reboot ended up being — and though there’s no pandemic story yet, we did get a “Karen.”
She arrives in the form of a racist slumlord in episode four’s first segment, “Pipe Screams,” and she’s played with bitchy relish by the great Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator). Directed by Joe Lynch (Mayhem, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) and scripted by Daniel Kraus (who co-wrote Trollhunters with Guillermo del Toro and completed the late Romero’s unfinished novel The Living Dead), the story follows a good-natured plumber (Eric Edelstein from Twin Peaks: The Return) who’s summoned to a dilapidated apartment building and basically blackmailed into figuring out what’s clogging the pipes. This being Creepshow, we already assume something unnatural is afoot — the show loves to enhance its settings with toxic green lighting, and we get a lot of that here as the show’s critter du jour slowly reveals itself. Of course, the instant we meet Crampton’s character, we already know who the real monster is going to be in this particular story, but “Pipe Screams” has a fun time getting there, with plenty of “do not watch while eating” special effects nudging us to its inevitable outcome.
Lynch’s other segment this season, episode three’s “The Right Snuff,” has a more fanciful sci-fi setting — a space station orbiting Earth — but a similar tale of comeuppance wrapped up in a recognisably modern personality: the white dude who’s been given every privilege imaginable but still thinks he’s being robbed of recognition that’s somehow owed to him. Though he’s serving on a prestigious two-man mission, Alex (True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten) seethes at reminders that he’ll forever be in the shadow of his father — the first person on Mars — and has come to resent his fellow astronaut, a renowned scientist (Garfield’s Breckin Meyer) whose experiments represent huge breakthroughs for the future of humanity. That jealously boils over into violence, but what feels like a selfish dick move soon reveals itself to have consequences far greater than anything Alex could have ever imagined.
Another breathtakingly selfish act — this time, driven by out-and-out greed — propels the creepy-crawly action in episode two’s “Pesticide.” This segment, directed by Creepshow series creator Greg Nicotero and written by Frank Dietz, features the legendary Keith David hamming it up as a very… devilish sort of fellow who tempts an unscrupulous exterminator named Harlan King (The Walking Dead’s Josh McDermitt) into doing some very bad things. David’s character is a different sort of slumlord than Crampton in “Pipe Screams;” rather than exploiting the people living on his property, he’d like to see them squashed out of existence — though his motivation seems to be more about torturing Harlan, whose fondness for obnoxiously referring to himself in the third person (“The King has spoken!”) drops away fast when the guilt over his tremendous lapse in judgment begins to eat him alive, literally.
The two least predictable segments are episode three’s teen saga “Sibling Rivalry” (featuring Molly Ringwald as an exasperated guidance counselor, and directed by Tales From the Hood’s Rusty Cundieff from a script by Melanie Dale) and episode four’s tentacle-laden tale “Within the Walls of Madness” (directed by longtime Romero collaborator John Harrison and written by Nicotero and John Esposito). That said, anyone reading that latter title knows there’s gonna be some major H.P. Lovecraft influence (it also has an unsettling performance by Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Denise Crosby). Calling these two “the least predictable” isn’t meant to be a dig at Creepshow being too predictable overall; as mentioned earlier, even though you often know where a story is going, especially since each segment runs around 20 minutes, it’s still always a gleeful ride.
Special props must be given to episode two segment “Dead and Breakfast,” which — other than the season premiere’s “Model Kid” and especially “Public Television of the Dead,” which we discussed in detail here — is the most creatively macabre as well as very, very 2021 feeling. From Axelle Carolyn (who directed the standout black-and-white flashback episode of The Haunting of Bly Manor) and written by Michael Rousselet and Erik Sandoval, it introduces us to the Spinster siblings (played by Ali Larter and C. Thomas Howell), who’re desperately trying to turn the home that once belonged to their grandmother — an alleged serial killer — into a murder-themed bed and breakfast. The segment’s satire of true crime culture gets even sharper when the Spinsters convince a popular influencer (Iman Benson) to spend the night, though things go extremely sideways when she starts complaining to all her followers about how the place is “sad creepy” rather than a destination for fright-seekers.
Tomorrow’s finale, the single-segment story “Night of the Living Late Show,” breaks from Creepshow’s usual format of two stories per episode. Written by Dana Gould (Stan Against Evil) and directed by Nicotero, it stars Justin Long and The Good Place’s D’Arcy Carden in a cautionary tale about virtual reality, a realm Creepshow has yet to explore. But a Black Mirror-ish, tech-themed tangle feels like a logical progression for the show. It’s already heavy on classic creature features with Twilight Zone-ish twists, but no matter the setting it always aims to teach lessons to fools who’d rather further their own self-interests than heed the cackling Creep’s warnings from the pages of his namesake comic book.
Creepshow’s season two finale arrives April 29 on Shudder, with a six-episode third season due later this year.