What better way to celebrate the Christmas period than with a decent ghost story? Well, I know that I’m stretching the concept a little, but today we’re taking a look at the Creepshow TV series. A continuation of the infamous Creepshow movies (released all the way back in 1982 and 1987), the latest addition to the franchise is a six-part series produced by (and released exclusively on) Shudder. Until I became aware of Creepshow, I hadn’t heard of Shudder, but it turns out this is a specialist horror TV channel on Amazon. You have to subscribe to Shudder separately in order to access their content. At the time of writing the subscription fee is £4.99, but the first month is only 99p and there isn’t any commitment to continue the service. So if you want to jump in and binge-watch Creepshow then it’s a great way to do so.
The Creepshow series follows the same format as its predecessors; this is a horror anthology series. Each of the six episodes features two 20-minute stories in the horror category. The episodes have mostly been adapted from existing stories, and writers include such horror aficionados as Joe Hill and Stephen King, although a minority are also original. There isn’t a great spread of tales here: almost every story is in the meaner and gorier category, but if 80s style horror is your thing, then you’ll surely enjoy Creepshow.
In episode 1, in “Gray Matter” (by Stephen King) a father develops a drinking problem and has a never ending thirst, becoming something else. I thought this was the weakest of the entries, as it has been done so many times before, but it’s well produced and sets the tone for the rest of the series. Meanwhile, “The House of the Head” (by Josh Malerman) shows how an idea that sounds poor on paper can really evolve in the execution. A girl discovers a strange head in her doll’s house, which goes on to terrorise her dolls. This was an excellent story and genuinely creepy; the description doesn’t really do this justice!
In episode 2, “Bad Wolf Down” involves a squad of American GIs trapped inside a house by Nazis. Salvation comes from the prisoner they find locked in the basement. An interesting story which plays up its comic book roots; this is a more action-oriented entry and very enjoyable. Meanwhile, in “The Finger” (by David J Schow), a man finds a finger that seems to grow when exposed to water. This entry involves creature puppetry, but loses some of its power when the creature grows to full size. I would’ve liked to see more emphasis on the menacing aspects of this story, as we see what the creature is growing into.
In episode 3, in “All Hallows Eve” (by Bruce Jones) a group of teens terrorise a neighbourhood during Halloween. A very strong entry and one which felt very Stephen King. In “The Man in the Suitcase” (by Christopher Buehlman) a passenger picks up the wrong case at an airport, and finds a man squeezed inside the case. The complication is that the prisoner produces coins when he is in pain. I really liked this story and the denouement, while pretty obvious, felt satisfying. Overall episode 3 was probably my favourite.
In episode 4, in “The Companion” (by Jon R Lansdale, Kasey Lansdale and Keith Lansdale) a boy sneaks into an abandoned farm protected by a supernatural force. This entry highlights one of the story-telling tools used throughout the series: the “story within a story”. This is a very Lovecraftian concept and feels especially appropriate for these stories. In “Lydia Layne’s Better Half” (John Harrison and Greg Nicotero), a woman kills her lover and tries to dispose of the body but becomes trapped in a lift. Well executed and acted, this story missed the mark for me; it felt a little too traditional for a Creepshow story.
In episode 5, “Night of the Paw” (by John Esposito) a murderer breaks into a funeral home to find that she has been set up. The funeral home’s owner has a monkey’s paw capable of granting wishes, but these come with consequences. The “monkey’s paw” concept has been done so many times and this story doesn’t do anything new with it, although it is well acted and produced. Meanwhile, in “Times is Tough in Musky Holler” (by John Skipp and Dori Miller) a town turns on the mayor and his cronies who have controlled the town for far too long. In the vein of The Walking Dead, this story is well done and utilises flashbacks to create a wider context within a short running time.
In episode 6, “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain” (by Joe Hill) a girl’s dad died looking for a monster living at the bottom of Lake Champlain, but she can’t let it go. This is a very Stephen King story and it has a nice story arc in a short period; it really plays on 80s movie sensibilities. In “Skincrawlers” (by Paul Dini and Stephen Langford), a man considers a miraculous new treatment for weight loss that turns out to have unexpected complications. More of a body horror piece than some of the other entries, this treads by familiar territory but it’s another nice entry to the series.
Overall, Creepshow is very enjoyable and there isn’t a dud among the brief season run. Some stories will feel very familiar but that’s sort of the point; they are extensions of the 80s horror movie genre and really do feel like a continuation of the films. Highly recommended.