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Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - CREEPSHOW Episode One

creepshow shudder
The horror anthology makes its small screen debut.

Review by Mike Vaughn

1982 gave us, in my humble opinion, the two greatest horror films of the decade, John Carpenter's The Thing and Creepshow. George A. Romero and Stephen King’s visually stunning and over-the-top love letter to the EC comics they grew up on is everything a horror fiend could want. It was creepy, messy but above all it was not mean spirited and always had a sense of fun and tongue in cheek camp. It's also extremely well made. The pairing of the likes of all these talented people like Romero, King, Tom Savini, not to mention the star-studded cast, is just awe inspiring and something we will likely never see again.

Shudder, the premier streaming service, has a sinister treat for us fans just in time for the Halloween season. When it was announced that they would air a Creepshow series helmed by effects legend and Emmy winner Greg Nicotero I was both excited and nervous. Horror fans will no doubt recall Nicotero is the effects wizard of such classics as Day of the Dead (1985), Evil Dead II (1987) and even Creepshow 2 (1987). Most recently you can see his work on the long running Walking Dead series. Each episode is broken into two segments.

The Intro: Right from frame one Creepshow the series really nails the feel of the original 1982 film. The colour scheme, music and amazing credit sequence really puts the viewer in the mood for 45 minutes of spooky fun. Nicotero and team did an amazing job with the Creeper and it's refreshing that he is not just CGI. I was also happy they gave him a much needed makeover from the '82 version.

[ READ MORE: Blu-Ray Review - Monkey Shines (1988) ]

creepshow gray matter

Gray Matter

Directed by: Greg Nicotero

Written by: Byron Willinger, Philip De Blasi

Based on a story by: Stephen King

Starring: Tobin Bell, Adriene Barbeau, Christopher Nathan, Jesse C. Boyd

A young man’s father develops a nasty drinking habit but that might not be all he thirsts in this creepy tale based on a short story by Stephen King.

Gray Matter is the stronger of the two segments. First off all you have an amazing cast of character actors such as Tobin Bell and the always incredible Adrienne Barbeau (star of the original Creepshow) doing what they do best.

The overall concept is interesting from the very start and Nicotero effortlessly ratchets up the tension while also weaving an engaging mystery throughout.

Visually the segment is teeming with atmosphere and a creepy dread that builds to the fantastic climax. The Lovecraftian style monster tale is perfectly realised with a blending of practical and CGI.

If this is setting the tone for the entire series, I think we are in good hands.

creepshow the house of the head

The House of the Head

Directed by: John Harrison

Written by: Josh Malerman

Starring: Cailey Fleming, Rachel Hendrix, David Shae, Guy Messanger, Diane Carter

A young girl gets a dollhouse but it seems playtime’s over when a severed head mysteriously appears, unleashing all kinds of havoc.

As a concept The House of the Head is an interesting one. It limits all its terror to the inside of a dollhouse, as viewed by the main actress, and we see the figures in various static poses after the horror happens. This is clever, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it done before, but also kind of frustrating. It's like the execution is not nearly as brilliant as maybe it seemed on paper.

The stakes never feel that high as nothing much happens to the real family, so while its gimmick is enough to keep me interested, Gray Matter works better in terms of a compelling short story. It's not to suggest I didn’t like it; it still had that creepy yet campy tone and gave me some serious Tales from the Darkside vibes. House of the Head is enjoyable but it could have been stronger in its writing.

I was cautious about a Creepshow series. It's like when you love something so much you don’t want it messed with or re-tooled. My fears that this would be a cold cash grab disappeared however as the show is a perfect extension of the film. It's spooky, creepy, gross and best of all, a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

The creators and visual department took great pains to make it look and feel like the EC comics that inspired the first two films. And for diehard fans of Creepshow and of Stephen King there are tons of Easter eggs packed into each segment. Some are easy to spot while others are blink and you'll miss them. It makes repeat viewings a must.

The series really nails the fun and visual zest from the original film and to a lesser degree its sequel (we don’t talk about part three). Those wondering if they brought back the comic pages and panels as scene transitions, well thankfully, yes they did. Shudder has truly created something special for horror fans and just in time for the Halloween season. A must watch!

Michael Vaughn is a rabid horror and cult fan who turned that love into a career. He is a writer, blogger and film historian and now author of 'The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema' which Shock Wave Podcast named their pick of the month, and Chris Alexander of Fangoria called “recommended reading.”

His other credits include Scream Magazine, Fangoria and websites like Films in Review and Bloody Flicks(UK). Please follow his Twitter @StrangeCinema65 and Instagram @gorehound_mike.