There was a “creeping” sensation in the back of my mind after watching the premiere episode of the new Creepshow series on Shudder: “What if they saved their best content for the first episode in order to hook viewers in, but the rest of it is going to be garbage?” I don’t know why I thought that. I guess I was just so hopeful that the show would be good, and paranoid that it would be a misfire.
My hopes are higher than ever after seeing episode 2.
This time, we get a good old fashioned werewolves and Nazis tale with Jeffrey Combs, and a Greg Nicotero-directed creature feature like no other. Before getting into the stories themselves though, I need to mention that the physical puppet Creeper character that appears in the wraparounds is a little wonky. It looks great in stills, but it doesn’t seem to have much of a range of motion, and it really ought to have been given a voice. One can’t help but think of HBO’s Crypt Keeper for several reasons, and this Creeper doesn’t come close to that level of personality and presence. Odd, since Nicotero is the K&B Special Effects guy and they surely made this puppet themselves.
But the wraparound segments in Creepshow are no more than window dressing really. It’s the stories that matter. The first, “Bad Wolf Down”, is about a group of American soldiers in the second World War who get boxed into an abandoned jailhouse by enemy forces. When they discover a mysterious woman locked in one of the cells, and bloody prints on the floor that look suspiciously lupine, we know immediately where things are headed.
Jeffrey Combs, now an aged genre legend, once again plays a scene-devouring Nazi and brings pretty much exactly what you expect to a fairly minor role. When shit hits the fan, it’s both impressive in its gory effects bombast and obviously restricted by budget. They clearly didn’t have the funds to commit to full-on werewolf transformations, but the comic-book motif of Creepshow provides a convenient workaround to mask that limitation.
The next tale, “The Finger”, is a one-man show starring DJ Qualls as a fourth wall-breaking narrator living a pathetic, lonely existence, who discovers a monstrous digit of unknown origin and soon starts to notice it has some strange properties. I don’t want to reveal any more about the plot than that, because where it goes from there is entirely unexpected and extremely quirky and bizarre. The first episode used CGI to augment its marquee creature in Grey Matter, and in The Finger it would have made perfect sense to do so again. Instead it commits to 100% practical effects, and it adds to the charm 10-fold. Like Greg Nicotero’s direction itself, a lack of polish and refinement can actually be a bonus in a project like Creepshow.
I eagerly await the remainder of this series, in particular episode 4, which includes a short called All Hallows Eve. To boot, the season finale is airing on Halloween itself. God bless Shudder.