I noted in the previous Creepshow episode review that last week’s offering was the weakest (but still enjoyable) of the bunch to date. With episode 5, we’re back on track in a big way, with potentially the best all-around episode of the show this season.
“Night of the Paw” takes the ancient and well-worn tale of the Monkey’s Paw and freshens it up with a few tweaks. “Times is Tough in Musky Holler” begins with a mystery set in a post-apocalypse and concludes with classic EC Comics comeuppance.
I’m not sure if I mentioned this in previous reviews or not, but the wraparound content in the Creepshow series has a few different elements at play. Comic book panels, complete with faux ads, set up the premise and title of each segment, which transition to live action in the same fashion as the two original movies. There’s also the Creep – ostensible host character, who appears alternately as a live puppet and in crude animated form. The Creep looks fantastic as a puppet, but doesn’t move around much and also doesn’t speak. In this particular episode, he only appears as animation, the quality of which is just barely passable. If I had one suggestion on how to improve for season 2 (should there be one), it would be to spend more time fleshing out the Creep and making him into more of an actual character and not just a symbol. The shadow of the Crypt Keeper looms large.
On to the actual stories, I’ve been waiting for Creepshow to tackle the monkey’s paw story for a long time, without necessarily knowing it. The “be careful what you wish for” theme is tailor made for this kind of series. If you’re at all familiar with any version of this story, you probably know that it usually involves a wish to bring someone back from the dead, who returns as a ghastly corpse. Leveraging this assumed knowledge, Night of the Paw takes a different route and tells the story non-chronologically, while also delivering the payoff you expect. Rest assured, when the resurrected dead do appear, it’s worth the wait.
Times is Tough in Musky Holler, on the other hand, is a much simpler story of revenge against the greedy and power hungry among us, set in an initially unspecified End Times world. In a makeshift subterranean jail cell, a group of shady characters sob and plead with unseen captors, hinting at past mistakes and former status. To go further into the plot is to engage in spoilers, but I can say that it features an insanely unhinged supporting turn from David Arquette, who has more or less been missing from pop culture for about a decade.
Also, lest we forget that KNB Effects head Greg Nicotero is spearheading this show, Musky Holler concludes with spectacular practical splatter effects involving zombies that deliberately call back to the original Creepshow, in particular the Father’s Day segment. The whole story is setting up that payoff, and again, it’s worth the wait.
With only the finale left to go, it looks as if I can comfortably call the Creepshow series a rousing success. Even if the finale disappoints, the season as a whole proves how well the concept works as a series if you remain true to the spirit of the first movie. And it’s right at home on Shudder where the horror hounds like myself are most at home.