Shudder’s first major new regular series, outside of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, has finally landed. Does Shudder’s refresh of the classic horror anthology series, Creepshow, stick that landing, though?
In short, yes; Creepshow is wonderfully creepy, presents two great stories, and lives up to the precedent of the original two films.
For those unfamiliar with Creepshow as a concept, the original film was a 1982 horror-comedy anthology directed by George A. Romero. The film also served as Stephen King’s first screenwriting credit. The film was a collection of short horror stories with a variety of stars, packaged like the kind of material you could find in old E.C. horror comics.
The show looks to follow this same spirit, providing two stories in the first episode. We’ll be reviewing the stories individually for these reviews.
On with the Creepshow…
The first tale of the evening features the biggest names of the episode. Genre fans should be happy with seeing Adrienne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tobin Bell. This story is a period piece about a small town and a bad, bad dad.
“Gray Matter,” directed by Greg Nicotero and based on a short story by Stephen King, has all the hallmarks of what one would expect from a Greg Nicotero production. The short is creepy as hell, incredibly gross, and full of some fantastic special effects. The Walking Dead has largely succeeded due to the directorial and producer’s eye of Nicotero. The same eye is definitely guiding Creepshow as a whole, yet, “Gray Matter” does miss the mark a bit.
The story features some members of the local community who take refuge in a general store during a hurricane. A local boy, Timmy, comes in from the storm to by beer for his father, but the boy seems spooked. Chief, a cop (Bell) and Doc (Esposito) go to deliver the beer and check up on dear ol’ dad. The boy stays behind with Dixie (Barbeau) and fills her in on what is going on.
The problem is that while so much of this story works, the apocalyptic ending does not have enough time to develop. The reveal of what Timmy’s father has become is incredibly gross and creepy. However, the ending feels rushed and the nature of the father’s growth is hurriedly broached.
“Gray Matter” was about as gross and creepy as one would expect, but the ending is just lacking in enough buildup.(3 / 5)
“The House of the Head”
The second story of the evening stars Cailey Fleming, best known as Judith Grimes in the current seasons of The Walking Dead. Expect to see a number of the alumnus of the AMC series join Creepshow as the series goes on. Josh Malerman is the writer of the story, while directorial duties were handled beautifully by John Harrison.
A good descriptor for this story might be “minimalist.” One could hazard a guess that most of the budget went to a single prop: the dollhouse. The episode does not feature many locations at all and most of the action takes place in a child’s bedroom with a brief pair of sojourns to a toy store. The episode spends a great deal of its runtime panning through various grim tableaus within the dollhouse where the “Smithsmith” family is menaced by a sinister head.
… and that is pretty much the episode. A little girl watches a doll family menaced by a sinister head and finds all her efforts to stop it fail. There are legitimately creepy moments in the story that are peppered with an absurdity that just works. The continual trauma of these dolls is so incredibly messed up and compelling to watch. The fact that viewers have so much concern over the fates of these dolls is the biggest joke of the episode, complete with a wonderful sight gag of the young girl dressed for mourning by the end of the story.
“The House of the Head” was a masterclass in making an episode of horror television on a budget using a strange concept.(4.5 / 5)
The Creep Factor
Of the two tales presented for the first episode, the clear winner is “The House of the Head.” Ambition exceeded results in the night’s first story, “Gray Matter” which buckled a bit under the amount the it sought to achieve. “Gray Matter” would have benefited greatly from being a full hour of television.
“The House of the Head,” however is lean, creepy, and bleakly hilarious. The images of the dolls being menaced by a sinister head are equally chilling and absurd.
Also, kudos to the production team for the wonderful Creep himself who adds a delightful macabre to the framing of the episode. He’s not Crypt-Keeper, but there are some fun little jokes and gags to be had; such as the Creep crushing a beer, for example.
We hope that you enjoyed our coverage of the first installment of Shudder’s Creepshow. Creepshow will air on Thursdays around 9 PM EST on Shudder. Haunted MTL will be covering the whole 6 episodes of the first season.
Most true crime content includes a dramatic courtroom scene. Two dashing lawyers face off, defending their clients no matter how gruesome their crimes were.
While there was a courtroom scene, it wasn’t exactly what I expected. It’s something that, again, I don’t think I’ve seen before.
As the title would suggest, most of this episode was from Lionel Dahmer’s point of view. And Lionel, it should go without saying, is not in a great place right now. His son, who he loves, is in a hell of a lot of trouble. And Lionel is doing his best to make this whole mess not his fault.
The fault, as far as he’s concerned, lies with Joyce. It should be no surprise to anyone that Joyce doesn’t agree. She’s been doing her best to distance herself as much as possible from her oldest son and former husband as possible.
This doesn’t work, as reporters find and hound her just the same.
With Jeff in jail, an angry population doesn’t have anyone to turn their anger on, except Jeff’s family. And they are all getting harassed. Jeff’s grandma, suffering from dementia, is having her home raided by the police. People are coming forward, claiming to be Jeff’s friends from childhood. We know that’s a like, Jeff didn’t have any friends. Accusations are flying against Lionel, that he sexually abused Jeff when he was a little boy.
All in all, it’s hard to not feel bad for the Dahmers. Yeah, they were bad parents. They made some pretty serious mistakes. But honestly, no more than lots of parents. And most people don’t go on cannibalistic murder sprees.
Now, to the court scene. Honestly, this was so hard to watch.
Dahmer’s attorney tried to convince him that he can plead insanity like Ed Gein. On the off chance you don’t know who Ed Gein is, he’s the notorious serial killer who inspired both Norman Bates and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He killed women who resembled his mother, cut them up, and did stuff to them. And yes, just like it says in this episode when he was caught he sold himself out for an apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese on top.
Gein spent the rest of his life in a mental ward, and Lionel would like to see the same for Jeff. It’s hard to argue with him.
But that argument fails. And before sentencing, the families of the victims are allowed to speak.
They have a lot to say.
This is what I meant when I said the courtroom scenes were unusual. We saw non of the actual trial, it was hopped right over. This is normally a dramatic moment in true crime shows. Instead, we see the impact that these murders had. Dahmer’s actions destroyed his family. He destroyed the families of the people he killed.
There is so much collateral damage when a life is lost. And that, I think, is what this episode is truly about. The extensive, heartbreaking collateral damage of Jeff Dahmer.
With Dahmer sentenced to fifteen life sentences, I’m honestly not sure how we still have two episodes to go. One I could understand, but two seems a bit much. I’m hoping that the creators have some additional chapters of the story that we haven’t yet explored.
I guess we’ll have to see.(3.5 / 5)
“The Menu” Gives Us A Bloody Good Time
Writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy have outdone themselves with the plot of “The Menu.” Spoilers ahead!
Tyler and Margot are attending a high-class restaurant located on a remote island for the meal of a lifetime. This meal comes at a steep cost: thousands of dollars ($1,250 a plate to be exact) as well as possibly your life. Those who attend the dinner at Hawthorne are the type who frequently ask: “Do you know who I am?”
Chef Julian does not care who you are, and after years of serving the privileged elite, he has had enough. Julian commands his chefs and the room with a loud clap, his chefs answering him in tandem with a bone-chilling “yes, chef.” Ralph Fiennes as Julian gives a shiveringly scary performance. Julian commands the space as well as everyone in it and Ralph Fiennes is dastardly, dark, and daunting.
Chef Julian’s sidekick is creepy herself, doing his bidding just as the other chefs do. Female subservience is addressed through this side character as well as sous chef Catherine, who created one of the courses that is served to the guests.
This course is introduced by Catherine telling the story of how Chef Julian tried to have sexual relations with her. When she denied him, he refused to look at her in the eye anymore. Before Catherine serves her dish, she stabs Julian with scissors in the thigh, getting revenge for his behavior. Julian acts none the wiser, pulling the scissors from his thigh before serving the diners the hunk of meat with the same kind of scissors plunged into it.
Everyone obeys Chef Julian except for Margot. Women and men in the room accept that this is their last night alive, not protesting too hard or trying to escape. Margot is the only fighter. Perhaps this is why she escapes.
In a world where we have seen a rise in slasher films, The Menu lives in a place between darkly satirical horror and a slasher film.
The Menu is whip smart, remarking on our class system, displaying those who can afford a $1,250 a plate meal on a remote island against the thought of the character of Margot. Margot is revealed halfway through the film to have been a sex worker, hired by Tyler to attend the dinner. His girlfriend, the original intended guest, had broken up with him and Tyler knew that there was never a table for one at Hawthorne.
Tyler knew everyone would die at the meal, yet still involved Margot, an innocent bystander who turns out to be the only one that makes it out alive. Chef Julian does this as it is clear he believes Tyler tainted his final menu experience by not bringing the guest who RSVP’d.
Tyler gets what is coming to him in the end. He comments on each course in mostly negative ways and snaps photos (which was expressly forbidden). Chef Julian asks Tyler to make him a meal since he knows so much more than anyone about cuisine. When Tyler’s meal doesn’t live up to Chef’s expectations, he is killed.
Margot is juxtaposed with the famous and rich at the dinner who can afford such an experience while she is being paid to attend. The film remarks on the lavish actions of the rich in the movie versus those who may not know where their next meal will come from.
The food that the film shows is gorgeous and conceptual, Chef Julian giving backstory to each dish. The film is the darkest version of Hell’s Kitchen I’ve ever seen. As a foodie and a horror lover, this film touched on all my favorite genres. It was deep, had something to say, and screamed it at the top of its lungs.
I respect the filmmakers and writers of this movie as it was compelling, engrossing, and kept me guessing, all while remarking on important social themes.(5 / 5)
Episode seven of Netflix’s Dahmer brings the spotlight, finally, to the hero of our story. Glenda Cleveland.
Glenda was Jeff’s neighbor. And honestly, I can’t think of a worse neighbor. A horrific stench is always coming from his apartment. He has people over, and they make a lot of noise.
While they’re dying.
If you’ll recall episode one of Dahmer ended with all of his neighbors, including Glenda, being forced to leave their homes. The whole building was declared a crime scene. They’re not given any place to go, of course.
Everyone’s got a few thousand dollars socked away for an unexpected motel stay, right?
Fortunately, Glenda was able to get a motel room. And that’s where she is when Reverend Jesse Jackson finds her.
Glenda pours out her story to Reverend Jackson. The rest of the episode consists of her dark and troubling encounters with Dahmer.
The most compelling scene, I think, is when Dahmer brings Glenda a sandwich. He’s being evicted, and he knows it’s because she’s been complaining about the smells coming out of his apartment.
He tries to pour on his little boy charm. He tells her that he got his apartment cleaned, just for her. He brings her a pulled meat sandwich as a present.
Notice I don’t say pulled pork, because I’m fairly sure it was human meat. Or, it was just drugged.
This episode just hummed with tension and rage. I was so happy to see Reverend Jackson tear into the police in the most polite way possible. I hated seeing what Glenda went through. And even though I know she lives through this horrific encounter, I held my breath the entire time she was alone with Jeff.
Dahmer is certainly not afraid to jump back and forth between the past and present. But they are careful to never do it in such a way that I felt lost. And I honestly think this was the best way to do it.
The reason for this is that it adds a level of suspense that Dahmer might have lacked without it. Suspense is something that true crime stories can lack. Especially well-known ones. We have heard this story before. We know how it ends. But in presenting the tale this way, first from one point of view and then another, it reveals sides of it that we may not have seen before.
I loved seeing the story from Glenda’s point of view. She was brave, determined, and selfless. She had every right to be furious at the way the police dismissed her concerns for years. And yet she continued to handle everything professionally. She never stopped trying to help people, even when no one else seemed to care. And for that, she is a true hero.(4 / 5)
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