Welcome to Haunted MTL’s ongoing coverage of Shudder’s original series, Creepshow. Tonight featured two segments, a genuinely great tale in the classic sort of horror anthology and weird tale mold. The other was a half-cooked, scattershot revenge story that really showcased the budget-crunch of Creepshow. It was a half-hour of undead highs and lows this week.
“Night of the Paw”
John Harrison, a Creepshow veteran, returns to direct this classical tale of wishes gone horribly, horribly wrong. This is, by far, the most stylized segment on the series thus far, and really took advantage of the comic book theming of the overall show. This is, sadly John Esposito’s first written episode of the series, but with any luck, he will be back more than once in season two. This episode is just that good.
The episode really has two principal actors; Bruce Davison and Hannah Barefoot spend most of the episode together, though other credits include Susannah Devereux and Ryan Clay Gwaltney. Graze Toso also deserves a nod for her work as zombie Marjorie. Bruce Davison is a veteran actor of film and television who is a real get for the episode who really sells the character of Avery.
The episode has a feeling of artifice that runs through it, though this is not a bad thing. The cemetery of Avery’s tale looks like a set, “action” scenes are instead tackled through comic book panels, and the color and lighting are tailored to emphasize the artificial nature of the episode. This feels very much like something from an E.C. Comic brought to life, as though panels were made three dimensional.
The story is nothing extraordinary, as it is the trope of the Monkey Paw after all. Why the segment works so well, however, is that the performances of Davison and Barefoot are magnetic in telling such a dire tale of wishes gone bad.
This could have easily been a segment in the first Creepshow film. It is that good.
While nothing about “Night of the Paw” is really all that surprising or shocking (with the exception of the cutting off of two broken fingers, wow) it still works. The segment plays out exactly as you would expect, but that doesn’t matter because it’s just so satisfying to see it all play out.(4.5 / 5)
“Times is Tough in Musky Holler”
Unfortunately, the second segment of the night might be the weakest link in a generally strong season. It’s incredible considering that John Harrison directed this segment as well. The segment, written by John Skipp and Dori Miller just does not deliver outside of delivering some good gore. The episode stars Dane Rhodes, Karen Strassman, Tommy Kane, Tracey Bonner. David Arquette is also along for the ride.
When zombies rise in the world, possibly due to the final wish of Angela from “Night of the Paw,” the worst sort of people take it upon themselves to spread their will over the people around them. “Times is Tough in Musky Holler” ends up being a small revenge story at the end of a brutal regime that was instituted by a used car salesman in the post-apocalyptic world.
This zombie story is more Z-Nation than The Walking Dead, however. Nobody really comes off as particularly interesting and what little glimpses of the regime’s brutality render largely as just… there. The punishment used by society, fittingly the last time it will ever be used, is comical in its cruelness. But it is a payoff that never really feels greater than an excuse to try a new effects technique in which a zombie rips off a human face.
Granted, it is a very well done kill, and it is the highlight of that segment. The problem is, the segment feels more like it was written around the idea of “how do we have a zombie rip this someone’s face off? The episode features a whole host of representatives of the previous regime, but they get little to do. David Arquette is particularly wasted.
As a whole, the segment feels a bit more like an effects school student’s short film than an anthology tale.
Either the team needed something very short to fill in the episode behind “Night of the Paw” or the temptation to rip off a person’s face was far too great. In either case, this might be the weakest segment on the show.(2 / 5)
The Creep Factor
There was surprisingly little of the Creep this week. The episode was bookended near entirely with animation and the wonderful Creep animatronic is nowhere in sight.
It pains me to say this as an animation fan, but the animated segments of Creepshow largely do not work. The animation itself is decent enough, but the illustrations feel very flat. This is likely due to the shading style. For the inevitable season two, I would prefer to see the show moving away from this style or at least give the illustrations a more comic-book appropriate coloring style.
Or better yet, just use that fancy-ass animatronic Creep!
We hope that you enjoyed our coverage of the fifth 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.