The classic 1982 horror anthology film Creepshow now has a new TV series which lives on AMC's horror-themed streaming service, Shudder. Each episode features two different stories, and the first episode offers up two unique stories with two very different feels.
Creepshow is bringing on both established and up-and-coming writers and directors in order to give the audience a broad view of horror. The first episode of the new series, which was made available for review, consists of two stories: "Gray Matter," directed by Greg Nicotero and based on a Stephen King short story, and "The House of the Head," written by Bird Box's Josh Malerman and directed by John Harrison (Tales From The Darkside). These initial offerings are a mixed bag, but overall they do not disappoint.
"Gray Matter" follows a father and son who continue their lives after the matriarch of the family passes away. The father descends into a world of sitting in the dark, watching television, and drinking a specific brand of beer, which is slowly turning him into a monster. The majority of the story is narrated by the son, as he talks to a woman about the changes his father has been going through at the local store.
The story itself feels a bit rushed. It doesn't fit as nicely into the 22-minute slot as it should. The actual pacing of the story the son is telling works exceptionally well, up until the last two minutes, where it comes to a jolting conclusion featuring one of the worst read lines we'd seen in horror since the "Oh my god" moment from Troll 2.
"Gray Matter" is all about the build toward those final moments of the story, where all hell breaks loose, all while trying to get the viewer invested in a story between a father and son. All of the elements to truly make this a great piece for Creepshow are there, but the problem is that the source material--the Stephen King story--isn't great to begin with.
Regardless, Nicotero has a way of making this story feel like something you saw on television during the '80s, which is the most redeeming thing about the segment. From the lighting to the camera angles, it screams of nostalgia, and it makes you want to go back to watch the original Creepshow movie. This story won't be everyone's cup of tea, but Nicotero executes it very well. And the visual effects look pretty cool as the story progresses.
The second story in the first episode of Creepshow is titled "The House of the Head." This one revolves around a little girl who loves playing with her dollhouse, until one day she finds a toy severed head and realizes the dollhouse is haunted, and the head is tormenting her other dolls. It's essentially a horror version of Toy Story, but we're seeing it through the lens of the owner of the toys, not the toys themselves.
Conceptually, this is an ingenious story, to see something as innocent as a child playing with their favorite toy become corrupted with some sort of evil. However, where this becomes a total home run is that the child herself is never in any real danger. Many times, horror is about pushing boundaries too far, and "The House of the Head" never gives the viewer the immediate sense of danger. This severed head doesn't seem to affect the real world. However, there is still that feeling of dread that maybe it could. That's where the best experiences in horror come from. It's not about what's happening. It's about what could happen.
Much like "Gray Matter," there is a sense of nostalgia within "The House of the Head." Although there are moments that become increasingly disturbing the more you think about the story's events, this feels fitting within the world of "Are You Afraid of the Dark." It is much tamer than "Gray Matter" as far as visuals and content go, and that's not a bad point by any means. The story is simple but very strong and works perfectly within this short-form format.
Creepshow is more than your average horror television series. It speaks in multitudes about horror in general. It's more than bloody, mutilated bodies and adult content. Horror, as a genre, can take many forms. While these stories and styles within the first episode of Creepshow may not appeal to everyone, Shudder's new series is a love letter to horror as a whole. This first episode offers up one extremely strong story and another that falls flat, but it's all about preference within the genre. Not everything we'll see on this series will be a homerun, much like every other anthology series, but the opening episode of Creepshow is exceptionally promising.
Shudder's original series, Creepshow arrives on the streaming service on Thursday, September 26 at 6 PM PT / 9 PM ET.