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Monday, December 21, 2020

[Review] “A Creepshow Holiday Special” is a Mixed Bag of Presents

There’s an anthology resurgence happening on television right now and fans of episodic horror could not be happier. When it was first announced that Greg Nicotero was adapting Creepshow for Shudder, fans of George A. Romero’s 1982 movie were excited to see how the small-screen revival would compare. The rule of thumb with anthologies is not every story is as good as the next, and that’s an important piece of advice to remember when going through the show’s inaugural season. Regardless of any rough patches, though, it was clear this new Creepshow was a passion project with plenty of talent involved.

With a second season still underway, patient fans were given treats to tide them over: first an animated Halloween special and now an extended Christmas episode called A Creepshow Holiday Special. Previous installments were split up into two twenty-something-minute segments, but this episode devotes its entirety to “Shapeshifters Anonymous,” an adaptation of J.A. Konrath‘s short story of the same name.

The Creep is still feeling like too much of a silent participant in the series, and with this episode not having an intermission, there’s not much for the host to do other than receive a hairy transformation under a full moon or briefly sport a Santa hat at the very end. Nevertheless, his minimal screen time only leaves more room for the story itself. It’s a cold and snowy December night when Adam Pally’s character Robert Weston shows up at a church in search of a meetup group called S.A. He finds it tucked away in the basement where the gatekeeper Scott (Pete Burris) is wary of letting this unexpected guest come inside. Once Robert makes it past the door, though, we realize this isn’t your typical support group; “S.A.,” an initialism for “Shapeshifters Anonymous,” is really a meeting for therianthropes, or people who turn into humanoid animals like werewolves.

From there, Robert is introduced to a sparse but diverse group of characters: the doorman Scott is a were-tortoise, Irena (Anna Camp) is a were-cheetah, Andy (Frank Nicotero) is a wereboar, Ryan (Derek Russo) is a silent enigma, and Phyllis (Candy McLellan) is simply a furry who everyone else tolerates because they feel sorry for her. What brings Robert to S.A. is the concern that he might be the local serial killer dubbed the Naperville Ripper after he discovers strange objects in his stool that he doesn’t remember eating. The new member assumes he’s a werewolf, and based on his reaction to wolfsbane, he’s exactly right. While it seems like Robert’s finally found a safe place, he has an even more pressing problem to contend with: he’s been tracked by the dangerous disciples of Kris Kringle. In this world, apparently a souped-up version of Santa Claus is hellbent on wiping out all therianthropes. What should have been a typical S.A. meeting ends in chaos as Santa’s helpers then descend upon the church basement.

Because this holiday edition of Creepshow sounds more like an ambitious improv skit than something suitable for horror, “Shapeshifters Anonymous” truly works better as the talky and quirky comedy it starts out as. This unique take on the werewolf story gets off on the right foot by rolling with the punches and letting the cast fill in all the logic gaps with ample quips and firm but shallow characterization. Winsome dialogue between Pally and his committed costars distracts us from the fact that the monsters don’t even show up until half an hour in. And dare I say, the scenes of regular-looking people chatting in a basement about a shared supernatural lifestyle are somehow more engaging than the cartoonish bloodbath that comes later once it’s revealed Santa Claus is coming to town armed with finger weaponry forged by Lucifer himself.

The lore here, while definitely unique, requires bigger execution that a modest TV budget cannot provide; it’s either go big or go home if you’re aiming for a potential spectacle like “Shapeshifters Anonymous”. Even so, director Nicotero and the people at KNB EFX Group do a commendable job of bringing those various were-beasts and a malevolent, armored Santa to life. 

“Shapeshifters Anonymous” ends up being more of a droll superhero origin story than anything outright chilling; the final act is also a tad too limp. On the other side, the practical effects stand out, the cast is determined, and the buildup before the showdown with evil ol’ Saint Nick is amusing. Creepshow celebrates the holidays early with an inconsistent special that never quite lives up to its full potential, but there’s some fun within for all the good boys and girls who enjoy Christmas’s weird side.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3645733/review-creepshow-holiday-special-mixed-bag-presents/

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