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Monday, March 22, 2021

[Review] Shudder’s “Creepshow” Returns With Two of the Anthology Horror Show’s Best Tales Thus Far

Editor’s Note: This review covers only the two-segment first episode of Season 2.

The empirical rule about anthologies is they’re bound to be inconsistent. This is something important to remember when looking back at the uneven first season of Greg Nicotero’s Creepshow. From the looks of the first two stories of Season 2, though, that cardinal rule still applies but with a less substantial gap in quality. That’s not to say the series has remedied every issue with Season 1; it just seems like things are running a bit smoother and might be changing for the better.

Season 2 is off to a strong start with “Model Kid,” a fine homage to both the original Creepshow movie, its sequel, and classic Universal monsters. Nicotero and writer John Esposito come up with a tale any passionate horror fan could identify with; one of their own using the genre as a form of escapism. Young Joe (Brock Duncan) is having a tough childhood; his mother June (Tyner Rushing) is gravely ill and his only coping mechanism with that sad fact is horror. After his mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, Joe is left in the care of his maternal aunt Barb (June Allen) and her abusive, overbearing husband Kevin (Kevin Dillon). The uncle has a rigid idea of masculinity and despises Joe’s interest in horror. Sick and tired of Kevin’s guff, Joe finally finds some relief after sending away for a very special item advertised in the back of a “Creepshow” issue — a supernatural effigy he uses to torture his wicked uncle.

“Model Kid” borrows from both wraparound segments in Creepshow and Creepshow 2, as well as dips its toes in the shallow end of Vernon Zimmerman’s love letter to cinema, Fade to Black. Not only is a child being bullied over his love of horror by a male authority figure à la Tom Atkins’ Stan character from the 1982 film, Joe assuages his fears by siccing monsters on his tormentor like Billy did with his juvenile harassers in Creepshow 2. Overall, the series has parroted George A. Romero and Michael Gornick’s eye-popping aesthetic with mixed results. Any attempt here to emulate the four-color style doesn’t fully measure up or feel as expressive in a telegenic environment, but those moments are still a fun nod to the movies. The story manages its own sheer predictability by boasting astounding costume work and a visible reverence for the masters who made this series possible in the first place.

The first episode’s second story “Public Television of the Dead” will be a pleasant surprise for Evil Dead fans. Set in the ’70s, employees at a TV network affiliate in Pittsburg are forced to save the world when Ted Raimi has the infamous Necronomicon Ex-Mortis appraised on an Antiques Roadshow-like series. One thing leads to another and the studio is soon filled with Deadites threatening to spread this nightmare to the rest of the country via a national broadcast signal.

The most ambitious of the two segments seen in the Nicotero-directed premiere, “Public Television of the Dead” takes on a popular horror franchise and shaves it down to its most basic working parts. Stepping out of the woods and into a vintage TV studio is a welcome change of pace, and squeezing in a potential and demonic pandemic is another novel idea. Both these notions could easily be explored in future Evil Dead properties. Standing out among the three main characters is Mark Ashworth’s Norm Roberts, a composite character based on Bob Ross and the likes of John Rambo. Norm and his two main co-stars can’t live up to Ash Williams’ formidable legacy, but there is always room for more improvised heroes when it comes to fighting Deadites.

Creepshow’s pastiche work is always amusing and shows the makers at their best and most passionate. Just like the original movies are a tribute to EC Comics, viewers are expecting the spin-off to be in the same vein. Yet when it comes to original and more contemporary stories, they seem lost and uncertain. Using something like the films’ dramatic and stylized cinematography should be organic to the material rather than a panacea for entries that don’t quite indulge the Creepshow spirit. Even so, “Model Kid” and “Public Television of the Dead” are some of the series’ best and most endearing works so far, and audiences would certainly appreciate more stories like that this season.

Season 2 of Creepshow starts streaming on Shudder on April 1.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/tv/3656913/review-shudders-creepshow-returns-two-anthology-horror-shows-best-tales-thus-far/

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