Shudder UK TV review: Creepshow 2019 (Episode 1)
Ivan Radford | On 26, Sep 2019
From Inside No. 9 and Black Mirror to Easy and Apple’s upcoming Amazing Stories, anthologies are enjoying something of a resurgence. It’s only natural, then, that Shudder should bring back a classic horror collection from the vault, resurrecting 1982 comedy classic Creepshow.
That nostalgic feel is integral to the series’ appeal, from the old-fashioned effects to the schlocky introduction. If you can embrace that tone over the slick bleakness of Black Mirror or the polished precision of Inside No. 9, there’s fun to be had in the knowingly low-fi creepiness.
Spanning six episodes, with two stories per chapter, Episode 1 is a promising indicator of the variety to come, jumping from straight-faced family drama to silly but unsettling childhood thrills.
Gray Matter follows the aftermath of a family bereavement, as a father and his son try to muddle through existence, despite his inability to communicate and his increasingly serious drinking problem. Set in a small, dying town, ravaged by a storm, it sees Richie’s son pop to the local shop to get a bottle of beer for his dad – prompting Doc and Chief, two old-timers, to check in on the alcoholic widower.
Based on a story in King’s best-selling 1978 collection, Night Shift, it’s a perfect fit for Creepshow, with a mini-narrative that allows for maximum unnerving reveals without delving into the specifics of what’s going on; the emotional weight is enough to sell the transformation of Richie from a family man to a withdrawn loner. Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi (The Commuter) give just enough depth to the father-son bond at the short story’s core, while series showrunner Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) directs the gory goings-on with an enjoyably messy quality that manages to be intimate yet surprisingly big in scale.
The cast, meanwhile, is full of enough big names to make it rewarding for fans – watch out for Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), Giancarlo Esposito (Better Call Saul), and Tobin Bell (Saw) – even when they’re mainly playing stock supporting types.
The House of the Head is a welcome contrast to the nocturnal, gooey scares of Gray Matter. It introduces us to the brightly bedroom of Evie, who finds her favourite dolls suddenly plagued by a sinister force. That force takes the form of a a severed toy head, a device that’s both entertainingly daft and hauntingly simple.
Josh Malerman (Bird Box) pens the mini horror with a nice sense of escalating stakes, while director John Harrison does a superb job of painstakingly bringing to life the miniature nastiness of Evie’s dollhouse – a nice bit of atmosphere-building that climaxes with a sting in the tail.
The result is a likeable double-bill of old-school horror, which is held together by some charming comic book-style panels and interludes – just the thing to curl up with under a duvet with a torch.
Creepshow is available to stream online on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership. New episodes arrive every Thursday.