Creepshow S01 E06: Water Monsters Rule

Here it is, finally, my review of Creepshow S01 E06. Keep and eye out for a whole season roundup, but for now let’s focus on the task at hand. Both stories in this episode feature water monsters, though in different capacities. In addition to this similarity, there is also the theme of exploiting nature for commercial success. The first story Skincrawlers wears this theme on its sleeve. However, the second story By The Silver Waters of Lake Champlain dances with this idea as well.

The image shows the title of Skincrawlers, the first tale in Creepshow S01 E06

Without officially ranking them, I would say that this episode’s stories are two of the strongest of the season. I don’t know if I can say they were my favorite, but I enjoyed them immensely. Each story is confident in the writing, directing, cinematography, and acting. And the specials effects are wonderful as well, especially in Skincrawlers.

While there are similarities between the two stories, stark differences also exist. Skincrawlers is a creature feature first and foremost. It has very little interest in the humanity of its characters. Oh sure, characterization happens, but on briefly. The characters are archetypes, which is fine. In fact, that’s pretty much how shows like this go. After all, there’s only so much character you can give in 20 minutes or so.

Plus, the lack of depth is what makes the inevitable bloodbath so satisfying. These aren’t people we care about, but rather people we are happy to see die. Where this story differs from other episodes, including the second feature in Creepshow S01 E06, is they aren’t bad people. Even the shady investor turns out not to be all that terrible. I was still happy to see him die, and his death was fun. All of the deaths in this story were fun and had me smiling with glee.

Creepshow S01 E06 Is A Smaller Story With Human Terror

Whereas Skincrawlers went big with the gore and death, Silver Waters goes small. This is a quiet story lacking the bombast of the previous tale, but it still unnerves. Actually, it might even be more unnerving that Skincrawlers.

The premise of this story is straightforward enough. There’s a monster in a local lake. Think the Loch Ness Monster, only in the US. “Champy” is it’s name, presumably after the lake. There’s a family, big sister Rose, little brother Joey, their mom Leigh, and mom’s abusive boyfriend Chet. Chet is a real scumbag, molded out of the stuff that Stephen King uses to make his most memorable shit-heels. That makes some sense, considering this is a Joe Hill story.

Rose, like her father before her, obsesses over the existence of Champ. Leigh doesn’t like that and claims that William, the father was crazy. Well, on this particular day a fog is rolling in, much like it did on the day William claimed to have seen Champy.

As a side note, we get what sounds like Adrienne Barbeau on the radio warning the townsfolk about the incoming fog. This is fun because of her role in John Carpenter’s The Fog, acting as a nice Easter egg.

The Slow Burn Builds Tension and Hold Interest

This episode had me squirming in my seat. Not because it was overly scary, but because director Tom Savini lets the tension build. As the audience we know this story almost beat for beat. Yet, it stays interesting due to how much breathing room Savini gives it.

This could have easily strayed into cliche (and it does to a bit) or a rush job like Times is Tough in Musky Holler. But, it doesn’t. We spend time with Rose, understanding her motivations and why Champy is so important to her. Rose feels real, and so does her would-be boyfriend, Tommy. I mean, they are still thin sketches, but they definitely have more depth than many of the characters in the stories this season.

Skincrawlers also had this slow burn, making the gory release of the finale worth it. Silver Waters has a similar release, but it is softer and more understated in tone. And it’s a little tragic. Did I tear up at one of the final images? You bet your Rambo knife, I did.

Thus ends the season, and my recap of Creepshow s01 E06. Thank you for reading. I am sorry if this review is a little lackluster, I am operating on not much sleep. I could have waited to write and post this, but I’ve already waited too long. Thanks again, and as always, if you have something to say, leave it in the comments.

And, as I wrote near the beginning of this post, I will eventually rank all the stories from the first season. I hope to have your eyes on that post when I do. Until then, watch out for the Creep. If you missed any of my reviews, click here to read them.

Creepshow S01 E05 Brings the Horror Back

After a few episodes that have been more campy than scary, Creepshow S01 E05 brings the chills back with a vengeance. The first installment, Night of the Paw, dabbles in that staple of the genre: the monkey’s paw. Usually, these stories depend on how the paw’s holder will screw themselves with their wishes. While there is some of that in this tale, there is also a nice twist to the formula.

The image shows a monkey shines monkey with the words Night of the Paw, the first tale in Creepshow S01 E05

The story begins with an extended comic book sequence. Now, the series has used these sequences before, and to great effect. The werewolf transformation in episode two comes to mind. Here, however, we get the longest one yet, and it works well to introduce the story quickly. A criminal is on the run on a dark and rainy night. The car crashes, and we see the crook hobble their way to a funeral home. All of this is very economical storytelling. As is the action inside the home. Whitey, the owner, sits by the fire talking to a portrait of a woman. He says something about it being soon, and then the doorbell rings.

When he answers, he find the crook, who promptly passes out. We, along with Whitey, learn the criminal is a woman. Echoing my thoughts, and in a bit of meta-film, Whitey says, “Not at all what I expected.” This made me chuckle. I am sorry for spoiling the gag, but I hope it still makes you chuckle.

Creepshow S01 E05 The Night of the Paw Adds Fresh Twists to an Old Story

There are plenty of twists and turns in this story, starting with what Whitey does to the criminal in his lab. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say it isn’t what you are probably thinking. These twists and red-herrings add a freshness to the piece. So often in Monkey Paw stories we see the twists coming from a mile away. Admittedly, that is kind of the point. If you are a lover of schlock horror, you understand these tropes and conventions. To be clear, I have nothing against the predictability of these stories, but I do find it refreshing when they aren’t so straightforward.

I don’t want to spoil things, so I will just say that I loved how they handled this tale. The lighting is often soft with dark contrasts. Angela’s outfit evokes a wide variety of associations. The pain on Whitey’s face as he tells his story is palpable. All of these aspects play well together to create a creepy and tense tale.

I take issue with a few things: namely the rules of the paw aren’t all that well established. I had to make some logical leaps and self-explanations. That’s okay, though. I would rather be engrossed by the story and have something to figure out than have the whole thing fed to me.

I really enjoyed this story, and the newness it brought to the desiccated corpse of the monkey’s paw. A great addition to the series, a spectacular opening episode.

Time Is Tough in Musky Holler Is a Grotesque Gore Fest

The second entry in Creepshow S01 E05 is not as strong as the initial offering, but has its merits nonetheless. It also has a noticeably shorter running time, probably because it’s thin on story.

We open in a basement jail. Concrete walls, condensation dripping down them, chain link gate/fence. Clearly, things are not above board here. We see and hear Lester M. Barclay shouting about how things are right. He mentions that something is wrong with the world and that he was just doing what needed to be done. He repeats his name several times as some kind of protective mantra. From off the screen we hear crowds cheering as if they are watching some kind of sporting event. My first thought was gladiator games.

David Arquette is in this episode, but sadly feels wasted. I mean, his performance is great. The problem is, he doesn’t have a lot to do. In fact, not many of the actors or characters have much to do in this story. I wonder if that is due to budgetary constraints such as not having the money to make those scenes bigger. Or another reason. Either way, the lack of character action adds to the general thinness of this feature.

Style Over Substance in the Holler, but That’s Okay

What this tale lacks in character it makes up with style and the ability to unnerve. The whole thing is fraught with tension that just builds and builds. It’s a wise choice on the show maker’s part to keep what’s happening above a secret. Even as they reveal how the world has changed, they hold back enough information to keep your knuckles white.

Long dark hallways, rattling chains, people pissing themselves: all of these add to the general sense of dread and ruination of the segment. And I love it.

Another neat aspect of this tale is the use of live action shots within the comic frame. Again, the series has used this technique before, but never to this extent. It is an efficient and effective way to present exposition.

The story culminates in blood soaked frenzy with spectacular make up effects, and plenty of gore. It’s over a little too quickly for my tastes, but I still dug it. I am not sure how they could have extended those final moments, but I would have liked a lingering camera. While this tale isn’t as complex or daring as the Night of the Paw, it’s still fun. And it’s got the wicked getting their comeuppance, which is my bag, as I’ve said many times before.

Overall, I think Creepshow S01 E05 is the second or third strongest episode of the series so far. I think there’s only one left, and that makes me sad. What are your thoughts? Did you like it? Which tale did you prefer? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Creepshow S01 E04 The Dead Are Restless

Yes, I am still behind on my reviews for this show. That’s what happens when your internet is not always fast enough to stream things. But, enough preamble, onto my Creepshow S01 E04 review.

The two terrifying tales in this installment are quite disparate in nature, though they do share some similarities. For starters, they both are creepy as hell, which is a nice change. I don’t mean to say that the previous two episodes haven’t had their moments, but overall they’ve lacked in creepiness. This episode, however, offers two stories to make your flesh crawl.

The Image Shows The Companion from Creepshow S01 e04

The first one The Companion tells the story of Harry, a teenage boy with a bully for a brother. We first meet Harry as he fishes in a shallow stream, the first indication things aren’t all right. After all, it’s quite difficult to catch fish in three or four inches of water. It doesn’t take long to confirm our suspicions that things are off due to Smitty’s arrival. Smitty is Harry’s good friend, and he stops because he sees Harry’s bike. Well, that, and he’s in the mood for some chocolate he has stashed near the river.

I like Smitty, and wish he had been in the episode more, though I understand why he wasn’t. Still, he and Harry had good rapport that would have been fun to continue through the episode. After Smitty leaves, Harry is once again left all alone. This moment of isolation, though brief, turns out to be one of the creepiest moments in the story. Why? Well, because the camera pans on the serene surroundings, which soon become ominous thanks to some quick edits and spooky sounds.

Creepshow S01 E04 The Companion Scares With Its Sounds

Speaking of spooky sounds, whoever did the Foley effects on this episode is a genius. Every sound effect is perfect for maximizing the tension and ambiance of what is happening on the screen. This aspect of the story is especially later on, but it works well here, too.

In fact, the majority of this story’s scariness came from the sound effects. Not to give too much away, but there is a living scarecrow with roots and twigs as part of it. When it moves, these materials make a crunching and scraping sound that’s enough to make your hair stand on end. It’s super effective in creating an oppressively dread filled atmosphere.

Regarding the rest of this excerpt of Creepshow S01 E04, it delivers entertainment in spades. It moves at a quick pace, never getting bogged down. And while it provides some exposition for the strange occurrences, even that feels organic and needed. At no point was I in danger of losing interest. Finally, the design work on The Companion itself was top notch, and the ending, while expected, still managed a surprise or two.

This story definitely ranks among the top of the ones featured in the series so far.

Lydia Layne’s Better Half Punishes Betrayal

Normally, when I write these reviews I look for a common theme between the two stories in each episode. Sometimes, that commonality is a stretch, but I can make it. However, in the case of Creepshow S01 E04, the thematic connection is too far. While The Companion and Lydia Layne’s Better Half both address the idea of loved ones betraying us, that’s about all they have in common. Well, maybe we could add loved ones returning to life because of the power we give them to the list. Still, the connection is razor thin at best.

None of this is to say that the story of Lydia and her better half is bad. On the contrary, it is another strong entry in the series. Whereas The Companion gave us the expanses of nature, Lydia finds us in an LA area office building.

The story is simple. Lydia, played by Tricia Helfer, is Woman of the Year. She’s the CEO or owner of a company, and is deciding who should be her new CFO. Her choices are white man Tom, and woman of color Celia (you’re breaking my heart). She chooses Tom, much to to Celia’s (my confidence is shaken) discontent. (And yes, I know the Simon and Garfunkel song is Cecilia, but at times it sounds like Celia. Shut up!)

Lydia and Celia (humiliation) fight, and it turns out they are a couple. Then Lydia inadvertently murders Celia, making this a Creepshow episode. If these two segments have any thematic resonance, it’s those we love will hurt and disappoint us.

After the (wo)manslaughter things go from bad to worse. In a stroke of storytelling genius and continuity, an earthquake that happens early has ramifications for later. A much appreciated set up and payoff.

Creepshow S01 E04 Lydia Layne’s Better Half Uses Musical Cues to Creep

Eventually, we find Lydia and Celia trapped in an elevator. This moment should feel claustrophobic, but it doesn’t. It could be because it’s an executive elevator, or just how the scenes are shot. Either way, I never felt the smallness of the elevator. Still, there was some good comedy, and some truly ‘ew’ moments in this episode. The use ‘Woman of the Year’ trophy particularly stands out.

And while the smallness of the elevator didn’t come through for me, Lydia’s descent into desperation and despair did. I am not a huge fan of Helfer (I dislike the new BSG very much) but she puts in a powerhouse performance here.

Unlike the first story in this episode, this one relies on the music to create tension rather than sounds. While this technique has its drawbacks: tipping off the viewer something will happen being the chief one, it works here. Sure, the cues can get a little over the top at times, but the story is over the top, so it works. It not only creates emotional responses in the viewer, but it helps establish the unreality of the events in the story. Both portions of this episode use sound (whether music or effect, and sometimes both) to enhance the thrills and chills. For that, I applaud them.

I liked Creepshow S01 E04 a lot. In fact, I probably consider it the second strongest episode of the season after episode 1.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading. You can read the rest of my Creepshow reviews here.

Creepshow S01 E03 Serves Up Some Just Deserts

After a brief hiatus, I am back to talk about Creepshow S01 E03. Why the hiatus? Well, last week at work was super busy. And, my internet was having some issues, thanks to my living in China. Fortunately, work has slowed down, it’s the weekend, and the ‘net issues are no more. So, all is well once again in the world of Ian.

The image shows trick or treates with a caption that says All Hallow's Eve, the first of the two stories mentioned in this Creepshow S01 E03 review

This week’s, or rather last week’s, installment of Shudder’s anthology brings two tales of deserved comeuppance. Now, this isn’t anything new to horror anthologies, see nearly every episode of Tales From the Crypt. In fact, it’s not even really new ground for this show. See episode 2. Still, these types of stories are fun. After all, most of us enjoy seeing terrible people get what they deserve.

The first tale in Creepshow S01 E03 is ‘All Hallow’s Eve.’ From the beginnig of the story, there is a sense of somber unease permeating the whole affair. It’s an effective and affective touch, considering what happens. We meet Pete and Jill in their costumes. They are Gold Dragons, a club of sorts, and they’re waiting for their fellow group members. Immediately something feels off about them. Pete, dressed as a hobo, mentions something about the rules, and Jill says something about this being the last time they will be together. If that’s not some ominous shit, you and I have different definitions of ominous.

Creepshow S01 E03 All Hallow’s Eve is Suburban Gothic

Once the gang assembles, they are off terrorize the neighborhood. I must admit, the fear these kids inspired in the people of the neighborhood intrigued me. I wanted to know what the story was, though I did guess it pretty early on. To be fair, it wasn’t that hard to spot. Still, it would have been nice if the mystery had gone on a bit longer. Still, it’s a pretty neat episode. And while it’s not scary, it is spooky with a surprising amount of heart and emotion.

Gothic literature often deals with mysteries, dark secrets, betrayal, crazy women in attics and the men who put them there. All Hallow’s Eve doesn’t have attic ridden loonies, but it does have mystery, murder, and dark secrets. This story is Suburban Gothic.

Visually, the episode is fairly standard, though the break-in to Mrs. Hathaway’s house is a stand out. Odd angles disorient the viewer, and add something different to the episode.

Overall, it is hard to argue that this is the strongest entry in the series. However, it is a solid entry, and it is a bit different from what has come before. My only two gripes about this tale are that the mystery isn’t as mysterious as I would have liked, and we see what happened to the Golden Dragons. It wasn’t superfluous, but it also didn’t feel necessary. My dislike of its inclusion probably speaks to my feelings about the mystery.

I did really like the kids’ acting. Jasun Jabbar Wardlaw Jr. as Binky was especially good. He was funny, as well as a ball of perfectly contained rage. The standout of this segment for sure.

The Man in The Suitcase Is Uncomfortable

The second tale found in Creepshow S01 E03 is the Man in the Suitcase. This story opens with Justin, a down on his luck college kid. His dad is mad at him for under performing at school, and his girlfriend Carla just dumped him. To make matters worse, he’s stuck waiting on his luggage at the airport. Things are looking bad for poor old Justin, and they don’t look like they will improve any time soon.

However, he does catch a lucky break because just when it looks as if it won’t get his bag, it falls down the carousel. He grabs it without a second thought and heads home, getting stoned on the way. Now, as viewers we know something is off about the suitcase. In fact, if we paid attention to the title, we know there is a man in it. We may know that someone is in the suitcase, but we don’t know when he will reveal himself, and we don’t know what he will be like. To the show’s credit, it plays with that expectation, quite a bit, keeping him in the suitcase for a lot longer than I thought they would.

When Justin does finally find him, we see a man so contorted he looks as if every bone in his body has been broken and rearranged in order to make him fit in the luggage. He begs Justin to help him, but when Justin tries to move one of the man’s feet, the man screams in pain and spits out a gold coin. See, when he feels pain, he produces gold coins. Yeah, this is weird, but Justin is in desperate need of money. Plus, the man tells him to stop trying to extricate him from the suitcase and to try later.

Would You Hurt Someone For Money?

From this point on, it’s not too tough to see where this is going to go. If the man produces money when he’s in pain, then hurt him and make money. This is a pretty brilliant setup, as well as an original one. Plus, it brings the idea of morality into the story. Is Justin willing to hurt this man in order to solve his own financial problems. The short answer is yes, but there is more to it than that.

Suffice to say, that the man in the suitcase has a secret. It takes a while for him to reveal that secret. And a lot of torture at the hands of Justin, his ex-girlfriend Carla, and his roommate Alex. But when he reveals his secret, it is sweet, inevitable, and in hindsight, obvious.. And, it’s made evens sweeter by the fact that the wicked are once again punished.

Creepshow S01 E03 Has Two Strong Tales of Justice

Of the two stories in this episode, I preferred The Man in the Suitcase. It feels more confident in its telling, and it is a bit more visually interesting. Plus, it saves the resolution of the mystery for the end. Unlike All Hallow’s Eve, it is not very easy to guess what is happening with the man in the suitcase. Sure, we can maybe guess nothing good will come of the situation, but as for how, that’s a bit more difficult. I liked the thematic link of morality and justice because it such a staple of schlock type horror, and it is done well in this episode.

I am happy to say that I’m still enjoying this series, and it is well worth the subscription to Shudder. I’m looking forward to watching and reviewing episode four.

Have you seen this episode? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.