As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, one of the advantages of an anthology show is that if a duff episode manages to slip out, things have a good chance of getting back on track with the very next episode. A perfect example of this would be the pair of stories that make up the second episode of Creepshow which curiously mirror the two episodes that preceded them.
After the Creep does his usual cackling thing while the camera sweeps over the pages of his malevolent comic book, we launch into two, very distinct tales of the macabre which, like the first episode, take the form of a throwback, monster-themed episode that’s then followed by a weirder, murkier tale. But while the stories concerning an blob monster created by alcoholism and a cursed doll house kind of failed to hit the sweet spot, this offering fares much better.
Bad Wolf Down – After taking heavy losses, Captain Lawrence Talby struggles to get his troops to safety during a particularly vicious battle during World War II by fleeing into the French forests. Flanked by the untrustworthy Sgt. Quist, the quivering Pvt. Rivers and Doc Kessler, they take refuge in an abandoned police station that they find contains a guilt ridden woman locked in the cells and a shit-load of shredded German soldiers. After catching their breath, the Americans soon find themselves surrounded by troops led by the vengeful Reinhart Schmelzgerat who has a mad-on for the troops who slid a knife between the ribs of his son. Betrayed by Quist and locked in the cells, it seems like it’s curtains for Talby and his men until the imprisoned woman reveals her feral secret – a secret that could give the men a slavering edge to not only survive this ambush, but get revenge on their treacherous teammate.
The Finger – Bitter, world-hating, Clark Wilson wanders through his cynical life lamenting about his brutal divorce while indulging in his off-beat hobby: collecting random junk he finds on the ground. However one day he finds something rather unique; a long, boney finger just lying there that’s way too spindly to be human, but far too weird to be animal either.
After accidently spilling beer on it and then storing it in his freezer, Clark finds that the finger is growing a new body and eventually becomes a fanged, skeletal lizard that he names “Bob”. While the little critter bonds with his new master and displays a love for televison soaps and popcorn, Bob also has the nasty habit of picking up on Clark’s negative thoughts about humanity and keeps disappearing and bringing back the remains of whomever has wronged him. Can Clark keep Bob’s adorable, yet gruesome, rampages a secret when it makes him look like the guilty party?
So, I’m not sure exactly what the hell changed between the first and second episodes, but a slight shift in tone manages to beef up the levels of camp, making this installment as a whole play way better than episode one.
What certainly helps are a couple of high concept episodes that fulfills the Creepshow brief nicely and even embraces the comic book nature of the show. If you needed any convincing of this, ask yourself a single question: what could be more comic booky than werewolves fucking up Nazis during World War II?
Sure, the meager budget visibly struggles to keep up, but the imagery is unapologetically cool enough to carry it through and if (for some unimaginable reason) the sight of a hulking lycanthope reducing a screaming stormtrooper into a puddle of offal, we even have genre veteran Jeffery Combs armed with an unfathomably broad German accent in a performance that’s teeters on being more extreme than his one in The Frighteners (quite the achievement). Werewolf stans will also be overjoyed to find that not only are most of the characters are named after famous, cinematic wolf men with Lawrence Talby (read: Talbot from The Wolf Man), Kessler (An American Werewolf In London), Quist (The Howling) and others being referenced but the various beasts are also modeled off classic designs.
I initially was worried that this modern crack at George Romero’s classic figured itself as being too cool for school to overtly use Creepshow’s overwhemingly colourful visual pallet at opportune moments for maximum melodrama, but thankfully the franchise’s dazzling abuse of primary colours returns with stunning effect. It’s tough not to be impressed as a silhouetted werewolf looms over a victim in front of a garish crimson backdrop before ripping a jaw off.
However, as goofily awesome as the first story is, it’s out done by the second one which sees Greg Nicotero returning to direct his second story in two episodes and as it stands, the quirkily off-beat The Finger is the strongest story the show’s had so far. Essentially a nihilistic comedy about a man and his monster, DJ Qualls appears as the permanently disheveled Clark whose shoddy treatment from the world in general has left him exactly the wrong sort of person to bond with a diminutive, empathic creature with a penchant for removing tongues.
Almost a double header between Qualls and a puppet that looks like someone skinned the chestburster from Alien, the episode (written by horror veteran David J. Schow) feels spiritually and tonally more like something you’d get from Monsters, the Romero produced 80’s show that followed up Tales From The Darkside that also boasted edgy laughs to go with its creature-of-the-week format. Breaking the fourth wall as gleefully as She-Hulk and Deadpool fighting over a wrecking ball, Clark delivers the majority of his lines either directly to camera or in the form of a voice over which makes his depressing tale all the more engaging – but the real star of the show is the perversely cute Bob. Fiercely loyal while chomping through a helping of popcorn (watch him impatiently strain in his seat when Clark obscures the TV while refilling bowl), Bob may obviously be a rather jerky puppet, but he’s still an endearing little fucker, even when bringing home body parts like a cat bringing its owner a dead mouse. The tale has some nifty gore too as Clark struggles to dispose of the various “gifts” Bob dutifully brings into the house, be it crushing severed heads with a hammer or cramming a bag of entrails down the waste disposal chute with predictably splattery results.
If Creepshow wants to keep this edgy, eccentric mood going, then the best thing it can possibly do is have it follow this segment’s lead and continue to entertain and surprise its audience by simply giving them the finger.
Bad Wolf Down – 🌟🌟🌟🌟
The Finger – 🌟🌟🌟🌟