One of the inevitable side effects of having a horror anthology show is that with every episode bringing you something completely new, the chances for guaranteed quality are as all over the place as a one-legged zombie trying to negotiate a bouncy castle. However, with Shudder’s Creepshow revival, the odds of this are doubled thanks to the show going above and beyond by giving us two short stories per episode instead of just one.
Halfway into the first season and results are as split as that blonde girl from Terrifier (you know the one) with the first episode being merely decent but the second being way more enjoyable. However, with the third episode, the question of wildly varying quality is brought even further into the spotlight as it not only features one of the best episodes so far, but also noticeably one of the most bland. What does this mean for the show in genereal; and does the Creep actually give that much of a shit as he flicks through the pages of his latest issue?
All Hallows Eve – It’s Halloween and just like every year, a group of five friends gather in order to go door to door and ask that age old question of the people of this suburban town – trick or treat. However, we soon find that the group – made up of Pete, Jill, Bobby, Binky and Pete’s little brother Skeeter and who collectively call themselves the Golden Dragons – are regarded with fear, bitterness and in some cases, outright hatred wherever they knock. But no matter what emotion greets them at the door, it doesn’t stop the group from imposing themselves on the adults, striding into their very houses like they own the place and demanding sweets.
However, this reign of terror has a tragic reason behind it and as the night goes on, we find out exactly why they call at the houses they do and what it is the Golden Dragons are ultimately searching for…
The Man In The Suitcase – Justin is your typical college student schlub who smokes too much weed, has no aspirations and is constantly broke. On top of this, his girlfriend, Carla, has recently left him and his douchebag of a roommate, Alex, is constantly telling him he’s too much of a pushover despite actually being the one who takes advantage of him the most, but after coming back from a trip home to unsuccessfully beg his father for money, he picks up the wrong suitcase from the airport and horrified to find a man inside, all twisted up like a pretzel in order to fit. Even freakier still is the fact that he’s still alive and seems reasonably calm despite his gruesome predicament but when Justin goes to help him out, the searing pain causes the man to spit out a gold coin. Sensing that there’s money to be made, matters start to snowball when Alex and Carla get involved as they start torturing the man to get him to pay out like a defective slot machine in Vegas, but as Jesse’s conscience starts to bug him, greed inevitably raises its murderous head.
So as I stated earlier, episode three turns out to be the mixed bag so far and the episode that let’s the team down is John Harrison’s opening All Hallows Eve which, may be one of the most predictable horror anthology stories I’ve ever seen that feels less like a lean tale to chill the bones as it does a late season filler episode for Tales Of The Crypt. With it’s slow, talky pace, lack of any cool gore or memorable monsters and a final punchline so signposted, even Stevie Wonder could see it coming, there’s nothing really here to hold your interest and it’s best feature Oscar undoubtedly its mercifully short duration. Also for such a dialogue heavy installment the performances are oddly weak, with the child actors feeling like they’re delivering their lines like they’re stuck in a school play they’re now regreting they bothered to volunteer for while their friends are out playing in the sunshine.
There’s been other, better, creepy trick or treater stories in the past (Trick R’ Treat or Lock, Shock & Barrel from The Nightmare Before Christmas spring instantly to mind) and the attempt to make the Golden Dragons a somewhat tragic group is profoundly missing that spiteful, exploitative streak that makes the original Creepshow so much fun. Maybe the story would have been more fun if the kids had all remained masked, but upon finding out that they had all been burned to death due to a prank gone wrong years earlier, they all remove their masks to reveal horribly burnt visages instead of it just being little Skeeter. A plodding episode that goes nowhere, fast, All Hallows Eve ends up containing no real trick and thus serves up no treat.
The Man In The Suitcase however, is a treat and gleefully carries on the show’s tradition of having way more interesting second stories with a wildly random tale that not only bizarrely unpredictable and darkly funny, but it is the first episode to truly nail that Creepshow aesthetic that I was hoping to see. In fact, if you switched out the modern actors for some familiar 80’s faces and upped the budget a little bit, The Man In The Suitcase could probably pass for a cinematic Creepshow segment as it’s the best episode so far to properly nail that colourful, gel soaked reaction shot – even better than Bad Wolf Down.
I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, as this segment was helmed by David Bruckner, he of The Ritual, The Night House and the Hellraiser remake and the quirky humour and spiraling plot are all on point. While there’s an argument to be made that the show’s budget could noticably use a boost here and there and the human characters are a little formulaic, the episode is boosted immensely by Ravi Naidu’s hilariously good natured performance of the title character who hasn’t let his current, luggage-based predicament stop him from being enderingly polite.
But what really seals the episode’s deal of being one of the strongest entries to date is it’s truly nutzoid denouement that reveals that this unfortunate, coin regurgitating man is actually a giant, purple djinn that’s two parts the genie from Aladdin and one part that fucked up rabbit from Twilight Zone: The Movie who inserts itself into peoples lives to weed out the murderously greedy (sucks to be you, Alex and Carla).
So, as we cross the halfway point for Shudder’s premiere season, the episodes have roughly around 50/50 hit rate; but despite the scattershot quality, I’m still having fun with this random evermore random bout of (Creep) show and tell…
All Hallows Eve – 🌟🌟
The Man In The Suitcase – 🌟🌟🌟🌟