Creepshow – Season 1, Episode 6: Skincrawlers/By The Silver Water Of Lake Champlain

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And so, after five episodes and ten stories of wildly varying tone and quantity, the Creep final flicks through  the final issue of the first season of Creepshow’s spirited return. To say results have been mixed would be to misunderstand the rules of putting out a low budget anthology horror show, but in many ways, the fact that the Creepshow series even exists is a triumph in of itself. Those not clued into the history understandably may not agree, especially with more polished alternatives such as Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities over on Netflix, but Greg Nicotero and John Harrison’s hit and miss efforts not only lovingly pay tribute to George Romero’s movie, but also the legacy of Tales From The Darkside and Monsters, two similarly grungey shows that big George oversaw back in the 80’s. In fact, the biggest tip of the hat to Romero’s past may lie within this final episode as one of the stories is directed by special effects legend and the most notorious Romero collaborator alive – the immortal Tom Savini. But can he ensure that Creepshow’ opening salvo ends on a fittingly creepy note?

Skincrawlers – Overweight sad sack Henry Quayle has gone for a group consultation concerning “Skin Deep By Sloan”, a revolutionary weight loss programme that sees the pounds all but disappear in weeks thanks to a mystery process discovered by Dr. Herbert Sloan. However, despite seeing the remarkable results, a squeamish Henry balks when he finds out that the method entails the use of a newly discovered breed of leech that feeds on fat rather than blood and leaves.
He’s enticed back, however, we he sees the spectacular results performed on a friend of his and agrees to not only undergo the treatment, but do it on live television in order to promote the technique to a larger audience. However, while the effect the leeches have on the human body has been tested under normal conditions, a major solar eclipse proves that there’s always more to learn – with spectacularly explosive results.

By The Silver Waters Of Lake Champlain – Still stinging from their father’s death-by-drowning after obsessively searching the local lake for sea monster and local legend, Champ, the Phillips children have to endure the slobbish and vicious behavior of their mother’s abusive boyfriend, Chet. Hoping to avoid the bullying of the vest wearing Vietnam vet, Rose, younger brother Joseph and hopeful boygriend Thomas search Lake Champlain hoping to clear her father’s name that had been sullied by his sea monster searching escapades and on a mist shrouded day they finally succeed.
Lying on the shore is what looks like a dead Plesiosaur and the kids rejoice in not only being able to prove their father’s theory, but bring some money into their struggling home, but Chet, ever the opportunistic douchebag, violently tries to claim the creature’s body for himself. However, unluckily for Chet, that’s something that makes the monster’s parent none too pleased.

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So while I was hoping for something of a grander finale, Creepshow closes itself out with a weirdly somber story compared to the usual fare the show has presented to us thus far – however, before we get there, we have the chaotic tale of Skincrawlers to get through first. While this familiar tale is the noticably more fun of the two thanks to its gleeful spraying of bodily fluids, it’s also strangely flat with its gory payoff feeling weirdly flat due to an uneven tone with actors in the same scene performing like they’re in completely different genres. It’s a shame because Roxanne Benjamin, the director of this segment, previously gave us the cracking Lydia Layne’s Better Half earlier in the season and you’d think that an episode that ends with the majority of its cast exploding in a torrent of gore and baby leeches would gave a bit more of a punch. On the other hand, the clumsily satiric nature of the story (co-written by legendary Batman: The Animated Series scribe, Paul Dini) still manages to be plenty lively and not only presents us with such cool imagery as a woman disgorging the contents of her skull though every orrifice in her face and a legitimately kickass mother-leech erupting from a man so violently, his guts hit the ceiling. But maybe it’s because the script’s targets are too easy, or maybe the satire needed a longer running time to really take root, but a segment that should have really raised the roof ends up being leeched of some of the fun that should have comes with smug, skinny people popping like body horror-filled water balloons. Yes, I was openly expecting for Creepshow to end with a rousing bloodbath, and I guess I got my wish, but there’s something oddly missing from this episode to make this gut buster truly make you bust a gut.

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However, with the final tale, we noticably shift down a couple of gears in order to present a story laden with huge, creative names behind the camera that almost seens wasted on Creepshow’s particular brand of unpredictable insanity. More of a mournful character piece than a full on monster mash, By The Silver Water Of Lake Champlain not only boasts Tom Savini as a director, but is also based on a story by author Joe Hill, who not only forfills his Creepshow credentials by being Stephen King’s son but also was the little boy who gained revenge on his father in the original movie’s wraparound segment. On something of a hot steak at the moment thanks to adaptations of The Black Phone and Locke And Key flying about, this constrained version of Stand By Me (except that this time the dead body is a fuckin’ dinosaur) feels oddly too sullen for the usual, edgy, comic book exuberance the show usually emits and you can’t help but wonder if it would have been done more justice if a show with a larger budget had gotten to it first (definitely more Cabinet Of Curiosities material). However, the acting is solid and the hazy blue pallet of the most enshrouded story maybe the most visually striking segment of the entire series and even the obvious rubberness to the monsters don’t hurt matters too much, it’s just not really a beguiling ending to a show that’s thus featured a purple genie, face eating zombies, a killer scarecrow and Nazi eating werewolves.

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A slightly underwhelming finish doesn’t take away the fact that Creepshow, for all its visible flaws, is a fun, plucky love letter to a simpler time when all short horror stories needed to be memorable was a nicely fucked up payoff regardless of budget, logic, or even common sense. The Creep’s storytelling maybe as inconsistent as his dental work, but I’m still glad he’s back and still raising issues.

Skincrawlers – 🌟🌟🌟
By The Silver Water Of Lake Champlain – 🌟🌟🌟

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