Ever since its return back in 2019, one of Creepshow’s most endearing traits surely has to be its insistence on homaging and riffing on not only the original movies, but also tirelessly referencing the countless other projects connected with either George A. Romero or the long an varied film career of special effects guru turned director Greg Nicotero. From loving tributes of classic monsters to a flat out spoof of the Evil Dead, Creepshow has always worn its horror influences on its tattered sleeve, but with the season 2 closer, Night Of The Living Late Show, Shudder’s anthology series takes it further than ever before by sticking characters actually in an existing horror film with funky results.
So without further ado, let’s finish off the Creep’s sophomore season with curious tale that mixes classic horror with modern technology in order to present something as muddled as it is fun.
Simon Sherman has dedicated his life to completing an invention he calls the Immersopod, a state of the art form of virtual reality that, once inside its tanning booth style controller, allows its user to enter and interact with their favorite movies. Testing his device on the 70’s horror classic, Horror Express, he can barely contain his glee as he wanders around various scenes, loudly geeking out as he shares screen time with Christopher Lee’s Alexander Saxton and Peter Cushing’s Dr. Wells.
However, upon exiting his new invention, he finds that his wife, Renee, not only doesn’t really understand the appeal, but is constantly anxious that Simon only married her to use her wealth to finish his life’s work. Desperate to reignite the spark of their marriage, Renee tries to get them to go out for romantic meals, but Simon has another reason to stay plugged into Horror Express. Ever since his father took him to see the movie as a boy, Simon has always been obsessed with the character of the Countess Petrovski and now he has the ability to actual enter the movie, he eventually enters the Countess herself after repeatedly visiting the movie in order to Woo her.
However, Renee isn’t a fool and after figuring out what her gold digging, VR cheating husband is actually up to, she takes a trip into the movie herself to confront a movie character about sleeping with her husband. But after it goes sideways with a close encounter with the brain sucking monster that stalks the train within the film, Renee hatches a plan to get even on her film-philandering hubby that involves switching the movie when he’s in the Immersopod to something with a much higher mortality rate…
While Creepshow has gone down the single story route before with the Creepshow Holiday Special, it’s still weird to see the show dedicate its entire forty minute episode on a single tale. Part of the show’s main strengths come from the rapid fire pace that’s caused by cramming two segments into an episode and it goes some way toward separating it from more “polished” shows like Cabinet Of Curiosities or Black Mirror that skew toward a more highbrow tone. Simply put, forty minutes is just too long for the Creep’s particular brand of smash-mouth story telling to properly do its thing and it’s far more effective when employing its shorter, duck-and-weave, tell-the-story-and-leave style that makes it such a worthy successor to HBO’s Tales From The Crypt.
With all at being said, while Greg Nicotero’s Night Of The Living Late Show suffers from a bit too much dead air, it still manages to be a bizarrely intriguing example of horror television thanks to the rousing execution of its amusing premise which proves to drag it through its rockier patches.
In essence, Creepshow has taken its fascination with giving classic horror it’s due to its logical conclusion and uses actual footage of Eugeno Martin’s 1972 Horror Express, blurring the lines impressively by having a typically dorky Justin Long “interact” with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing much in the same way Forrest Gump had its protagonist wander his way through history. It goes one step further by recasting Silvia Tortosa’s Countess with V/H/S’ Hannah Fierman in order to actually realise our amoral lead engage in an affair with a character from a movie.
For the most part, it totally works, with Simon’s initial foray into his favorite movie being a legitimate joy to behold with Lee’s withering glares being utilised beautifully as a response to Long’s goofy fan-boying, but as the gimmick continues it slowly becomes somewhat less effective the longer it’s used. Outside of the sideburns and zombie neanderthals of Horror Express, the crumbling marriage of Simon and Renee’s (The Good Place’s D’Arcy Carden) is standard, horror anthology stuff and, while effective enough, slows the episode down to a crawl and even exposes the issue that a longer segment simply highlights massive plot holes that usually don’t seem to matter that much when the episode is only 20 minutes long. Would Simon really not check to make sure that exposing your brain to classic horror movie could result in a painful death?
Still, Nicotero manages to pull it back for the finale when Renee’s revenge sees her bloodily remove Simon’s ability to exit the VR and switches the movie to plonk her unfaithful spouse in the middle of the original, 1968 Night Of The Living Dead. It stands as probably the best use of Romero’s classic ever since the film wandered into the realms of public domain and having Long reduced to a gibbering wreck as he slowly realises that his cheating ass is in mortal danger.
As if this wasn’t enough, the episode continues its Romero worship with an extended sequence showing the Creep playing a first person video game that covers all three films in Romero’s original Dead Trilogy and while it’s there to obviously burn any excess running time left in the episode, it will make you sit back and wonder why such a game never actually existed in real life.
Rounding out the season with an episode that can’t quite live up to its ambitious, Black-Mirror-meets-the-last-five minutes-of-Wes-Craven’s-Shocker concept, it’s still nice to see that Creepshow is pushing the boundaries of its limited means while simultaneously taking its adoration to random, new heights. I mean, Night Of The Living Dead I get, but Horror Express? How delightfully left field is that?
Night Of The Living Late Show: 🌟🌟🌟