In the entertainingly uneven world of Creepshow, the episodes that’s usually landed the most successfully are the ones that trades heavily on the horror community itself, engaging horror fans with stories positively heaving with meta plots, shameless in jokes and more easter eggs than a Cadbury’s warehouse. The most noticable of these was the Season 2 opener that saw the episode “Model Kid” indulging in a love of classic creature features and the follow up Public Television Of The Dead essentially being an unsanctioned Evil Dead spin off, Necronomicon and all.
Well Greg Nicotero has done it again with “Skeletons In The Closet” which may be the most reference laden episode ever made that bases its entire plot around the frenzied art of collecting movie props…. Oh yeah, and there’s a demon episode too – it’s pretty good!
Skeletons In The Closet: Film museum owner Lampini and his devoted girlfriend Danielle are insanely proud of their prop museum that Lampini inherited from his equally enthusiastic father when he died, but their business is poised to reach even more impressive heights when they open their newest exhibit – a collection of movie props that utilized real skeletons, including Tom Savini’s original Creep from the first Creepshow movie.
However, rival collector, Bateman, has had a long standing grudge against Lamprini’s father and intends to put the museum out of business and absorb the entire collection by revealing that Lamprini actually dug up the original Creep after it was respectfully buried years ago. In a knee jerk reaction, Danielle unwittingly slices Bateman’s jugular with a genuine Rosa Klebb shoe from From Russia With Love and before you know it, the crooked collector has joined the collection after a quick acid bath. However, props carry a live all their own…
Familiar: After boozing the night away, aspiring lawyer Jackson and his sculptor girlfriend Fawn swing by a fortune teller for a bit of a drunken giggle. However, after the teller, a stylish fellow named Boone, has read Fawn’s palm, he slips Jackson a note that reads somewhat unnervingly: “Something followed you in here.”.
As time goes on, Jackson starts to repeatedly spot a demonic creature observing him from the shadows and after fleeing back to Boone, he discovers that the thing is called a Familiar and it will do anything it takes to stay connected to its human host. After learning that such a thing cannot be exorcised and instead must be physically caught, Jackson purchases special, magical crate in order to imprison this thing to drown it, but he’s about to find out that this thing us as canny as it is ugly…
With Skeltons In The Closet, Greg Nicotero once again brings us a compact tale that constantly flies off the rails at a moments notice – however, the story and all of its ludicrous plot twist are merely an excuse for the effects guru turned director to go insanely meta. Simply put, the more you know about movies (horror, specifically – but other genres get a look in too) the more fun the episide is as every single frame virtually explodes with recognizable props while the story itself heavily riffs on everything from Hitchcock (the Psycho shower murder is replicated in black and white, no less) to Harryhausen (skeleton fight!).
Sure, it’s pretty stupid, but who said something this fun had to be cool? This is just Nicotero being a magnificent nerd as he is an avid reconstructer and collector of props himself – after all, he’s recently rebuilt Bruce the Shark from the original frame and he does actually own David Warner’s severed head from the Omen! Making things even cooler is that all that stuff concerning Savini building the original Creep from an actual skeleton is actually a true story, which makes things even more endearing to those in the know.
Does the episode refuse to make a whole lot of sense? Sure, but who the hell cares when you have a guy murdered by having one of those Silver Spheres from Phantasm rammed into his brain pan by a living, ponytailed skeleton. The leads, played by Victor Rivera, Valerie LeBlanc and a nicely slimy James Remar all are game, giving nicely broad performances that matches the exaggerated tone of the piece; but they are obviously all in on the joke that they are blatantly going to be completely overshadowed by a Freddy glove, or a Young Frankenstein joke as savvy members of the audience will no doubt be pausing the shit out of he show and zooming in rather that caring much about the actual humans. Don’t believe me? How about that slight shudder of geek related ecstasy you get when the current Creep gets a selfie with the classic one. Mmmmm, that’s good in-joke.
Compared to the unrestrained geekery of the first episode, Joe Lynch’s Familiar gets somewhat smothered, which is a shame because it’s a more than solid entry that actually trades on creepiness rather than garish slapstick. Riffing ever-so-slightly on the original movie’s standout segment The Crate that sees a similar wooden construct used in order to imprison a notoriously clingy beast.
The concept is nicely eerie if a little… overfamilar (oh come on, Creepshow loves puns!), but it’s carried out neatly and director Joe Lynch makes his return to Creepshow count with a couple of neat twists and some decent set pieces. It also helps that he’s got quite a cool creature to play with too, although it seems like he fell in love with the wizened skin, red eyes and the mass of horns too much because it spends an awful lot of time in the spotlight for a creature that supposedly likes the shadows.
Still, it’s merely a minor complaint for an episode that has a fittingly grim twist thanks to a horrific case of mistaken identity – it’s just a shame that its eclipsed so much by the stupidly fun act it has to follow. Maybe if the swapped the order of the two stories over it would have favoured Familiar more, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective.
A strong second episode shows that Creepshow has found its campy groove and is smartly sticking to it, but if it wants to shamelessly play to the crowd even more, I’ll be all for it.
Skeletons In The Closet: 🌟🌟🌟🌟