Animation has always been something of a cornerstone in the Creepshow universe. Utilised by George Romero in the original movie to perfected evoke the feel of those anything goes, EC horror comics of the past, it was used even more extensively in the sequel to realise the entire wraparound tale involving bullies and carnivorous plants. So when Shudder’s Creepshow revival came along, fans were elated that the series would try to maintain the same aesthetic, using the animated format to bridge the gaps between the cackling Creep and whatever tale he’s currently weaving.
So explain to me this? If animation is so important to Creepshow’s look, why do I worry so when the show decides to use it more and more? It didn’t have the best start with the part-cartoon (Partoon?) Times Is Tough In Musky Holler back in season one, but the Creepshow Animated Special that surfaced during lockdown was far better than I could have hoped. Well, now we have The Things From Oakwood’s Past, a fully animated story who’s only weak point is that we’ve got to muscle through an noticeably slow segment to get to it…
Time Out: Tim Denbrough is a law student who is frantically studying to pass law school in order to relive the goals that his late father had before his death in an untimely car crash, but is finding it increasingly hard to find the time to keep up with his studies. Enter an old armoire left to him by his grandmother that was first obtained by his grandfather from Germany during the war that Tim soon discovers has the ability to warp time. Upon entering the mystical cupboard, time outside stands still while the time inside moves at an accelerated rate, so Tim is able to guarantee that he passes the bar by putting the world literally on pause while he crams which pays off in spades. With time freed up to concentrate on other things such as starting a family, the years are kind to him as he tears up the ranks of a snazzy law firm. However, time is eventually catching up with him as too much accelerated time spent in the armoire means he’s aging before his years and even suffers a slight stroke. However, withbhis dream of making partner just within reach, Tim enters the time jumbling cupboard once more with grave consequences…
The Things In Oakwood’s Past: The town of Oakwood, Maine has something of a morbid history due to the entire population if the town suddenly up and vanished without a trace back in 1821 and as the anniversary of this bizarre happenstance approaches, reporter Mac Kamen interviews Marnie Wrightson, who happens to not only be the president of the local historical society, but she’s also the daughter of the Mayor. It seems that after years of scouring countless jornals, she’s found coordinated that’s lead to the discovery of a chained up time capsule with the date of the mass disappearance marked on the side. The plan is to open it at a celebration to celebrate the date, but as Marnie delves a little deeper, she finds that there was another mass disappearance that occurred in 1621 and what lurks within the crate may supply answers the people of Oakwood aren’t ready to learn… Can Marnie and Mac manage to keep the casket closed before disaster strikes?
Not to crap on Jeffery F. Donovan’s Time Out, but its biggest issue is that it’s far too tame a story for the goofy, campy likes of Creepshow and probably been far more suited to such other, quiter, anthology shows as Tales Of The Unexpected and Masters Of Science. It’s decently acted and contains more plot logic than the past three episodes combined, but the damn thing is so slow and predictable, you wish you could do some time manipulation yourself in order to pick up the pace a bit. The characters are fairly bland and the plodding nature of the piece simply gives the story no momentum whatsoever and as you probably already guessed exactly where the episode is going to end up, it just makes the story drag even more.
Even when the tale reaches its denouement and Tim finally finds himself locked in the armoire without a key to get back out, his super-rapid aging and dusty fate simply isn’t anywhere near spectacular enough to make the endeavor worth it. Maybe if we got an ending that was comparable to that bit at the end of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade where that guy ages hundreds of years in ten seconds, Time Out would have been more worthy of our attention – but unfortunately, this brush with time is a waste of time.
Things perk up considerably with Greg Nicotero’s The Things In Oakwood’s Past, which completely caught me by surprise as I am embarrassed to say I had already written off due to its animated nature.
Simply put, it’s like someone took John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness and dropped it into the sort of Spielbergian town seen in Gremlins and Back To The Future as Danielle Harris’ plucky librarian and Ron Livingston’s charming reporter struggles to unravel the secret of the time capsule before it’s opened by Mark Hamill’s robust Mayor.
Essentially a simple set-up/punchline story with a ticking clock to keep thing moving, the only bad thing I can think to say about The Things In Oakwood’s Past is that I truly wish it was a feature length, live action movie that pays off its build up with a gruesome,From Duck Till Dawn-style second half as the contents of the time capsule spew into out world with fantastic results.
Harris, Livingston and Hamill supply spirited vocal work that add meat to the two dimentional cartoons and the animation style, while admittedly slightly scrappy, evokes memories of flicking through old horror comics from days past.
For those wondering, what lies within the mystery casket is a curse that’s been placed on Oakwood by a vengeful father 400 years earlier and once it’s opened, unleashes a huge and varied horde of Lovecraftian beasties onto the town’s population with super-gory results. In some ways, it almost plays like Stephen King’s The Mist if it were directed by Sam Raimi and you can tell that a lot of glee went into the animations of people being torn, bisected and melted as these shrieking demons go to town – on the town.
The result is a darkly humorous segment that treads the line between creepy and funny that never actually stumbles into goofiness, despite its broad, colourful visuals and director Nicotero (often Creepshow’s greatest strength) nails some stellar concepts. Be it a bleeding Marnie realising that being thrown across the town’s border by a car crash as a multitude of toothy beasts glower at her from behind an invisible barrier, to the final, cackle worthy shot of a creature carrying a broadcasting camera straight to hell as the studio anchors blithely sign off, Creepshow unleashes another blinder.
Time Out: 🌟🌟
The Things In Oakwood’s Past: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟