When it was announced that the beloved horror anthology, Creepshow, was returning as a 12-episode series on Shudder, it didn’t take long for fans far and wide, including myself, to build up the excitement, as well as the hype. But would this series be able to capture the spirit that was originally created by George Romero and Stephen King? Recently, I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to check out the first episode of the upcoming CREEPSHOW TV series, which contained two stories (GRAY MATTER and THE HOUSE OF THE HEAD), and I’m here to tell you that not only did it exceed my expectations, but it more than captured the spirit that made the original so special.
As soon as I turned on the first story, I was greeted by the familiar, but newly designed Creep, as well as the comic book style imagery we have come to love from the previous films. Though very similar to the original style, I’m glad this series decided to upgrade the look and design of the opening introduction to give it a more modern flare. With the introduction out of the way, I prepared myself for the first episode, titled GRAY MATTER, which centered around Doc and Chief, two old-timers in a small, dying town, who brave a storm to check on Richie, an alcoholic single father, after encountering his terrified son at the local convenience store.
GRAY MATTER, which is directed by Greg Nicotero and adapted by Bryon Willinger and Philip de Blasi, is actually based on a short story of the same name by Stephen King that was published in his 1978 collection, Night Shift. Starring Giancarlo Esposito (Better Call Saul), Tobin Bell (Saw), and Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), GRAY MATTER definitely felt like an homage to the style seen in the 1982 film. Everything about this episode draws you in, and even though I was able to figure out the end result rather quickly, it didn’t deter me from the overall execution of it. Most impressive is that of the practical effect work which is showcased through both the makeup application as well as the set design. Furthermore, lighting plays a huge component in building the tension of what both Doc and Chief discover when they arrive at Richie’s house.
Fans will be delighted to see Adrienne Barbeau return to CREEPSHOW 25 years after playing Wilma Northrup in the Creepshow segment, “The Crate”. Her character in GRAY MATTER is tasked with finding out the truth when Richie’s son comes to the convenience store in hopes of buying beer for his dad. I found her interactions with the kid to be a great juxtaposition to what Doc and Chief were experiencing when they arrived at Richie’s. As the tension ramped up, the storm outside continued to rage, with the secrets of what has happened to Richie being pulled back layer by layer. This all culminates with a shocking finale that is just as surreal as it is horrifying, reminding us that no one is ever truly safe.
As the episode came to an end, I found myself even more excited for what was to come. I absolutely loved GRAY MATTER not only because it reminded me so much of the tone in the original film but because it kept me utterly engaged and wanting more. That said, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the second episode, but had I known it was going to be centered around a doll house, I would have prepared myself better. In THE HOUSE OF THE HEAD, young Evie has discovered that her new dollhouse might be haunted.
Directed by John Harrison and written by Bird Box author Josh Malerman, THE HOUSE OF THE HEAD is one of those truly creepy episodes that gave me goosebumps. Let me start by saying that I don’t like dolls in any form – large, small, big or tall, it doesn’t matter to me, they freak me out and Lord help you if you have a whole collection of them. In THE HOUSE OF THE HEAD, a young girl named Evie has acquired a beautiful doll house that she is absolutely overjoyed with. One day, while playing with a family figurine set, she comes across a grotesque head inside the house that had never been there before. Each time she visits the doll house, she finds that the family has moved from their location and are showing a startled look upon their face. Sure, the question of how these tiny figurines are moving about on their own did stump me, but my main concern was the ever-moving decapitated head within the doll house.
What I loved so much about this story was its simplicity. The story isn’t over-the-top, instead relying on quiet moments to truly unnerve the viewer. Though I’m not the biggest fan of kids, I waas surprised to find that I wanted nothing more than to help poor Evie from the inevitable horror that awaited her. Though the tone and pacing was very different than that of GRAY MATTER, I actually found this episode to be much more unnerving – not only because of my discomfort towards dolls but also because it allowed my imagination to run wild. Director John Harrison does a superb job of bringing Josh Malerman’s story to life, especially when it came to making the doll house a character in and of itself. I would love to see this story expanded into a full novel and/or film that delved into the origins of the doll house and the mysterious head, but for now I’m more than pleased with how THE HOUSE OF THE HEAD played out.
In all, I found the first two stories to be a strong start to the series and included elements that will definitely appeal to fans of horror and the previous movies. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to attend the opening night of Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood last week which featured a CREEPSHOW maze that had a room dedicated to GRAY MATTER. Having had the experience of watching the show before going to Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood only heightened my experience walking through the maze, making me appreciate the episode, and all the FX’s, more. That said, I can’t wait to dive into the rest of the series as I’m sure there will be many scares waiting for me throughout the additional episodes. As the saying goes, CREEPSHOW is the most fun you’ll ever have being scared! CREEPSHOW premieres on both Shudder TV live-stream and On Demand Thursday, September 26th at 9pm ET/6pm PT.