AMC jumped into the streaming service trend in 2016 with “Shudder”, a horror-themed service aimed to appeal to any and all horror fans, featuring a wide variety of films ranging from old-school genre classics to terrifying modern blockbusters.
In the vein of recent Amazon-, Hulu- and Netflix Originals, Shudder has also branched out into studio-produced originals with “Creepshow”. Named after the 1982 cult classic, the show continues the anthology-based format of the original film, giving us 12 stories spread over 6 episodes.
Directed by veteran horror producer Greg Nicotero, and featuring big names such as Tom Savini, Tobin Bell and Adrienne Barbeau, “Creepshow” holds some esteemed members of the horror community – and this talent produces a thoroughly enjoyable, spooky treat of a series.
A huge part of what makes the show work is its faithfulness to the spirit of the source material. Hand-animated sequences, an abundance of practical effects and the return of the fan-beloved comic book reading ghoul from the original movie cause this modern reboot to ooze 80’s style.
The ghoul is back with an updated puppet and gets a couple visual gags per episode that play on the theme of each tale. These silent gags also mark the return of the creative comic book transitions, where each story is treated as part of a “Creepshow” comic book and get their own art, giving rise to some respectably smooth segues between the comic and the live action scenes.
However, a few of these instances suffer from very mediocre art, and the animation is occasionally rough around the edges. The original “Creepshow” animation still holds up today, and the 2019 iteration is a step backwards in this department, sometimes allowing poor art, animation and coloring to distract from the otherwise engaging intro pieces and scene transitions.
The show’s affinity for authenticity continues in its practical effect techniques. CGI is used very sparingly, appearing briefly in the tales “Gray Matter” and “The Man in the Suitcase."
Fans of old school effects will be glad to know that the show relies heavily on the techniques of yesteryear; puppets bring monsters to life, makeup and prosthetics induce terror and gore effects abound.
The latter is especially prevalent, with some episodes (such as the aforementioned “Gray Matter," “Bad Wolf Down," “The Finger” and “Skincrawlers”) being unafraid to drench the audience in cartoonish levels of fake blood and guts.
But don’t be fooled that the show relies on totally cheap gags and gore – there’s plenty of talent elsewhere. “Bad Wolf Down” delivers campy, grindhouse-esque Nazi dismemberment on top of impressive costumes, convincing action and snappy acting.
“Gray Matter," possibly influenced by Nicotero’s "The Walking Dead" work, brings in skin-crawlingly nasty set pieces and a convincingly slimy monster. Both “The Companion” and “The Finger” feature excellently worked costumes and their monsters are brought to life by impressive puppet work.
Unfortunately, the plots, acting and dialogue drag some of the episodes down. While the show is not afraid to cross into campy, tongue-in-cheek territory, some of the episodes miss this agenda and take themselves too seriously.
“All Hallows Eve” tries hard to be a Halloween-themed ghost tale of revenge, but ends up being a contrived, poorly written flop that subjects the viewer to the the lamest jump scare of the series and ends up failing to deliver any sort of interesting points or scenes.
Similarly, “The House of the Head” and “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain” struggle with the same issues – forgettable, contrived plots and unresolving plotlines.
“Creepshow” makes a remarkable case for the casual viewer to subscribe to Shudder. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to draw in mass viewers like other contemporary series such as “Black Mirror” and “Stranger Things," and at times it is obvious how little the studio had to work with compared to these big budget productions.
But what “Creepshow” lacks in budget, it makes up for in heart – giving viewers a lovingly crafted, frighteningly good time. 4/5