For those keeping count, the first episode of Shudder’s Creepshow was a mixed bag of horrors that almost completely missed the mark due to uninspired directing and bland comic book effects. Episode 2 gave us a somewhat fun but tension-free werewolf story and the best performance in the series thus far by DJ Qualls in a story about a jealous tiny monster that becomes overprotective of his new friend. The latest episode, the third in a six-part limited series, undoes the small victories attained in episode 2 for two of the least inspired story segments in the horror anthology to date.
The stories contained in this episode are “All Hallow’s Eve” and “The Man in the Suitcase.” The first one is about a group of friends trick-or-treating in a town that’s dead scared of them knocking on doors for some Halloween candy. The second segment delivers on its title’s promise by literally being about a man in a suitcase, only the man spits gold coins from his mouth whenever pain is inflicted upon him.
The problems start with “All Hallow’s Eve,” which sets the tone for the episode. It’s visually uninteresting and badly acted to the point of distraction. Its main trick-or-treaters (Connor Christie, Madison Thompson, Jasun Jabbar, Andrew Eakle, and Michael May) are, unfortunately, all equally incapable of giving believable performances as terror-inducing kids out on Halloween night. From the minute they step into the screen you get the sense something’s not right with them and that a twist relating to their outing is hiding, badly, just around the corner. When the big twist is finally revealed, I had already figured it all out and was secretly hoping for it not to be what I thought it was.
I could see director John Harrison (The Librarians) trying to spin a kind of old school young adult horror yarn reminiscent of R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps or even Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981), but the characters just don’t feel genuine enough to make us rejoice in the nostalgia of vintage YA horror. It doesn’t help that the dreaded comic book effects that did close to nothing in the previous two episodes are barely used and, when on-screen, are as basic and inconsequential as they’ve been before.
“The Man in the Suitcase,” on the other hand, is not a complete loss. Dave Bruckner (The Ritual) directs this segment and manages to get, at least, a good performance out of the guy that’s stuffed in the suitcase, Ravi Naidu. The same can’t be said of the young man that picks up the wrong suitcase at the airport, containing the contorted man. Played by Will Kidrachuck, this character is mostly going through the motions of his current predicament without adding much in the urgency and tension departments.
As to be expected, the kid calls a couple friends and starts torturing the man in the suitcase for more gold. Sure, there’s something of a metaphor about greed and its corrupting elements there, but nothing really exciting comes out of it. The same can be said about the episode in its entirety. It’s just not compelling, or scary for that matter.
Creepshow feels lost. It doesn’t know what it wants be exactly or how to solve this particular conundrum to give itself some much needed direction. This third episode is the furthest one away from the source material in all of its dimensions and gives little hope for the rest of the series to become a memorable homage to the times of pre-Code EC horror. Let’s see if there’s even a hint of that in the remaining three episodes.