Every time I finish a new Creepshow episode I find myself going back to square one: the series’ teaser trailer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and this bears repeating, Creepshow had one of the best horror anthology trailers in recent years. It looked faithful to the George Romero/Stephen King movie and basically guaranteed a continuation of it. It was the happiest I’ve been watching and re-watching a trailer. And then I saw the actual thing.
The series just didn’t feel inspired or interested in really committing to the comic book aesthetic or the EC Horror homage the movie went for. It didn’t help that each of the previous episodes, with the exception of “The Finger” segment from episode 2 (which has the series’ best performance courtesy of DJ Qualls), have been getting progressively less compelling and even more forgettable. Also, the comic effects are consistently been made more irrelevant with each passing episode.
Given all this, was it fair to expect something miraculous happen in episode 4 that would save the series for me? Not really, and that’s exactly what it needed, a miracle. What I got was another dismal showing of lazy horror storytelling, plagued by uninteresting writing and, I’m guessing, intentionally bad and campy acting.
It was bad enough that it made me question whether the people running the show even know what classic horror is. I’m worried they think paying homage to old horror comics means dialing up campiness and adding an extra bucket of blood or two. If that’s the case then I would argue that they missed the point entirely. EC Horror was campy, but it had heart and just the right amount of darkness to actually say something with its stories. More importantly, it was smart. All of these things are lacking in the series.
Episode 4 comes with two more segments, “The Companion” and “Lydia Layne’s Better Half.” The former focuses on a kid who stumbles upon a living scarecrow with a violent backstory and a knack for inflicting pain on those who know how to control it. It was directed by David Bruckner based out of a Joe Lansdale, Kasey Lansdale, and Keith Lansdale short story. The latter, “Lydia’s Better Half,” was directed by Roxanne Benjamin on a script by John Harrison. It follows a woman stuck in an elevator with the body of her dead lover. She authored the murder, which got her into the elevator situation.
“The Companion” suffers from a general lack of tension and a script that offers a very cringy flashback into the origins of the evil scarecrow. The reasons behind the scarecrow’s existence are somewhat non-sensical. A man loses his wife. Loneliness ensues and the need for a companion becomes ever more necessary. The man creates a scarecrow that looks like a modern horror movie monster and is then surprised the thing becomes violent and overprotective.
The problem lies in that the segment has a very passive feel in getting to its reveals. There’s no sense of mounting dread, no sense of urgency, or anything that even resembles mortal fear for that matter. We’re just shown how the scarecrow comes to life in a rushed and non-sensical way with little explanation as to why it’s even violent in the first place. This kills whatever connection there could’ve been between it and the kid (a twist I saw coming a mile away) given we don’t entirely know what has the scarecrow so on edge ever since it came to life. It never finds its footing and it drags the story down with it. Things just happen without much by way of mystery or, quite frankly, horror.
Most of the same problems plague “Lydia Lane’s Better Half.” The idea that being stuck in an elevator automatically creates tension is misguided at best. And it’s mostly what we get. The woman that’s stuck with the dead body (the titular Lydia) is tasked with carrying the episode by virtue of being the only living character onscreen for most of the segment. Unfortunately, the performance doesn’t hold up and we get so little about the character that what we’re essentially left with is an empty story filled with empty people.
The dead body is supposed to be the segment’s horror anchor, but the makeup effects weren’t interesting enough for it to do much of anything. As is the case with “The Companion,” Lydia’s story also forgets to bring any of Creepshow’s comic book elements into the scenario. What we get is a boring segment that is also suffering from basic camerawork, clichés galore, and an ending that’s as easy to predict as the episode’s first vignette.
We’re down to the final two episodes now. Whatever comes next has to produce bloody fireworks to make me appreciate what little’s left of the series. While I did not enjoy these two new segments, they’re still not as poorly conceived as “All Hallow’s Eve,” which still stands as the worst segment of the bunch thus far. But this isn’t a compliment for episode 4. I’ve yet to have any fun being scared with Shudder’s Creepshow.