Simply put, I’ve always enjoyed them because they offer audiences more story to absorb across multiple installments, and they’re typically fashioned more as parables (with a message) than they are a narrative (that may go ultimately nowhere of interest). As a result, I get more excited about them than I do the favored long-form storytelling viewers gravitate toward today, and I find it shameful that there’s so little investment in their potential in the current fictional economy. With so many channels out there, do you really expect me to believe that no one would tune in for a new collection of visual fables?
Also as I’ve mentioned recently, Shudder was gracious enough to provide me with a complimentary copy of Creepshow: Season 2 on Blu-ray. I’ve had so much fun watching these episodes – which I see as throwbacks to a time when Horror/Fantasy was a bit more relatable as well as accessible to regular ol’ Joes like myself – that I decided instead of ponying up one comprehensive review of the entire season I wanted to pen a few reactions to individual episodes. I'd space these out over multiple posts. This way I could highlight some of the bigger and smaller moments more responsibly as a critic and as a fan … which I definitely consider myself.
Enjoy. I think you’ll see how much I did.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“Episode 1: Model Kid / Public Television Of The Dead. Joe’s closest friends are the model toys of his favorite scary movie monsters. Then, a public TV station is overwhelmed when the appraisal of an antique book accidentally summons a dark force.”
Joe loves monsters. His monsters. These movie creations. The Gillman. The werewolf. Any sort of Frankenstein brought to film. But he learns quickly what a true monster looks like (naturally, it has the face of Kevin Dillon), and this forces his emotional retreat from the reality to the world of the imagined, a place he's always found safe in the companionship of his recently deceased mother. These monsters do horrible, unspeakable things to those who try to bully them into submission; and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this surrogate uncle isn’t long for this world.
Without trafficking too deep into the world of subtext, I’d still be remiss in duties as a critic if I failed to point out Model Kid also dips into some interesting sexual symbolism with the women of young Joe’s world. The loss of his cancer-stricken mother – every boy’s true first love – is a hole eventually filled by Aunt Barb; and there’s an awful lot in academia that’s been written about exploring the potential incestual role of the aunt and her nephew. (I vaguely recall a Thai melodrama that explored how the aunt’s narrative responsibility was the boy’s sexual awakening, but the name of the film escapes me right now.) This isn’t to say that Esposito’s script intends such an odyssey for these characters; rather, I’m only suggesting that there’s a possible undercurrent present which can’t be denied.
Indeed, when we see Barb arrive home in the tale’s conclusion, she’s dressed as a waitress, presumably coming home from her day job. Waitressing is an industry that’s (ahem) rife with harassment: I’ve read reports suggesting as high as eighty percent of women employed as servers share stories of being ‘hit on’ or harassed by those who wish to date ‘the cute waitress.’ I’ve suggested the profession is one of those sexual archetypes fueling fantasies for red-blooded males (and females, I suppose, but I can’t speak to that experience), and one need only search Amazon.com for ‘sexy waitress’ costumes to confirm it’s such a thing.
Why, it’s a match made … in Fantasy!
The brilliance of the story is that Evil never sleeps, and it all-too-easily finds malevolence where it’s least expected … in the devilish heart of this station’s Mr. Rogers’ knock-off, Mrs. Bookberry (Coley Campany). What the audience learns is that, behind-the-scenes, the woman is everything but pure and wholesome: she’s a back-biting intimidator who’s hellbent on forcing nice-guy-painter Norm Roberts (Mark Ashworth) out of contention for some prime real estate in the network’s schedule, even if that means using the powers of Darkness to put her on top of the ratings game once and for all.
So, yes, I say it’s low-hanging fruit … but it’s all executed with such grace, ease, aplomb, and respect that the audience is immediately disarmed. This is affectionate parody, and the fact that it effortlessly adopts the tone of the Evil Dead franchise only when needed makes it all the more effective. It’s a genius episode, one that shows the potential of great storytelling in the anthology format, and it’ll likely be applauded by all who find it.
Creepshow: Season 2 is produced by Shudder, The Cartel, AMC Studios, and a few other participating partners. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by RLJE Films. As for the technical specifications? This anthology program is produced with tremendous concentration on achieving the best sights and sounds possible; and it shows! It looks fabulous, and the great care in bringing it alive (if not back from the dead) is obvious. As for the special features? This two-disc set all five episodes of the show’s second season (FYI: some episodes are two-parters, delivering two separate stories) as well as a Creepshow animated special; a Creepshow holiday special; a colorful booklet/insert that mirrors the overall look of the show; some behind-the-scenes footage (much of it exclusive to this release); and some reversible sleeve art for those who like that sort of thing. (I’m always iffy on it, but it’s nice to have.)
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJE Films provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray disc of Creepshow: Season 2 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.