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 audiences 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 accept 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 Blu-ray copy of Creepshow: Season 2. 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. 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 2: Dead And Breakfast / Pesticide. A marketing plot at a haunted bed and breakfast becomes way too realistic. Then, an exterminator gets more than he bargained for when he takes on a big job.”
But the problem I’d have with such a conclusion is that, largely, it’s these off-the-beaten-path destinations that often have reputations that perhaps bring out the worst in us. Why, which of us doesn’t want to spend the night in a haunted mansion? Or who among us hasn’t thought about taking a nap in the bed that Lizzie Borden frequented? And how about John Wayne Gacy’s treehouse? Do you really expect me to believe you’re not interested in what he may’ve carved into that trunk? Alas, it’s in our nature to check these things out when we learn of them, so I’d push back on anyone suggesting there’s something more political behind this tale’s particular setting.
Adding to my defense would be the fact that I saw “Dead” more as throwing stones at the current pop culture trend of influencers than anything else. In the guise of ‘Morgue,’ relative newcomer actress Iman Benson shines as the burgeoning phenom who makes her bones exposing the bones behind some of these haunted attractions. It’s a genius little send-up of how reputations work in the modern, tech-driven era; and I found it a pitch perfect clash of the new meeting the old wherein what really matters most is the twist ending no one saw coming.
Besides: if it’s truly evil to make a buck, then we’re all going to Hell anyway.
The downside to “Pesticide” is that it’s a tale fairly common to the wider universe of horror shorts, both new and old. Yes, one might argue that this particular formula is of the tried-and-true variety, but for those of us who’ve been around that represents why it might be a bit too predictable and could’ve used a different twist in the last act. There’s an ambiguousness to just who (or what) Mr. Murdoch (played by the talented Keith David) may be, and tales that center on descents into madness (as a consequence of one’s own action) do kinda/sorta border on preachiness. Is that good or bad? Meh. I leave that to each his own.
Still, performances work, and there’s a gooeyness to some of the effects that might make some cringe (in a good way). The irony of an exterminator meeting his maker in the shape of things he’s killed is certainly fodder for thought. Scripted by Frank Dietz and directed by Greg Nicotero, it’s a bit uneven – and more than a bit unclear – but I suspect it works for most exactly the way intended.
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.