Written by: Bruce Jones/Christopher Buehlman
Directed by: John Harrison/David Bruckner
Starring: Connor Christie, Madison Thompson, and Ravi Naidu
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)
Creepshow’s third episode brings conflicted thoughts and feelings. One the one hand, it features a surefire formula that mixes Halloween night antics, supernatural vengeance, and one gnarly, mangled body. On the other, one of its segments leaves you with a sense of melancholy that isn’t usually associated with the Creepshow banner. Even more conflicting is that this segment is arguably the best of the season so far—a true trick and a treat indeed.
I speak of “All Hallows Eve,” the opening segment that transports us to a picturesque suburban Halloween. A group of young teens calling themselves “The Golden Dragons” has gathered for their annual jaunt through the neighborhood. However, something somber lingers over the proceedings this year, as they cryptically insist that this will be their last Halloween together. While it would seem this is just a case of adolescent angst working its way through a group of kids growing a little bit too old for trick-or-treating, it soon becomes clear that something more sinister is afoot. Their encounters with the neighbors grow increasingly intense, making it obvious this group is out for more than candy this Halloween, and the ultimate truth is genuinely upsetting.
Like any good Halloween night trick, this segment lures you in with the promise of innocent revelry. These (mostly) good-natured kids trawl through this Rockwellian neighborhood, its youngest member dressed as a bedsheet ghost. It just feels like the platonic ideal of Halloween, at least until the neighbors’ reaction to the Golden Dragons borders on genuine fear and hostility. Apparently, this group has been haunting the neighborhood for years—literally. The script subtly builds to this revelation with its cryptic dialogue and the youngest ghoul’s fixation on the local cemetery, gradually allowing a sense of melancholy to creep through this supposedly carefree night. Things take a dark turn when one of the neighbors—a weary mother to a teen herself—simply resigns herself to the Golden Dragons’ whims and allows the group to terrorize her own child. Viewers quickly learn this is a well-deserved fate via a heartbreaking flashback that completes the segment’s transformation into a bleak, somber affair unlike any in the Creepshow canon.
Perhaps only “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” approaches the muted, mournful mood that ultimately defines “All Hallows Eve.” Along the way, it does “treat” viewers to the sort of macabre comeuppance associated with Creepshow, and, had the segment ended on such a fiendish note, it’d be exactly what you’d expect from this series. Instead, it lingers on for one more melancholy beat, finding an emotional resonance that’s quite unexpected. You don’t expect to be sort of bummed out by Creepshow, and, while my gut reaction says this segment just feels wrong, it’s arguably the best of the revived series so far. I knew Creepshow had the capacity to thrill, repulse, and even unsettle; I didn’t know it also had the capacity to be a wistful, elegiac, and genuinely touching portrait of wrongfully damned souls.
On the other hand, “The Man in the Suitcase” delivers that familiar Creepshow flavor. Following in the footsteps of “The House of the Head” and “The Finger,” this B-side segment is a weird, intimate tale involving a bizarre discovery. In this case, slacker college student Justin (Will Kidrachuck) returns home following a fight with his long-time girlfriend, only to discover he’s brought the wrong luggage from the airport. Even more disturbing: within is the supernaturally distorted body of a man (Ravi Naidu) who is somehow still alive. Justin’s clumsy attempt at untangling the body causes the man to spit out a gold coin, which provides an obvious solution to the kid’s financial woes. Sharply directed by David Bruckner, “The Man in the Suitcase” unfolds like a macabre fable, as Justin, his ex-girlfriend, and his roommate wrestle with the inherent moral dilemma here: is this man’s agony worth their financial windfall?
It will come as no surprise that at two members of this trio emphatically think so; the other, however, grows a conscience, leading to a tense, bloody confrontation. Even less surprising is that it ends especially badly for the greedy couple: this is old, school Amicus style supernatural vengeance at its best, but it carries a distinct, off-kilter vibe. The script is laconic, offering little clue about this mysterious man until a final scene suggests he’s but a cog in a morbid, global enterprise. If you’re seeking exactly what you expect from Creepshow, this segment delivers the goods with its unseemly violence and its wry, ghoulish sense of humor. This the Creepshow that peddles twisted wares to viewers eager to delight in watching something horrible happen.
However, it’s “All Hallows Eve” that continues to linger in my brain here. It, too, dishes out an awful fate to a deserving lot; however, that’s not its raison d'être by any means. More sentimental than it is sinister, it offers further proof that this revival has room for many new visions of what Creepshow could or should be. While I would have been satisfied to gorge on Stephen King adaptations for an entire season, I’m glad that the filmmakers involved here have been more bold in their approach. I came into Creepshow hoping to find comfort food in the form of a familiar bag of treats from a childhood trick-or-treat route; what I learned is that it’s sometimes more rewarding when you strike off into those unexplored corners and turn up something new and fresh.
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