The Aesthetic Ropiness (And Total Brilliance) of Creepshow

by thethreepennyguignol

Look, yes, I know that the last few weeks of my writing have just been horror horror horror horror horror Chris Morris horror (and all of those words do indeed link to a different article, if you really fancy getting in on the non-stop spooky bullshit I’ve been covering!). But it’s October, the one month that I can actually justify the fake vampire fangs and wall-to-wall scary stories that I consume the rest of the year! Let your girl live a little! Or die a little, depending on what we’re watching, but you’re with me!

All this to say: hey, guys, I’ve been watching a new horror show and I want to talk about it! Creepshow is an original production of the streaming service Shudder, and a reboot of the cult-awful-classic eighties movies by George A. Romero; an anthology horror, each episode offers two tales o’ terror framed in the style of a comic book, and introduced by the freaky-deaky Crpytkeeper.

I’ve talked about how much I love anthology horror before, so I’m not going to go too much into why I enjoy that aspect of it so much – no genre is better suited to the anthology treatment than horror, since it spans such a wild range of subgenres, styles, and ideas and the short-form anthology format gives them just enough space to breathe without letting them get bogged down in things like logic or feature-length runtime.

And, to be fair, I think that Creepshow is a really great example of that anthology format used right. The framing device is about the only thing that ties these stories together; they’re utterly disparate and totally unique, thanks in no small part to the wide range of horror authors Creepshow is adapting from and working with (Stephen King, Joe Hill, David J. Schow)  to come up with these twenty-minute segments. You’ve got everything from creature feature period pieces to splatterpunk meta-commentaries to classic ghost stories, sometimes in the very same episode. It’s very obviously made by people who really adore the horror genre, for people who feel the same way, and that’s just a treat if you’re like me and will pick a bad horror movie over a good contemporary drama any day of the week.

Beyond that, though, what I love so much about Creepshow is its commitment to capturing the eighties ropiness of the original movies. Of course, they could lean in to more modern special effects, so much is done through puppetry, lashings of fake blood, and beautiful props that give the series an idiosyncratic and delightfully low-fi feel. Even the comic-book wraparound set-up works as part of this aesthetic, with werewolf transformations taking place over a flipbook of pages instead of in live-action. The Cryptkeeper himself, as the spooky MC, makes for one of the most strikingly unsettling horror creations we only spend about sixty seconds with per hour of storytelling.

And look, I’m totally here for television that pushes on the boundaries of what the medium can do; if Game of Thrones wants to make the most expensive battle scene of all time and spend sixty thousand dollars on just paying off the mob debts of the horses it’s using, be my guest. But I’m a huge sucker for shows with a commitment to a specific aesthetic that goes against that; Creepshow uses ropiness as a calling card, and it renders it one of the most visually distinct creations of the year so far.

Creepshow is, really, just a silly little six-episode season of intermittently spooky horror stories. But it’s a series made by people who clearly love the genre and revel in the chance to shine a light in some of the darker spots of the short storytelling that horror contains, and, as someone who’s always looking for a chance to delve a little deeper into that side of the genre, consider me all the way in.

If you enjoyed this article, go ahead and check out our cinematic Halloween Season over at No But Listen. As ever, please consider supporting me on Patreon for access to exclusive posts and a chance to choose what I write about!

(header image via Den of Geek)