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A Creepshow Animated Special, Stephen King, Kiefer Sutherland (TV Review)

A Creepshow Animated Special, Stephen King, Kiefer Sutherland (TV Review)
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PLOT: A special animated episode of the Shudder anthology series Creepshow brings Stephen King's Survivor Type and Joe Hill's Twittering from the Circus of the Dead to the screen.

REVIEW: Back in 1982, George A. Romero teamed with Stephen King and Tom Savini to bring us one of the best horror anthology films ever made, CREEPSHOW (watch it HERE). Thirty-seven years and a sequel or two later (CREEPSHOW 2 is awesome, CREEPSHOW 3 doesn't exist), the Shudder streaming service revived the Creepshow brand with an anthology series, the first season of which consisted of six episodes that each told two separate stories. Like all anthologies, Creepshow season 1 (buy it HERE) had its ups and downs, but overall I was quite pleased with it, and believed it had the perfect showrunner: Greg Nicotero, who worked in the FX department on CREEPSHOW 2 and had visited the set of the first CREEPSHOW. Nicotero is basically a protégé of both Romero and Savini, and as the creative supervisor on this Creepshow he made many decisions that I was in full support of, including having the show's first story be an adaptation of a King story, having another segment that was based on a story by King's son Joe Hill (who had an acting role in the first CREEPSHOW), bringing on CREEPSHOW and CREEPSHOW 2 animator Rick Catizone to handle the show's animated moments, and getting both Savini and CREEPSHOW composer John Harrison to direct segments. These things really worked toward making the show seem like a continuation that, unlike the third film, was worthy of the Creepshow name.

If 2020 was a normal year we'd probably be watching episodes of Creepshow season 2 right now, but due to the pandemic shutdown production started later than intended. Thankfully, we're not entirely lacking new Creepshow, as an animated special has been put together as a Halloween treat - and this one delivers on a promise that was made nearly two years ago.

A Creepshow Animated Special Survivor Type Greg Nicotero

When the Creepshow series was announced, it was said that Nicotero would be writing and directing an adaptation of King story Survivor Type as the first story in the first episode. That plan fell through and an adaptation of King's Grey Matter was the first story instead, but now Nicotero was able to bring Survivor Type to the screen with this animated special. The story centers on a man named Richard (voice provided by Kiefer Sutherland), who finds himself stranded on a tiny deserted island with no food, but a large supply of heroin. As the days go by, Richard's hunger intensifies, and he is forced to take some drastic measures to stay alive. Of course, all the heroin he's snorting doesn't help him make good decisions.

While the art by Octopie animation studio looks great, I was surprised to see just how little movement there was in the animation of this special. This is not the kind of animated show where we see every movement the characters make; we don't even see their mouths move when they talk. This is done more in a "motion comic" style, where we see images like comic book panels, and occasionally there will be something moving within the panel. That approach may be appropriate for Creepshow, since the idea has always been that these stories are being told in the pages of Creepshow comic books, but it was jarring to see at first and I was hoping to see more motion throughout.

Survivor Type is a sickening, disturbing story, and it's cool to see it play out here, but I have a feeling that fans are going to feel like they're still waiting for the definitive adaptation after watching the Creepshow special. There's an odd structure to this adaptation, as the events on the island aren't all shown in chronological order, and this medium doesn't mix well with non-linear storytelling. At times it can be tougher to follow what's going on here than it should be, because Survivor Type is a very straightforward story. Flashing back to the choices that led to Richard washing up on this island makes sense, but jumbling up the order of what happens on the island doesn't.

After Survivor Type wraps up, the special moves on to an adaptation of the Joe Hill story Twittering from the Circus of the Dead - which, going along with the title, Hill wrote as if it were a series of tweets by the lead character. Melanie Dale stuck very close to the source material when writing the adaptation, which Nicotero also directed. Both stories in this special are narrated by people who are writing out their thoughts - in Survivor Type, Sutherland's narration comes from what Richard is writing in his journal, and in Twittering it's Joey King reading the tweets being sent out by her teenage character Blake.

Creepshow Twittering from the Circus of the Dead Greg Nicotero

The story follows Blake as she endures a miserable road trip with her parents and her brother. After we spend some time getting to know Blake - mainly finding out that she loves to complain - and hear about some of the stuff that happens on this road trip, things enter horror territory when the family decides to check out a roadside attraction called Circus of the Dead. I think fans of Hill's story will be more satisfied with this adaptation than fans of Survivor Type will be with that one; it pretty much goes right along with what Hill wrote, with the grossest moments intact, described in gory detail with some visual aid. I am left wondering how exactly this bizarre circus can exist in a world that doesn't seem to be experiencing a zombie outbreak, but I can go along with the insanity of it even though Hill doesn't give any answers.

A Creepshow Animated Special didn't fully live up to my expectations and I wanted more from the animation, but listening to Kiefer Sutherland and Joey King tell you creepy stories while you check out some nice, gross artwork isn't a bad way to spend 50 minutes.

The special will premiere on the Shudder streaming service October 29th.
 

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