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Creepshow season 2, episode 1 (TV Review)

Creepshow season 2, episode 1 (TV Review)
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PLOT: The Creep flips through the pages of a Creepshow comic book to bring us two horrifying stories: Model Kid and Public Television of the Dead.

REVIEW: If you've seen George A. Romero's 1982 classic Creepshow, you've sort of already seen the first segment of the season 2 premiere of Shudder's Creepshow TV series. Directed by Greg Nicotero from a script by John Esposito, Model Kid is basically a 28-or-so minute expansion of the wraparound story from Romero's anthology film. If I had just been told that this series was already "reusing" stories from Creepshows past, I would be irritated by the idea. But seeing how Model Kid works in the episode, I can't be upset that it exists. It's actually really good.

Model Kid starts out in a way that's so heartwarming and emotionally engaging, I didn't even want to see it turn into a horror story. We're introduced to Joe Aurora (Brock Duncan), a horror-loving youngster a lot of Creepshow viewers will probably be able to relate to in some way, and see that he has a very sweet relationship with his mom June (Tyner Rushing). Watching these two interact, seeing how June supports her son's horror fandom, getting emotional over a scene that shows how important watching movies together has been for them, I was ready to settle in and watch a whole dramatic feature about this kid and his mom. Sadly, June has terminal cancer, which is why her sister Barb (Jana Allen) and brother-in-law Kevin (Kevin Dillon) have just moved in with her and her son, and she leaves the picture less than halfway through the segment. After that, Joe is stuck being raised by his abusive, know-it-all douchebag uncle, who strongly disapproves of the "horror crap" Joe is fascinated by.

Creepshow Kevin Dillon Greg Nicotero

Sure, anyone who watched Creepshow knows where this is going, but Model Kid is different enough from the wraparound segment in Romero's film that it's entertaining in its own unique way. There are some great nods to horror classics in here, including a reference to Barb working at Beekman's Diner from Night of the Living Dead, an appearance by Frankenstein's Monster, and a glimpse of a film I wish actually existed, Gill Man Meets the Mummy. I still would have liked to have seen a drama about Joe and June, but I enjoyed Model Kid as it is.

Each episode of Creepshow consists of two separate horror stories, and Sam Raimi gets a special thanks on this episode because the second segment, Public Television of the Dead, was essentially Nicotero's chance to make an Evil Dead fan film. Written by Rob Schrab, this 24 minute story takes place at the studio WQPS, a public access channel that features shows like Mrs. Bookberry's Magical Library, The Love of Painting with Norm Roberts, and The Appraiser's Road Trip with Goodman Tapert. The horror starts during a taping of The Appraiser's Road Trip when Sam Raimi's brother Ted Raimi, playing a version of himself, shows up with the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead from the Evil Dead movies. Ted says this book has been in his family for years and he wants to know how much it's worth. When the show's host Goodman Tapert (Peter Leake) reads from the book, he becomes possessed and unleashes the forces of evil within the studio.

Creepshow Peter Leake Greg Nicotero

So here's something I never expected to see, an Evil Dead short within the Creepshow series. Nicotero, who worked on Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, pays loving tribute to the style of Sam Raimi with the way he presents the possessed people, which are Evil Dead Deadites through and through, and with the way he shot this segment, complete with the P.O.V. of the evil force floating through the halls and rooms of the studio. But as cool as the homages are - we have the presence of Ted Raimi, a puppet called Henrietta, the line "Groovy" - the best thing about Public Television of the Dead is the character Norm Roberts (Mark Ashworth), WQPS's version of Bob Ross. A very calm, soft-spoken guy, Norm also happens to be a Vietnam veteran, so he's fully capable of handling himself when demons attack. With Norm's help, fellow WQPS employees Claudia (Marissa Hampton) and George (Todd Allen Durkin) might actually have a shot at protecting the viewing audience from these evil creatures.

Although I love the Evil Dead franchise, I do find it a little odd that there's a story that is so blatantly Evil Dead in Creepshow. This thing is not subtle at all about its source of inspiration... but if you just go with it, don't overthink it, then Public Television of the Dead is quite fun to watch. Pairing it with Model Kid was a good idea, since both are tributes to the horrors of days past, one to the works of Sam Raimi and the other to the Universal Monsters.

With this episode, Creepshow season 2 is off to a great start. Nicotero is clearly having a blast making this show, and his enthusiasm for it comes through in the finished product. He's aiming to make Creepshow as purely entertaining as possible, and he has definitely succeeded with the season 2 premiere.

The first episode of Creepshow season 2 will be available to watch on the Shudder streaming service as of April 1st.

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