Shudder’s Creepshow and the films that preceded it have always dabbled in hand-drawn animation. They all use animation to bridge the gap between stories to bring a horror comic to cinematic life. It makes sense that showrunner Greg Nicotero finally decided to dive into full animation with A Creepshow Animated Special.
A Creepshow Animated Special, like most other Creepshow episodes, features two segments. The first, “Survivor Type,” follows a shipwreck survivor stranded on an island who resorts to truly desperate means to survive. Based on a short story by Stephen King and featuring Kiefer Sutherland, it seemed like a slam dunk. Unfortunately, the segment never finds its footing.
Perhaps my apprehension toward deserted island storylines got in the way of my enjoyment of this segment, but the story here is truly ugly and not much fun. It’s a little too dark to successfully land the gallows humor Creepshow does so well. The non-linear narrative structure also does it no favors. There are plenty of grotesque moments; the animation proves to be just as gruesome as any of Nicotero’s live-action VFX. Unfortunately, the story itself is a slog, giving itself away too early and never finding a way to build to a satisfying conclusion.
As usual, Kiefer Sutherland gives his all. His vocal performance keeps things a little more interesting, but he’s working with a paper thin character. King’s attachment to this story indicates something better than what ended up onscreen. He is a master of short fiction, but this isn’t one of the better examples of his prowess. Given the silliness of the concept, “Survivor Type” takes itself far too seriously.
Twittering from the Circus of the Dead
The second segment, “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead,” is much more successful. This story follows a teenage girl on a family road trip that makes an unfortunate stop at a strange circus. Told entirely from the perspective of a teenage girl’s Twitter account and featuring a bitingly funny performance from Joey King, “Circus of the Dead” manages to find that Creepshow sweet spot: humorous, gory, and above all, fun.
Joey King’s uncensored Twitter ramblings about her family keep things entertaining even before the titular circus makes its appearance. Like its predecessor, this segment has plenty of gross out moments–a stand out being a severed lip that “looks like a gummy worm”–but a story that leans into a tongue-in-cheek tone makes those moments an easier sell. Joey King nails every bit of emotion and humor; at this point she’s cornered the market on disaffected teenage angst. Both of these stories live or die on their primary vocal performances, and “Circus” boasts a stronger one.
As with most Creepshow episodes, it appears that Nicotero was working with a low budget. The animation style is more in line with a motion comic than a fully animated television episode. That isn’t really a knock on Creepshow. The motion-comic angle benefits the illusion of the Creep taking you through the pages of a horror comic. There’s some great–and gruesome–artwork packed into this forty-six minute special. The style fits the tone, and let’s face it: you’re not watching Creepshow for Pixar-level animation.
Like a majority of Creepshow episodes, this special contains a strong segment paired with a weaker one. If you like the vibe of the series so far, you’re going to like something in A Creepshow Animated Special. It delivers what Shudder subscribers have come to expect from the popular series: gruesome fun. Halloween might be cancelled this year, but at least we still have Shudder to deliver the gory goods when it’s needed most.
Overall Score 3/5
A Creepshow Animated Special begins streaming only on Shudder October 29th.
The Shameless Plugs
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