The strength of anthologies is also its greatest weakness. A collection of short form stories never falls prey to overstaying its welcome or the bloat that can come with features. Unfortunately, the “grab bag” approach to anthologies can also mean that some stories are stronger than others. The season two premiere of Creepshow left me re-invigorated with the series, boasting two all time great segments. The second episode is more uneven.
As I sat down with my saucy Indian food to watch some blood and guts (what could go wrong?), I was jittery with anticipation. What did Greg Nicotero and his team have in store for me this week?
“DEAD & BREAKFAST”
The first segment of the episode is an absolute delight, following a pair of siblings who are trying to turn their house into a true crime attraction. The Spinster Murder House seems similar to the Villisca Axe Murder House, which grabbed this former Iowan’s attention. The issue is, the house just isn’t that scary. Business is the opposite of booming. In a last ditch effort, the siblings reach out to a true crime influencer in order to get some buzz going.
Fans of true crime will enjoy this send up of their culture. Even as a fan of this stuff, I still have a hard time with the ghoulish nature of a former crime scene being touted as a tourist attraction. “Dead & Breakfast” pokes fun at everyone involved in the industry. The influencer is vegan because “meat is murder,” but has no issue making money off of glorifying violent crimes. The siblings are so desperate to make money that they lie about the history of their own house. Or do they?
The MVP of this episode is C. Thomas Howell as the brother, Sam. The biggest laughs in this segment come from his awkward attempts to scare tenants of the bed and breakfast. Iman Benson and Ali Larter also shine in their respective roles as influencer and the sister, Pam. This is a twist-filled segment that has a lot of fun playing against expectations. Just when you think you know where this is going to go, it takes a left turn In Cold Blood style. It’s light on gore, but the success of this segment lands squarely on its sense of humor.
The second segment of the episode was not as successful, but it does have its high points. “Pesticide” follows Harlan (Josh McDermitt), a sleazy exterminator as he is hired by a wealthy man (Keith David) to do a job that ends up weighing on his conscience.
This segment combines psychological, body, and giant insect horror into a stew that doesn’t quite work. Nicotero loses the plot instantly, relying on too many hallucinations and dream sequences that add up to nothing. A psychiatrist (Ashley Laurence) bookends the story, but the segment as a whole doesn’t mesh. “Pesticide” has elements of The Tell-Tale Heart, Cronenberg films, and Bug. It just doesn’t meld them into anything coherent. It’s too trippy for its own good.
That said, there are some great practical effects here, even if the small budget shows at times. The giant pests are cheesy, but it doesn’t matter. That’s the charm of Creepshow. Keith David is also fantastic in his role, playing the antagonist in a way that only he could. Unfortunately, the rest of the segment falls flat. Muddled character motivations and nonsensical ending hinder this from being a great Creepshow segment.
As a fan of Creepshow, I’m used to having mixed thoughts about each episode. While “Dead & Breakfast” was a humorous satire with some nice twists along the way, Pesticide just didn’t work. It’s obvious that Nicotero and his team are having a blast this season, though. And that shines through, even when the writing leaves something to be desired.
Overall Score 3/5
A new episode of Creepshow drops every Thursday exclusively on Shudder!
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