Probably every horror fan (or TV fan?) knows the name of Greg Nicotero now; if you’ve watched The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead or even the George Romero-helmed Day of the Dead (1985), you’ve seen some of his special effects makeup. A protege of FX makeup maven Tom Savini, Nicotero became interested (says Wikipedia) in special effects after watching Jaws. He worked with Savini on Day of the Dead, learning his trade and has since become a director and producer of genre films. The now not-so-new TV series Creepshow, fashioned after the movies of the same name (Greg worked on Creepshow II, the movie, as part of the special effects crew), is a tribute to the eponymous movies, but is also a product of Nicotero’s interests and skill. (Besides directing many of the episodes, he serves as an executive producer on the series.)
I’m not going to go into too much depth on the stories themselves, as the current season is playing on Shudder (for those who stream from that venue), and I don’t want to spoil it for those who do.
The frame for the series, which features two stories per episode, is that of a comic book similar to the old EC comics (Entertaining Comics), Tales From the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, and the like (EC put out ten famous titles, mostly horror and/or science fiction and fantasy; they were directly or indirectly responsible for the formation of the Comics Code Authority after Dr. Fredric Wertham published his well-known book Seduction of the Innocent. (This book and its author were directly responsible for my mother’s trashing of my small, but significant collection of EC comics in the 1950s.)
Along with some grossly entertaining tales and panels, drawn by many of the same people who brought you the comic-book version of Mad Magazine (its first issues were all in comic format). Original ECs (many were reprinted later on semi-glossy paper; the originals are all cheap newsprint) can nowadays command a pretty good price. (Because of EC artists like Jack Davis, Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood et al., the art—though somewhat repugnant to adults at the time—is highly regarded today) Scattered throughout the comics were ads for things like monster masks, posters, plastic models, rubber chickens and the like; one such ad (for a live monkey!) is copied in one of the Creepshow ads). See Figure 2 for an example; of course, the Creepshow ads are phony and none of the companies shown actually exist. (Or do they? See Figure 4.)
Season 4 begins with a pair of stories (See Figure 1): “Twenty Minutes With Cassandra” and “Smile.” If Cassandra banged on your door in the middle of the night (Figure 3), would you take pity on her and let her in? Maybe that’s not such a good idea; whatever is chasing her might not be easily dissuaded. “Smile” is about a photographer who’s won awards for at least one heart-rending photograph. But there’s an old question that asks “should a photographer render aid instead of just taking photographs?” This story attempts to answer that question.
Episode 2’s stories are “The Hat,” and “Grieving Process.” A horror writer is suffering from a grievous writers’ block, and his agent possibly has something that can help him: an artifact from best-selling horror writer Stephen Bachman. Then, a man’s wife is attacked while walking to her car. Her husband attempts to help her; in fact, he’ll do anything to help her.
Each of the above four episodes is fairly good on its own, if somewhat juvenile in its EC-like storyline (because most horror fans will have guessed the intent, or gimmick, in each story, they’re also somewhat predictable), but as the series progresses, the stories get better—and also less predictable.
Episodes 4 and 5 (“Meet the Belaskos/Cheat Code” and “Something Burrowed, Something Blue” and “Doodles”) are, more or less, an improvement on the previous stories; of course, we still have the excessive “comic-book” gore, but the tales themselves are better (in my opinion, natch). But I think the series kind of reaches an apotheosis with Episode 6 (the final Season 4 episode), comprising “George Romero in 3-D” and “Baby Teeth.” And I’m not sure—I’ll leave it to some reader of this column to try—but it’s possible even this ad, Figure 4, (for “Frankenstein’s Castle Dirt”) is from a real postal address. Someone please give it a shot and let me know!
”George Romero in 3-D” concerns a struggling bookstore in Pittsburg, PA. Customers are few and far between and the store owner is about to raise the rent on the woman (and her son) who leases the building, because he wants to drive out his tenants and sell to someone who’s gonna build a mall. Disaster looms, until the store’s helper, a young woman, finds a box. And in the box is a batch of comic books. But these are no ordinary comics; they’re from George Romero’s office (which this bookstore used to be) and have never been seen.
Image 10 was Romero’s legendary publishing company that went broke, and these are the first four—mint, unread—issues that have never been seen! The bookstore is saved, as each one of these comics (complete with 3D glasses!) will be worth thousands! We’ll see…And the final story is about a woman obsessed. She was abandoned as a child and wants to be sure her child is always loved and nurtured—and maybe a bit smothered; she even goes to the length of saving all her baby teeth! A bit bizarre, eh? Her teenage daughter (and her best friend) think so. And what’s with all the iron nails and stuff around?
I think you’ll enjoy this season whether you’ve watched Creepshow before or not—as long as you’re a horror fan and understand the whole EC comics schtick. But if you’re like my mother—well, you’ll probably think it’s a brain rot plot to influence young people’s minds.
Comments? Anyone? Bueller? You can comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!