Happy Horrorthon! We are in the thick of it and it is AWESOME! Yes, I got another streaming subscription service, but I draw the line at Disney and CBS because they’re boring. In 1982, Creepshow was a film written, produced, and directed by horror masters, including Stephen King. The stories were an homage to the EC Horror Comics from the 1950s and 1960s. The show has become reincarnated on the Shudder streaming service and I will review all of the episodes as they are released.
What’s great about these shows (except for Two Sentence Horror, which is a steaming pile of garbage) is that they give talented people a chance to direct or write when they haven’t had the opportunity prior. Also, because Greg Nicotero (Executive Producer Of The Walking Dead and friend to everyone in horror) is helming it, the show has tremendous access to great stories by Stephen King and actors like Tobin Bell (Saw) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad).
The two stories in the premiere were Gray Matter – a Stephen King short story from Night Shift, Directed by Greg Nicotero and The House of the Head was the second story and was Directed by John Harrison, written by Josh Malerman. The two stories and direction were completely different.
Gray Matter was what I expected: an over the top story with lots of gore that would have been totally at home in a Tales From the Crypt episode. The House of the Head, on the other hand was genuinely TERRIFYING! I had trouble watching this story because it was so intense that I really worried about the characters and the figurines- I’ll explain later.
Gray Matter is about a son who’s trying to live with his alcoholic single dad. Everyday the Dad promises to stop drinking and everyday it ends with both of them disappointed.
One day, the father drinks some tainted beer and turns into a slime monster with a craving for beer and people. The son who enabled his father’s drinking now enables his father’s thirst for human flesh.
This enabling dooms mankind. In essence, the disease of alcoholism consumed the alcoholic and destroyed everyone around him. Sounds about right.
At this time in the 1980s, Stephen King was in the worst period of his cocaine and alcohol addiction and many of his stories revolve around the enabling and tragedy that followed his disease. In an interview, he described how he put cotton balls up his nose from the frequent bleeds and he kept a sugar bowl filled with cocaine next to him while he wrote.
The symbolism in the episode was not that obvious; it was much into dramatic performances and gore. The monster was a classic Tom Savini art work.
The House of the Head was amazingly unexpected. It was tense, subtle, and had you on the edge of your seat for the entire episode. Evie, the central protagonist in The House of the Head, is a nine year old girl whose father got her a dollhouse.
The dollhouse is adorable with cute figurine parents and a child.
Unfortunately, the dollhouse is also haunted by a severed head!!!! Yikes!
The writing and direction ramps up the tension as we see that reality is being blurred by this supernatural entity. The figurines in the dollhouse get terrorized and murdered by the severed head. It’s real nightmare fuel.
The suspense/thriller writing and directing was also unexpected. I thought it was going to be a Tales From the Crypt style story; instead John Harrison (Dir) and Josh Malerman (Writer) relentlessly pull the viewer into the haunted dollhouse where every shot is filled with uncertainty and terror.
The dollhouse itself becomes a character and the viewer is forced to wonder if our protagonist and her parents are in fact figurines themselves with shots like this.
The parents are laying in an doll-like manner and the furniture also looks like a dollhouse’s accessories. Is the Head pulling them into a dollhouse world? Is it pushing its way into our reality? Much like the episode itself, you never really know. Every time Evie looks from one room to another, the camera pans back and the figurines have changed and it’s rarely good.
This show was a lot of fun and it’s great to see a horror anthology story done well!
It’s not really enough to recommend this show without recommending Shudder itself. It’s not a lot of money per month and has a lot of original programming.