Monday, September 20, 2021

Creepshow: Mums & Queen Bee

Tonight's episode addresses two very real-world phenomena that pose serious risks to society. One is extremist militia secessionism. The other is brainless, brain-rotting pop. The latter turns out to be much scarier than the former in the first episode of showrunner Greg Nicotero’s third season of Creepshow, which premieres this Thursday on Shudder.

It might be based on a Joe Hill short story, “Mums,” but the standard comeuppance opener of episode S3E1 (adapted by Nicotero & David J. Schow and directed by Rusty Cundieff) is probably the worst of the entire series. Jack’s mother Bloom once had substance abuse issues, but his father Hank is the dangerous one. Sadly, he uses her history to create a cover story after accidentally killing her, while plotting an act of domestic terrorism. Jack suspects something is wrong, but when he plants the weird seeds she left behind, what sprouts might just lead him to the truth.

Right, we have Bloom, who gets buried and Jack planting seeds. The names are really on the nose in this episode. Everything else is just as paint-by-numbers. Hank’s grisly fate is obviously assured due to his unsavory ideology and Ethan Embry’s performance does nothing to elevate him above a base caricature. That means there is no suspense, since the ending is preordained and there is no humor, presumably because the themes are thought to be so serious. Only Malone Thomas stands out with some nice work as Beth, the conflicted babysitter and co-conspirator, supplying the sole element of complexity. As a result, “Mums” plays out like didactic score-settling, which makes it a chore to watch.

Fortunately, “Queen Bee” (written by Erik Sandoval & Michael Rousselet and directed by Nicotero) is better in every single respect. Trenice and her friends Debra and Carlos each believe they are pop idol Regina’s “number one fan.” Maybe Carlos isn’t so adamant about it, since he can countenance selling pictures of her soon to be delivered baby to the tabloids. Regardless, all three would be delighted to be present when she gives birth, so when Debra’s nurse mother lets slip Regina’s entourage has taken over a floor of her hospital, they are all off like a rocket.

What they find involves some wonderfully wild practical effects. It is clear why a SFX master like Nicotero helmed this episode. Trenice and her friends, played with impressive screen-charisma by Olivia Hawthorne, Hannah Kepple, and Nico Gomez all sound like kids, while Sandoval & Rousselet’s dialogue slyly skewers teen fandom. Of course, the tone is dark, but it is still raucously fun (whereas “Mums” is just simply dark).

Start this episode around the 24:30 mark, because “Queen Bee” is highly recommended, whereas “Mums” is not. Anthologies are inherently inconsistent, but
Creepshow proves it in spades for its third season premiere. However, the high is pretty darn entertaining—and the animated Creepshow Creep segments are still just as cool. Recommended with fast-forwarding for “Queen Bee,” Creepshow’s third season opener premieres this Thursday (9/23) on Shudder.