Monster movies are different than horror films. Godzilla and King Kong are supposed to inspire shock and awe, because they are so far removed from human-scale, whereas monsters in horror movies are unnerving because they are all too human. Those are kind of-sort of the monsters we meet in this week’s episode of Creepshow, which premieres this Thursday on Shudder.
It is a siren that leads poor Barry astray in “Stranger Sings,” directed by Axelle Carolyn and written by Jordana Arkin, but as a doctor, he has a usefulness that could save his life. Miranda is tired of life as an immortal siren, so she wants Barry to swap her voice-box (and powers) with that of her mortal pal Sara, who is eager to assume her uncanny existence.
“Stranger” initially appears to be a tiresome gender-warfare exercise in woke horror, but it rights itself at the last minute. Still, the uneven comedic tone never really clicks and Barry, earnestly portrayed by Chris Mayers, remains the only remotely sympathetic character (at least if you hold to notion that killing people is bad).
“Meter Reader,” directed by Joe Lynch and written by John Esposito is not perfect either, but it is much more successful. It happens to be another story of pandemic horror, which always sounds like fun, doesn’t it, but in this case, it is different. The pandemic in question involves a massive outbreak of demonic possession. Abigail’s father Dalton has natural immunity, making him a logical choice to serve as a “Meter Reader,” a sort of blue-collar exorcist. In fact, he considers himself more like a plumber than a priest. The problem is Dalton is late returning home, calling into question the continued validity of his immunity.
This is not the best Creepshow story, but it is the one that stands the most to gain were it to be expanded into a full-length feature. Lynch and Esposito give us a full narrative, but they only scratch the surface exploring the implications of their demonic plague-world. Indeed, they could easily use more time to address the question “can evil be a pandemic” and the corollary “can a pandemic be evil?” Regardless, Abigail Dolan and Jonathon Schaech are quite strong as Abigail and her father. Plus, Lynch’s cool duster-wearing-motorcyclist-at-sunset visuals are well-suited to the Creepshow aesthetic.
Despite an uneven start, “Meter Reader” takes this week’s Creepshow to some interesting places. Anthologies tend to be uneven by their nature, so we can give an above-average one like Creepshow a pass on its occasional misfires. Recommended for “Meter Reader,” the latest episode of Creepshow start streaming Thursday (10/14) on Shudder.