Friday, October 11, 2019

Creepshow: All Hallows Eve & The Man in the Suitcase

In the 1930s, the classic Universal monster movies suggested monsters were really a lot like people, except maybe more so. The pendulum shifted in the 1970s, when horror movies argued people were a lot like monsters, but maybe worse. The second contention is clearly reflected in both of the latest tales of terror featured on the third episode of Creepshow, the series, which just debuted on Shudder.

Trick-or-treating is a classic staple of horror movies, but there is something different about the group of kids-in-costume we will be following in All Hallows Eve. It soon become clear the town is terrified of what they might do as a trick, so they nervously indulge them with treats. Hallows seems like a disappointingly conventional horror story, maybe somewhat akin to the It’s a Good Life segment of the Twilight Zone Movie, but director John Harrison and screenwriter Bruce Jones successfully manage to turn our assumptions about the characters inside-out during the third act. In fact, Hallows turns out to be surprisingly poignant at the eleventh hour. It is definitely the best of the episode, but far from the series’ best.

Things get rather Faustian in The Man in the Suitcase, directed by David Bruckner (known for The Ritual and a segment of the original V/H/S), arguably the best-known director to helm an episode of Creepshow, the series, thus far. It all start when Justin, an underachieving stoner (is there any other kind?), picks up the wrong bag at the airport. Instead of his Bermuda shorts and dirty underwear, he finds a distressed Middle Eastern man crammed inside, in a painful looking contorted state.

As the sluggish Justin ineffectually struggles to help the man escape his luggage prison, he discovers his guest spontaneously produces gold coins whenever he feels pain. That doesn’t really give Justin any ideas, but his roommate Alex and his ex-girlfriend Carla are far greedier and considerably more devious. When they learn his secret, they quickly devise torturous methods to mine gold from the stranger’s misfortune. Of course, there is more to it than that, or it wouldn’t have a place in the sinister world of Creepshow.

Man in the Suitcase is just okay, but that is rather disappointing considering the quality of Bruckner’s past work. Nevertheless, Ravi Naidu elevates the material with a classic scenery-chewing genre performance as the mystery man with painful powers.

Creepshow, the series, still has great potential and some terrific stories already under its belt. All Hallows Eve & Man in the Suitcase both have some intriguing moments, but this is not likely to be an episode fans frequently re-watch. Horror fans will still probably find it worth sticking with the series. After all, who could possibly turn away from Creepshow? Episode three is now streaming on Shudder.