Thursday, October 31, 2019

Creepshow: Skincrawlers/By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain

Sometimes monsters are a metaphor for man’s inhumanity. Other times, they are just icky, slimy buggers. The first of monster of the Creepshow season finale is both, but they are much more the latter, whereas the episode’s second monster is more about the former. Either way there will be monsters in the first season capper of Creepshow, which just debuted on Shudder.

In Skincrawlers, Dr. Sloan has developed a radical weight loss technique employing a rare form of monster leech he discovered in South America. Yep, you already get the idea. He has no shortage of volunteers to help launch his treatment, but Henry Quayle is still skeptical. Nevertheless, the transformation of a fellow fatty into a hottie convinces him to be the volunteer for Sloan’s big TV premiere, but there will be complications.

is absolutely vintage Creepshow. It is gleefully gory and disgusting, but the blood and slime is all in good tasteless fun. Screenwriters Paul Dini and Stephen Langford serve up big laughs and director Roxanne Benjamin keeps upping the WTF stakes. This is what Creepshow and the E.C. Comics that inspired it were all about. As an added bonus, Dana Gould keeps it all mostly grounded, playing Quayle with sad-clown-dignity—and handling the gallons of practical effects like a champ.

It is therefore surprising the first season ends with the middling By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain, even though it is based on a Joe Hill short story and is directed by Tom Savini (thereby establishing another apostolic link to the 1982 movie). In fact, Lake Champlain follows a narrative course that is very similar to that of Creepshow’s The Companion, based on a Joe R. Lansdale story. In this case, a sea monster replaces a killer scarecrow, but domestic violence still represents a more pressing danger.

The young cast is first rate and “Champy,” the sea monster, is respectable looking, but fans will be disappointed Savini’s contribution does not have more gore and make-up effects. Frankly, everyone will know where this is going, especially if they have just seen The Companion. Still, it is worth noting northern lake monsters are having a brief but shining moment, between Champy and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews’ far more inventive (and idiosyncratic) Lake Michigan Monster.

is a great Creepshow yarn and Lake Champlain is an okay one. That averages out to a pretty good episode. All things considered, season one of Creepshow has been quite strong, particularly Skincrawlers, Head of the House, Night of the Paw, The Finger, and Lydia Layne's Better Half. These high points definitely justify a second season, which seems likely given its record-breaking ratings for Shudder. Easily recommended for horror anthology fans (especially Skincrawlers), the first season finale of Creepshow is now streaming on the horror-specialty service.