Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Creepshow: Skeletons in the Closet & Familiar

Horror fans are a lot like serial killers. They both like to collect. However, you want to be sure you’re not the one being collected. Viewers can see the dark side of the collecting impulse in the latest episode of showrunner Greg Nicotero’s Creepshow, which premieres Thursday on Shudder.

In “Skeletons in the Closet” (written by John Esposito and directed by Nicotero), Lampini’s late father was an avid horror movie prop collector, so he has turned the family collection into a museum on the Hollywood Strip. Just when he is poised to make a splash with an exhibit of actual human skeletons that appeared in classic films (this is a very real phenomenon that happens more often than you would think), his father’s old nemesis “Bateman” (sort of like “Newman!” in
Seinfeld) arrives to ask awkward questions of providence. However, that might turn out to be a mistake, given Lampini has an excuse to have a bunch of skeletons lying around.

“Skeletons” is another wonderful loving, yet drolly macabre love letter to horror fandom. Nicotero and Esposito incorporate some very funny visual homages to iconic films, such as
Psycho, The Shining, and Jason and the Argonauts. The latter is especially deranged, but somehow it makes perfect sense within the narrative. The great James Remar is terrific as the sleazy Bateman and Valerie Leblanc vamps it up entertainingly (and lives up to the pressure of a Hitchcock-inspired shower scene) as Lampini’s girlfriend, Danielle. Frankly, this is the sort ironic, fan-appreciating story Creepshow does best, along with segments like “Night of the Living Late Show” and “Public Television of the Dead.”

The vibe is more serious (at least by
Creepshow standards) throughout “Familiar” (written by Josh Malerman and directed by Joe Lynch), but it is still rather amusing to watch a yuppy lawyers and hipster artist deal with an uncanny stalker. Fortuitously, Jackson’s wife Fawn just happened to drag him in for a reading from Boone the psychic, as a lark, soon after a demonic familiar latched onto him. Boone has advice for dealing with the supernatural parasite—and conveniently, he accepts all major credit cards—but the correct execution will be a tricky matter.

It is nice to see Hannah Fierman from the original
V/H/S pop up again as Fawn. This time, instead of being creepy, she gives the segment some upbeat energy. Andrew Bachelor definitely plays Jackson as a cocky idiot, but that is well within the Creepshow/EC Comics tradition. However, Keith Arthur Bolden is a real standout as Boone, chewing the scenery with dignified gravity and sly wit. Lynch maintains a creepy vibe, so even though most viewers can guess where “Familiar” is going, it is still a satisfying ride.

There is no weak link to this week’s
Creepshow, just the strong “Familiar” and the stronger “Skeletons.” Both uphold the franchise’s tradition and feature some appropriately colorful genre performances. Highly recommended, this episode premieres Thursday (9/30), on Shudder.