Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Creepshow: The Last Tsuburaya & Okay, I’ll Bite

Generally speaking, adherence to a good Protestant work ethic will go a long way’s towards keeping you out of a horror anthology. On the other hand, the idle rich and lowlife thugs are tailor-made for uncanny comeuppance. That is certainly true of the extravagant wastrel and violent prison inmates appearing in this week’s episode of Creepshow, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

In “The Last Tsuburaya” (directed by Jeffrey F. January and written by Paul Dini & Stephen Langford), Wade Cruise gives conspicuous consumption a bad name. The fabled last painting of Tsuburaya, a notorious Japanese painter of the macabre, has just been discovered and Cruise is determined to have it all for himself. However, his unwise stewardship will come back to haunt him, somewhat literally.

This week’s opener is vintage
Creepshow, with a snappy visual style that truly represents the spirit of old school horror comics. The Tsuburaya paintings and the monster design work are also both really cool looking. As Cruise, Brandon Quinn chews the scenery like nobody’s business, while Gia Hiraizumi and Jade Fernandez provide engaging art world counterpoints as Dr. Mai Sato, his rival, and artist “Geesa,” his increasingly disenchanted lover. Genre fans might have a general idea of where it is all headed, but there are still a few zigs and zags that heighten the enjoyment.

Similarly, “Okay, I’ll Bite” (directed by John Harrison, who also adapted his short story) hews closely to the EC Comics template that inspired the franchise, but it is not as stylish or slyly subversive. On the other hand, it has spiders—lots of them. After Elmer Strick, a fundamentally decent pharmacist was convicted of his age-addled mother’s mercy killing, his only friends in prison are the spiders he shares his cell with. Unfortunately, the corrupt guard who forces him to cook up meth is out to get both Strick and his eight-legged companions. Of course, in horror anthologies, it is always a bad idea to bet against anything that creeps and crawls.

Nick Massouh is quite good as Strick, but obviously the spiders are the reason to watch “Bite.” Still, the tone is rather downbeat, so this segment is not nearly as fun as the one that came before it.

Nevertheless, the combination of ghoulish art and angry spiders makes this week’s episode a solid outing for the series. In fact, “Last Tsuburaya” is definitely a season highlight. Highly recommended for fans of the franchise
and the horror anthology format, the latest episode of Creepshow starts streaming tomorrow (10/7) on Shudder.