The debut season of Shudder's Creepshow series pulled off a difficult feat by adapting the compelling work of George A. Romero and Stephen King on their original 1982 film and honored that source material yet also offered plenty of fresh perspectives. Over the course of its initial run, fans were treated to stories of monsters, murderers, and horrors from another realm, all of which were run through a playful and colorful lens, adding an air of levity to each ordeal. In the Season 2 premiere of the series, all of these elements are on full display for a duo of delightful adventures, yet the familiar formulas might be seen as derivative by some as opposed to being tributes to iconic corners of the genre.
The first story, "Model Kid," focuses on a young boy whose only escape from bullying and family strife are monster movies, though the arrival of a violent and vitriolic step-uncle results in this one escape potentially being taken away from him for good. In the second story, "Public Television of the Dead," a number of public access programs are on the verge of being shut down for good, with the appraisal of an antique book breathing new life into the channel in a number of unexpected and deadly ways.
Most Creepshow fans might get the sense of redundancy while watching "Model Kid," as the original film also saw a wraparound segment featuring a young boy who read the titular comic book and had to suffer through an abusive father, ultimately getting his revenge on the belligerent patriarch. The structures of the two segments might have similarities, but "Model Kid" is far more effective in every regard. Many horror fans can relate to the young Joe in the story, as we've all found ourselves fascinated with the weirder corners of pop culture and would only be so lucky to have a family member support those pursuits. For much of the segment, we're given less of a horror story and more of an endearing love-letter to classic monsters and positive reflections of familial support, the degree to which we were denied in the 1982 segment. "Model Kid" might not explore any unexpected narrative trajectories, but merely depicting a loving relationship between a mother and son, especially in the face of a terminal illness, will surely hit hard with viewers, thanks to the writing of Joe Esposito and direction of Greg Nicotero.
As soon as Ted Raimi appears on "Public Television of the Dead" with a facsimile of The Evil Dead's Necronomicon, it becomes clear that this story won't attempt to dilute itself as a tribute to the franchise crafted by Sam Raimi, delivering a clever spin on the familiar premise. In both the tone of its humor and its horror, the experience offers up all the madcap mayhem one would expect, though it fails to offer any significant surprises. Its influences from The Evil Dead are so overt, it almost feels like a fan film, the mileage of which will vary with each viewer.
With the nature of any anthology series being that it offers audiences a variety of different stories, this new season of Creepshow is sure to offer viewers even more horrors than what are witnessed in the premiere episode. The narratives and spirit of these two chapters are quite diverse, yet they both feel like they came from the same book. The big question, with this premiere episode at least, is whether viewers see these stories as tributes to beloved corners of the genre or if the similarities are so strong that they feel derivative. Also the nature of any anthology is that the overall experience is often only as strong as its weakest entry, so while "Model Kid" might be a love letter to all horror fans who prefer the company of monsters, "Public Television of the Dead" sticks so closely to expectations that it results in the overall experience suffering.
Luckily, the joys of Creepshow and its contained horrors means that the stories you don't like are over in a matter of minutes while the best stories will leave you fulfilled yet wanting more, with this season premiere confirming that the series hasn't missed a beat since its debut adventures, delivering audiences the campy creepiness that honors creators Romero and King, all while reimagining itself for a contemporary audience.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Creepshow Season 2 premieres on Shudder on April 1st.