Last week’s episode of Creepshow was a bit of a mixed bag for me. But this week sees Creepshow firing on all cylinders. Both stories are excellent examples of what the series is capable of. In one, a feud between rival movie prop collectors gets wildly out of hand. In the other, a man tries to ward off a mysterious creature that seems to be following him. Individually, both stories are excellent bite-sized horror tales. But combined, they are a magnificent showcase of Creepshow‘s strengths – and they filled me with a lot of excitement for the rest of the season.

Note: Slight spoilers for Episode 3×02 of Creepshow follow.

“Skeletons in the Closet”

James Remar as Bateman, Valerie LeBlanc as Danielle – Photo Credit: Richard Ducree/Shudder

Lampini (Victor Rivera) loves movies more than anything, and can’t wait to show off his prop collection to the world… but when a rival collector (James Remar) arrives, the machetes and chainsaws could become more than just props.

Written by John Esposito and directed by Greg Nicotero, “Skeletons in the Closet” is everything I want in a Creepshow story. It’s a little bit campy, a little bit scary, and a whole lot of fun. Narratively, it’s a pretty satisfying story. As is the case with most Creepshow episodes, it’s not hard to see where this story is going. After all, with a title like “Skeletons in the Closet,” it’s not much of a stretch to expect some skeletons, right? Regardless, while the broad strokes of the narrative are pretty predictable, many of the finer details ended up surprising me. The beginning is a bit slow. But once things start moving, Esposito and Nicotero never let off of the gas. And the last third of the story is filled with some absolutely delightful, tongue-in-cheek, absurd sequences.

It’s a very self-aware story – one that’s wholly unafraid to embrace the campy absurdity behind its idea. Everything from the (excellent) performances to the atmosphere itself is exaggerated to an 11.  And in this regard, the story is such a throwback to classic horror films. There are even tons of easter eggs to older films – from prop replicas to entire sequences filmed and executed as homages to very famous movies. This love of classic Hollywood even extends to the special effects. I can’t tell if the effects are practical, stop motion animation, or CGI imitating stop motion. But either way, the effects look great. They harken back to the kind of stop motion animation you’d find in an older movie. And it works brilliantly. In fact, every aspect of “Skeletons in the Closet” oozes fun and it’s an absolute delight from start to finish.

“Familiar”

Andrew Bachelor as Jackson – Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/Shudder

A drunken visit to a psychic (Keith Arthur Bolden) leaves Jackson (Andrew Bachelor) on edge. As time goes on, he realizes he is being followed by a dark force… will the psychic’s advice help, or leave him worse off?

Written by Josh Malerman and directed by Joe Lynch, “Familiar” is significantly darker than “Skeletons in the Closet”. This is the first time this season where the main characters in the story are undeniably likable. Jackson (Andrew Bachelor) and Fawn (Hannah Fierman) are an adorable couple who seem to genuinely care for each other. And because of that, it’s extra heartbreaking when the story does what all Creepshow stories do and veers into tragedy. However, that’s not to say “Familiar” isn’t fun. Keith Arthur Bolden strikes this delightful balance between helpful and sinister as the psychic, Booth. And the design of the creature following Jackson is creepy as hell, managing to be evocative of classic demonic imagery while still feeling fresh.

But ultimately, the joy of this story is simply in how well executed it is. It’s well-paced, with an ever-growing tension that culminates in a perfectly set up climax. The atmosphere is as dread-inducing as the writing is, and the performances from Bachelor, Fierman, and Bolden bring a lot of levity to the darker aspects of the narrative. It’s also one of those stories where the predictability factor is a welcome addition. There’s a specific moment about halfway through this story where you realize how it’s gonna end. And it’s an absolute gut-punch when that prediction comes true – in the best way. All in all, everything about “Familiars” just works brilliantly.

Final Thoughts

I can easily see this week’s episode becoming the one to beat this season. Both of these stories just perfectly display what makes Creepshow entertaining. The stories are simple but effective. The variety of tones between the two stories ensures there’s something for all horror lovers in the episode. I really hope subsequent episodes this season are as good as this one is. Because “Skeletons in the Closet” and “Familiar” are easily among my favorite Creepshow stories so far.

Rating: 4.5/5

New episodes of Creepshow premiere every Thursday on Shudder.

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