Reviews Television

CREEPSHOW Episode 2: Bad Wolf Down/The Finger

Matt recaps the second episode of Shudder’s web series.

Previously on Creepshow: A frightened boy learns the valuable lesson that if you witness your father literally turn to goo as his alcoholic consumption gets worse and worse, maybe don’t buy the beer. You never know if he’s going to metamorphosize into a slimy blue blob that absorbs Jigsaw, devours the creepy “come play with us, Danny!” nightmare twins from The Shining, and brings about the end of pretty much everything. A young girl, meanwhile tries to get a-head (not sorry) of the mystery behind her haunted dollhouse before her story can be abruptly brought to a lackluster conclusion. 

Last week unleashed an entry point to the show’s comic-style weirdness, and this week’s pairing make us a devilish offering of two more stories. Fair warning, fellow creepers, that there’ll be *SPOILERS AHEAD*! Let’s feast…again, shall we?

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Creepshow (2019) – source: Shudder

Story #1 – Bad Wolf Down (dir. Rob Schrab)

Boom! Stranded behind enemy lines in France, a platoon of American soldiers are ambushed under a hail of gunfire by a very uncool battalion of Nazi soldiers, as expected. Captain Talby (Dave McDonald) and his squadron are chased until they find themselves confined within an abandoned police station. As an enraged Nazi Sergeant (Jeffrey Combs)  vows revenge on Talby’s men for the death of his son, the soldiers confront a peculiar omnipresence restrained within a secure cell—a weapon with teeth that could prove useful in their escape. 

It’s werewolves. It’s right up there in the title so there’s no beating around the bush. It’s pretty funny how limited their options are; either go outside and face a loaded band of Nazis, or remain inside with something that slashed a bunch of officers to ribbons—decisions, decisions. The soldiers, after accidentally wounding a mysterious woman (Kate Freund) with yellow eyes in the jail cell, make their way in only to discover that this woman in white is there voluntarily because when that full moon lights up the night sky, it sends her on a furry, murderous rampage across the countryside.

As the temper-tantrum laden Sergeant closes in, the woman in white bites the three remaining soldiers so they may have a fighting chance to shred their way out of there. The three werewolf designs derive from strict homages to An American Werewolf in London, The Wolf Man, and The Howling. Even the Captain’s full name (Lawrence Talbot—protagonist of Universal’s The Wolf Man) is revealed in a sledgehammer Easter egg that is so on the nose that it provided me with a huge laugh. The budgetary restrictions are made much more apparent with the Lycan transformations, opting to demonstrate the body contortions and rapid hair growth through illustrated comic panels, and even the blood towards the finale looks watery. 

As cathartic as it is to witness sharp-toothed werewolves eviscerate Nazis (never fails to see them receive a grisly comeuppance in any medium), Bad Wolf Down, beyond the nifty costumes and an appropriately hammy appearance from Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs, disappoints on the follow-through with an insignificant thrashing that’s over just as quickly as it commences.  

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Creepshow (2019) – source: Shudder

Story #2 – The Finger (dir. Greg Nicotero)

In Greg Nicotero’s second (and certainly not last) directing gig with Creepshow, Clark Wilson (DJ Qualls), recently divorced because of a constant contempt for his wife and troublemaker children (to say the least) from a previous marriage, comes to find himself enamored with forgotten objects that once had purpose to someone else. One night, as the passive-aggressive recluse roams his neighborhood, Clark stumbles upon a rotting finger that, over the course of a few days, sprouts into a bloodthirsty companion who loves him so much that not even our corporate overlords could manufacture a plastic friend this disturbingly loyal.

The finger first shows signs of growth after it absorbs Clark’s spilled bottle of Harrows—the same beer from Gray Matter. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s something funky going on with that drink. It gradually grows until it becomes the one and only Bob, the surprisingly cute miniature fusion of the Cloverfield monster with the Xenomorph chestburster. When Clark expresses a personal distaste towards an individual, whether it be his ex-wife or a random telemarketer in Texas, Bob does what any normal severed finger turned alien best friend would do: extract their heart and present it to his master. 

In addition to gruesomely fetching body parts like bones, Bob has an affinity for frigid temperatures, soap operas and popcorn which, to it, is more than enough compensation for a long night’s slaying. You see, this is yet another reason why Bob reigns supreme over the laser point-slaying Indoraptor from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He’s free, adorable and won’t hurt you when your back is turned.

DJ Qualls absolutely sells the unconventional relationship between a lonely web designer and his feral, yet adorable pet from hell. The narrative gimmick of The Finger is Clark’s immediate ability to break the fourth wall by confiding in the viewer, admitting that this is a pretty dicey predicament, but if Bob’s willing to make Clark happy, then why should he do something about the trail of body parts? His trick to processing this whole thing is by speaking directly to us, looking for attention and possibly some sympathy points as he feels discarded from everyone else. Clark, as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, is not a good person. 

The best use of the fourth wall gag is when Clark’s approached by two detectives (Antwan Mills and Gino Crognale) on behalf of his missing ex-wife. Where you’re expecting them to regurgitate the situation while Clark accordingly plays dumb, he precipitously slams the door shut and cuts off the conversation, insisting the talk “went on for about 20 more minutes but you get the hang of it.” It’s a pretty funny way to save time on expository information we’re already acquainted with. 

In its final moments, it shows Clark confined to a white sanitarium, calling Bob’s entire existence into question. Was he telling the truth, or was the finger turned murder pet a deflection of Clark unwilling to take responsibility for his resentment? Either way, Quall’s performance reaches apex creepy upon his final plea to the viewer, begging us to believe his account of events. But considering his gleeful complicity in Bob’s casual killing spree, whether it’s real or not, he ends up right where he ought to be. 

The Finger is Creepshow’s first great segment. It promises more fun from multiple viewings even if your only incentive is to take another glance at the adorably devious Bob. I’d like to see your dog, however precious they may be, retrieve a once-pumping human heart with your happiness in mind. Next week will prove whether the second story of each episode will feature a rotting body part that, by season’s end, will culminate with each ligament forming a whole body.

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Creepshow (2019) – source: Shudder

TUNE IN NEXT WEEK….

Shudder’s Creepshow, among the flaws strewn throughout both episodes, ultimately did succeed in demonstrating the campy fun that could be mined from either the fixation on some variant of the morality fable or largely exist an excuse to show off some exciting creature/make-up designs. If the series can keep the momentum going with the twisted fun of The Finger, then Creepshow can further deliver to the hearts of horror hounds. 

Just a final note: if that opening fake film advertisement in the comic for “Frankenstein vs. Frankenzilla” isn’t a clever bit of foreshadowing for a future story, then someone else please take that idea into consideration with a $150 million budget. It’ll likely make some money, and possibly squash any cinematic universe brainstorms, but hell, I’ll accept it.

The Creepshow television series is now streaming on Shudder with new episodes available each Thursday.

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