Shudder’s Creepshow series succeeds because it knows exactly what it needs to do: be entertaining but also a little bit scary (and awesomely gross), tell stories framed as comic book entries that blend horror nostalgia with a touch of social commentary and inevitably end with some sort of comeuppance—and do it all in 20-ish minutes, twice per episode. The creature feature anthology series returns tomorrow to kick off season three, and if the short review is “it’s more of the same,” well, there’s no way its many fans will mind.
And indeed, the two segments in the season premiere, “Mums” and “Queen Bee” don’t deviate from that formula, which is—again—not a complaint. “Mums” is based on a short story by Joe Hill (who has his own horror bona fides of course, but also happens to be the son of Stephen King—who scripted George A. Romero’s original Creepshow movie back in 1982) and written by series showrunner, executive producer, and Walking Dead alum Greg Nicotero. It’s directed by Tales From the Hood’s Rusty Cundieff, who also helmed last season’s “The Right Snuff/Sibling Rivalry.” And it has a classic Creepshow set-up, in that a lonely kid gets some supernatural help when one of his parents lets him down.
It also has a classic Creepshow setting: an isolated farm. Instead of a meteor crash-landing and bringing an alien plague, however, all the trouble in “Mums” is purely domestic. Young teen Jack (Brayden Benson) knows his parents are having problems—his mom (Erin Beute) is a bit of a flower child with a past history of addiction, while his dad (Ethan Embry) is an anti-government gun nut. Neither adult is perfect, but when tragedy strikes, there’s no question where Jack’s loyalties lie—and there’s also no question that something very curious is lurking in mom’s flower garden. Creepshow loves a good “nature takes revenge” plot, and let’s just say “Mums” follows very squarely in that tradition.
Nature also plays a big role in “Queen Bee,” directed by Nicotero and written by Erik Sandoval and Michael Rousselet, but so do some more contemporary concerns—like obsessive celebrity fandom and the uncontrollable urge to document everything in a social media frenzy. Teens Trenice (Olivia Hawthorne) and Debra (Hannah Kepple) have that kind of competitive friendship that almost nudges them into frenemy territory, with Carlos (Nico Gomez) acting as both buffer and instigator. So it’s not all that surprising when, after arguing over who’s the bigger fan of pop chanteuse Regina (Lovecraft Country’s Kaelyn Gobert-Harris), the girls and their tag-along pal decide to engage in some borderline-stalking when they learn their idol’s gone into labor at a hospital in their town.
When they arrive, their excitement is enough to blind them to the fact that Regina’s security measures are rather extreme—she’s a superstar, after all. But before long they realize that something is very, very, oh-my-god-no! wrong. The special effects in “Queen Bee” range from simple yet effective (the medical staff’s glowing green eyes, seen in the image at the top of this post, are eerie as hell and feel like an old-school sci-fi homage) to elaborate and very unsettling. Without spoiling anything, the title of the episode and the fact that Regina’s most recent hit is titled “Hungry For You” are both clues to the terrors that await anyone who dares to invade her privacy. Chomp!
Creepshow season three premieres tomorrow, September 23 on Shudder and continues weekly.
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