Saturday, September 30, 2023

CREEPSHOW: SEASON 2 (2020-2021) (Acorn Media International Blu-ray Review)

CREEPSHOW: SEASON 2 (2020-2021) 

Label: Acorn Media International
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Cert. 15 
Duration: 323 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Directors: Greg Nicotero, John Harrison, Axelle Carolyn, Joe Lynch, Rusty Cundieff 

The Shudder Original series Creepshow's second season first episode starts off strong with "Model Kid" and the banger b-side "Public Television of the Dead", both directed by Greg Nicotero and the latter written by Rob Schrab. "Model Kid" strongly channels the original film's wrap around story that featured Tom Atkins as a shit-ass dad; here we have a 70's monster kid Joe Aurora whose loving mom is dying of cancer, after she passes his Aunt Barb and unemployed, abusive Uncle Kevin (Kevin Dillon, The Blob) become his guardians, but his uncle hates that the kid is is not the typical sports loving kid who is instead obsessed with horror movies and painting his 70's horror model kits. His uncle treats him like shit and he's bullied on the streets by his peers, but when Joe orders a model kit called ‘The Victim" he uses it like a voodoo doll to get his revenge. This kid's room is decked on in so much vintage monster-kid models, masks, posters and ephemera that it made me envious, with cool re-imagining of The Gill Man, Frankenstein and The Mummy as his avenging monsters who literally tear old Uncle Kevin apart. This brought to mind the aforementioned Creepshow wraparound as well as Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse and the Monster Squad. If you're a monster-kid at heart this taps right into that Universal Monsters nostalgia, and the story of the kid's loving cancer-stricken mom does manage to tug at the heartstrings. Not to be outdone the flipside of the first episode "Public Television of the Dead" is a straight-up Evil Dead continuation with Ted Raimi appearing as himself! Set inside a '70s PBS type TV studio we have three shows being filmed; one is a Lamb Chop's Play-Along knock-off with a bitchy host vying for a better time slot, The Love of Painting with a Bob Ross lookalike named Norm who is about to be cancelled, and an Antiques Roadshow type program, the latter of which features Raimi playing himself, as a guest who has brought on a prized family heirloom - the fucking Necronomicon! Sure enough the host of the show Goodman Tapert reads Sumerian and start reciting the text,  and naturally all Hell breaks loose. The deadites are summoned and start stealing souls, and it's up to Norm, a 'Nam veteran who processes his PTSD by painting peaceful images of nature, to kick-some ass. A terrifically fun and tongue-in-cheek entry that channels that Evil Dead 2 splatstick vibe with some awesome deadite make-up effects.  

Episode 2 teams-up "Dead and Breakfast" and "Pesticide", the first directed by Axelle Carolyn (Doomsday) and the b-side coming from Nicotero. "Dead and Breakfast" concerns a struggling ‘Spinster Murder House' hotel run by siblings  Pam (Ali Larter, Final Destination) and Sam (C. Thomas Howell, The Hitcher). The hotel was the former home of their grandmother who was allegedly a murderous spinster in the '30s, but no bodies were ever found to back up that claim. Guest booking are at an all-time low, but when a haunted hotel aficionado/influencer/vlogger IIman (Benson, The Midnight Club) show's up the desperate proprietor's lay on the horror schtick pretty thick in hopes of a kind review, but when the influencer starts poking fun at the haunt the real horror show begins. This one is pretty hokey in a fun EC comics/Tales from the Crypt sort of way, but after the one-two punch of the season starter this is a step down, but it certainly falls right in with that vintage gallows humor of the EC comics stuff. The flipside episode is "Pesticide" wherein schlubby exterminator Harlan King (Josh McDermitt, The Walking Dead) is recruited by unscrupulous real estate developer Mr. Simms (Keith  David, The Thing) to not exterminate bugs but to kill a group of homeless who have taken up an encampment in one of his dilapidated properties. Harlan accepts but has second thoughts about the assignment, he's no killer, but when he is attacked by a vagrant he accidentally drops poison into a makeshift stewpot and the homeless all die. Afterward he is haunted by visions of giant spiders, rats and critters, and gets his deserved comeuppance.  

Episode 3 features "The Right Snuff" and "Sibling Rivalry", the first directed by Joe Lynch the latter by Rusty Cundieff (Tales from the Hood). In the Lynch directed "The Right Snuff" a pair of astronauts Alex (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood) and Ted (Breckin Meyerare, Rat Race) are on a space mission, jealously arises when the pilot (with some serious daddy issues) begins to hate that the science guy Ted is getting all the press. He ends up murdering Ted by trapping him in a gravity rooms, squishing him like a bug. He's looking to steal the glory of an impending first encounter with alien life, only to doom the while human race with his petty green-eyed murder. This one has a hokey looking alien that suits the b-movie/Outer Limits type premise quite nicely, if not exactly a highlight of the season it's fun enough, but forgettable. It's paired with the equally middle-of-the-road "Sibling Rivalry" which features a highschool girl Lola (Maddie Nichols) telling her guidance counselor (Molly Ringwald, Office Killer) the madcap tale of of a bi-curious sleepover, her brother (Andrew Brodeur) trying to kill her, and her own vampiric bloodlust. A very breezy bit of comedy that won points for the Ringwald (my childhood crush) cameo, and I appreciated the fast-paced, kinetic storytelling, but it's another "just OK" entry, 

The "just OK" theme continues with first half of Episode 4 with the "Pipe Screams" and "Within the Walls of Madness", the first directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2) with John Harrison handling the latter. "Pipe Screams" feels very much akin to the "Pesticide" segment, we have a schlubby plumber Linus (Eric Edelstein, Green Room) contracted by slum-lord Victoria Smoot (Barbara Crampton, From Beyond) to unclog some drains in an apartment building, but in doing so he encounters a flesh-eating sentient hairball that wreaks havoc, leading to the fed-up tenants to rise-up against Smoot and feed her to it. This one is highlighted by some fun hairball creature effects, garish lighting and an over-the-top Crampton getting to chew on the scenery as a no-good slum lord - fun but forgettable. Things get more interesting with "Within the Walls of Madness" a more serious minded Lovecraftian tale with the imprisoned Zeller, recounting his involvement in a series of grisly murders at a research facility in Antarctica. This one has larger ambitions that are outstretched by the series tiny budget, but it's an interesting go just the same and eventfully we get some world-shattering, tentacled Elder Gods action, making for a nice break the usual comedic-slanted Creepshow fare.  

Episodes 5 is a single-episode tale written by Dana Gould and directed by Nicotero, "Night of the Living Late Show", and it's certainly one of the more memorable entries of the season and series in my opinion. In it inventor Simon Sherman (Jason Long, Drag Me to Hell) who has invented an immersion pod designed to immerse people in their favorite films. Sherman's relationship with his wife Renee (D’Arcy Carden, HBO's Barry) is a bit rocky as he spends all his time in his lab, using the immersion pod to live inside a virtual version of his favorite film, the cult classic Horror Express, where he is carrying on a virtual affair with  Countess Petrovska. This episode is chock full of footage from Horror Express with Long's character digitally inserted amongst and interacting with horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing which is quite well done. Eventually the inventor's put upon wife grows weary of his distraction and sabotages the project, replacing Horror Express with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead with Sherman unexpectedly entering the virtual reality expecting Horror Express but ending up during the final undead siege of NOTLD. 

The final episodes on the disc are actually Holiday Special that aired between seasons one and two, first up is the  "A Creepshow Animated Special: "Survivor Type"/"Twittering from the Circus of the Dead", both directed by Greg Nicotero with the former based on a short story by Stephen King and the latter based on a short story by King's son, and a terrific author in his own right, Joe Hill. In "Survivor Type" based on King;s short from 'The Skeleton Crew' crooked drug-peddling Dr. Richard Pine (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, The Lost Boys) is plane-wrecked on a deserted island, his only companion is the decomposing corpse that's washed up on shore and an ever present gull. While on the island without food the doctor contemplates cannibalism, both of the corpse and himself, with gruesome and maddening results. The stylized and minimalist motion comic styled animated is pretty striking and suits the story pretty well. Next up is "The Twittering of the Dead", the tale of a young girl on vacation with her family, bored tweeting friends while on the road and live tweeting during a performance at the 'Circus of the Dead' where things get a bit out of hand with the spectators becoming part of the undead show. 

The live-action "A Creepshow Holiday Special: Shapeshifters Anonymous" is written and directed by Nicotero and based on a story by J.A. Konrath, features  Robert Weston (Adam Pally, Iron Man 3) attending a Shapeshifters Anonymous meeting, a support group for were-creatures, believing himself to be a werewolf. There he meets fellow were-creatures Scott (Pete Burris, Stranger Things) a were-tortoise, were-cheetah Irena (Anna Camp, Pitch Perfect), and were-boar Andy, as well as a were wanna-be furry named Phyllis and mystery man Ryan (Derek Russo, Bad Candy). As the meeting wears on they discuss the trials an tribulations of there were-lives before the meeting comes under attack by a horde of were-killing Santa Clauses hellbent on destroying all were-creatures, lead by a forgotten Biblical warrior Kris Kringle!  This holiday special is off-the-walls fun, from the were-creatures versus homicidal Santa's tot he cool creature designs of the were-creatures when they finally transform this bloody and FX heavy entry instantly became one of my favorite episodes in the series. Loved the looked of the werewolves, were-tortoise, were-boar and the sexy were-cheetah especially. 

As with season one we get some solid and not-so-solid entries, par for the course with horror anthologies, but on the whole I found the season entertaining, even when it wasn't firing on all cylinders it was good pulpy fun, the best for me were  the one-two punch of the season opener "Model Kid" and "Public Television of the Dead" both with some terrific creature FX, "Night of the Living Late Show" and the live-action Holiday special  "A Creepshow Holiday Special: Shapeshifters Anonymous", that would be my season two best-ofs. If you're a fan of the pulpy, oftentimes campy, and usually gory style of the first season of Creepshow, and are use to the highs and lows of the anthology format, this second delivers the gory goods. 

Audio/Video: Creepshow: Season 2 (2019) arrives on 2-disc region-free Blu-ray from Acorn Media International in 1080p HD widescreen (1.78:1), shot digitally there are no issues with source related blemish and the series translates to reasonably sharp HD with bold colors, particularly during the stylized animated comic panels and garish lighting, looking at tad better than season one. Black levels are solid and shadow delineation is pleasing. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with optional English subtitles, it's strong track with some nice use of the surrounds.

Extras for season 2 include both the A Creepshow Animated Special and A Creepshow Holiday Special, a 38-min Wondercon @ Home 2021 Interview with Greg Nicotero; 8-min How It Was Made: Night of the Living Late Show; 4-min Behind the Scenes with Bare Knuckles Creative (4:08); 5-min of Behind-the-Scenes Raw Footage, and a 50-sec Creepshow Season 2 Photo GalleryThe 2-disc release arrives in an oversized UK style keepcase with a flipper tray housing the two disc, the single-sided wrap features the same key artwork as the U.S. release. 

Special Features: 
- A Creepshow Animated Special 
- A Creepshow Holiday Special 
- Creepshow Season 2 Photo Gallery (0:50) 
- Behind-the-Scenes Raw Footage  (4:56) 
- Wondercon @ Home 2021 Interview with Greg Nicotero (38:00) 
- How It Was Made: Night of the Living Late Show (7:41) 
- Behind the Scenes with Bare Knuckles Creative (4:08) 

Screenshots from the Acorn Media Blu-ray: