Well, folks, it’s finally here: the last episode of Creepshow‘s third season. Time flies when you’re streaming a bite-sized horror anthology, doesn’t it?
If you’ve been following FSR‘s coverage of the massively popular series, you’ll know that my co-reviewer Rob Hunter and I have struggled to pick up what Shudder and company have been putting down. As Rob underlined in his write-up of last week’s episode, the show often creatively fails to overcome its more logistical (read: budgetary) limitations. And more concerningly, Season 3 has almost completely distanced itself from the core narrative thrust of its source material: the ghoulish and grisly karmic comeuppance that defines and differentiates the Creepshow IP from its peers.
As Rob noted in last week’s review, the problem persists in the season’s back-half. And with a discernable high point still lacking, there’s only one episode left to tick the requisite boxes. So with that said, stakes high as can be, let’s dive in to Creepshow‘s “Drug Traffic” and “A Dead Girl Named Sue”:
Director: Greg Nicotero
Writer: Christopher Larsen
Story by: Mattie Do & Christopher Larsen
A bus rolls up to a port of entry on the U.S. – Canada border. Beau (Michael Rooker) was mere minutes from clocking out but now he has to deal with this: a bus full of the empty political promises of a cynical congressman (Reid Scott). Evan Miller is running a campaign on the human right to health care access. And despite his genuinely noble cause, there’s self-serving ambition in his TV-ready grin. He’s amassed an entourage of ailing immigrants for a PR stunt; escorting them across the border to make a show of Canada’s more relaxed attitude towards over-the-counter medication.
Beau immediately smells a rat and tells Miller as such; the congressman is a posturing centrist using at-risk minorities to further his own career. While Beau and Miller but ideological heads, something is clearly wrong with one of the congressman’s followers: a young woman named Mai (Sarah Jon) whose sweat-drenched brow and sunken eyes suggest that this might be something a couple Canadian pills won’t fix.
When Mai upchucks while waiting to clear customs, Beau hurries her mother (Mai Delape) away under suspicion of drug smuggling. While the mother insists that she has to attend to her daughter, that she needs her pills and she needs them right now, both Beau and Miller use the situation to further their own ideological bugbears. Meanwhile, Mai takes a turn for the worse… to put it lightly. And when her illness is revealed to be something far more monstrous (this is Creepshow after all), a bloodbath ensues, forcing Beau and Miller to work together.
Bang the gong and break out the champagne: “Drug Traffic” is unambiguously the highlight of Season 3. Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that this is one of my favorite practical monsters in the entire series. It’s equal parts goofy and horrifying; a hard line to walk (or, in this case, hover across), but one that the segment pulls off regardless, in large part thanks to Jon’s performance. With an economical single location and across the board solid performances, “Drug Traffic” also has two of the funniest lines in the history of the show, which genuinely caught me off guard and set coffee shooting out of my nose (“I cannot let that thing cross the border”/”that thing is my daughter and she’s an American citizen”). Focused, engaging, and bloody as all hell, “Drug Traffic” is an absolute hoot and the clear highlight of Season 3.
That said: “Drug Traffic” still has its faults, and falls short when compared to the respective highlights of its predecessor seasons. The third act has an abrupt tonal shift from outrageous and silly to heartfelt and sincere that comes a bit out of nowhere. And the segment skirts the karmic spirit of EC Comics that continues to evade Season 3. There is also some truly egregious lampshading in the segment’s final moments where Beau and Miller attempt to locate the moral thesis of this grisly tale. That the segment itself doesn’t ultimately know what it wants to say is troubling given its sensitive subject matter.
But faults and all, we have a winner. Better late than never.
“A Dead Girl Named Sue“
Director: John Harrison
Writer: Heather Anne Campbell
Taking place during the events of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, “A Dead Girl Named Sue” sets its sights on one small town’s reaction to the unspooling chaos of flesh-hungry corpses. A local menace has been using the epidemic to heighten his acts of depravity. The son of the mayor, he’s always enjoyed a level of protection, no matter how ghastly his acts.
Now that lawlessness and vigilante justice are sweeping the nation, the townsfolk have decided that enough is enough: Cliven Ridgeway (Josh Mikel) must answer for his crimes. Police Chief Evan Foster (Cristen Gonzalez) is doing what he can to uphold the law. But when he’s presented with unambiguous proof of one of Cliven’s more depraved acts, he flips on a dime and decides that maybe the disgruntled townsfolk ought to have their way with this foul-mouthed menace to society. What’s left of society that is.
“A Dead Girl Named Sue” completely deflates the hard-won energy of its proceeding segment. It’s a tell-don’t-show slog that is somehow both hard to follow and highly predictable. It suffers from the Stephen King hallmark of info-dumping character names and hoping we’ll keep up, and it’s hard to parse what the segment is trying to say, ultimately, about privileged boys who dodge legal consequences. Is it trying to postulate that it will take a zombie apocalypse for these bad actors to face justice? But then what do we make of Chief Foster’s final remark, which seems to suggest that the execution of said justice makes the townsfolk no better than Cliven?
That the final zombie reveal looks like a bad Instagram filter doesn’t do this segment any favors.
With Season 4 is in the early stages of development, we’re not liable to rid ourselves of the Creep just yet. Until next time, boils and ghouls…