Reviews · TV

‘Creepshow’ Abandons Its Karmic Format with “Stranger Sings”

The latest episode of ‘Creepshow’ is just fine. But where’s the grisly comeuppance?
Creepshow Stranger Sings
AMC Networks
By  · Published on October 14th, 2021

Well, believe it or not, we’re in the home stretch of Creepshow Season 3. Feels like it just started, right? Time flies when the days get shorter ⁠– thanks October!

As this latest ghoulish go-round comes to a close, it’s worth taking a minute to stop and assess the damage. Shudder‘s hit anthology series has left my co-reviewer in crime Rob Hunter and me colder than most. And while we can usually count on one stand-out segment, it seems they’re saving the best for last. We hope.

One especially persistent thorn in our collective side has been the series’ inconsistent adherence to its source material’s raison d’être: morbid comeuppance-rich tales that see deserving jerks reaping what they sow.

Creepshow has ventured outside its carnage-filled karmic purview on the odd occasion, and Season 3 has been equally rebellious. And while there’s nothing “wrong” with expanding the horizons of the format, it does leave some finicky questions dangling in the wind. Namely: Does this deviation produce better segments?

Guess you’ll have to keep reading for my review of Creepshow Season 3, Episode 4 to find out!

Stranger Sings
Director: Axelle Carolyn
Writer: Jordana Arkin

In a small town that would do the Hallmark Channel proud, an innocent meet-cute unfurls between two seemingly innocent lonelyhearts: Sara (Suehyla El-Attar) a hopeless romantic who can’t catch a break, and Barry (Chris Mayers), a recently divorced and hopelessly awkward gynecologist. The pair hit it off instantly, but when invited into Sara’s home for a glass of wine, Barry chickens out. After admonishing himself, he stops in his tracks, his eyes roll back, and a waxy expression spreads across his face. Someone — he assumes Sara — is singing inside the house. When he comes to, he compliments her voice and the pair reunites inside.

When some wine “accidentally” spills on Sara’s dress, she leaves her living room to change. Barry retreats to the bathroom to deal with his own mess, only to discover a corpse in the shower. It’s at this point that we meet Sara’s pal Miranda (Kadianne Whyte), a man-eating siren. The pair explain that they have explicitly lured Barry into the house, not to eat him, but to use his services as a doctor. Miranda wants to be human. Sara wants to be a man-eating siren. They need to switch voice boxes.

The segment boasts a light-hearted tone that rides chiefly on the charm of its characters. Mayers is the clear standout, selling Barry’s cartoonish reactions with a much-needed sense of heart. El-Attar and Whyte have a warm, lived-in dynamic, and much of the segment’s comedy stems from their banter. This, of course, is undermined by where the segment finally winds up. But credit where credit is due.

While the soft-focused rom-com vibes of “Stranger Sings” make for a compelling set-up, the logic of the “horror” aspects of the Creepshow segment are distractingly weak. As it explains the rules of how sirens work, logical gaps become painfully obvious. Barry rightfully insists that he isn’t the best man for the job, medically speaking. And you’d think that with the power to compel men to do whatever they want, Miranda could force the hand of a more appropriate surgeon. But Sara and Miranda all but shrug at Barry’s totally legitimate concern. And the unanswered “why him, though?” distracts throughout.

A similar intrusive wrinkle happens during the pivotal operation, during which Sara and Miranda go out of their way to insist that each will supervise the other’s operation to prevent funny business from Barry’s scalpel. And unless sirens can stay awake through surgery, this makes zero sense. None of this would be distracting if it wasn’t so pivotal to the segment’s plot beats. And unfortunately, the thoroughly unconvincing singing dub doesn’t help smooth things over.

While I won’t spoil the ending, suffice to say that while I have no problem with its optimistic endnote, the killing blow feels unsatisfyingly left field. Overall: “Stranger Sings” is a cute, definitely flawed, and uncharacteristically un-meanspirited Creepshow entry. Less of a “be careful what you wish for” and more of a “wait, I’m still trying to figure out how that gynecologist performed two successful laryngectomies.”

Meter Reader
Director: Joe Lynch
Writer: John Esposito

Plague rolls across the planet, forcing the healthy to keep take precautions and keep their distance, when necessary, to protect their loved ones. Huh, that sounds familiar. It’s unclear if the plague is of religious or viral origin, and decapitation is the only way to ensure the infection stops in its tracks (okay, that’s less familiar). Dalton (Jonathon Schaech) is one of the few people with natural immunity. And as such, it falls to him to identify and contain the virus. After a particularly rough night, Dalton stumbles home to his eager family. And while his wife, Maria (Cynthia Evans), and son, Michael (Boston Pierce), are keen to let the patriarch enter the house, the eldest child, Theresa (Abigail Dolan), knows that something’s not quite right.

“Meter Reader” feels like a much larger movie that’s been stuffed like an unwieldy quilt into a too-small duvet cover. The amount of worldbuilding going on here is impressive, yes, but it’s inexcusably rushed. As a function of its runtime, the segment over-relies on telling rather than showing. And as a result, it feels like a sloppy speedrun of a richer film. The ideas in “Meter Reader” are ambitious and (often!) compelling. Putting Constantine and [REC] in a blender is a way more interesting idea for a COVID-19 horror movie than … most existing COVID-19 horror movies. But in the context of a Creepshow segment, it overreaches beyond what its limitations allow.

I will say this: hard hell yeah to Theresa’s machete. Nothing but compliments with respect to that incredible piece of character detail.

If Shudder’s Creepshow wants to broaden its reach, that’s fine. But for my money, the extra elbow room didn’t do these segments enough favors to justify going off-script. To be clear: both entries in this week’s episode were just fine. But apart from some comic book cut-aways, nothing about them felt like Creepshow.

Horror anthologies enjoy the creative freedom to bounce from one story to the next. But they always share a guiding principle. And for Creepshow, and the EC comics that inspired it, that throughline was a gleeful sense of ghoulish karma, a blood-tinged “gotcha!” moment that made reveling in the carnage and creature effects all the sweeter. It’s what made Creepshow special, as the series’ best efforts (“Public Television of the Dead”; “The Man in the Suitcase”) testify. Whether this trend of freewheeling uncentered spooky stories will continue remains to be seen. For my part, I hope the series finds its way back to the beaten path.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.