The Shudder Original Creepshow’s season finale aired on Halloween and it did so with two big pieces of news preceding it: The series has broken every record for the horror streaming platform and it has already been renewed for a season two. A horror anthology series based on the 1982 classic of the same name from horror icons Stephen King and George A. Romero, Creepshow has quickly grown a loving horror fan base and with Greg Nicotero at the helm as showrunner has delivered vignette after vignette of quality practical horror goodness. In the final episode of the first season we’re introduced to two new stories – “Skincrawlers” and “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain.”
The first of these stories in episode six, “Skincrawlers” was written by Paul Dini & Stephen Langford and directed by horror anthology veteran, Roxanne Benjamin who also directed a vignette in episode four titled “Lydia Layne’s Better Half.” In this careful what you wish for tale, a man considers a miraculous new treatment for weight loss that turns out to have unexpected complications. After returning from a jungle with a new eel-like creature in hand, Dr. Sloan (Chad Michael Collins) is ready to package his weight-loss technique for the masses.
A part of those who bought Sloan’s products regularly before, Henry (Dana Gould) is asked to take part of the starting trials. Creeped out by the need to put a leech-like creature in his body Henry refuses. When he runs into one of the women who was at the testing with him who has lost a significant amount of weight in two weeks, Henry decides to undergo the treatment himself only to see the explosive side effects when a solar eclipse showcases that the leech-like miracle fat suckers have left something behind in their hosts.
“Skincrawlers” works because it lives in the tapeworm urban legends and because we live in a society of fatphobia that pushes any extreme method of weight loss over health. Skinny doesn’t mean healthy and many times the methods people undergo harm them more than being overweight did. As much as this tale falls into “be careful what you wish for,” the underlying theme of this episode is to expose the diet industry and how it preys on those of us with low self-esteem, teaching us to tie self-worth to our weight and then exploiting it to push all kinds of harm our way.
As the protagonist, Henry discovers that his initial choice to not undergo the procedure was the right one and is empowered because of it. While the vignette itself is campy, gory, and has a wonderful use of buckets of blood and fake worms, the messaging of it still hits me. I’ve dealt with weight loss scams, I’ve hurt my body to lose a few pounds, and every day I attempt to accept myself even if the messaging around beauty tells me I shouldn’t. Is “Skincrawlers” campy fun? Yes. Does it also critique the entire weight loss industry and drag it to hell? Also yes.
The second vignette and the last of the season is “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain” is directed by the legendary Tom Savini, and adapted for the screen by Jason Ciaramella from Joe Hill’s original story. This story had the most potential of the two vignettes in this final episode. Dealing with similar themes of grief like episode one’s “Gray Matter” we see into the abusive home life of a young girl named Rose whose dad died looking for the monster living at the bottom of Lake Champlain. After the search for the monster consumed his life, he ended up at the bottom of the lake, leaving behind his struggling family and opening them up to a new man who only has his interest at heart.
This vignette strength comes from its young lead Rose, played by Sydney Wease. Inquisitive and determined, Rose is not just mourning the loss of her father, but the loss of her family. Looking for closure and to get away, she heads into the woods around the lake, only to find Champ, the creature the lake is known for, and proving that her father’s obsession wasn’t a crazed one.
The practical effects on Champ is well done, and while “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain” features a well-designed and authentic-looking creature, the horror of the vignette comes from Rose’s step-dad and her trouble letting her father’s memory be tarnished by Champ. The vignette is more about human emotion than its prehistoric creature and that’s what makes it work. Tom Savini expertly crafts tension in the fog of Lake Champlain which bathes the episode in blue while still keeping our characters in focus, a tough job to do.
Even with the praises, I have the vignettes individually, episode six of Creepshow didn’t deliver the power of the season opener nor of the previous episode. “Skincrawlers” and “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain.” individually aren’t bad, but their curation as finale stories is questionable given the strength of other vignetters this season. Episode six doesn’t provide enough gravitas to match the first episode with which the new series came out swinging. I wanted more from this episode, but it ends up more middle of the pack from the whole of the season instead.
That said, Creepshow’s first season is an undeniable hit and brings back the 80s aesthetic of practical effects in a world driven by copious amounts of CGI. It is campy, it’s deep, and overall the first season has found a fan base that increased Shudder’s subscription numbers that we can’t deny how well the series brings back a love of anthology that some may have forgotten.
Creepshow is available exclusively on AMC’s Shudder.
'Creepshow,' Episode 6 - "Skincrawlers" / “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain”
Even with the praises, I have the vignettes individually, episode six of Creepshow didn’t deliver the power of the season opener nor of the previous episode. “Skincrawlers” and “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain.” individually aren’t bad, but their curation as finale stories is questionable given the strength of other vignetters this season.