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Creepshow Episode 1.04 - The Companion/Lydia Lane’s Better Half - Review

26 May 2020

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Please note, these reviews are being written about six months after they were originally uploaded to their original network home and right after each individual episode was aired on the AMC network.

The Companion:

Revenge fantasies seem to be the strong suit of both the Creepshow films and series. This segment, which marks the return of David Bruckner (The Ritual) as director and was adapted from a short story by Joe Lansdale, Kasey Lansdale, and Keith Lansdale - with a teleplay by Matt Venne - was no exception. The story involves a young boy named Harold (Logan Allen) who is being bullied by his brother, Billy (Voltaire Council). Yes, the writers decided to include a homage to the classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark living scarecrow tale, Harold, which I was fine with even if it felt shoehorned in. After telling his friend, Smitty (Dylan Gage), about why he has scars and cuts, Billy comes after him again. This time, Harold runs through an old cemetery where he encounters an old and gangling-looking scarecrow hanging with a cane through its crocheted heart.

Not knowing any better, Harold removes the cane to use against Billy to defend himself. (Super)Naturally, this makes the scarecrow come to life. Harold, hiding from Billy, runs into an old farmhouse for protection. But, the scarecrow knows exactly where he is!

The scarecrow attacks, but Harold falls into a basement filled with cobwebs of the most "horror film" variety, where he discovers the corpse of Brenner (Afemo Omiliani), along with his suicide note next to the shotgun he blew his brains out with. Reading the note, we segue into a lighter color palette where we learn that Brenner was a widower after hos wife of 40 years passed on. Now very lonely, Brenner makes a mannequin-like companion out of animal bones and uses the aforementioned crocheted heart his deceased wife, Mavis, made. In true horror fashion, this, along with his desire for company, makes the scarecrow come to life. In even truer Frankenstein fashion, this proves to not be such a great thing when the scarecrow kills a Girl Scout coming onto the property. This shows Brenner that he made a mistake, so he puts the cane into the heart and shoots himself over guilt over the girl's death. If this reminds you of the "Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" segment from the first Creepshow film, you are not mistaken.

Back in the present, Harold realizes what must be done: use the cane to control the scarecrow. First, he puts the cane through its heart to make it inanimate again, then through a thrilling comic-book style montage, stitches the bedsheets of his brother, Billy, to the bed. When wakes up, we see that Harold now has the scarecrow under his control through the cane, like a dog and a leash. Harold demands that the scarecrow attack Billy and, in a homage to the wraparound segment in the Creepshow film, we see The Creep watching the whole thing through the window. Not a bad segment. What it lacked in suspense and actual scares, it made up for in sentimentality. The story felt like classic Creepshow and managed to get the suppressed boy-feeling the series made its name on. It didn't reinvent the wheel, but that is not what we are looking for here. However, I didn't care for how cheap the flashback sequence made the story feel cheap and forgettable. Still, that was one excellently creepy-looking scarecrow. No wonder the Creep wanted to watch.

Lydia Lane’s Better Half:

Now, we're in more progressive territory. This original story was directed by Roxanne Benjamin (Body of Brighton Rock) from a script by John Harrison (who directed 3 other segments this season) and Greg Nicotero (who needs no introduction at this point) concerns a type-A successful businesswoman (with a capital "W"), Lydia Lynn (Tricia Helfer, doing her best Charlize Theron) and her lover, Celia Mendez (Danielle Lyn). Lydia has put Celia into the difficult position of informing her that she has chosen her male co-worker, Tom Harding (Michael Scialabba) as the company’s new CFO and not her. She looks mega bummed. This leads to an argument, which leads into a physical altercation that ends with Celia's head being impaled on Lydia’s ironically-titled “Woman of the Year” pointy glass trophy. Realizing her whole successful career is officially screwed by a potential murder charge, Lydia puts Celia's corpse in a chair and rolls her into the elevator, when Celia's bodyweight rolls the chair into Lydia, pinning her inside the elevator. (Un)Naturally, Celia may not be as deceased as she may seem. At first, we think the sounds from Celia's corpse might be in Lydia's successful mind. But, then elevator gets stuck. It is also a friday night, so no help will be coming anytime soon. So, Lydia waits in the elevator for several days and not-so-slowly loses her mind and believes that Celia is out for revenge since the trophy may not have eliminated all of her brain neurotransmitters. Lydia loses her nerve and reveals why she wouldn't promote Celia, "you don't get to be me unless you are me." Guess that doesn't apply when you want to sleep with her. Eventually, Lydia is able to open the door and try to crawl out of a small opening. But, this being a horror show, Celia is not letting her getaway that easily...with the emergency help waiting right outside the door! The result is Lydia losing one of her halves to the elevator shaft while Celia gets the better one all to herself, finally.

Though there are fun homages of "Father's Day" from the original film and "The Hitchhiker" from Creepshow 2, my main issue with this segment is that is seems to be pretty misogynistic (pretty...Ha Ha, get it?) while pretending to be all about equalizing women and LGBTQIA+ roles in horror. This can happen when older (I assume) heterosexual male writers start writing about empowering younger queer women. The make-up effects are also disappointing considering what a make-up master Greg Nicotero is. I am guessing this segment didn't have many shooting days to get it right.

The depiction of Lydia was also disappointing. I felt the performance of Lydia fell flat since she is never anything but a one-dimensional caricature of a successful, attractive 21st century business woman. You don't even care if she suffers or succeeds. Beyond the trophy, you never really know much about her. Granted, they didn't give us much screentime to develop much of a report with her, but that is what made the elevator sequence not feel scary or even suspenseful. We sort if knew what would happen from the start, and that's just not what we're watching for.

Six months since I first saw this episode on Shudder, I couldn't even member a single scene from either segment until I re-watched it right before it aired on AMC. That is also a problem with the series. Every time, Creepshow seems to be getting it right (for a limited-budget streaming series that is), it seems to throw us a mediocrity curveball and lumbers two slow-zombie steps back. As we have been told by the powers that be, its unevenness is what makes it both fascinating and frustrating to us horror viewers, though. Next week, it's all about John Harrison since he directed BOTH segments for episode 5. I can wait (and so can you).