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Creepshow Episode 1.06 - Skincrawlers/By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain - Review



SPOILERS AHEAD - PLEASE DON"T READ UNLESS YOU'VE WATCHED CREEPSHOW 01.06! Yes, you've been warned!

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

Skincrawlers:

After one of the most intriguing opening teaser scenes of the season with our beloved mascot, The Creep, finally getting out of his house to go fishing in an appropriately foggy lake, the season finale of Creepshow's first season began an original comedic segment directed by Roxanne Benjamin (Body at Brighton Rock) and written by Paul Dini (Batman: the Animated Series, He-Man, Star Wars: the Clone Wars, Animaniacs, Lost) and Stephen Langford. Since this is meant to kick off the last episode of the season, let's cut to the chase, "Skincrawlers" might have been the best segment of the season, or at least one of the most successful and memorable if nothing else. The story basically satirizes America's obsession with the fad diet culture and fat shaming in a way that Netflix's Insatiable wasn't able to do without infuriating the oversensitive internet culture.

We meet Henry (voice actor Dana Gould of Doug and The Simpsons fame, in one of the best performances of the season), who is overweight and looking for a solution. He meets Dr. Sloan (Chad Michael Collins), who had helped discover a rare breed of leeches what literally eats the fat right off of you. Within a few weeks, any human is reduced to a fraction of their former massive body-weight with no side effects whatsoever, even getting FDA approval. Naturally, this sets of an instant diet fad like no other that is about to be introduced to the mainstream via a vapid morning talk show.

Understandably, this sounds too good to be true and freaks out the skeptical Henry (smart move). Two weeks go by and, while eating a rather unhealthy lunch, he meets an newly attractive female acquaintance, Kelly (Stargirl's Hina X. Khan), whom we had just seen in a really fake-looking triple chin and fat suit in the previous scene), who went through with the treatment and coaxes him to go on the morning show with her (she's the treatment's new spokesperson!) to submit to the leech in front of the whole country. Seeing the miraculous results of this treatment, Henry puts aside his common sense and agrees to go through with it. Of course, what no one realizes is that this live taping will coincide with a rare solar eclipse that will cause an enormous increase in magnetic activity in animals, which includes the worms that still live inside of its hosts, meaning 9/10 of the segment's cast. Maybe next time, humanity will just embrace the Keto Diet (which actually works, by the way). 

Yeah, you can see where this goes. Lots of gore, along with Alien, Slither, and Night of the Creeps homages. This time around, that is not a bad thing. The only element holding this segment back for me was the cartoonish tone, but when you have a writer who is best known for the some of the best of the last 30 years, you kind of expect that. The CGI and make-up wasn't very special either and, yet again, showcased Creepshow's limited streaming series budget too much. I sincerely hope AMC fixes this for season 2 since they've had an extended COVID-19-induced break and all. Roxanne Benjamin nails the mixture of goofiness and pathos the script is going for and makes up for her lackluster previous directing job on "Lydia Layne's Better Half."

Yet again, this segment caused mixed reactions when it first aired on Shudder on Halloween. For me, it was one of the only segments of the season that played better the 2nd time around than the first if you were willing to forgive a limited running time, budget, and connective story tissue. I actually wish they would expend this one and it into a 21st century B-movie homage creature feature classic we all are desiring right now (well, I am, anyway). I felt the cast was one of the better ones of all of the segments since they all seemed to be in on the joke of the episode and didn't pretend like they were making anything remotely serious. Sadly, the cartoon-like tone and structure zap any real sympathetic dignity the actors are going for in making their insecure characters feel real. However, the segment was so fun and zippy that I didn't mind the flaws too much.

 

By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain:

And, now, the grand finale. Shudder understandably saved this segment for last since is was adapted from Stephen King's son, Joe Hill's, short story (with teleplay by Jason Ciaramella) and was directed by the legendary horror icon, Tom Savini. Sadly, while serviceable, I found this to be one of the more disappointing segments of the season, made worse b/c of the build-up of hiring marquee behind the scenes talent and making it the finale of the first season.

 Here, we have a young girl named Rose (played by Sydney Wease), who is searching for a Loch Ness-like monster named Champy after her father drowns trying to find it. This creature's existence has never actually been confirmed, but Rose is wise enough to know it definitely exists. Sadly, she has to contend with her pensive mother, Leigh (Gena Shaw) and abusive, redneck stepfather, Chet (American Soul's James Devoti), who likes to spend his time drinking, wearing nice worker shoes with "Shitkicker" inscribed on them, and intimidating Rose's teenage Gothboy suitors. Of course, they eventually go out to the lake and find...a the corpse of a creature. But, is the smaller-than-expected creature Champy???? Well, no. It is the CHILD of Champy, who rises from the lake to eat Chet when he tags along and threatens to take the discovery credit for himself. She then drags the child monster's corpse underwater, where they will continue to live undetected by the modern world after Champy conveniently disappears the instant before Rose's mother shows up to reclaim her own child.

Besides the falseness of the monsters (I see some have compared the creature design to Ray Harryhausen films, but I feel they looked a little too "Disneyland" for me and could have been darker and scarier looking), my biggest problems with this segments lied in the pacing and writing. Joe Hill has written some wonderful horror novels, like Horns and The Fireman, but this is not one of his best stories, though it is a step up from the previous monster stories of the season. Like his father, Mr. Hill's dialogue isn't exactly tailored for the visual medium and came off as silted here. The monologues here made me cringe more than empathize with the characters. The pacing was, well, placid, and uneven as well. The fact that acting wasn't that great (which has become practically a standard for this season) didn't help matters much. When Chet gets eaten, my only reaction was, "...finally."

I mostly just found the characters to be one-dimensional, forgettable and the build-up to the creature-heavy finale uninteresting. The production design of the foggy Lake Champlain shore was definitely the highlight for me, though. The sound design for the climax was excellent, as well. Tom Savini is an underrated visual storyteller and knows how to push the atmospheric feel of a scene, as evidenced by his use of fog here. I just wish his manic sensibilities translated to satisfying drama better.

 

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