Creepshow season 1 premiere recap: Gray Matter/The House of the Dead

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 19: Adrienne Barbeau spekas at the Creepshow Panel at Comic Con 2019 on July 19, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for AMC)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 19: Adrienne Barbeau spekas at the Creepshow Panel at Comic Con 2019 on July 19, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for AMC) /

Shudder’s Creepshow premiere does what its title suggests, with two twisted tales; One about alcoholism and the other about a strange dollhouse.

If you haven’t seen the original Creepshow or Creepshow 2 anthology films, you may want to get your hands on them to supplement your viewing of Creepshow the series on Shudder! Obviously, you may or may not be easily scared, and whether you like Creepshow is rather subjective. Still, if you like horror, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll appreciate what this premiere has to offer. Rather than give every detail, I’ll do a slight overview of what the episode features, hopefully adding to your viewing experience.

Gray Matter

The first tale, “Gray Matter,” is directed by makeup effects icon and occasional Walking Dead director Greg Nicotero, based on the story by Stephen King. Taking place around an imminent category 4 hurricane, “Gray Matter” centers around a boy, Timmy Grenadine (Christopher Nathan), who shows up to a store to get some more Harrow’s Supreme for his father, Richie (Jesse C. Boyd).  Harrow’s Supreme is his favorite alcoholic beverage, but it’s possibly worse than a conventional drinking problem. When two men at the store, Doc (Giancarlo Esposito) and Chief (Tobin Bell), check up on the ailing father, there are some bizarre (and hungry, and gelatinous) consequences.

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The episode also features Adrienne Barbeau as Miss Dixie Parmalee. Barbeau can easily be remembered from the original Creepshow film, as the obnoxious Wilma “Billie” Northup. Also, Giancarlo Esposito is well known for playing Gus Fring in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, while Tobin Bell plays Jigsaw in the Saw franchise. The segment has a few nods to Stephen King lore. A radio broadcast mentions “the missing Grady twins,” which were obviously a thing in The Shining. Thematically, “Gray Matter” deals with themes of alcoholism ⁠— particularly how it can make adults look monstrous to children. It’s not just that Timmy’s dad is sick. Timmy never wants to go back home! That’s not regular sickness by any means. The story also hints at some problem in the sewers but doesn’t exactly tell you what.

This is not the only Stephen King story to be linked to alcoholism. The Shining is partly about alcoholism transforming a father into a monstrous figure, and how Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson‎) feels everything in life his grinding him down ⁠— just like with Richie. The negative health impact becomes ridiculously exaggerated in Creepshow, but it’s a unique twist on conditions which can lead to real-life horror. It will be interesting to see if Creepshow has callbacks to Harrow’s Supreme, if and when the series expands to future seasons (in fact, it’s surprising the segment wasn’t just called “Harrow’s Supreme”).

The House of the Dead

Written by Josh Malerman, John Harrison’s The House of the Dead is a somewhat simpler tale, but nevertheless memorable. It centers around a little girl named Evie (Cailey Fleming) and her dollhouse. Her parents, Randy (David Shae) and Marsha (Rachel Hendrix), are completely oblivious to the problems of Evie’s doll family, the Smithsmiths, who seem to be going through quite a time. In fact, they seem to be downright losing their heads over an unwanted guest! The episode has an interesting callback to Old Chief Wood’nhead of Creepshow 2, as Evie buys a Native American doll to help protect the Smithsmiths (in addition to also buying a police officer doll).

There are some crossover themes between this story and “Harrow’s Sup…,” oops!, I mean “Gray Matter.” “The House of the Dead” also features a kid who seems to be more aware than adults. In fact, Evie doesn’t even bother trying to communicate what’s going on. On the bright side, it’s easy to theorize that Evie just has a wild imagination. We see her parents watching a movie, so it’s possible she’s seen scary movies and doesn’t quite know how to process them yet. Then again, the story could be seen as more straightforward, without this little subtext.

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In addition to Cailey Fleming, who has appeared in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Peppermint, and The Walking Dead, this episode features Guy Messenger as Mr. Ogman, the doll maker.  Oh, and the entire premiere features some of The Creeper from the original films, though he isn’t exactly talkative.  There are a few big questions pertaining to future episodes.  Will we see the return of Fluffy the crate monster?  Will there be a Stephen King cameo at some point (or is he burnt out on those after his recent appearance in IT Chapter Two?  Time will tell.

What are your thoughts on Creepshow? Let us know in the comments!