Josh Malerman

Creepshow: Season 1 Episode 1

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In 1982, the iconic horror anthology, Creepshow, was released. The anthology was written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, who are both horror icons. The film spawned a sequel in 1987. Now, Creepshow is back in an exciting new way.

The horror streaming service, Shudder, is bringing back everyone’s favorite creep with his chest of comics and all new stories. Creepshow is getting a new life in the form of a weekly series. Every Thursday night Shudder subscribers can tune in to watch the latest episode live and the episode will also become available ondemand. Each episode will tell two different stories and each week fans will get to see work from some of their favorite actors, writers, and directors while also being introduced to some exciting new talent. The lovely folks over at Shudder were kind enough to give me an early look at the first episode. In this episode viewers will see two thrilling tales, “Gray Matter” and “The House of the Head.”

“Gray Matter,” based on a short story by legendary author Stephen King and adapted for the screen by Byron Willinger (The Commuter) and Philip de Blasi (The Commuter), starts off the episode with a bang. Directed by Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead), the segment tells the tale of a father and son. After losing his wife, the father turns to alcohol to ease his pain with horrifying consequences. The story takes place on one dark and stormy night as most of the town has either left to avoid the storm or boarded everything up. This generates a claustrophobic feeling of being trapped as things gradually go from bad to worse.

This short was a great way to kick off the first episode. It is a frightening story that all culminates in fantastic practical effects that you have to see to believe. “Gray Matter” also includes a couple of fan favorite horror actors including Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Escape From New York) and Tobin Bell (Saw, Belzebuth). This segment also stars relative newcomer, Christopher Nathan (Barely Lethal, The Spectacular Now) as Timmy. Nathan delivers a compelling performance as he struggles between doing the right thing and his love for his father.

The second segment, “The House of the Head,” takes creepy dolls to a whole new level. This story follows young Evie as she plays with her doll family in their beautiful dollhouse. When a mysterious toy head appears in the house the lives of the doll family are threatened. “The House of the Head” is written by Josh Malerman, who also wrote the Bird Box novel, and directed by John Harrison (Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, Book of Blood).

This story is particularly frightening. The viewer sees the lives of the dolls through the eyes of young Evie. This is a highly effective storytelling tool because there is really no major action, we don’t ever even see the dolls move. It is Evie’s love of her dolls and childish point of view that allows the sense of danger to the dolls to come through the screen. Evie is played by the very talented Cailey Flemming (The Walking Dead, Peppermint). Flemming really makes the plot work. If it wasn’t for her love of the dolls and her ability to treat them as if they were real people, then the viewer wouldn’t care about the dolls and feel the peril they are in.

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Shudder and the entire team behind the new Creepshow series got the show off to a strong start with “Grey Matter” and “The House of the Head.” Both stories boast strong performances, beloved horror actors, favorite horror writers and directors, stunning practical effects, and chilling tales that are sure to give you goose bumps. Even more appealing is how both segments do what I always want to see from short films: they tell a complete story, but leave enough mystery to make you want more. It makes me excited to see what the future episodes will hold. I also love that Shudder is only releasing one episode a week, allowing for the collective live viewing experience that has been lost with many streaming services. With the success of the weekly episodes of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, I can only imagine how many Shudder subscribers will watch live and tweet along with the show.

The first episode of Creepshow will air on Thursday, September 26th at 9pm EST/6pm PST. If you aren’t a Shudder subscriber yet, be sure to sign up so you can be part of this fantastic weekly horror event.

Bird Box

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It has been five years since dangerous unseen beings arrived. One look shows the viewers their worst fears, leading to that person committing suicide. Malorie, along with two children, managed to survive this long. Now they have to make a treacherous journey completely blindfolded in order to find a new place to stay safe.

Before I dive into this film, I’m going to address the elephant in the room. As soon as trailers hit for Bird Box there were immediately noticeable parallels between this film and A Quiet Place. Just know, this film was adapted from a novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, which came out back in 2014. So please stop all the talk about Bird Box being a ripoff of A Quiet Place. There are similarities, but they are two distinct films.

Director Susanne Bier (In a Better World, Brothers) and screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Lights Out, Arrival) did an excellent job adapting this story into film form. As Bird Box begins, viewers are thrown into the desolate, post-apocalyptic world five years after the beings arrived. Immediately we are introduced to the protagonist, Malorie, as a harsh survivor about to embark on a dangerous journey in the hopes of finding a safe place for herself and the children she cares for. The plot is interwoven between her current journey and her experiences from when the beings first appeared. Through this method the viewer is able to learn more about the beings as well as Malorie (and why she makes the decisions she does to survive this perilous new world). The format lends to some excellent character development not just for Malorie, but for the other survivors she encounters when the world first falls apart.

A truly fascinating aspect of this plot is the entities that bring about the end of humanity. Each person who sets eyes on these things sees something different; it can be their worst fear, their greatest regret, or something else. The brilliant thing is that we, as the viewers, never see what these entities truly look like, or even what people see just before they commit suicide. It not only makes things a bit more frightening, because it is almost impossible to know if one of the beings is near you, but it also makes sense from a financial standpoint, as there was no need for elaborate practical effects or CGI. There are some people who are effected differently when they look upon these beings, which leads to some very fascinating and intense moments. The entire concept is unique and brilliantly executed.

This film has a star-studded cast who all shine in their individual roles. Sandra Bullock (Practical Magic, Ocean’s Eight) delivers one of her most powerful performances as the star of the film, Malorie. There is a rigidness about Malorie that sometimes makes her less than likeable, but as more is revealed about the character it is easier to understand why she is the way she is. Bullock’s portrayal of Malorie perfectly shows that rigid nature, while also allowing some more tender moments to break through her hardened outer shell. Another outstanding performance comes from Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, The Predator) as Tom. This character is the polar opposite of Malorie, instead being exceptionally warm and caring. It is the perfect role for Rhodes, and the juxtaposition of his portrayal of Tom with Bullock’s portrayal of Malorie makes for great chemistry and a number of touching scenes. Other great performances can be found in John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), and Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’).

Bird Box is a tense, emotional, and even frightening film with a unique plot and deeply emotional core. Bier and Heisserer do a fantastic job bringing Malerman’s novel to life. The simple idea of an entity that traumatizes a person to the point where they commit suicide allows for great suspense. It also brings an element of mystery as the viewer never sees what the victims see. An intriguing plot and fantastic performances from the likes of Bullock and Rhodes result in a must-see film with a lot of heart. Bird Box gives the horror genre a strong end to 2018 that you won’t want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10