Creepshow Review – “The Companion”/”Lydia Lane’s Better Half” (Spoilers)

Following last week’s tales of caution, Creepshow came back this week with two more stories delving into the true madness and cruelty capable in some people’s hearts!  So let’s a take a closer look at a haunted scarecrow and the most frightening elevator ride in history!

(Spoilers Ahead – You’ve Been Warned!!!)

“The Companion” – Directed by Dave Bruckner, Story by Joe R. Lansdale, Kasey Lansdale, & Keith Lansdale, Teleplay by Matt Venne

Will scarecrows ever not be scary?!

Our story begins with Harold, who has the misfortune of being bullied quite severely by his older brother.  He’s hiding out under a bridge, when his friend Smitty comes by to talk.  Soon after he leaves however, Billy stumbles upon the scene, and the chase continues.  Billy chases Harold from daylight into nighttime, so who knows how long they were actually running.

They end up at an abandoned farm.  Harold walks by a creepy scarecrow, and removes a wooden cane from it, hoping to defend himself with it.  He then takes refuge in the farmhouse itself, and for some reason Billy deserts the scene.  But Harold soon discovers why.

It’s actually quite tragic, because the level of abuse and bullying that Harold receives at the hands of Billy goes much further than typical sibling fighting. It becomes flat out abuse and assault.

The creepy looking scarecrow he passed on the way in is attempting to break into the house.  It seems that removing that stick from the creature’s heart has returned it to life.  Inside the house, Harold finds a note from the farmer detailing the story of how he made the scarecrow to keep him company after his wife died.

But following its murder of an innocent little girl, the guilty farmer stuck the cane into its heart and killed himself.  And so the scarecrow sat unmoving, until Harold came along.  However, he’s able to figure out how to use the cane to control the scarecrow and exacts brutal revenge on his incredibly abusive brother.

There’s a lot that works in this story, but there’s also a few things that really don’t.  As Harold reads the letter, we see the story unfold via flashback, and it’s very well told and directed.  We feel sympathy for the farmer’s loneliness, and we can’t help but be intrigued as he delves into mad scientist territory.  This sequence had all the makings of an intentionally campy B-movie like The Re-Animator, and it fits Creepshow perfectly.

Don’t think we also didn’t notice that they named the main character Harold in a story about a haunted scarecrow. We see what you did there Shudder!

All that said, the story definitely could have been tighter, especially in the dialogue and scene flow.  Harold’s friend Smitty from the opening scene really doesn’t do much other than spout unnecessary exposition.  If you remove his character entirely, the story only becomes more concise.  Plus Billy’s form of bullying feels a bit 90’s cheesy, and not in a wink-wink manner.

The disturbing trauma that Harold faced all comes together at the end when he straight up murders his own brother. Sure this was revenge for all the bullying, but it’s also really screwed up if you think about it.

The overall saving grace however is just how amazing the scarecrow looks!  They did an awesome job with creating something practical, that never fails to look creepy.  It may have a few flaws, but “The Companion” is still a fun story that fits in very well in the mythos of Creepshow!

“Lydia Lane’s Better Half” – Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, Story by John Harrison & Greg Nicotero, Teleplay by John Harrison

Elevators may be more convenient, but when you’re transporting a dead body, sometimes it’s better to roll them down the steps!

In a story that deals with selfishness and corporate greed, we see just what  happens when someone tries to have their cake and eat it too.  As Lydia Lane has to name a new CFO for her company, she overlooks the incredibly qualified Celia (who just so happens to be her lover as well), and gives it to someone else.

Celia doesn’t exactly take it well, and what starts as a verbal confrontation turns into a physical altercation, resulting in Celia’s accidental death.  In a panic, Lydia attempts to cover this up and dispose of the body.  But as she rides down the elevator with the corpse in an office chair, an earthquake strikes, trapping them in there.

None of this would have happened if Lydia had just been professional enough to speak with each of them privately about who got the promotion.

As time goes by, Celia’s eyes and mouth keep opening, despite Lydia closing them every time.  The story ends with Lydia opening the door and starting to climb out, only for the elevator to move and take her head clean off.

While the opening scene is filled with some clunky and clichéd dialogue, once Lydia and Celia’s corpse end up in the elevator, the fun really begins.  Many of these stories deal with monsters and creatures that we the audience obviously know are fictional.  However there is a very real sense of anxiety and even fear that many people feel around the stillness of dead bodies, and this story taps into that perfectly!

There’s also a brilliant surrealism in that we’re not sure if Celia’s corpse is actually moving or if this all just a hallucination from Lydia’s guilty conscience (much like “The Tell Tale Heart”).  We even begin to question whether Celia’s death was entirely accidental.  Lydia wanted to be able to control her and keep her from becoming the next Lydia in terms of business.  Instead she wanted Celia as a lover by her side, and nothing more.

Some of the best stories from Creepshow are the ones that deal with internal madness rather than external monsters.

So when she didn’t take the news of the job well, Lydia indirectly killed her.  There is a very real issue in the professional world, where many women are pressured to put each other down so only a few get ahead.  It just goes to show that sometimes horror is the best place to explore social commentary, because it can take such societal issues and push them to extreme horror situations.

What did you think of this pair of stories?  Let us know in the comments below.  And look for our review of next week’s episode of Shudder’s Creepshow!

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