Creepshow Review – “Night of the Paw”/”Times is Tough in Musky Holler” (Spoilers)

As Shudder continues to delight horror fans with its series of short horror stories, we got our first pair of tales that don’t quite hold up to the rest.  They’re not by any means bad, just not quite as compelling as we’re used to from the previous four episodes.  Read our analysis and you be the judge!

“Night of the Paw” – Directed by John Harrison, Written by John Esposito
Opening a dark and stormy night (as cliché as that sounds), Angela (Hannah Barefoot) flips her car over, getting into a terrible wreck.  A mortician (Bruce Davison) rescues her from the accident and stiches her back up.

With a limited budget, this is a legitimately cool way to do an action stunt. However, later in this same episode, these comic book cutaways start to become a crutch.

Hours later, she wakes up in shock, having lost two fingers.  When she confronts the mortician, he explains that he will dead by morning and this is all according to plan.  He then tells her a fantastical story about a monkey’s paw  he and his wife were given, which brought them great misfortune, resulting in her death, and him wishing for his.

Angela comes to understand that his final wish was to have a killer sent to him as suicide was against his religion.  She technically fits the profile in that she mercy killed her husband, who was suffering from a medical issue and in great pain.

After initially refusing to kill him, she does so (again as a mercy) when he catches fire from trying to save the monkey paw from the fireplace (which she threw in there).  Finally, she inherits the paw, and wishes her husband back to life, but of course, there is a deadly twist.

There’s a reason the genie in Aladdin always warned against wishing to bring people back from the dead.

While Bruce Davison certainly deserves praise for his nuanced and incredibly sympathetic performance, the rest of this story leaves much to be wanted.  There’s nothing wrong or problematic with Hannah Barefoot’s performance, it’s just the Davison is a seasoned and experienced actor, and when the two converse, their vast disparity really shows.

“The Monkey’s Paw” is a well-known folktale, dating back to the original W. W. Jacobs short story published in 1902.  It’s been adapted, parodied and has inspired countless horror media, so it’s no surprise that Creepshow would feature an episode devoted to it.  That said, given that it’s been adapted so many times there really needs to be some new layer added to it, otherwise it just gets lost in the sea of other iterations.

That’s the drawback with doing a story this famous. Everyone recognizes it, but you have to do something different to make them remember your version.

While this is a (mostly) well-acted and well put together episode, it’s really just a paint by numbers interpretation of a story we all know.  Sadly, it will most likely be forgotten quickly because it didn’t even attempt to make itself unique or stand out in any way.  It’s certainly not a terrible piece of horror television, but it’s not necessarily great either.

“Times is Tough in Musky Holler” – Directed by John Harrison, Written by John Skipp and Dori Miller.
In both a bold and fascinating move, Creepshow’s shortest story attempts to cram the most plot into it.  On the surface, it’s a simple and straightforward story about a group of wrongdoers who receive their comeuppance by being fed to zombies in an arena as a sort of demented sporting event.

However, as we’re shown via comic book flashback, these guilty parties include a corrupt mayor and his accessories, who used a zombie outbreak to seize control of the town and make everything worse with their totalitarian and genocidal tendencies.

Form protective officer of the law to full Gestapo, Gail Weathers would be so disappointed in Dewey!

And while it is satisfying to see such wicked characters be eaten alive by zombies, it’s hard for it to really hit hard when we’re only told of the crimes in a few seconds and only shown through comic book effects that Creepshow is famous for.

Not to disparage the series or Shudder in any way, as they’ve worked absolute wonders on a limited budget, but this was the first time that it felt like their story was being held back by that budget.  It’s quite strange that the story about two people discussing a monkey’s paw is somehow 5-10 minutes longer than one that deals with such complex social and political issues.

Because the truth is “Times is Tough in Musky Holler” could very well be its own full 45 minute episode, or even a feature film!  It’s shame because it’s a great story that has amazing potential, but as it exists now, it plays very much like the ending of a film that we didn’t get to see the first 70 minutes of.

This story has some awesome visuals, and a plot that is so great, it deserves more than just 15 minutes!

With only one week to go until Halloween, we sadly also only have one more episode of Creepshow to go, which hopefully is better than this week’s.  Again, this is not to bash the series or anyone who worked on it.  There’s no inherent pleasure in writing a negative review.

Rather, the hope is for a series like this to be excellent and succeed, which it has done for every episode up until now.  So most likely, next week’s season finale will end on a bang, and Shudder won’t wait too long to greenlight another season!

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