Horror, US, 6 episodes. Episodes 1-3 reviewed.


Streaming on Shudder from 23rd September


Shudders take on the horror anthology series returns for a third season on the streaming service. An update on the cult classic collaboration between George A Romero and Stephen King, which presented short, sharp horror stories in the style of the over-the-top EC horror comics of the 1950’s, this new series attempts to capture the magic that those two titans of the genre mined back in 1982 to memorable effect. Despite a talented stable of artists both in front of and behind the camera the results this time around feel half baked, with some entries in the first half of this season mostly falling flat.


Things get off to a promising start with MUMS, a tale of horticultural horror based on a story by King’s son Joe Hill. It’s premise, involving plant seeds with very special properties triggered by human blood, would be right at home in the type of comic book that served as an influence for the original CREEPSHOW. That it also comes with a sly commentary on the political divide in the US right now with its gun toting secessionist villains gives hope that the rest of the season will further meld the gruesome and moralistic tone of its influences with 21st century issues.


Sadly, immediately after this story the rest of the first half of this season soon falls into the repetitive routine of unpleasant characters falling prey to rubber suited monsters. QUEEN BEE, the second story of the first episode concerns a pop singers teenage fans trying to snap pictures of her delivering her first born. That the singer inspires a hive mind like devotion in her fans might point towards the obvious and bizarre twist in its tale. Thankfully the series worst entry is quickly dealt with at the start of the second episode with SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET, a tale of a horror movie prop collector who acquires his props through nefarious means. With its shallow, annoying characters and obvious, tired homages to the likes of PSYCHO and EVIL DEAD 2 among others it sets the bar low which the rest of the episodes thankfully clear.


Things improve slightly with FAMILIAR, a creepy tale of a lawyer haunted by a trickster demon penned by BIRD BOX novelist Josh Malerman and director Joe Lynch. Harley Quinn creator Paul Dini pens the following episode’s first story THE LAST TSUBURAYA, another tale of someone being haunted by a demon, this time from a mysterious Japanese painters unseen painting. Despite such talents crafting the scripts there is very little atmosphere, perhaps due to small budgets or resources being cut short by COVID related issues. The series only really hits a creepy high with I’LL BITE, a prison set tale concerning a mild-mannered doctor with a fondness for spiders. It’s abundance of eight legged creatures will no doubt set arachnophobes on edge, but it brings about the series biggest scare with a memorably disturbing creature and sting in the tale that successfully evokes the wicked spirit of those 1950’s comics and their wickedly excessive natures.

Despite its pedigree, show runner and special effects legend Greg Nicotero also often directs, this is a rare misstep for the Shudder brand. Perhaps the remaining episodes from the back half of the season will continue in the fashion of I’LL BITE. For now, this opening salvo has very little to offer in the way of scares or sharp storytelling that compact tales like this demand.


Iain MacLeod.


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