“Skeletons in the Closet”
Greg Nicotero continues to honor the past, present, and future with Season 3 of Creepshow! “Skeletons” has been my favorite segment so far in Creepshow Season 3. The episode starts with an animation of the Creepshow creeper digging up a grave under the Hollywood sign. This provides a hint of what’s to come. Several famous props are unearthed as are secrets. Nothing stays buried forever in this story.
“Skeletons” is about objects and deeds coming back to the light of day. Props are unearthed and given new life and new appreciation. Karma is real in this story. It’s also a story about family.
As the story opens, the camera pauses on George Romero’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a news reporter announces the grand re-opening of Lampini’s museum: “Lampini’s ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ is an exhibition worth dying for.” In the first few minutes, there are references to Seven, Sinbad, Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow, Phantasm, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Evil Dead franchise. There are so many references to classic horror that it’s difficult to mention them all. It’s horror nerd heaven!
The name Lampini is a nod to The House of Frankenstein. Professor Lampini also had a cabinet of curiosities, linking the current Lampini to the past. Speaking of the distant past…remember the old story about Burke and Hare? There is an assistant named ‘Burke’ in this episode who ends up robbing a grave. History lesson—in Scotland in the 1820s, Burke and Hare found a lucrative business in supplying corpses to a medical lecturer. They were eventually caught after they became greedy and began killing indiscriminately. Burke was executed, and ironically, his body was donated to science and put on display. His skeleton is still on display at Surgeon’s Hall in Edenborough.
Lampini (Victor Rivera) shared his love of movie magic with his father and explains that his father was a magician at the Magic Castle. He explains that Pop Lampini possessed real magic. He had the sort of magic that brought props to life.
Lampini has a rivalry for prop collecting with his father’s bitter rival. Bateman (James Remar) pays Lampini a visit and wants Lampini’s star exhibit….the Dawn of the Dead basement corpse! The stars in this museum were the skeletons used in films that were rumored to have been real actual human remains. There were skeletons from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist, a familiar-looking ghoul from Creepshow, and a skeleton posed with a sword and shield a’ la Sinbad. The star of the exhibit was the basement mummy from Dawn of the Dead. Lampini explains to his girlfriend that this last prop is highly prized but doesn’t explain why.
Bateman threatens Lampini and wants the Dawn of the Dead skeleton. He and Lampini discuss how a lot of the skeletons in the film were actual human skeletons. He explains that “Dawn” is real human remains and the special effects magic of Tom Savini made her ready for her close-up. Plot twist…the skeleton from Dawn of the Dead was given a proper burial…and then the grave was robbed 3 days ago. This means Lampini is the graverobber. Lampini can’t go to jail so his girlfriend kills Bateman, who is quickly reduced to a skeleton and put on display with the rest of the skeletons.
Lampini admits to his girlfriend that the skeleton with the sword and shield is his father, but he didn’t rob a grave. This preparation of Pop Lampini’s body was in his will. “He donated his body to science…fiction.” Our friend Burke’s body was donated to science as well after his execution. Our friend “Dawn” is believed to have donated her body to science as well. How she wound up as a prop skeleton is a bit murky. In a roundtable interview, Greg Nicotero explained a bit about this skeleton.
However, Bateman just won’t stay dead. He kills Lampini’s assistant Burke with the sphere from Phantasm, which had resurfaced after 40 years and was just acquired by the museum. This element demonstrates that things have a way of coming back to the surface and things don’t stay buried. There is also a great tribute to Psycho, complete with black and white photography, the music from Psycho, and a shower murder. However, before Bateman can kill Lampini, Pop Lampini’s skeleton hops down from the display and saves the day. This scene pays tribute to the stop-motion skeletons in Sinbad.
The next day, Lampini has reduced his girlfriend’s body to a skeleton and has her standing in a picture frame. He tells some teens that this skeleton is his Mona Lisa; “Props are magic, and they never die.”
I loved this. I could spend all day geeking out over all of those fantastic props and watching and re-watching to catch all the references and inside jokes. I’m sure I missed a few, but I didn’t miss understanding that props are immortal.
Props really are magic and they never die. Films never die and are like family to us horror fans. Also, things don’t always stay buried and hidden away. We learn about this in the next story.
This is a story about personal demons. This begins with a young couple leaving a Karaoke bar, intoxicated, and they decide to go to a fortune teller on a lark.
Exhibit A: Jack (Andrew Bachelor) is a new lawyer, and Fawn (Hannah Fierman) is a sculptor. They make some jokes about how if Jack is going to be a lawyer, he needs to be able to drink. (This actually is a sad fact about the legal profession. While 6% of the general population has a drinking problem, approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of lawyers have problem-drinking behaviors.)
“Something bad followed you in here.”
Boone, (Keith Arthur Bolden) the psychic, warns Jack that something bad is following him.
Jack and Fawn later watch TV and she is sleeping peacefully in his lap. We see the glow of the TV screen and hear the following Easter Egg dialogue from “Gray Matter,” an episode from season 1 of Creepshow.
“I haven’t seen a look like that since George Kelso.”
“George Kelso. Years ago he saw something in the sewers that spooked the bejesus out of him.” We instantly think of It as something one would see in the sewers. George Kelso also drank himself to death. As we hear this dialogue, we see long monstrous nails clicking on the brick wall. Jack looks up to see a demon-like creature with a mouthful of pointy, grinning teeth emerging from the shadows.
Jack makes several statements about the need to stop drinking or cut down. Fawn doesn’t believe him about the familiar but makes a joke about how he will never be alone and about his imaginary friend.
Jack returns to see Boone for some answers and opens a book about familiars and sees some crude woodcut prints from the middle ages depicting demons controlling humans and reads a passage aloud: “Familiars will do anything to remain attached to their human hosts. It will sneak, cheat, and even kill to remain close.” The significance of this scene and the horrific images in the woodcuts remind me of how alcohol and other substances can come to control their human hosts. People in recovery from substance dependence often talk about their addictions as external beings with consciousness…who control them:
“My addiction lied to me.”
“My addiction is always there.”
“My addiction never sleeps.”
These are the things you may hear in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or in a rehab facility.
The passage goes on to say the familiar will inhabit the bodies of people who are close and pretend to be a long-time friend. Addictions can definitely pretend to be your friend. They make you think they are your support system when they are actually your enemy. Boone tells Jack he needs to keep his familiar as far away as possible. He will tell Jack how to trap the familiar, but they must have a drink first.
I believe you now…
As Jack and Boone have drinks, Boone explains that exorcisms are all “bullsh*t, a good show—they get butts in the seats. But what you need to do is catch yours!” He then sells him a special crate and gives Jack some wild instructions and Jack will have to go to some extreme lengths to defeat his familiar.
Jack becomes frustrated and doubts the purpose of coming back and talking to Boone. Jack remarks “If you think for one second I’m getting some blessed crate and lugging it up to my apartment, you are crazy!”
The next scene cuts to Jack riding his elevator with a giant crate, appearing annoyed. People will go to great lengths to continue an addiction. They have to go to even greater lengths to address it. Jack ends up killing his girlfriend by drowning her in this magic crate. As the familiar grins then disappears, her reanimated body hugs Jack in the final scene and tells him, “I believe you now.”
Sometimes our demons are difficult to trap. Sometimes we try to drown them. It never ends well when you try to drown your personal demons.
The last image teases us by showing a Creepshow cover depicting a man in what appears to be an orange jail jumpsuit cowering from a giant spider. “The last Tsuburaya…Okay, I’ll Bite!” Sean Parker will review that for us next time.