Our first tale this week concerns an ambitious young lawyer looking to create more hours in a day in “Time Out.” Our second tale, the animated “The Things in Oakwood’s Past,” uncovers a two-hundred-year-old chest that may hold the answers to the town’s mysterious history and why no one lived to tell it. As with all of our Creepshow reviews, we’re diving in deep here, and there will be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Have you ever wondered, what if the Adam Sandler movie Click and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe were made into a story fit for Creepshow? Me neither, but here we are. At the very beginning, the comic panels take us back to Germany in 1944. A group of soldiers is seen dividing up art and antiques assumed to have been stolen during the Nazi occupation. As Bravo company divides the goods, the animators have placed items from past episodes of Creepshow on display. The monkey’s paw from “Night of the Paw” and the suitcase from “The Man in The Suitcase” catch the eye of the soldiers, but Joe takes a shine to a beautiful hand-carved armoire.
Flash forward some years, and Joe is being laid to rest. A young boy, unsure of his role in this room of grief and black clothing, strolls wide-eyed through the funeral reception, taking in the memories of Joe in the photographs. Rifling through the drawers, the child finds a key. One can only suspect that the boy has read The Chronicles of Narnia as his next stop is the armoire which fits the key very well. However, before he’s able to meet Aslan, an old woman catches him and pulls him out from the closet, not before the family cat walks in.
The boy is identified as Joe’s grandson, Tim, and his grandmother (Shannon Eubanks) has told him that this particular closet is off-limits. Tim had once witnessed his grandfather walk into the space with a book only to leave moments later finished. Tim’s grandmother tells Tim that his grandfather forgot, “Even if you can play tricks with time, you can’t cheat it.” The lesson doesn’t seem to be for the child, and he’s told to run off regardless. That’s when his grandmother realizes that she’ll be laying two family members to rest that day, as the remains of the cat help the viewers figure out what the armoire is.
One of my favorite episodes of Futurama is the series finale episode, “Meanwhile.” In the episode, the professor invents a time button that sends the user back ten seconds in time but is recklessly used by the series protagonist, who ends up causing himself and his fiancé to remain in a single moment in time. It’s a beautiful and heartwarming episode, but only because things turn out okay for the characters. In Creepshow‘s “Time Out” story, it’s like the armoire is the Futurama time button, but instead of seeing a moment pass through the characters’ eyes trapped in the moment, we instead see horror through the eyes of those not stuck in time—like Tim’s grandmother finding her cat has turned to ash after only a couple of minutes within the closet’s closed doors.
Tim (Matthew Barnes), now in college and studying to pass the bar exam, finds himself lagging behind his roommate, Saul (Jibre Hodges), in his law classes. Tim remains highlighter deep in his law books, trading his weekends and any chance at social interaction with his crush Lauren (Devon Hales). While studying, he receives a knock at the door from delivery workers in charge of his grandmother’s estate. Of course, the armoire has been left to Tim and with a very cryptic note attached.
Two things bothered me about the delivery of the armoire. First, Tim has this look on his face like someone who has just been told his grandmother died. Could that be the case here? Due to Tim’s lack of free time, did he miss his grandmother’s funeral and will reading? Or did Tim simply forget that furniture from her estate was being delivered? Because this whole scene caught me off guard. The second thing was that this beautiful antique looks displaced in a college dorm setting. Whether this is Tim and Saul’s apartment or not, I would think, if it were me, I’d likely place the armoire in storage or at my family’s house until I had the appropriate space for it. Instead, the piece looks out of place, resembling a church confessional sitting in the middle of an otherwise messy bachelor pad.
This was when I noticed that “Time Out” could have used more time itself to flesh out issues succinctly. I think containing an episode to around twenty-two minutes doesn’t work with all of the stories that Creepshow tries to tell. As with the Season 3 premiere, “Mums,” and more recently, “Okay I’ll Bite,” I think some of the show’s stories may benefit from longer episodes. Why the show feels the need to keep their times contained to around forty-two minutes doesn’t make sense to me. Especially when we’re talking about a series created by Greg Nicotero for the same network that produces The Walking Dead, a show that notoriously goes over its allotted time on an almost weekly basis. By not letting stories like director Jefferey F. January’s “Time Out” breathe and take form, I think the audience loses, particularly because the caliber of Creepshow‘s writing is nothing less than fantastic.
Grandma Catherine’s rules are laid out on a cryptic note that doesn’t expressly give her grandson a lot to go on. The letter says he can literally make time inside the closet, but to never go inside without the key and not to get greedy because “stolen hours are never free.” I mean, it would be nice if Grandma wasn’t sending Tim notes like The Riddler in the upcoming movie The Batman, but I suppose for the audience’s sake, at least we know where this is going.
Saul reenters with Tim’s crush Lauren and her friend Mia (Lauren Richards), offering a well-deserved break for Tim. I mean, it may be possible that he just found out his grandmother died. I’m not sure. But he should probably take a few minutes to at least process that. Of course, a couple of drinks with friends becomes a party, and the party goes all night, leaving the studious Tim with very little time before his exam. That’s when he discovers the power of Narnia. Or, well, just the wardrobe.
Obviously crushing the bar exam, Tim’s life unfolds at breakneck speed. Within the span of a few minutes, Tim has proposed and married Lauren, is moving up the firm’s corporate ladder, and is quickly a father. The minutes pass rapidly for the viewer as well as for Tim, as he begins to don an older look after his first use of the armoire. Tim soon begins noticing hair loss, problems with his eyesight and nearly collapses while celebrating yet another accolade at his firm. Tim’s doctor suggests his body seems to be ten years older than he is, but who has time for that when you’re trying to succeed in the game of life?
While I’m uncertain writers Barrington Smith and Paul Seetachitt are trying to show millennial integration into the current corporate workforce, they end up hitting the nail on the head. Tim’s drive to succeed is wonderful, but as he begins suffering the aging effects of the armoire, it becomes a metaphor for sacrificing your health to succeed at work. The only reason I can’t see this being the intention is because Tim’s firm never has a carrot dangling in front of him to chase. While Tim looks to achieve his goals, he’s put his health on the backburner and, when “time” in fact catches up with him, it’s the reason he’s passed up for a senior partner role. His firm’s “what have you done for me lately” attitude feels similar to the way corporations treat employees, wholly expressed in a phone call made to Tim where he’s given the ultimatum of not returning to work if he doesn’t complete a project overnight.
Tim’s home life is never in any trouble, it seems like he genuinely enjoys his time spent with his wife and son, but with the constant interruption of work asking him to fix things, I felt like “Time Out” began to resemble the 2006 film Click. In Click, Adam Sandler is given a magic remote to rewind or fast forward his life. He ends up making choices to autopilot most of his life which causes him only to be present for moments that cause him to miss out on life’s experiences. Weirdly, Tim’s accelerated aging begins to affect him similarly into the same position.
As the story bears down on its final moments, Tim’s hubris is his undoing. Forced to decide between all he’s worked for and his health, Tim ends up back inside the armoire. However, this time he’s unable to make it out as we’re treated to a finish that resembles the start of “Time Out,” with Tim’s son finding the key that fell out of his pocket and revealing the dust of his dear old dad, the way his grandmother discovered her cat. Though this time, there’s no one stopping the young boy from going into the magical box, and after dropping the key, there’s no way he’ll make it out unaffected by the armoire. It is a moment of rare disproportion for the moralistic behavior in Creepshow stories, but one that will undoubtedly leave jaws dropped in horror.
The Things in Oakwood’s Past
Well, if you hadn’t heard the news earlier this week, the usually tight-lipped Creepshow announced the cast to this week’s second tale. Star Wars‘ Mark Hamill, Halloween‘s Danielle Harris, and The Conjuring‘s Ron Livingston are among the cast of a special animated portion of the episode titled “The Things in Oakwood’s Past.” While last year, the show brought us a motion comic presentation for a Halloween special at the height of the pandemic, this tale is fully animated.
In Oakwood, Maine, a local news station has sent reporter Mac Kamen (Livingston) to the area to pick up the puff piece surrounding the opening of a two-hundred-year-old box discovered by local historian Marnie Wrightson (Harris). The town’s history includes the vanishing of every person in it two hundred years ago, making this supposed time capsule unique by possibly holding clues to the mystery of Oakwood. The locals have plenty of theories, from smallpox to aliens and even a Native American raid on the land, similar to the theories behind the disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke. Marnie’s only hope is that the box can answer one question: How did Oakwood become abandoned in 1821?
Right off the bat, there’s a chuckle-worthy reference to John Carpenter‘s The Thing during the news broadcast appearing on WGON TV, a horror YouTube channel dedicated to all things George A Romero. The introduction is quickly followed by a beautiful image of Mayor Wrightson (Hamill) shaking hands with Romero himself and really setting the Creepshow tone by involving the original film’s director and a boatload of horror references. These are the clues animation directors Enol Junquera and Luis Junquera have fun with on Daniel Kraus and Greg Nicotero’s story to help viewers uncover the show’s secrets. While Nicotero and Dave Newberg are credited with the episode’s direction, it’s all about the Junqueras animation in “The Things from Oakwood’s Past.”
I thought Oakwood would be a fictitious town meant to refer to the works of Maine native Stephen King, so I looked up the town to see what I could find. Oakwood happens to be a real town about forty-five minutes north of Augusta that borders Unity Lake. Besides that, things seem very quiet in the small town. Or at least to all of my Google searches anyway. I even tried to see if maybe this was the topographical location of one of the fictional towns that King has used over the years, like Derry, Castle Rock, or Jerusalem’s Lot. Still, those all seemed to have milage much closer to Portland or are based on other locations in the region.
The town begins to get into the festivities. In one of the creepiest scares of the episode, Marnie entertains kids at the local school with a slideshow, telling them that the historian from back then said a disappearance had occurred two hundred years before the disappearance in 1821. The slideshow suddenly becomes populated with visual aids, showing the townspeople succumbing to death and rot. My first thought was how well the projector worked in this particular horror setup, reminding me of its equally effectual use in the movie Sinister. However, in “The Things in Oakwood’s Past,” the intensity ramps up because of the accompanied screams of the school children, making the moment fantastically haunting.
Marnie is basing all of her information on the journals from past town historian Eli Lester. Lester’s writings reveal that history seems to repeat every two hundred years beginning as early as 1621, and the town of Oakwood may need whatever is inside the box to fight off whatever’s coming. The only essential piece of information missing is the translation of Lester’s final journal page.
Mark Hamill’s Mayor Wrightson, Marnie’s father, acts just like the mayor from Jaws—more concerned with the celebration coming to town than his people’s safety. When Marnie presents her theories based on the historical documentation in Lester’s journals, he laughs her off and has her escorted from his office. I love Hamill’s version of The Joker from watching the old Batman: The Animated Series when I was a kid, and there’s genuine excitement to have him here in villainous form within Creepshow.
The Wrightson’s are a tribute to comic book artists Bernie and Michelle Wrightson, who illustrated the adaptation of the original Creepshow film into a comic book back in 1982. Bernie’s work would lead to more collaborations with Stephen King, including the novella Cycle of the Werewolf, the restored edition of The Stand, and the fifth book in The Dark Tower series, titled Wolves of the Calla. Bernie also did concept art for many film productions, spanning the horror genre in films such as The Faculty, The Mist, and Land of the Dead. At the same time, Mac Kamen references Jack Kamen, the cover artist of the same Creepshow comic book.
As the town gathers on the night of the time capsule’s opening, Marnie finishes translating Lester’s final page. Having been consumed by grief over the death of his daughter by a town elder, Lester focuses his anger on the town after they saw fit to release the man. Lester gets his revenge on the community by unleashing the contents of the crate on the people of Oakwood, and Marnie has arrived just in time to see Mayor Wrightson finish breaking the chains off of the box.
Chaos erupts as demons unveil themselves from the box. However, unlike Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, no one can avert their eyes to survive the opening of this demonic ark of the covenant. Death comes once again to the town of Oakwood, and no one in the city limits is spared.
The live broadcast Kamen was recording during the events wraps up with the anchors mentioning another reporter finding a crate in Ryder’s Quarry. This is a reference to Stephen King’s short story “The Crate,” also featured in the 1982 film Creepshow. “The Crate” found in the Quarry is certain to contain Fluffy (an ape-like monster that devours people) because that is where professor Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook) drops it at the end of the Creepshow film. I suppose you could argue that Fluffy was last seen breaking out of the crate to create more chaos, but it’s still a fun easter egg back to the series’ origins.
Both stories this week were quite good, the animated spectacle of “The Things In Oakwood’s Past” being the highlight. Still, I love the juxtaposition from “Time Out” to the animated story, mainly because both stories deal with time and containers. Where “Time Out” pauses time outside the container, Tim ages and meets his end inside. Meanwhile, Oakwood’s population has their time cut short by opening and unleashing a two-hundred-year-old curse from inside their box. Similar ideas are boldly told in different ways.
Oakwood’s crate falls back into the earth to end our tale, and the date on the chest is updated, proposing that the next visitation from the caged creatures in the container in two hundred years is a given. Next week’s Season Finale is outlined, as always, on the comic book drop at the end of the episode. Tales “Drug Traffic” and “A Dead Girl Named Sue” will make it the end of Season 3. Sarah Sigfried will update you with all of the details as well as any embedded references within.