Creepshow “Meet The Belaskos” And “Cheat Code” (S4E4)

Three episodes down, three more to go. So far, Shudder‘s Creepshow Season 4 is shaping up to be an all-around solid entry into the Creepshow franchise. Season 4 is a proper step up from Season 3. So what else is to come in this season? Would you believe me if I told you giant Earth-ending spiders? Or what about the rebirth of one of horror’s (and Creepshow‘s) biggest stars? The tricks and treats are still coming in full force! Episode 4 brings us a tale of race relations told via vampires and another story about family gained and family lost. Let’s jump right into the murky waters of the first segment of Episode Four.

“Meet The Belaskos”

Written and Directed by John Esposito

Alex's mom floats by a second story window in a Salem's Lot homage

I want to get this out there before we really go into all of this. “Meet the Belaskos” is unquestionably a commentary on race relations. Vampires have been outed and are peacefully trying to integrate with a society that doesn’t want them. There are vamp/human neighborhoods that are starting to become more common. After watching this segment, there was this feeling that it missed the mark on what it was trying to say…something felt off. I’m not the person to best comment on anything of this matter, so I just wanted to get that overall feeling I had when walking away from this episode.

We start this episode in olden times, presumably the 1700s or 1800s, with a vampire hunter (Donavon Stinson) entering a crypt. Candles illuminate a stone casket in the middle of the room. The vampire hunter walks up to the freshly fed vampire lying inside and lowers the stake to her heart. The vampire’s parents, who are in cells next to the vampire, beg the hunter not to kill their only daughter. The vampire hunter plainly says, “There is no mercy for the undead.” He raises the mallet and strikes down on the stake, spraying blood everywhere. The screen turns red, and the hammer rises back up in full frame, cutting to–

Chuck Belasko (Brendan Taylor) wakes up from this horrible nightmare. His wife Helena (Lisa Durupt) asks if everything is okay. Chuck says yes and then says he’s going to check on their daughter Anna (Karis Cameron). Chuck gets out of a coffin in the back of a moving van and goes over to his daughter’s coffin to find her listening to music. We see the van they are being moved in has a logo on the side that says Fly By Night Movers. Once they reach their location, two 1800s-looking men wheel the coffins into their new home. Oh, and their house was sold to them by a realty company called Stoker Reality.

At night, the Belaskos do some yard work, including Chuck pounding a fence into the ground. Maybe they should work out with the neighbors when hammering is involved. Their neighbor, Doug Roach (Donavon Stinson), comes over and makes clear his vehement dislike of vampires. Through their conversation, we find out Chuck and Helena are night professors. That’s when Anna and Alex Roach (Matthew Nelson-Mahood) sort of make eyes at each other. Doug realizes Anna and Alex are feeling a mutual attraction and immediately cuts it off, by telling Alex to mind his own race. The music is excessively cheery for this segment, like an uncomfortable amount. But maybe not uncomfortable in the way they were going for, unfortunately.

Later that week, we see a typical night in the life of the Belaskos when they are just waking up. One piece of credit I will give this segment is the minute original ideas I don’t think I’ve seen before. Their pot of coffee is just percolating blood coffee. Instead of drinking Tang, they’re drinking Fang, and Anna uses blood syrup for her waffles. Anna asks her parents if she can join a 24/7 gym, but they’re on the fence about the idea. This town was supposed to be different, Anna angrily tells them. Chuck says not to worry and that it’s a fully integrated neighborhood. Anna retorts her father’s claim by saying the last neighborhood they lived in was also fully integrated. She then extends her arm to reveal a branded cross on her arm, presumably from the residents of their previous neighborhood.

Wanting to escape her parents, Anna climbs up part of the roof. She bathes in the moonlight, again creating a sensational piece of lore! Alex tries sneaking a quick photo, creep, and her image in the photo is monstrous. Anna senses her photo is being taken and quickly swoops off the roof, her bra ripping in the process. Either hoping to give it back or abscond with it, Alex goes down and gets Anna’s bra. They finally have a little meet cute, save for Anna spends most of the time covering herself. After some chatting, they strike up a friendship, as they both long for a connection. Alex even offers to take Anna on a midnight tour of the town!

The two new friends take a walk about town. Anna gives us some more lore on the universe this story takes place in, saying a Belasko hasn’t had human blood in over a century, plus it’s illegal…and disgusting. One of the shops they come across has a sign in the window that says vamps need not apply. Where have we seen that near-exact wording before? Alex apologizes and tells Anna, “Small-town peeps can be a little dickish.” Yeah, that’s not just dickish. He realizes enough that Anna is just someone with feelings like himself, and his response to that is just that they’re dicks? Anna tells Alex she wants to run away to some place they’ll never find her. Alex responds that he wants to go with her. “Deal.”

Anna and Alex hold hands as he takes her to the last stop of the night, which townies dub Mapleton’s Disneyland. It’s a little park. But it’s cute. Alex discusses how his mother died when he was seven. Anna tells us vampires die too, it just takes a lot longer. They end up kissing on the merry-go-round. Their relationship quickly takes off and it is stated they have sex every day after that, five times a day even. Helena and Chuck have a frank discussion, where Helena thinks no one will ever fully accept them, “Hate is thicker than blood.”

The two new lovebirds play guitar together on the roof. Alex tells Anna that vampirism is a gift and then kisses her cross scar. He then brings up the idea of running away again. Anna says they could go to Alaska, where it’s night six months out of the year. Doug reveals to Alex he knows about his relationship with Anna. Whether this is true or not is up in the air, but Doug tells Alex that a vampire killed his mother. In a Salem’s Lot homage, we see Alex’s mother illuminated and floating at the window when she was supposed to be in the ground. So, Doug staked her. That’s when he hands Alex a stake… Doug gets on the phone and tells someone there is about to be another hunting excursion and to get the band back together, just like old times.

Alex texts Anna to let her know she’s in danger and to meet him at Disneyland, not knowing that’s also the location where Doug and his racist cronies plan to gather. A fight ensues, and Alex is knocked out by one of the hunters. Dougs yells, “We didn’t start this war, but we’re sure as shit gonna end it.” Anna flies away as Doug shoots his crossbow, though rather than hitting Anna, it goes straight through the forehead of one of the hunters. After disposing of the rest of the hunters, Anna turns into her true form and attacks Doug. Through this scuffle, Alex has received a life-threatening injury. Even though the sun is steadily rising, Anna carries Alex to the hospital. She comes closer to death every second as her skin burns and flakes away. Imagery-wise, this scene is beautiful, though marred by some iffy digital enhancements.

Doug wakes up to find himself chained up, with Chuck and Helena standing over him. He tells them they better undo the chains, or else he’ll sue them back to Transylvania. Chuck laughs and says, “We’re not from Transylvania. We’re from Pennsylvania!” And, what’s this? Doug’s now a vampire! Alex has the last laugh when he stakes his father in the heart.

So that’s “Meet The Belaskos.” Again, I think it missed the mark on how it said what it was trying to say, but I don’t think that’s a call for me to make. The practicals are on point, and more than enough blood is here to satisfy a gorehound. The arrow through the head is especially gnarly. There is a bit of CGI that I think we could have done without, but it’s not enough to distract from the emotion of the scene when it’s used.

Anna shows her true form after she is attacked by an angry mob

“Cheat Code”

Written by Claire Carré and Charles Spano // Directed by Justin Dyck

Jeff (Margaux‘s Lochlyn Munro) comes home with a box containing a videogame from his childhood called Weird Wednesday to share with his son Dave (Connor Wong). It’s always great to see Lochlyn Munro in things. He’s wonderful! I will say he definitely brings the Creepshow cheese to his performance. Jeff tells his son that way back in the day, he held the high score for this game, but for some reason, all of the copies were pulled and buried in the desert. They start to play the game together, and Dave (just so you know, Dave is GenZ) says the game is not balanced or fair. Jeff tries telling him that’s the point, it’s not fair, life’s not fair. We also find out no one has made it to the final level.

Weird Wednesday is an 8-bit side scroller. The objective is to make it to the end without dying, except the game throws increasingly more difficult objects in your way. Everything is a hazard in Weird Wednesday!

After playing for some time, Dave starts to love the game. He invites his friends Reina (Hanna Huffman) and Spencer (Nikolas Filipovic) over to play it with him. It turns out Dave’s mom, Jeff’s wife, recently passed away. And there’s a clear rift that has formed between the two. Jeff tries telling them he knows a trick to get past a level they’re stuck on, but Dave brushes him off and says he can teach him later.

Later on, we find out Dave beats his dad’s high score. Jeff is happy for his son but then tells him they still need to beat the game. Reina tells Dave she bought a console and a copy of the game, only her copy has a cheat code written on the lip of the box. There’s also a special role Reina plays where it’s implied she and Dave are exes but still close friends. She tries to help mend the relationship between Jeff and Dave in a very sweet way. Her empathy is no match for her competitiveness, though, as she really wants to beat the high score, too.

Jeff wants a rematch with Dave after his friends leave, but Dave passes. Wanting to find some way to spend time with his son Jeff makes a proposal. Next time they play together, there’s a wager. If Dave wins, he can take his driver’s test, but if Jeff wins, Dave has to spend every Friday night with him. In theory, I see what Jeff is doing, but I don’t think forced hang time will do what he thinks it will. It’s self-serving more than anything.

Reina tells Dave that Spencer has not returned her console yet. And weirdly enough, there’s a new character in the game that somewhat resembles Spencer. That’s when we see Spencer get decimated by an ice cream truck. Quickly, they go to Spencer’s, where his mom tells them he isn’t picking up his phone. Spencer’s mom lets them in to take the console, only they’re met with a game over screen. They leave Spencer’s house and pass his crime scene, blood and guts strewn about, only they don’t see that part. This is a simple shot, but it’s pretty damn brutal if I do say so.

Once back at Dave’s, they play the game some more (go figure), until they end up stuck on a level which prompts Dave to enter the cheat code when Reina leaves the room. Lives left: 5. The game now controls Dave! He spills the beans about entering the code and how he cannot control his body. Reina shuts the console off, and Dave disappears. She quickly turns it back on, and he blinks back into existence. It also happens to be that Jeff is playing on HIS console, and who is he now controlling? Dave. Does he realize it? Nope!

A plastic bag wraps itself around Dave's face in "Cheat Code"

We get a few death scenes in a really fun way. The camera follows Dave as if he’s in a side scroller, as objects roll and menace towards him. He clears the first obstacle, a flaming propane tank, but is bested by the second obstacle, a lawnmower, when Jeff clicks jump too early. Dave is pulled under the lawnmower in a bloody mess. He respawns in the basement and wonders, what happens if I run out of lives? The realization of Spencer’s fate has now kicked in. Reina sees a text from Jeff asking Dave to play the game, and that’s the moment she realizes who is controlling Dave. The second death is a brick to the head in a construction zone. Reina races over to Dave’s house because JEFF ISN’T PICKING UP HIS DANG PHONE. The third death comes in the way of suffocation from a plastic bag. For some reason, they don’t show the fourth death in real life, but in the game, we see three knives fly into Dave’s character. One life left.

Reina is almost at Dave’s house, but Jeff has made it to the final level. A crashed UAP sits as his final obstacle. What does Dave come across in the woods? Yep, a real-life UAP! The front doors hinge open, and out comes a Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who-looking alien. The alien telepathically lifts up two large rocks and throws them at Dave. Luckily, Jeff dodges them in time. it’s getting tense. E.T. forms a ball of blue light energy with his hands and shoots it at Dave, but this time Jeff isn’t so lucky and leaves Dave with only 1 HP left. When Reina finally gets to the house and pounds on the door, thankfully, Jeff hears.

Finding out that he controls Dave and if he dies in the game, well, he dies in real life. Jeff knows what he must do, and he, too, enters the cheat code. Now, side by side with his son, it’s time to beat the game. Reina controls them, though it’s unclear if Jeff is controlling himself or not. Jeff throws a rock and shouts, “Eat this E.T.!.” However, it quickly goes South as the alien telepathically lifts Jeff up into the sky. All hope looks lost, that is, until Dave sees a glowing red button that presumably will defeat the alien. Since the alien’s attention is on Jeff, Dave quickly gets to the button and presses it. They win!

Back in the real world, Jeff and Dave bury the game. Dave says he has plans with Reina later that night, so Jeff decides he’ll walk home, and Dave can take the car. In a really sweet moment, Dave tells his dad that he’d like to play basketball together tomorrow. As the two leave the game’s grave, it starts to pulsate underneath the dirt…an ominous blue glow shining through the cracks.

“Cheat Code” gets really cheesy towards the end, but its point is not lost. We all want to see Jeff and Dave mend their relationship. I think it does a good job of wrapping up the story while also giving us that Creepshow ambiguous ending we’ve come to expect from the series. When Dave asks Jeff who was controlling him, Jeff says, “I was. We’re in two-player mode now.” This is a really cute way to use gaming jargon to show the growth of their relationship. At some point in the episode, Jeff comes to the realization that he can’t control his son forever and that it will drive Dave away from him in the long run; it’s best to let Dave be himself while being there if/when Jeff is needed.

Some of the lines of dialogue are incredibly cheesy, and Lochlyn Munro does his best to make them workable, only it’s out of his hands at that point. The gore we get is overall solid, but there’s nothing too “stand out” about it. “Cheat Code” is an enjoyably cheesy entry into Creepshow and leaves the audience with an overall positive mindset.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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