Creepshow: “Parent Death Trap” And “To Grandmother’s House We Go” (S4E3)

With two great episodes under their belt, Season 4 of Creepshow finds itself off to a very strong start. Does Episode 3 continue to carry the torch? Or, as with many anthologies, are the lower-rated segments delegated to the middle of the season? Episode 3 is a mixed bag for me. There’s one pretty strong segment with “To Grandmother’s House We Go” but I think “Parent Death Trap” misses the mark on many levels. Let’s get into Episode 3.

“Parent Death Trap”

Written by Erik Sandoval and Michael Rousselet // Directed by P.J. Pesce

From outside of Lyle's house we see police lights and flashing lights coming from inside
Creepshow Season 4, Official Trailer, YouTube, 00:41

We are introduced to only child Lyle VelJohnson (Dylan Sloane), who, now that I think about it, shares a lot of similarities with Lyle Menedez (who murdered his parents with his brother Erik). His parents, Archibald (Shaughnessy Redden) and Gloria (Loretta Walsh), are beyond disappointed with him. We find out they’re a Mayflower family if that wasn’t already clear from their enormous mansion and overly pretentious characterizations. Lyle has no interest in going to the prom but his parents, being attention-seeking creatures, arrange a date with Violet Meyers (Chloe Babcock). See, Chloe’s parents, Chester (Tariq Leslie) and Viviane (Julie Howgate), also happen to be financial tycoons. It’s pretty clear Lyle’s parents are only in this for the optics.

Later that night, Lyle is lying in bed when his cat Churchill pees on his bed. Lyle fulfills one of the traits from the MacDonald Triad and kills his cat. In an attempt to still be himself during prom, he gets ready and comes downstairs dressed as a 50s detective with a long trench coat and a fedora. Archibald is furious and throws his hat in the fireplace before placing a sailor’s hat on him. The clock ticks by and Violet never shows up. Gloria tries calling the Meyers but it’s to no avail. Gloria thinks the Meyers are avoiding them, and Archibald thinks they’re avoiding Lyle. Both are probably true. The VelJohnson’s are extra pissed because they made a sizeable donation to the Meyers’s company for this date.

An argument breaks out which leads to Archibald calling Lyle a sniveling weirdo. Lyle grabs the family sword and swings it at his father. The sword connects with Archibald’s neck but only cuts a few inches deep. Archibald makes a quip about how Lyle can’t even kill someone properly by saying, “You were supposed to sharpen the sword, you can’t even kill me right!” Gloria walks in to find a half-decapitated Archibald and her initial thought is about how Lyle got blood everywhere. Instead of seeing Lyle kill Gloria, we get a comic-framed shot of him pointing the sword at her and then a reaction shot of her screaming. A quick cut takes us to the dock in their backyard where we see Lyle dumping their bodies into the lake. Lyle goes inside and promptly goes to bed, though he’s not going to get much sleep as the ghost of his mother and father promptly enter his bedroom to berate him.

I don’t know how I feel about the stereotypical Haunted Mansion-styled ghosts. Whereas something like this works in, say, Brooklyn 45 where it’s not a focal point of the story (and it’s done practically and well), the overly cartoonish stylings of the ghosts here just take away any emotional weight you might have been feeling to this point. Granted it’s really up in the air about how you want to feel about the character of Lyle. What he did was inhumane, but also his parents were absolute garbage. If you want to make the audience feel good about Lyle’s decisions, make the ghosts less cartoonish and more ominous. Does this fit in with the Creepshow styling? Sure. Does it work for how they’re trying to tell this story? Not for me.

Four years later, we catch up with Lyle, and his parents still haunt him. At this point, they’re just ribbing him constantly. They tell him if he finds a girlfriend they’ll happily move on. That’s when he sees Violet shopping for groceries. Violet apologizes for standing him up four years ago, and Lyle, who is in love with her, basically says it’s just water under the bridge. Eventually, they set up a date. Later that day two agents, Special Agent Ella (Andrea Drepaul) and Special Agent Mann (Ed Chow), show up at Lyle’s house. They ask for the whereabouts of his parents and he makes some flimsy excuse that SURELY won’t come back up later. Before they leave they ask one more question and that is if Lyle’s parents had invested in Midwhich Financial, the company owned by the Meyers family. Ghost Archibald tells Lyle he needs to put all of his money in Lyle’s name.

Violet and Lyle go for a walk near the water and she spills the beans on what really happened with her parents. She says they ran a Ponzi scheme and scammed the whole town out of millions, leading to her father disappearing and her mother drinking herself to death. Pretty dark. Lyle tells Violet his parents killed each other after finding out they were cheating. Lyle and Violet kiss. But it doesn’t feel like a “good for them” moment because Lyle is pretty much just an empty vessel of a human. Later on, Lyle and Violet hang out to watch a movie, and they start making out. Things get hot and heavy, leading to Gloria walking out of the room and Archibald… staying?

Inevitably, the Special Agents show back up to ask some more questions and Violet hears Lyle telling them a completely different story than he told her. Violet questions Lyle about it before walking away. Lyle and his ghost parents argue for a minute. Wanting to end it all, Lyle grabs the sword to kill himself but ghost Archibald lets loose a thunderous yell, knocking Lyle flat on his ass. In a weird twist of events, they tell Lyle they are proud of him and they don’t want him to end up like them. This is pretty much the only nice moment in this entire segment. Archibald even relents and says Lyle is a man for taking the action to kill his parents. In an even weirder twist of events, Lyle tells Violet that he killed his parents and they’re alive to protect his emotions. I don’t know, this segment has lost me at this point.

Lyle and Violet get married. The night of their marriage they sit down for a meal, only Lyle feels odd after drinking some wine. It was drugged! Violet tells, a now-drugged Lyle, that she has a reputation to uphold. Violet also says that she picked Lyle as a victim because he never had to downgrade his life as she did. We then see the police down at their lake pulling up two sets of bodies. Violet ALSO killed her parents due to the shame they had brought on their family name. So now there’s Lyle, his ghost parents, Violet, and HER ghost parents. It’s just off the rails now. The ghost parents bicker, Violet and Lyle bicker, it’s a whole scene. What Violet didn’t know, and good on Lyle, is that all of the VelJohnson’s money is still in Archibald’s name, not Lyle’s! Violet doesn’t get a cent!

To wrap things up, there’s a banshee-like scream between the four ghost parents, and Violet dies in the mayhem somehow. When the police enter Lyle’s home they find Violet dead, and Lyle alive. So he’s now getting arrested and has five ghosts always around him. It’s not clear if the charges for Lyle stick or not, but it’s insinuated that they do. Wouldn’t they run a tox report if Lyle said he was drugged? And that would totally clear him. Right? I don’t know.

This segment is over and it was a chore to get through. The characters are all vehemently intolerable. Lyle isn’t tragic enough, or charismatic enough, to make me feel any which way about him. It’s pretty clear that Violet’s addition to the story will only result in some sort of downfall for Lyle, and inevitably herself. The direction is plain, the writing is mediocre at best, and the ghost effects are painfully cartoonish. Archibald’s neck wound looks great and that’s really the only good practical effect we get.

Archibald and Gloria accompany Lyle on a trip to the grocery store
Creepshow Season 4, Official Trailer, YouTube, 01:02

“To Grandmother’s House We Go”

Written by William Butler // Directed by Justin Dyck

The final segment of Episode 3 starts with a wedding between Marcia (Keegan Connor Tracy) and the elderly David (David Avalon). Marcia won’t kiss David after the “I do.” She won’t have to worry too long about not having to kiss David because he dies fairly soon after their marriage. Oh, did I mention that David is loaded? The young gold-digging widow finds out she won’t see a cent of David’s money unless she looks after, and raises, David’s granddaughter Ruby (Emma Oliver). Just going to throw this out there that Emma Oliver is an insanely talented performer and might have given us one of the best, if not in the top five, performances in a Creepshow segment to date.

Marcia and Ruby are at a diner where Marcia breaks up with her sidepiece (?) Benny (Jason McKinnon). The reason? Well, he doesn’t make enough money for her. While at the diner Ruby also calls Marcia mom, which Marcia consistently tells her to stop doing. As they leave the diner Benny warns Marcia that she’ll get what’s coming. Carla (Amanda Huxtable), who is one of the servers at the diner, calls Marcia a black widow.

We also find out that Marcia is about three months behind on credit card payments. We now see Marcia’s driving force behind her reprehensible actions (presuming she killed David). Marcia gets a call on behalf of Belinda Higgins (Marion Eisman) who is David’s ex-wife. It turns out Belinda is dying of cancer and just wants to spend her last few months with her granddaughter. Marcia realizes this is her chance to spend a few months living in true luxury. Ruby and Marcia embark towards Belinda’s lakehouse estate, and Ruby is wearing a red, hooded outer coat with a woven basket in tow. On their way, Marcia breaks the news as to why they’re making the trip, which makes Ruby start to cry. During Ruby’s meltdown, she tells Marcia that she wishes she was her mother, which really takes Marcia aback but in an almost positive way.

The day driving quickly turns into a hazy backroad night. Something quickly darts across the road which makes Marcia crash the car. Marcia gets out to check the damage with Ruby colored in a red light. A creature comes up behind Marcia, but she somehow gets the jump on it and tases it. Marcia runs into the car hugs Ruby tightly and says, “We’re gonna be all right, ’cause you know why? Cause you and I, we’re tough broads.” This is genuinely a sweet moment between them, it’s just a shame this story is going to get a lot darker. Ruby gets grabbed by the werewolf through the sunroof. Marcia grabs a knife out of Ruby’s woven basket, ready to fight whatever comes her way.

Ruby and Marcia are scared in the car as they hear a noise on the roof
Creepshow Season 4, Official Trailer, YouTube, 00:27

Benny eventually shows up to help Marcia tow her car. Marcia tries explaining everything to Benny, but he’s not really buying it. After some misplaced accusations, Benny relents and says he’ll call the sheriff then he’ll pull the car out. Benny starts to tow Marcia’s car, abruptly stopping for some reason. We see half of his head is sliced off! It is an excellent practical and gets us to the roots of what Creepshow stands for. Marcia gets in the driver’s seat of Benny’s car and then she sees Ruby standing in the road staring down a werewolf. It’s go time. Marcia grabs the knife and stabs the werewolf with everything she has before saying, “This is for screwing up our trip to grandmother’s house,” stab, “And this is for trying to kill my f***ing kid!” Marcia looks at Ruby and says, “Mommy’s here for you.”

But who exactly was the werewolf? It was Carla! From the diner! Remember? Marcia and Ruby take Benny’s truck and get back on the road. Yay, we’re finally getting a happy ending! They get to Belinda’s house and she is ecstatic to see her granddaughter. But, oh no, Ruby turns around and she’s a werewolf?! Ruby knocks Marcia over starts eating her and says, “Why mommy what big eyes you have, now we can be together forever!” In the background, Belinda has a heart attack. And that’s that.

I do really like this segment, though as I type it out I am picking up a few more flaws than I remember. When they arrive at Belinda’s it’s daytime, so how could Ruby turn into a werewolf? And why bastardize the “what big eyes you have,” line? It would have been more appreciated if they just went full reference with it, no? And did Ruby want to call her mommy just so she could deliver that line at the end? Also, did Ruby get turned into a werewolf in the woods that night, or had she always been one? AND TO THAT MATTER why did she have weapons in her woven basket? Did she always plan on this event happening, or did she know something like this could happen? With all that said, lore aside, I do enjoy this segment. It’s the right level of cheese and heart that I want from a segment in Creepshow.

The practicals of the wolves look really solid, and so does Benny’s death. Again, when it comes to practicals there are no complaints here. Greg Nicotero knows what he’s doing and he wouldn’t put subpar effects on screen, let alone in a Creepshow episode. I can look over my flaws with this segment due to the storytelling and direction. “Parent Death Trap” may have lost me, but “To Grandmother’s House We Go” brought me right back in.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

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

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