If shows such as Stranger Things and movies such as It have taught us anything, it’s that nostalgia is king. And mixed with a recent new appreciation of the horror genre, and you have a winning combo that audiences can’t seem to get enough of.
Shudder’s Creepshow is the latest re-imagination to help feed frenzied audiences who have developed a taste for both terror and sentimentality. Based on the classic 1982 anthology from Stephen King and George Romero, the series will dip into the horror genre, offering a new take on a classic format for modern audiences.
At San Diego Comic-Con, series showrunner and FX master Greg Nicotero and actor Giancarlo Esposito chatted about the show, the draw of the horror genre, the genius of King, and the legacy left by Romero.
“The original Creepshow was Stephen and George’s love letter to EC Comics. So they were just paying tribute to something that they loved, something that inspired them. And, of course, Creepshow was something that inspired me,” said Nicotero. “I feel like this isn’t a reboot, it isn’t a rebranding. I always felt that Creepshow was way ahead of its time in terms of the way George told those stories.”
Nicotero wasn’t alone in his admiration of Romero. The former Breaking Bad star also admired the legendary horror director.
“I love George Romero. I was a fan of the original movie. I was really excited to hear that we had a cast member who was in the original film with Adrienne Barbeau. And even more than that, Stephen King wrote the novella for our episode,” said Esposito.
“When Greg called me to do this, it was like, ‘I have never done this genre,’” said Esposito. “What drew me might be the same for many fans, there is an energy and a fear and fright. It changes your consciousness. So whether you’re in a good or a bad mood, you become immediately present because it puts you in fight or flight mode.”
Esposito stars in the episode “Gray Matter,” which is based on a short story from King’s short story collection, Night Shift.
“As soon as Creepshow was greenlit, I reached out to Stephen King and said, ‘Listen, there can’t be a Creepshow without a story from you. So he gave me two stories, but the one we ended up shooting was ‘Gray Matter,’” said Nicotero. “It’s really a story about alcoholism and co-dependence, but in our world, he turns into a creature.”
“The show is set in sort of this nebulous town, and you meet a couple of characters in the beginning, and of course, we’re meeting them during circumstances that are traumatic,” said Esposito. “I play a doctor who has been in this town forever, who is retiring…but than he answers a house call, and everything gets disturbed. It’s a fun role to do in a very, very interesting new construct of material by Stephen King.
“He is such a prolific and wonderful writer. I’ve worked with him before on a film called Maximum Overdrive years ago, the only film he ever directed, and he acquitted himself beautifully,” recalled Esposito.
“It’s interesting when you blend creative arts with really incredible writing. Normally, novelists don’t make great screenplay writers. You know what I mean? Many times, Stephen King has broken that mold. It’s his intellect that intrigues me. He is so very smart about so many things, not only about his craft, but about the world and politics. I really respect him as a human being. And so, I was just very excited when Greg called me and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ I said yes immediately.”
To prep for the role, Esposito used Romero’s early work to help create the character of the doctor.
“I had to start thinking about the early George Romero. I had to start thinking about the first Night of the Living Dead because there are variables there,” said the actor. “Shooting this scared the shit out of me. It was all good until I saw the monster, then my stomach literally did a flip. It was so friggin’ gross.”
“We have a creature in every episode. We really embraced the practical nature of it all because that’s what a comic book series like this requires. So my shop was running at full, full steam ahead and building all sorts of stuff from my shots.”
Nicotero is confident that this new series will make the fanbase happy as it continues to build on Romero’s legacy.
“It will satisfy fans of the original because it is going to feel like, ‘I just read that issue, now I’m going to read another issue.’ And I think with newer audiences, the idea with this anthology is that it is unlike anything else, because we can tell whatever stories we want. Some are funny, some are weird, and some are scary,” said Nicotero. “That’s what was fun about EC Comics. I wanted to embrace that these stories can be weird and funny and scary all at the same time.”
“I feel like I’m paying it forward,” said Nicotero. “I feel like I have an obligation to George. His daughter came to visit the set, and she said, ‘Dad would be so proud of you right now.’ There were a lot of times I feel I felt him. I would turn around and there would be Tom Savini and John Harrison….the guys that were there when they did this for real! And now they are here again. That makes me super proud.”