By RACHEL REEVES
Starring Adam Pally, Anna Camp and Pete Burris
Written and Directed by Greg Nicotero
‘Twas mere days before Christmas and what did appear? Everyone’s favorite Creep with tidings of spooky laced cheer. But this is no tale that you’ve heard before. This story has werewolves, evil Santas, and more! If this is the dark content that makes your heart flutter, then you are in luck as it’s now streaming on Shudder!
As CREEPSHOW fans eagerly await Season 2 of the well-received Shudder series, Greg Nicotero has gifted horror fiends with yet another seasonal treat. Following up the October CREEPSHOW ANIMATED SPECIAL, Nicotero once again returns to the director’s chair with A CREEPSHOW HOLIDAY SPECIAL. An extended episode, the special focuses on a single tale called ‘Shapeshifter’s Anonymous’ adapted from a J.A. Konrath short story of the same name.
The story centers around Robert Weston (Adam Pally). Having recently experienced some rather disturbing nocturnal behavior and subsequent intestinal problems, Robert desperately seeks help from a group billed as Shapeshifters Anonymous. While attending his first meeting in the classic church basement, Robert discovers the group is much more than just a support outlet. In reality, the group is a collective of therianthropes – humans who transform into animals.
Satisfyingly breaking the traditional werewolf mold, the group consists of Irena (Anna Camp) the were-cheetah, Scott (Pete Burris) the were-tortoise, Andy (Frank Nicotero) the were-boar, Phyllis (Candy McLellan) the self-identifying were-hippo and Ryan (Derek Russo) the mystery man. Before long, Robert not only discovers his true identity as a werewolf but also learns that the group is actually in the midst of a long-running blood feud…with Kris Kringle. Although the story takes its sweet time getting to the highly anticipated holiday twist, when it does, it holds nothing back.
Humorous and light-hearted at its very core, the decision to cast experienced comedic actors Pally (The Mindy Project) and Camp (Pitch Perfect) in the lead roles was a wise move. Pally, as the affable and innocent Robert, adds a wholesome flair to his uncontrollably murderous ways. And while Camp is truly great as the sassy were-cheetah Irena, there’s a level of sexual innuendo and dialogue from her character that ultimately feels dated and unnecessary. Yes, she’s a cat. But must cats always be excessively horny? Similarly, McLellan is great as the one non-therianthrope in the group, but early off-handed dialogue from other characters and final act choices leave her feeling like the butt of a distasteful joke. Both are enjoyable talents to watch on screen, but their characters unquestionably deserved better. Throw in the fact that Robert’s werewolf affliction was caused by an older woman billed as a gypsy, and you get a few undesirable raisins in this otherwise tasty treat.
Despite these small unwanted lumps of coal in its stockings, ‘Shapeshifters Anonymous’ gets several things right. Christmas horror holds a sacred place in many fright fan’s hearts and Nicotero embraces this fact in his own unique way. Stuffed to the brim with seasonal puns and kitschy one-liners, ‘Shapeshifters Anonymous’ blends werewolf lore with holiday icons in unprecedented fashion. While villainous Santas are certainly familiar fodder to horror fans, never before has there been a Santa quite like Nicotero’s. Considering his talent and skill at producing gore, practical effects and classic horror elements, the reveals, and transformations on display throughout the episode certainly feel like a warm, cozy, blanket.
Cleverly interspersed with Creepshow’s familiar comic book segments, Nicotero is able to make the most of his obviously modest budget in order to maximize the story’s impact. Culminating in an epic showdown of North Pole-sized proportions (including a cameo from rapper Lil Yachty), Nicotero gleefully puts all his Christmas cookies on the fireside table. For those who like their seasonal nog dusted with a sprinkle of spooky, A CREEPSHOW HOLIDAY SPECIAL will leave you holly and jolly with blood-drenched glee.
A CREEPSHOW HOLIDAY SPECIAL is available to stream now on Shudder!