1982’s Creepshow is a perfect gem of a horror movie. Legendary filmmaker George Romero directing a screenplay written by Stephen King that acts as a tribute to gnarly horror comics, complete with ghastly color schemes and outrageous gore? It’s a perfect thing, really. How do you even attempt to recreate that lightning in a bottle?

So AMC’s Shudder streaming service can’t help but tempt fate with its new take on Creepshow, a streaming television series in which each episode tells two nasty horror tales from different filmmakers, some newcomers and some horror legends. But if you’re going to tempt fate, you might as well bring in some heavy-hitters to even the odds.

Special effects maestro, director, and The Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero leapt at the opportunity to spearhead the new Creepshow series as soon as the opportunity was available. When we visited the Atlanta, Georgia set of the show earlier this year, he explained how the whole thing came together and why this project, above so many others, is truly personal for him.

The first seeds of the new Creepshow were planted when Nicotero found himself smitten with a collection of horror short stories, leading him to make a delightful discovery about one of the authors:

It’s a very interesting story the way Creepshow came about. I was doing some press in Australia for The Walking Dead, and I’m sitting with Michael Rooker and we’re getting ready to fly back, and I’m like, ‘I want to fucking read something on the plane.’ So I get on iBooks and I’m looking around, and there’s a book called Nights of the Living Dead. I’m like, ‘What is that? I’ve never heard of that before.’ It’s a series of short stories, all that take place the same night as Night of the Living Dead did. I’m like, ‘That’s great!’ So I bought it, and I’m sitting on the plane reading it, and I read this one story written by a guy named Craig Engler, and I loved the story. I’m like, ‘Fuck, man, I want to shoot that, just as a short, just for fun.’ I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but I just really like the story. Not that I have enough zombie shit in my world, but I liked it, and I went, ‘Fuck, it must be good if it’s a zombie story that I want to shoot.’ So we reached out, and it turns out he is an executive at Shudder [which is owned by AMC, who airs The Walking Dead]. I’m like, ‘Fuck, we literally work for the same company.’

One thing led to another and Nicotero soon learned that Shudder wanted to make a new Creepshow. And this is where things get personal. As a young man, Nicotero visited the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania set of the original film. And then, director George Romero later hired him to work alongside special effects make-up legend Tom Savini on Day of the Dead. And then Nicotero would further hone his skills on Creepshow 2. So now that he has the weight of the massively successful The Walking Dead backing him up, Nicotero saw this series as a chance to pay tribute to the creators who empowered him as a young man and, quite frankly, to have a good time making horror shorts with his buddies:

They were like, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about rebooting Creepshow.’ And I went, ‘My Creepshow, Creepshow? Really?’ And they said, ‘Would you be interested in being the creative executive?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, yeah!’ I mean, I was there, I was on the set when they did the original Creepshow. I visited. So I was like, yeah. I mean, George gave me my first job. So it was like my Creepshow, Creepshow. So my goal was, I wanted to honor the spirit of writers in terms of, I wanted some old school writers and some new writers and people that inspire me. I love short stories, and short horror is the greatest because there’s no rules. You can really do whatever the fuck you want in a short time frame.

As for those buddies…well, not all of them came through. It was quickly decided that the new Creepshow would be shot down-and-dirty, with low-budgets and accelerated schedules. Each story would be filmed in under four days, with crews working long hours on intense shoots filled with practical monsters and plenty of old school gore. When Nicotero bounced the idea off some genre legends, he found himself further emboldened:

So the stories were really fun for me. I was still filming Walking Dead when we were picking the stories, and I had conferences with all the writers and I set them off into their world. I wrote one draft of another Stephen King story, so I got to write, which was fun. I’ve been doing a lot of writing on the scripts, and it’s a whole different world for me too, which is great because it’s so much fun. Then Walking Dead ended, and I had a week to fly home and catch my breath and we were in preproduction on this. It was like, ‘OK, which ones are we going to do first? You’ve gotta start meeting with directors.’ So again, I called Joe Dante, and I called Sam Raimi – I was like, ‘What do you guys think?’ The challenge is that it’s three and a half days. Then I was like, I’m going to call my friends and say, ‘Hey, come and shoot and you can’t stop filming for twelve hours. You can’t eat. You can’t go to the bathroom. You’ve just got to keep filming and go crazy.’ And everybody was like, ‘That sounds great!’

So Nicotero set out to fill his roster of filmmakers, ultimately recruiting a fascinating line-up of rising stars and established legends. But one thing was consistent – this was not a typical reboot. This is not a reimagining. This is continuation of the 1982 film, with each story attempting to explore the space created by Romero and King, not change it up:

So I got Roxanne Benjamin and David Bruckner and Rob Schrab and John Harrison. John, I met in 1984, he was the first AD on Day of the Dead when I worked on that. I had met him briefly on Creepshow, but we weren’t, like, friends. But when John directed Tales from the Dark Side: The Movie and Dune and all these other things, we’ve all worked together. When Creepshow came up, I was like, ‘Listen, I want to embrace the spirit of the original movie.’ I always felt that Creepshow was way ahead of its time in terms of what George was doing and the visuals. So it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re reimagining it?’ and it’s like, ‘No, it was a fucking great idea.’ I’ve been designing all the comic book panels and we’ve been doing the dissolves and the panning through the pages. It’s going to feel much more like a continuation than – I’m not rebooting anything, or like, ‘Oh, we’re going to upgrade it and retell it.’ It’s really like, you’re picking up another issue of Creepshow and these are the stories.

The first episode of Creepshow arrives on Shudder on September 26, 2019.

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