Creepshow Interview: Greg Nicotero Talks Adapting Stephen King’s Gray Matter Short Story

Giancarlo Esposito in Gray Matter Stephen King Creepshow Shudder

Greg Nicotero talks about the challenges of directing an adaptation of the Stephen King short story ‘Gray Matter’ for the upcoming Creepshow series on Shudder. The horror-centric streaming service is set to launch its biggest original program to date with a reboot of the 1982 horror anthology of the same name written by King and directed by George Romero. The film spawned a film franchise and now it’s set to be resurrected on the home for all things horror, headed up by a guy who knows a thing or two about making the genre work on television. 

Nicotero already has his hands full on AMC’s The Walking Dead, but he’s taken on the additional responsibilities of showrunning the anthology. His duties not only include attracting talent to participate in the scary, gory, and often funny bite-sized stories, but also staying true to the ideas laid out by King and Romero over 30 years ago. In doing so, Nicotero has chosen to adapt one of King’s more memorable short stories, ‘Gray Matter,’ as the first offering from the new series.

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Screen Rant recently participated in a visit to the set of Creepshow, where Nicotero was filming ‘Gray Matter’ with stars Giancarlo Epsosito, Tobin Bell, and Adrienne Barbeau. The result was a first-hand look at how Nicotero works, and how he approaches filming a story from one of the undisputed masters of the genre. Nicotero had this to say about his approach to adapting King’s short story:

Giancarlo Esposito and Tobin Bell in Gray Matter Creepshow Shudder

“What's funny is that [Gray Matter] is a really complex story. On the surface it's like 'Oh, there's this guy and he drinks beer and then he starts metamorphosing into this creature. What I found interesting was it's really much more a story about alcoholism an co-dependence and the fact that the story is being told through the eyes of Timmy, this little boy... the unique aspect of the story is that it's really about the relationship between the son and his father, and his father not knowing any other way to deal with his grief, other than through alcohol. The little boy really doesn't know what else to do, so he ends up enabling his dad. When you sort of boil the story down into that, I really wanted there to be this connection between them. Between the characters that propelled the story. So [the viewer is] kind of jumping back and forth between watching Timmy and his dad,  their relationship dissolving, and then in the present day, you realize Timmy is sending Chief an Doc into this sort of wasp's nest and we don't know what's going to happen. So, a lot of it  is this kind of really heartfelt story between a father and son who are desperately trying to survive and not doing a very good job and then you have this other very suspenseful [question of] 'What's behind that door?' as Chief and Doc head toward the apartment. 

To me it's all about relating to the characters. If I've learned anything in my 30-something years of makeup effects is: If you don't care about the characters, then the coolest monster the coolest set piece the coolest visual effects, none of it matters. If you don't care about these people. So, for me, I really wanted to make sure that the performances where there and that the characters were relatable. On top of all that, you've go the monster movie aspect. It really was something very different for me to do, and in that way I really enjoyed that and feel like any filmmaker would like to go back and try this or that differently, but that's the exciting part about creating, you have this opportunity to tell the story, but the story is always evolving and changing. I really feel like we captured the intent of Steve's story and he hasn't seen it yet so I'm excited for that.”

Audiences (or, really, Shudder subscribers) will have a chance to see for themselves when Creepshow finally premieres, as ‘Gray Matter’ will be one of two shorts that make up the anthology’s premiere episode. With both Esposito and Bell on hand, it looks as though the series is going big with its first installment. 

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Creepshow premieres Thursday, September 26 @9:00pm ET/7:00pm PT exclusively on Shudder.

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