The acclaimed horror anthology series Creepshow premiered on the AMC cable network Monday night (May 4) after first launching last year on the AMC-owned genre streaming service Shudder. Since debuting there, Creepshow has been a success, with a second season about to start filming before the coronavirus pandemic shut down production for now.
Based on the 1982 movie written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, Creepshow’s six-episode first season features two stories per episode, many of them either written by or based on works from well-known and respected horror authors like Joe Hill and David J. Schow. In honor of King, however, the premiere story was “Gray Matter,” based on a story that appeared in King’s classic 1978 collection Night Shift.
But “Gray Matter” wasn’t the first King story selected for adaptation by Creepshow showrunner and executive producer Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead), who directed the segment as well. After reaching out to King personally after Creepshow was given the green light, the horror master offered Nicotero a different tale for adaptation: “Survivor Type.”
First published in 1982 and then collected in King’s 1985 book Skeleton Crew, “Survivor Type” tells the story (in diary form) of a disgraced surgeon named Richard Pine, who manages to survive a shipwreck and land on a tiny island in the Pacific with little food or supplies except for the heroin he was smuggling on the voyage.
As the days go by and he runs out of food options, he begins to eat himself a piece at a time, using the heroin as anesthetic. Insane, drifting in and out of reality, Pine ends his diary entries with the amputation of his left hand, which tastes “just like lady fingers.”
“I read it and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s fucking crazy,’” recalls Nicotero. “I mean, I’d read it a long time ago, but I reread it, and I was like, ‘Jesus, how the fuck are we going to do this?’”
Nevertheless, Nicotero gamely set about adapting the story: “I wrote the script for it, and that was going to be sort of like one of our big staple episodes,” he says. “And as soon as we got into production, I realized how challenging it would be.”
Nicotero says he realized very quickly that they couldn’t shoot the script in a way that would do it justice. “We couldn’t go to the beach to shoot, because we didn’t have the cash to do it,” he reveals. “So after a little bit of struggling back and forth, I went to my production team and just said, ‘Guys, we’re not going to be able to make this script right. I don’t want to shoot it on a lake and then digitally erase all of the trees, or shoot it in a parking lot with a blue screen behind it.’”
Having made his decision, Nicotero reached out to King again and gave him the bad news, but then asked if the show could adapt “Gray Matter” instead. King readily agreed and we now have the excellent episode that kicks off Creepshow’s first season. But Nicotero still has his script for “Survivor Type” around, just in case.
“I do, indeed,” he says. “I gave ‘Survivor Type’ to Jon Bernthal and he loved the script. So I was really like in my head going, ‘Man, how great would it be to have Bernthal star in this episode?’ But we would need a different model to be able to shoot that.”
With the stories already set for Season 2, “Survivor Type” will remain a “lost” Stephen King episode of Creepshow for now. But if Season 3 comes to pass and the budget opens up for location shooting on a deserted beach somewhere, the unfortunate Richard Pine may be dining on those “lady fingers.”
Watch Creepshow on either AMC or Shudder and stay tuned for more with Greg Nicotero when Season 1 hits Blu-ray on May 19.