Creepshow 2 (1987)
"Good to the last gasp."
The latest issue of the Creepshow comic is delivered to a young boy and he reads the three stories: a wooden Indian statue outside a small general store comes to life when some local youths mess about with the elderly couple; some teenagers encounter a blob-like creature which lives in a lake; and a woman does a hit-and-run on a hitchhiker and thinks she's got away with it, only to be confronted with the dead hitchhiker numerous times down the road.
The good old horror anthology film lives on in Creepshow 2, a follow-up collaboration by director George Romero and writer Stephen King to their 1985 surprise hit, Creepshow. That was their tribute to the old EC horror comics of the past that they grew up with - comics such as Tales from the Crypt which presented stories of normal everyday protagonists who usually met some kind of grim, ironic fate with a horror twist thanks to their transgressions. Creepshow worked well with a solid cast, a selection of varied stories, a very dark sense of humour and some nice unsuspecting twists and so it was a no-brainer that as long as the stories kept coming, further instalments of the series could follow.
Unfortunately Romero passed on the director's chair and the lack of his input in this sequel outside of a screenplay is clear to see as replacement Michael Gornick, the cinematographer from the original, lacks the style and panache to turn the material into something unique. Despite this, Creepshow 2 is an underrated sequel which delivers some mild doses of horror and has been somewhat unfairly maligned over the years. It doesn't help that the wraparound story is really dull. They've replaced the live action linking scenes from the original with a weakly-produced cartoon and this just doesn't work. I'm sure a few quick scenes with a couple of actors would have been a lot cheaper and made a lot more sense to connect the stories together.
Old Chief Woodenhead is the weakest of the three stories but only because we've seen it before. It's basically your routine slasher film with a cigar-store wooden statue coming to life to take revenge after a gang of criminals rob and kill the elderly couple who own it. The special effects and make-up for the statue are excellent and it moves exactly how you'd expect a something made of wood to move - it even creaks too. But the script for this part isn't great, the acting from the younger cast is unconvincing and it all moves along predictably. At least old hands like George Kennedy are here to add a bit of class and sympathy to the proceedings, even if he looks like he'd be anywhere else but here (though his 80s resume of horror films such as Death Ship and The Terror Within suggests otherwise!). The problem with this segment is that, being the 80s, slasher films were ten-a-penny so I don't see the logic in putting a slasher piece in here. There's nothing new brought to the table.
The Raft is the best of the stories and runs like The Blob meets Jaws as a group of teenagers swim out onto a raft in the middle of a remote lake, only to become trapped on there by a deadly blob-like creature. The special effects for the creature are cheap and low rent but do their job admirably. It's like a bin bag floating on the water but as soon as it starts sucking and slurping its victims, the special effects turn nasty and none of the characters on the raft are safe. Seeing melting bodies never gets tiresome when the make-up effects are as solid as this. The young cast is enthusiastic despite living up to every teenager cliché going, especially the lunk-head in the yellow speedos (one of my favourite horror film characters ever), There's even some token nudity thrown in for the hell of it. It's got the most satisfying ending of the three stories as everyone gets their just desserts and is the segment which most recaptures the essence of the EC Comics black humour and dark twist.
The Hitchhiker is somewhere in the middle of the other two stories. It's not really that good but still manages to provoke a few scares and plenty of laughs along the way as the segment is played with a firm tongue-in-cheek. Every time you see the hitchhiker, he's gradually got more and more mashed to pieces thanks to Louis Chiles repeatedly driving over him with her car until there is but a skeleton left in the finale - his deteriorating corpse is one of the highlights of the film, brought to life with some impressively icky special effects. His line "thanks for the ride, lady" is delivered with relish by actor Tom Wright and is one of the most infamous lines of the 80s horror boom. The biggest problem with The Hitchhiker is that it gets repetitive after a while, with the same rinse-and-repeat formula being used, and they could have cut this segment down to keep it fresh. At half an hour in length, it quickly outstays its welcome. One can't help but wonder had all three segments been trimmed down a little bit in length, there would have been room for a fourth segment, though this was apparently trimmed for budgetary reasons and eventually appeared in Tales From the Darkside: The Movie as the segment Cat from Hell.
Creepshow 2 is a pretty enjoyable horror anthology and for those who are sick of watching a mainstream horror film with one narrative throughout, this is a decent timewaster - like the proverbial pick 'n' mix sweet collection with something for everyone. It just lacks a bit of punch where needed and could have done with another imaginative story or two just to cut down the length of some of the stories. The Raft is well worth watching this film for in any case even if you don't like the other segments.
Director(s): Michael Gornick
Writer(s): Stephen King (stories), George A. Romero (screenplay)
Actor(s): George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Lois Chiles, Tom Savini, Tom Wright, Frank Salsedo, Holt McCallany, David Holbrook
Duration: 92 mins