Creepshow 2 – USA, 1987

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‘When the curtain goes up the terror begins’

Creepshow 2 is a 1987 American comedy horror anthology feature film directed by Michael Gornick and the sequel to Creepshow (1982). Gornick was George A. Romero’s cinematographer on the original film.

The screenplay was written by Romero, the director of the original film and it was once again based upon stories by Stephen King, featuring three more “Jolting Tales of Horror”: Old Chief Wooden HeadThe Raft, and The Hitchhiker.

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In a live-action sequence,  we are introduced to Billy, not to be confused with the first film’s protagonist. He is eagerly awaiting delivery of his favourite horror comic and lo’, the delivery van pulls up, driven by a ghoulish chap (this is our host, The Creep, played by effects warlock Tom Savini though voiced by Joe Silver, star of David Cronenberg’s Shivers and Rabid). The action, in the same manner as 1982’s prequel, briefly changes to animation and shows the latest issue opening up and introducing us the this issue’s treats.

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Old Chief Wood’nhead:

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Written by King specifically for the film, we are introduced to Ray and Martha Spruce (the always superb George Kennedy (Death Ship) and 40’s legend Dorothy Lamour in her final role) who are quietly running a small-town general store in their twilight years, watched over by an old cigar store Indian statue. They are visited by the leader of a local tribe of Indians, Ben Whitemoon,  who offers them tribal jewellery to pay for a debt.

Shortly afterwards, the couple are subjected to a brutal robbery by a gang of local hoodlums, lead by Ben’s ne’er do well nephew, Sam (Alien 3, Fight Club). After murdering the couple and leaving with the swag, the three (‘Fatstuff’ being played by David Holbrook, son of acting legend Hal, who also starred in the original film) are stalked by the wooden Indian Chief who takes it upon himself to put wrong to right. With the two junior oiks dispensed with, Ol’ Wood’nhead tracks down Sam with predictably gory results.

A brief animated interlude sees Billy at the post office, receiving one of the fondly remembered send-away novelties advertised in comics of a bygone age, in this case a Venus Flytrap bulb. Before we return to Billy, The Creep presents the second story, The Raft.

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The Raft:

Based of the story of the same name from one of King’s best collections of short stories, 1985’s Skeleton Crew, four college students, Deke, Laverne, Randy, and Rachel decide to go drunkenly and occasionally nakedly swimming in a lake, a past-time only partaken during the 1980’s. As their rickety craft reaches the middle of the lake, they become aware that a strange slick in the water is surrounding them. Initial vague concern turns to panic as the gloop envelops and eats Rachel, leaving the remaining three to contemplate how they are going to get back to shore.

Slowly their numbers become even fewer with the water-bound blob gnawing at the stranded teens and melting their flesh like acid. A ‘No Swimming’ sign at the shore’s edge gives some kind of indication as to why any of this is happening. Whilst the original story ends with a slightly meditative contemplation of life, death and the metaphysical, the schlock of Creepshow 2 cuts to the chase with crash, bang, wallop subtlety.

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On his way home, Billy is ambushed by local bullies, firstly taunting him and then taking away his precious package. The bulb is stamped into the ground whilst Billy sees an opportunity to flee but Rhino and his oafs are in hot pursuit. Whilst we catch our breath, we get to watch the closing tale.

 

The Hitch-hiker:

Another King original, this is one of the most often seen stories in the Golden Age of horror comics, with an innocent hitch-hiker (played by Tom Wright, briefly seen to Exterminator 2) being mowed down by a repugnant member of society; here an adulterous business woman (played by Lois Chiles) eager to get home to her wealthy husband before her sexual dalliances are uncovered. Certain that she can’t be connected to the remote death of the hitch-hiker, imagine her surprise when his mangled remains appear at the roadside, still requesting a lift and giving rise to the most memorable line of the film: “Thanks for the ride, lady!”. Despite her best efforts to speed away, he continues to appear, leading to a final and rather messy confrontation.

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Back to Billy and his is cornered by his enemies in a leafy grove but fortunately for him, his trusty Venus Flytrap and sprouted to huge dimensions. The tables are quickly turned and the carnivorous plant gobbles up the baddies, leaving The Creep to watch on satisfied nd ready to move on to his next delivery.

An end of credits message delivers the following thought:  “Juvenile delinquency is the product of pent up frustrations, stored-up resentments and bottled-up fears. It is not the product of cartoons and captions. But the comics are a handy, obvious, uncomplicated scapegoat. If the adults who crusade against them would only get as steamed up over such basic causes of delinquency as parental ignorance, indifference, and cruelty, they might discover that comic books are no more a menace than Treasure Island or Jack the Giant Killer.Colliers magazine, 1949

Some might suggest this is the best bit of the film.

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Despite the success of the first film, both at the cinema and on home video, it took five years for the sequel to Creepshow to arrive, perhaps an early indication that all was not quite right. For a time, actor Bob Balaban was considered to direct the film. Directorial duties were eventually handled by Michael Gornick, a long-time associate of George Romero, most especially as director of photography on Martin, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. Though having dabbled as a TV director, this was his only role helming a major motion picture, which also speaks volumes.

Like the 1982 original, Creepshow 2 was intended to consist of five stories – omitted for reasons unknown are “The Cat From Hell”, was later used in the the similar anthology film Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, released in 1990, and directed by the original Creepshow‘s composer, John Harrison. The other tale originally intended to be in Creepshow 2 was the Stephen King short story, “Pinfall”, about ghostly rival bowling teams. The decision to stick with only three puts a lot of pressure on the stories to deliver, a step too far, alas.

‘Ol’ Wood’nhead’ begins promisingly, with Kennedy and Lamour’s slaying being oddly upsetting. Unfortunately, despite an excellent villain, their is little suspense in being stalked by a lump of wood. On the subject of lumps of wood, the goofy teens of ‘The Raft’ are utterly undeserving of sympathy though succeeds in delivering some superb special effect – unsurprising perhaps, the effects team featuring, amongst others, Savini, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger.

The final story is either the most successful or the most annoying, depending on your tolerance for someone saying “Thanks for the ride, lady”. The scoring duties are handled by Les Reed, originally a member of the John Barry Seven – sadly, it isn’t a patch on Harrison’s original, fun soundtrack. The score also features cues by prog rock band Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, whom horror fans may have fonder memories for his musical duties on The Burning.

Creepshow 2 was a massive disappointment on its release and continues to be so. Unfortunately, with the title and Romero and King attached, it is only reasonable to compare the two and sadly, no element shows an improvement. The stories lack the fun, fizz and EC credentials of the original film, feeling padded and leaden.

George Kennedy lends some credence to proceedings but once he meets his maker, the parade of acting, whilst never awful, is as uninspiring as King’s rather lazy stories, all of them having predictable endings.

The wraparound is quite nice, though The Creep is a poor host and the live action sections of Savini gurning through his latex make-up are a distraction rather than an addition. Some apologists may hail it as a fun late 80’s cheeseball classic but the fact remains that with the joint talents of Romero, King and Savini, this is self-indulgent, slight, and worst of all, somewhat boring.

Daz Lawrence, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“Romero’s script somehow manages to represent both the best and worst of his screen-writing abilities. The goons in the first story – just like the military men in his Day of the Dead – are insufferably obnoxious and irritatingly over-the-top […] The original had a real comic book flair to it thanks to colorful presentation, vibrant lighting and clever use of comic book frames throughout. In between the stories here we mostly get some cheap animation…” The Bloody Pit of Horror

Blu-ray:

On December 13, 2016, Arrow Video released Creepshow 2 on Blu-ray in the USA.

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Buy: Amazon.com

  • Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original stereo audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Creepshow 2: Pinfall limited edition booklet featuring the never-before-seen comic adaptation of this unfilmed Creepshow 2 segment by artist Jason Mayoh
  • Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick, moderated by Perry Martin
  • Nightmares in Foam Rubber featurette with special make-up effects artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero
  • My Friend Rick Berger on working with make-up legend Rick Baker
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • Trailers and TV Spots
  • Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Blyth
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Mike Saputo

Soundtrack:

In 2017, Waxwork Records released the soundtrack to Creepshow 2 on vinyl for the first time. The score was composed by Les Reed and Rick Wakeman (The Burning), both of whom were involved with remastered release. It comes packaged in a gatefold jacket with liner notes by Reed and new artwork by Gary Pullin.

There are two 180-gram color variants: The Raft (lake water clear with black blob vinyl) and Old Chief Woodenhead (metallic brown and deep teal swirl vinyl).

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