Creepshow 2 (1987)
By: Mr Intolerance on November 4, 2009  | 
DVD
Anchor Bay (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono. 89 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Michael Gornick
Starring: Lois Chiles, Gorge Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Tom Savini
Screenplay: George A Romero
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Creepshow 2 is a mixed bag of goodies to say the least. Still coming from the minds of George A Romero and Stephen King, the quality is still there – that's undeniable – but there is something missing from this EC horror comics-inspired anthology. Director and regular Romero-collaborator Michael Gornick has tried to keep the spirit of the original film, and its comic book inspiration alive, but somehow the film feels a little flat and lacks the vibrant, lurid colour palette and, for the best part, the gruesome black humour of the original. The whole tone of the film seems almost more like that of a serious horror film, linked only to Creepshow through its use of poetic justice as a means of dispatch for the people who undoubtedly deserve it (or in one instance, don't). The first film is undoubtedly a classic of the anthology or portmanteau genre, whereas Creepshow 2 sits rather more uneasily among the ranks of the films it aspires to emulate.

That isn't to say that it isn't an entertaining film – it is – but it doesn't really have as strong an identity or personality as its gleefully over-the-top precursor. Yes, injustice is punished in nicely ironic ways, and the tenor of the first and last stories is totally in keeping with what it's attempting to portray, but the inspired lunacy and black fun of the first are missing, so that what we are left with is simply a mean-spirited collection of tales with few of the uneasy laughs that made Creepshow such a hit.

In terms of the structure of the film, we're given only three tales this time around, but this time with a more substantial bumper – alternating between introductions to the tales via "The Creep" (a Cryptkeeper-esque figure played by Tom Savini, obviously having a whale of a time under about a hundredweight of prosthetic and appliance make-up), and the story of little Billy, a small boy eagerly awaiting the delivery of his copy of the magazine "Creepshow", in turn bullied by other kids and then seeking revenge against them, as he's seen in his favourite comic – albeit as a cartoon rather than with real-life actors. Whereas the feel of the first film (sorry to keep harping on it, but comparisons, while odious, are still natural and obvious) was pretty true to the cources of inspiration such as EC's Tales From The Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear, this time around, it seemed the film was more indebted to the Warren Comics that took up the mantle after Bill Gaines' earlier comics ran afoul of the Comic Code, the substantially more dour Creepy and Eerie, which, while entertaining reads, are very light on with any kind of laughs outside the obligatory terrible puns in the introductions.

Old Chief Wood'nhead

Creepshow 2's first story is its best. Ray (Kennedy, playing the lovable gentle old man with all the avuncular zeal he can muster) and Martha (Lamour) are store-keepers in a town that's gradually drying up and blowing away like the dust that their main street is made of. Ray is a kindly old soul who feels a loyalty to the people in the town, often letting them have things on credit, when he himself really does need the cash – Martha believes that he is being used by the townsfolk, who take advantage of his generous ways, typified to her in the form of the local Native American reservation and the dirt poor folks who live within it.

Poor these folks might be, but they're proud, too – Benjamin, the leader of the community, turns up to give Ray and Martha collateral for the loans and credit his people have received from the storekeepers; ten thousand dollars worth of jewellery – family heirlooms. Ray doesn't want to take it, but Benjamin won't take it back as that would insult his people and himself – nobody likes to be thought of as a mooch, after all. Martha is suitably chastened by this display of largesse.

At the beginning of the story, we see Ray touching up the paintwork on a wooden cigar store Indian, armed and in full war-paint, that stands proudly at the door of the shop, and has done since it was opened many years ago – the Chief Wood'nhead of the title. Ray speaks quite fondly to the figure, as if it's a friend, and accords it respect, after all, it's been around the shop as long as he has been and it certainly won't desert him.

No sooner has Benjamin left (and was it our imagination, or did Chief Wood'nhead actually nod in acknowledgement of Benjamin's salutation?), and everyone's left feeling all warm and fuzzy at just how nice everyone in the township of Dead River can be to each other, then Ray and Martha are paid a rather unwelcome visit by a gang of local ne'er-do-wells, led by Benjamin's worthless and narcisstic nephew, Sam. Sam and his giggling cronies are here to steal supplies and get some quick cash to help fund their trip to Hollywood, where Sam believes that his looks and his long flowing locks will get him a role as a movie star; abusing and tormenting Martha and Ray is just a bonus to them. However things get a little out of hand during the robbery, and then it's time for revenge to be taken on behalf of those who no longer can. And it's a cold and implacable revenge, born of honour, loyalty and respect, with some brutal, but fitting, poetic justice, just like you'd hope. You'll be cheering at the appropriate moments, I guarantee it.

The Raft

Originally published in Gallery in 1982, "The Raft" was later anthologised in Stephen King's Skeleton Crew (where you'll also find the original novella of "The Mist", the basis for Frank Darabont's film of the same name, the short story "Word Processor of the Gods", an episode of Tales From The Darkside, and "Gramma", later an episode of the 80s series of The Twilight Zone), and to these eyes, the story least in line the inspiration for the film. The plot is pretty simple – four College students, Randy and Deke and Laverne and Rachel take Deke's Camaro for a spin down to the lake to swim out to a raft to say a symbolic goodbye to Summer, even though it's already the middle of Autumn and getting pretty darned cold. Once they get to the lake, they find that there's something in the water with them, something black, viscous and decidedly hungry.

As an adaptation of a Stephen King story, it's actually a pretty decent one, but it simply doesn't seem to fit here. The basis for all of the stories in Creepshow, and by extension the stories that inspired it, were centred around the notion of poetic justice, or at least just desserts. The kids here might be irritating (Deke and Laverne particularly), but they haven't actually done anything wrong per se. I guess that you could argue that they're almost wholly unsympathetic, but they hardly hold a candle to EG Marshall's thoroughly unlikeable and cantankerous bastard or Adrienne Barbeau's drunken harpy from the first film. Anyway, it's a neat story, just seems a little out of place here.

The Hitch-hiker

Here's a little tale that I think probably most adheres to the formula of an old Tales From The Crypt comic: a cheating wife needs to get home quickly one night after over-sleeping at her gigolo's crash pad, as her always punctual hubby will be home soon, and she needs to keep him thinking she's a good little wifey, so as she can be kept in the manner to which she's become accustomed – she's a gold-digger with the morals of an alley cat, basically. On the way home she drives at speed and knocks down some poor innocent hitch-hiker by the side of a road in a hit and run accident, killing him stone dead – or does she? Regardless, she ain't hanging around to find out.

Like any of these kind of morality tales, pay-back is a bitch for the protagonist, and tremendous fun for the audience, and The Hitch-hiker doesn't disappoint on that score. Of the three tales in this film, it's the only one that gives you any real laughs from the gallows humour on display – the first two stories are totally devoid of any such black comedy, and I honestly think that this avoidance of humour is what weakens the film. Oh, and for the train-spotter types, watch out for Stephen King in a cameo.

As well as the absence of black humour, as a whole film Creepshow 2 has cut down on the gloriously gooey over-the-top special effects that really made the first film such a fun roller-coaster ride. Indeed, only The Hitchhiker has any real comedy splatter, but it's pretty minimal when compared to the first film's wonderfully violent excesses. The Raft is pretty grim, but the horror is played straight, not with the EC tongue-in-cheek feel. Old Chief Wood'nhead is very light on indeed, with the ultimate scene of vengeance played out off-screen. I'm not saying that you watch film for the splatter effects, but they can be a neat way of getting a cheap laugh when handled right, or a great boo-scare, for that matter; some kind of tension-breaker or release for the audience – Gornick has chosen to not exploit this until the last minute, and I think that he missed a trick in doing so.
Video
This at least I can be enthusiastic about. The picture, presented in the OAR, looks very good indeed, albeit a little dark in the final tale – but given the fact that it happens entirely at night time, and for the most part in the middle of nowhere, I may just be nitpicking.
Audio
Presented to you in the original mono, it's adequate for the purpose here, but hardly outstanding. Plus, Rick Wakeman's score is atrocious.
Extra Features
Bugger all, I'm afraid. The theatrical trailer is there, and a Behind-The-Scenes stills gallery, and that's it. I cannot believe that would be no archival footage from the production of a film that had the direct involvement of such genre heavy-hitters as King, Savini and Romero. This to me almost looks like an instance of not trying.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Creepshow 2 acutely misses the feel of what George A Romero's direction brought to the original film. The stories themselves are good, but they outstay their welcome a little, and the bumper with young Billy could have been excised altogether, to my mind, to make room for another story. Believe me, you'll enjoy watching this film, I just don't think it lives up to the legacy set down by Creepshow, although it is so many times exponentially better than the completely unrelated except by title Creepshow III, I can't even tell you. After Creepshow 2, Romero and many of the crew he regularly works with continued the anthology idea with the TV series Tales From The Darkside, which mined a similar vein, albeit in a network-friendly way with a creativity-unfriendly budget, never achieving the heights of Romero and King's first collaboration – really, this was as close as you could get, and the shortcomings of trying to extend a franchise without the directorial vision set down originally are obvious and manifold. Close, but no cigar.

If you're interested in acquiring this movie Anchor Bay's Divimax Edition, which features a Director's commentary and a behind the scenes featurette as well as a superior transfer and remixed 5.1 sound is the disc to go for.

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