Creepshow 2

Creepshow 2Synopsis: Stephen King & George A. Romero Invite You To Experience The Horror Like Never Before!

The Creep is your guide to three new tales of terror from the creepiest comic book of them all! In “Old Chief Wood’nhead,” kindly storekeepers (screen legends George Kennedy) and Dorothy Lamour) are slaughtered by hoodlums and unleash a most unexpected avenger. Four teens out for fun find themselves on a lake monster’s menu if “The Raft.” And in “The Hitchhiker,” a cheating wife (Louis Chiles) is in for the ride of her life when she runs down a hitcher who won’t stay dead. Gore FX legend Tom Savini and Stephen King himself co-star in this scream of a sequel co-written by King and George Romero (Dawn of The Dead) that’s bigger, better and wilder than ever!
Creepshow 2 6.0

eyeslights: The Raft. Lois Chiles.
eyesores: the performances by the young cast members.  the less campy vibe.

“Welcome, kiddies, to another edition of Creepshow”

I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of ‘Creepshow‘, but when a second installment made its way to DVD (on a special Divimax edition, courtesy of Anchor Bay), I just had to snag it; I was very curious to see what it would be like. I was most intrigued by the fact that I hadn’t even heard of a sequel to this 1982 cult classic. How had it fallen between the cracks?

How had I?

It turns out that ‘Creepshow 2’ followed-up ‘Creepshow’ five years after the first. For reasons that escape me, George Romero didn’t return to direct the picture, serving strictly as screenwriter. And whereas Stephen King wrote the original screenplay, Romero adapted King’s material this time. Thus, although both are involved, they aren’t central to the project this time.

The film was directed by Michael Gornick, Romero’s director of photography on the previous installment, his zombie classics ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and ‘Day of the Dead’, as well as a couple of others. Although he directed some television episodes and the ill-fated TV mini-series ‘Golden Years’ (also based on Stephen King material), Gornick never directed another feature film.

I wouldn’t go so far as to blame Gornick for the failure of ‘Creepshow 2’, however. Given the pedigree on the last one and its lackluster results, Gornick can hardly be to blame. If anything, I believe that the choice of material may be the main problem. Secondly, there’s the fact that there are only three stories this time: “The Cat from Hell” and ‘Pinfall’ somehow didn’t make the cut.

(“The Cat from Hell” would eventually be used for ‘Tales from the Darkside’, which is considered by some as the “real” ‘Creepshow 3’. We’ll see about that next Hallowe’en…)

What the filmmakers decided to do in their stead was to connect the shorts with interstitial material that follows a simple storyline. This serves the purpose of giving the motion picture a continuing thread – which is probably a good thing in concept, if not so much in execution (the cheapness of these segments in some ways take away from the rest; they should have been the strongest parts, not the weakest links).

Of course, this also means that this Creepshow is slightly different from its predecessor, for good or bad:

1. Prologue: The intro features a kid called Billy (who is possibly meant to be the same kid as in the first movie’s Prologue and Epilogue, even if it’s a different actor) waiting for the latest edition of the Creepshow comic book outside his local news stand. The deliveryman (played by horror legend Tom Savini) is a ghoul. It starts off as live action, but quickly morphs to an animation style that sadly recalls a poor-man’s ‘Heavy Metal‘. 4.0

“May your spirit rest, old warrior. Hagoonee. Hagoonee…”
2. Old Chief Wood’nhead: This one takes place in a desolate community once bustling with natives and white folks alike. Now, it’s falling to disrepair and its inhabitants come to the general store to “buy” things on credit. The shop owner is too kind to turn them away, despite his wife’s protests, and yet a bunch of hooligans decide to prey on them. Thankfully, there will be retribution… but from the most unusual place.

In written form, this already would be a Stephen King filler. As a short low-budget film, it feels exceedingly impoverished: the actors are at best so-so (the shopkeepers are by far the strongest) and at worst are totally inept – which accounts for most of them, quite frankly (the lead hooligan, in particular, is absolutely horrendous), the special effects are unconvincing (in particular the rubberiness of the chief) and the direction is way off. 3.5

“Creepshow is not a funny paper. And this is no toy.”
3. Interlude 1: Still animated, as these interludes will continue to be for the remainder of the picture, this shows Billy going to the post office to receive a mysterious package. The clerk teases him for having paid 10$ for a gimmick out of the back of a comic book. Meh. 4.0

“H-Help! It hurts!”
4. The Raft: This one is about a bunch of kids going out to a secluded beach for a swim (but, sadly, no skinny dipping). Away from the shore is a small platform on which swimmers can rest and sunbathe. The youth head straight for there, but soon discover that they can’t leave – something in the water is trying to get to them.

I remember reading this short story in the ‘Skeleton Crew’ collection of Stephen King works. It gave me chills because our quartet are extremely vulnerable on that “raft”, with no protection and no means of escape. And the thing that’s after them isn’t exactly reassuring – although the film version pales in comparison to the way King had described it. 7.5

“Catch him! I want his ass!”
5. Interlude 2: Billy is reading his comic book and encounters some neighbourhood bullies. They destroy the content of his package, but he escapes with them in hot pursuit. Now it gets a bit exciting, if clichéd. Too bad it’s totally hampered by the quality of the animation. 5.5

“Thanks for the ride, lady!”
6. The Hitch-hiker: A woman, trying to make it home from a tryst before her husband does (and finds her out), accidentally hits a hitchhiker. In a panic, she drives off, only to stop later to consider the position she’s in. After deciding that she won’t get caught and can always turn herself in later, she carries on. Unfortunately, she sees this same Hitch-hiker everywhere she goes! Cue the terror!

This one plays up the gallows humour, mixing up grisly violence and absurdity in equal measures. For that, I like this segment. But it seems a bit short on plot and long on delivery to me. Still I enjoy the core of it and am always glad to see Lois Chiles on screen (and in the nude, here!), even if I can barely recognize her. Apparently, the original choice was Barbara Eden, but she had to drop out due to scheduling issues. 6.5

“Gimme! Gimme it or else!”
7. Epilogue: Finally, we discover what will befall the gang of bullies who are chasing Billy. It’s not wholly satisfying, but at least it’s amusing. Unfortunately, when looking at the prologue, interludes and epilogue as a whole, it’s a really weak storyline. For some reason, this ends in live action, with the ghoul tossing (presumably) copies of Creepshow out the back of his truck. 5.5

At least fans of Stephen King and of ‘Creepshow’ had much to sink their teeth into. Throughout the picture there are little nods to his work and to the original film, whether it be his books on a shelf, or by including the sibling of an actor featured in the last picture, that sort of thing. Geeks will no doubt relish picking them all out as they watch.

As for me, I must say that I was pretty disappointed. I found it a bit bland, lacking the fervour you’d expect from a series of scary stories, and I’m not enough of a King fan to pick up on all the little bits and bites that are peppered through the picture. Combined with the lackluster animated bits, to me it felt like a half-hearted effort.

I didn’t think that I would say this, but I didn’t like that ‘Creepshow 2’ had a more serious tone. While I would have preferred it for the first picture, it just didn’t work for this one, which felt lame in comparison. With a kitschier approach, it could have made this anthology more fun. As it stands, though, it was neither clever nor witty.

And it was only barely creepy.

Story: 6.5
Acting: 6.5
Production: 6.5

Chills: 3.0
Gore: 4.0
Violence: 3.0

Date of viewing: Hallowe’en 2013

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