A follow-up to the original 1982 ‘Creepshow’ film, 1987’s ‘Creepshow 2’ continues the cinematic presentation style of bringing fun, gore-filled, comic-inspired short stories. Michael Gornick, who was the director of photography on the first film, directed this installment; the horror master himself, George A. Romero, directed the first ‘Creepshow.’ For the sequel, Romero joined the ranks of the writer’s group, along with a few other key names that horror aficionados will recognize. Stephen King was given writing credits for both movies; he actually acted in one of the segments of the first film, “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” and he provides a cameo appearance in “The Hitchhiker” for this movie as well.
‘Creepshow 2’ contains three segments: “Old Chief Wood’nhead,” “The Raft,” and “The Hitchhiker”. ‘Creepshow’ was a tribute to classic horror-fueled E.C. Comics of the 1940s and 1950s; the animated portions of the film and repetitive use of an on-screen comic book are all nods to this. At the end of the credits, there is a quote from Colliers magazine, circa 1949, that addresses the issue of some parents believing comic books to be the reason for juvenile delinquency; it is not-so-subtly suggested that these parents need to look into dysfunctional parental practices instead. There was a crusade in the late ’40s and ’50s to ban comic books for their bad influence on kids and a rise in juvenile crime rate.
As for the film itself: the movie starts out with a scary creature delivering comic books to an eagerly awaiting boy, Billy. As the on-screen action turns into animation, we are shown that the creature is the Creepshow Creep. The fluidity and continuity of the movie are carried by segments between the animated Billy and the Creep.
The first short is “Old Chief Wood’nhead.” Two elderly people, Martha and Ray Spruce, own a general store in a virtual ghost town. Ray is particularly fond of a large wooden Indian that stands in front of the store. A local tribe elder pays a visit and offers up invaluable jewelry in order to pay his tribe’s debts to Ray. Later on, Martha and Ray are victims of a violent robbery. The wooden Indian, which has been revealing small movements here and there, leaves his post to take revenge on the youth that committed the crime. A bit of action and excitement, this short was a great way to open the film by suspending beliefs.
The next short segment is titled “The Raft.” When I first watched this film as a kid, this is the one that stuck in my memory. I grew up spending much of my summers on a local lake, and the thought of some mysterious floating blob that would eat people whole was fodder for nightmares. Four high and horny college students decide to go to an obscure lake and swim out to a raft in the middle of the water. No one knew they were going, of course, and no one was there to help. Employing some cheesy effects with the blob itself, Gornick and his creative team were still able to bring the scares with the hideous digestion process and the building tension and fear as each character has very little choice but to simply wait for their demise.
The last segment is “The Hitchhiker.” In perhaps the most engaging and, at times, downright hilarious of the shorts, we also get the aforementioned cameo here from screenwriter King as a truck driver. In the tale, Annie Lansing is cheating on her lawyer husband with a local gigolo. After oversleeping, she is in a rush to get home before her husband; along the way, she accidentally hits and kills a hitchhiker. But it doesn’t end there: the rest of her way home is plagued by repeat visits from the dead hitchhiker. He repetitively delivers one of the best lines in the movie with “Thanks for the ride, lady,” all the while she is doing her best to obliterate him from existence by trying to shake him off her car while four-wheeling a Mercedes through woods and smashing him into tree trunks.
In between the segments, we see Billy order a giant Venus Flytrap from the comic book, and he runs into some local bullies. The Creep delights in Billy’s good fortune and ability to handle his own in the end. These animated portions of the film offer up a bit of a break between the gore, and remind me of the old cartoons that were served up before movies many years ago.
For comic books fans and Romero and King fans alike, ‘Creepshow 2′ is a bit of kitschy, campy fun. A collection of gratifying stories peppered with good ol’ fun give an hour and a half’s worth of vacation from everyday life. The budget wasn’t as big for this installment as it was for the first, and that does play a small part, at times, in the quality, but the overall goodness allows for this to be forgiven. I was left wanting more stories at the end of the film.
Wooden Indians that come to life… strange, hungry blobs on the lake… and a hitchhiker that just won’t die are not going to be overly realistic, of course – but that’s not why we watch the ‘Creepshow’ series. We know we aren’t getting the norm. We want to be taken to places in our imagination, realms where rules do not exist. It’s fantastic and fun, and I’m more than okay with an escape of this nature. Plus, with screenwriters such as King and Romero, you won’t get much better horror than this. They are successful at keeping the audience’s attention, leaving us wondering what will happen next and getting us to eagerly watch for the next blood-tinged scene.
As mentioned previously, the budget was a bit lacking, but what Gornick didn’t have in funds, he made up for with passion and the awesome effects master, Tom Savini, who also plays the Creep. We can forgive the shortcuts as long as the foundation is strong, and it was.
Take some time to watch ‘Creepshow 2,’ even if you have seen it before. A bit of nostalgia and cult classic run in these veins, and if you are of a similar mind, you won’t regret it.