Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Creepshow 2



Admittedly, issue #2 of Creepshow is nobody's favourite film. Made in 1987 and directed by long-time Romero cameraman Michael Gornick1, it's a distinctly low-key2 affair compared to the original film, paring down Creepshow's five-story framework to three3. In the first story, Old Chief Wood'n Head, a wooden Indian statue comes to life to seek revenge after a kindly shop owner and his wife are slain by some thugs... The middle segment, The Raft has a bunch of teens menaced by the blob-like inhabitant of a lake... The concluding story, The Hitchhiker is about a woman who can't seem to shake off a persistent traveller of the night - even after running him over and leaving him for dead on the highway...

In many ways, Creepshow 2 is best described in terms of other unappreciated sequels like Halloween II and Hellbound: Hellraiser II - they don't hold a candle to their parent films, but in amongst the clutter, there is plenty to enjoy. In the case of Creepshow 2, at least two of the segments are genuine winners. Old Chief Wood'n Head, is a bit of a dud, but The Raft and The Hitchhiker are wonderfully grisly and gory (with FX courtesy of Ed French and two-thirds of KNB, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger).

Old Chief Wood'n Head in the flesh

A sticky end for someone on board The Raft

Roadkill strikes back in The Hitchhiker

Michael Gornick's direction on Creepshow 2 is not especially slick or stylish but at least the film looks good, from the dusty Arizona town of Old Chief Wood'n Head, to the tranquil lake-setting of The Raft, and the chilly woodlands of The Hitchhiker. Veteran Hollywood soldiers George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour add some marquee value but in general the film is weakened by some stiff performances. Constant readers of Stephen King will get a kick out of seeing their hero playing another character from his gallery of rednecks in his short cameo. Incidentally the trailer for The Raft reveals the great sucker punch ending so if you haven't seen the film it's best avoided.

Worth mentioning the animated segments of the film, starring "The Creep" who introduces each story. In addition there's a second animated thread about a young Creepshow reader, and one effective way of dealing with bullies. The animation is rather clunky - think Scooby-Doo, but enjoyable nonetheless.


Anchor Bay have dusted off Creepshow 2 for a very fine release on both sides of the Atlantic. The transfer is pretty good considering the film stock of this era - it's still a soft looking film, but at least the colors look solid and the print itself is clean. Audio is good too, as are the extras - a short featurette on the film and an audio commentary by Michael Gornick who discusses the nuts and bolts of the production.

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Notes
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1. Romero fans will know Michael Gornick as the cinematographer on some of the director's key films - Martin, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and Creepshow. Originally Tom Savini was to make his directorial debut with Creepshow 2 but the task eventually fell to Gornick who had previously directed an episode of TV series Tales From the Darkside. Savini does appear in the film, albeit under heavy makeup as "The Creep" in the live action sequences that bookend the film.

2. Low-key and low-budget... Warners who bankrolled the original Creepshow were less enthused about a sequel, and the film wound up at the more modest New World Pictures. The production had its fair share of difficulties. Delays due to bad weather put the film behind schedule, there was a change of principle crew members at one point, and Barbara Eden who was originally cast as the lead in The Hitchhiker episode was forced to drop out of the film.

3. Creepshow 2's trilogy of stories were penned by Stephen King and George Romero. The Raft was an existing story and came from King's 1985 short story collection Skeleton Crew. It was never intended that George Romero direct the film - at the time, the director was preparing his adaptation of Pet Semetary, which of course never happened and the project went on to be filmed by Mary Harron. And while the Pet Semetary film is no great shakes, neither is Romero's adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Half...

7 comments:

  1. you're right, it doesn't hold a candle to the first, but I'm pretty fond of The Raft (I love blob monsters and melt movies!). It's got a genuinely depressing atmosphere of grim dread that's absent from a lot of horror.

    The Hitchhiker too, which gave us what has surely become one of the most oft quoted one-liners in horror... THANKS FOR THE RIDE LADY!

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  2. This is a very fair and objective review of a movie that has its fair share of detractors. I find it a fun and easy to watch "popcorn" flick. Thanks Wes for giving the new release some press.
    best,
    r/e

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  3. I'm in complete agreement with you Wes, I never could understand the venom this film has received over the years. It's no classic but it is very enjoyable.

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  4. 'Creepshow 2' is one of my all-time favorite horror films.
    :)

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  5. I loved Creepshow 2 and thought it was a lot of fun. My only problem with it is that it's too short. I didn't like 'Old Chief Woodenhead' either, but 'The Raft' and 'The Hoitchhiker' were awesome! Had they had the opportunity to add an extra two maybe it could've rivalled the original? Worth mentioning is Rick Wakeman's excellent soundtrack, which is supposedly coming out on CD sometime in the near future.

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  6. I like this one too - and like everyone else readily admit it's nowhere near its predecessor - but then again it IS light years ahead of the execrable Creepshow 3...

    Old Chief is the clunkiest of the three stories - good it starts us off. The Raft is the best, with The Hitchhiker a close second (The Hitchhiker has the rare honor of being one of the few movies that made me a little queasy in the theater - the last time the title character appears...ulp...)

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  7. Yeah, I've only ever heard dire warnings about Creepshow 3, but I think the sequel is underrated - there's definitely a dumbing down of the production compared with the original but I think The Raft could have been included in the first film. I can understand your reaction to The Hitchhiker - it does have a certain gloopy quality

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