Anchor Bay // 1987 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // October 25th, 2004
"Thanks for the ride, lady!"
Heh, heh! Back again, eh kiddies? Back for more chills and shivers! Well come in, come in! This is your creepy critic of celluloid crud, your purveyor of punitive power, all ready to deliver another rancid review! Just sit yourself down and we'll take a loathsome look at a new horror anthology on DVD from the depths of my cobwebbed collection...a dreadful digital diversion I like to call...Creepshow 2 !
The first of the film's three vignettes, "Old Chief Wood'nhead" is a revenge tale that centers on a general store in a dying town. In order to pay his respect to the generous old couple who run the store (George Kennedy, The Boston Strangler and Dorothy Lamour, Road to Singapore), Native American leader Ben Whitemoon (Frank Salsedo, Almost Heroes) presents them with his people's most valuable possessions. That night, Ben's disrespectful son Sam (Holt McCallany, Fight Club) and his cronies break into the store to grab the stash just as the wooden Indian outside the store mysteriously begins to stir.
"The Raft" finds a group of four carefree teens (Paul Satterfield, Bruce Almighty; Jeremy Green Hotshot; Daniel Beer Point Break; and Page Hannah, Gremlins 2) headed to the country for an afternoon of partying. They all swim out to a wooden raft anchored in the middle of a lake, where they notice a floating amorphous blob in the water is following them. As they try to figure out exactly what it is, the gooey mess begins absorbing them one by one.
"The Hitchhiker" has Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles, Broadcast News) trying to speed home before her husband after a late night visit to her gigolo. On the way, she loses control over the car, accidentally running over a guy trying to thumb a ride home (Tom Wright, Barbershop). Flustered, she zips away, but even death won't stop this hitchhiker from reaching his destination -- his increasingly mangled corpse keeps popping up to say "Thanks for the ride!" as he tries to claw his bloody way into the seat beside her.
The original Creepshow saw the frightening tag-team of author Stephen King and director George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) collaborating on five horror vignettes based on Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear, EC Comics's well-loved line-up of horror comics from the early 1950s. With jaw-dropping twist endings, black humor, and as much blood and gore as prevailing taste would allow, publisher William Gaines's groundbreaking comic books have provided ample inspiration for filmmakers over the years. Their influence can be seen as early as the 1960s in Dr Terror's House of Horrors and The Torture Garden, horror compilations made by British horror outfit Amicus. Later, in the '70s, Amicus made The Vault of Horror andTales from the Crypt, two anthologies that were directly adapted from stories published in the infamous comics.
Not hitting theatres for another decade, the first Creepshow significantly upped the ante for horror compilation films. George A. Romero's unique directorial style highlighted each emotionally packed scene with off-kilter shots and colorful lighting to replicate the pulpy shocks of the comics. Coming five years after the original, Creepshow 2 is not even close to matching the ghoulish glee of the original, but it still has some moments of interest. With Romero and King's names still associated with the production (although in a much smaller capacity), horror fans have helped to give the film a faithful cult following on home video.
In the director's chair this time is Michael Gornick, Romero's cinematographer of choice from Martin through to Day of the Dead, a seven-year run that included the original Creepshow. Although Gornick intended to give the film the same strong affinity with the horror comics that inspired the series, he can't quite get the graphic look down, with only "Old Chief Wood'nhead" offering hints of the skewed camera angles that made the first film so notable. Beyond the nature of the stories themselves, the sole EC "tribute" is worked into an animated wraparound story. Unfortunately, what might have worked as a macabre little tale about a boy who finds the answer to his bully problems in an ad in the back of his brand new issue of Creepshow is sunk by a kiddie Saturday morning animation style that doesn't match the tone of the stories. Also complicating things is the fact that the sequel was made not by Warner Bros. but by schlock house New World. To satisfy the unwritten code of b-studio horror, both swearing and brief nudity are awkwardly worked into each vignette, distinctly violating any association with the comics.
The stories themselves are a mixed bag. The less said about "Old Chief Wood'nhead" the better, a wholly predictable little tale that forgets to pack a final punch. Fans of the comics and even the original film will be quite familiar with the "retribution" angle, but the story itself is of a quality more likely to appear in a shoddy knock off of Tales From the Crypt than the original comic. The addition of George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour and some good effects keep interest throughout, but ultimately the story ends up to much like its subject -- a wooden fable given just enough life to perform its gruesome task.
Unlike the other vignettes, screenwriter Romero adapted "The Raft" from one of King's published stories in Skeleton Crew. This segment is floated by some neat, if slightly low-tech, effects and a good twist ending. The teen actors are as annoying and disposable as in any slasher epic, but this actually works for the story, and you shouldn't be too surprised to find yourself rooting for the blob. A fun, but ultimately forgettable entry.
Saving the best for last, "The Hitchhiker" is a gory update of a classic Lucille Fletcher story. The basic plot has been filmed twice before under the same name, as an Ida Lupino film and a Twilight Zone episode in which a woman keeps seeing the same derelict on every stop of a cross-country road trip. This story is surprisingly theatrical, with Lois Chiles delivering what amounts to a 30-minute monologue as she makes her way home struggling with her guilt -- not exactly common practice for an exploitive teen horror flick. She's a distinct improvement over most of the young actors in the film, but again she's outdone again by the superlative effects, which close the film on a high note -- at least until the final installment of the mediocre cartoon starts up again.
Admittedly, the stories are on a whole weaker here than they are in the first Creepshow, and the sequel occasionally comes of more like three strung-together television episodes of Tales from the Darkside (which Gornick had recently shot) or the HBO series Tales from the Crypt. While macabre enough by those standards, it isn't in the same league as the better horror anthologies we've seen throughout the years. To be fair though, the film was fraught with production problems, which makes what really works about the film -- the effects and Lori Chiles's performance in the last story -- that much more notable. Another nice addition is "The Creep" (played, but not voiced, by Tom Savini), a horror host who appears in both animated and live-action sequences, and wisecracks in the same jugular vein as the Crypt Keeper and EC's other GhouLunatics.
As a minor 1980s horror film, Creepshow 2 may be an unlikely candidate for a remaster in Anchor Bay's "Divimax" series, but here we are. Although the film itself probably isn't good enough to justify the double dip, horror fans that have been on the fence over this nostalgic guilty pleasure will certainly want to add this one to their collection. This release sports a bright, clean, high-def transfer that is free of any defects. The film is quite sharp, with good black levels and shadow detail throughout. New to this version is a Dolby 5.1 remix that adds some nice atmospherics without being overbearing. It's a nice improvement over the previous release's stereo mix, which is also included alongside the original, cramped mono.
A commentary track featuring Michael Gornick interviewed by Anchor Bay's Perry Martin is the best in this disc's solid selection of extras. Gornick provides a lively talk about all elements of the film, focusing on the many problems he encountered. Martin also does a good job at keeping the track moving and interesting. The original Creepshow is brought up quite a bit, which is also nice in light of Warner Brothers' barebones disc. Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero from KNB EFX Group are interviewed for "Nightmares in Foam Rubber," a 30-minute special-effects documentary that offers up some great behind-the-scenes footage and gives a nice counterpoint to Gornick's commentary. Also on board are two trailers, still and storyboard galleries, and the original script accessible via DVD-ROM. All in all, a nice package.
Heh, heh...what's that? You hoping for a little more plot -- graveyard plot, that is? Well, if this new high death-inition, wide-scream release isn't enough to tempt you, than nothing will. Besides, didn't your mummy tell you not to spend all your nauseating nights watching horror DVDs anyways? They'll rot the bloodshot eyes right out of your sickening sockets...and then all of your purchases will be blind buys!
My vile verdict is innocent -- the only guilty party here is myself for this irredeemably icky impression!
Review content copyright © 2004 Paul Corupe; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary by Director Michael Gornick, Moderated by Perry Martin
* "Nightmares in Foam Rubber" Documentary
* Still Gallery
* Storyboard Art
* DVD-ROM Screenplay