With Creepshow 2 (1987), horror masters Stephen King and George A. Romero return to the land of horror comics that they replicate so wonderfully in their first collaboration Creepshow (1982). Romero handles the screenplay which is based on stories by King, but this time he hands-off directorial duties to freshman feature director Michael Gornick. Like its forebear, Creepshow 2 is quite literally a comic book movie; it contains three tales of terror wrapped in comic trappings and presented by a creepy host, much like the EC horror comics of the early 1950s. Unfortunately, the film is less successful than its predecessor in capturing the feeling of those old comic books; gone is the sense of fun and quick pacing. The film suffers from a greatly reduced budget, with most of the segments feeling overly padded. The only real highlights are the well done gore effects.
Taking its cue from the old EC horror comics, such as Tales from the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear, Creepshow 2 is presented by a ghoulish figure, The Creep (performed by makeup legend Tom Savini and voiced by Joe Silver), who acts as a master of ceremonies and provides pun-laden introductions and epilogues to each of the stories. Aside from a brief live action prologue, The Creep segments are animated and include comic book style renderings of the opening and closing shots of each story. Also included in these segments is the story of young pre-teen Billy (Domenick John) and his attempt to bring his new venus flytrap bulb back home. Unfortunately for him, he runs across the neighborhood bullies, but unfortunately for the bullies, Billy has some unusually friends upon whom he can call for help in the end. The first of the stories is Old Chief Wood’nhead. Ray (George Kennedy) and Martha Spruce (Dorothy Lamour in her final screen performance) run a general store in a dying town. Out front stands Old Chief Wood’nhead, a large carved caricature of a Native American, aka a “cigar store Indian“. When local ruffians kill the Spruces while robbing their store, Old Chief Wood’nhead (Dan Kamin) comes to life to exact revenge. The second story is The Raft, the tale of two college-aged couples who go to a remote lake to do some late season swimming and carousing. It is their bad luck that the lake is also home to a carnivorous blob-like entity, and they now find themselves trapped upon a raft in the middle of the swimming hole. The Hitch-Hiker rounds out the trio of tales. After a late night tryst with her lover, Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles) is racing to get home before her husband so he will not know she was gone. Distracted, she hits and kills a hitchhiker (Tom Wright) and speeds away from the scene. The thing is, the hitchhiker, though dead, is still intent upon catching a ride with Annie.
Though ostensibly a comic book movie, Creepshow 2 just does not feel very much like a comic book. It has none of the comic trappings used so effectively in the first movie. Gone are the goofy freeze frame shots with literal comic book frames. Instead, the film is presented in a fairly mundane manner. It is missing the fun and slightly twisted sense of humor that are possessed by both the first film and the old horror comics that both movies try to emulate. The stories aspire to twist endings, but nothing here is all that surprising. There are occasionally glimpse of inspiration, but much of it feels less like a feature film and more like an extended episode of Romero’s Tales from the Darkside television show. This may be due to the fact that this is director Gornick’s only cinematic directorial effort, the rest of his body of work being in television, or because the two directors of photography, Richard Hart and Tom Hurwitz, are primarily have experience as a gaffer and a documentarian, respectively.
Having less than half the budget of its predecessor ($3.5 million versus $8 million), Creepshow 2 just looks and feels cheap. It sports only three of the five stories that were originally planned for its production; the remaining two are gone due to budgetary reason. This is most likely directly responsible for the overly padded feeling of the remaining stories. This is especially the case with the third tale, The Hitch-Hiker. Much of that story’s running time involves the character of Alice talking to herself about her predicament. While there is potential in the situation for a character to have an epiphany, the dialogue given to Alice is simply inane and adds to the story nothing but running time. The animated framing segments are equally negatively impacted by the lower budget. One would expect the animation to try and emulate a comic book style, but it just feels cheap and uneven instead.
The one place the production did not skimp is in the area of gore and special effects. Each of segments boasts some really nice effects work. This should not be too surprising when one realizes that two of the key members of effects team are future effects powerhouses Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero. In the first segment, the character of Old Chief Wood’nhead is a sight to behold. He really does have the look of a classic “cigar store Indian”. There is just enough movement in the suit to have him feel alive while still retaining the rigidity one would expect from a wooden creature. A no point does the suit look like a suit; there are no obvious wrinkles or buckling. It feels like a solid block of wood. In The Raft, the lake creature does seem to be a bit of a let down, at first. On initial glance, it appears to simply be a large plastic bag floating in the water. When it attacks, though, it becomes something altogether different. The pseudopods the blob-like creature sends out feel fully animated and alive. When the hapless college students become fodder for it, one can almost feel their flesh being melted off of their bones. It is gruesome and gory in a glorious way. While The Hitch-Hiker may be the weakest story of the trio, the gore effects are impressive. As the hitchhiker sustains more and more injuries (good thing he is already dead), the damage to his reanimated body becomes more and more horrific. He starts out being just a bit bloody, but by the end, he is a gruesome sight indeed.
Creepshow 2 is a bit of a letdown when compared to its precursor Creepshow. It has little to none of the comic book flavor and fun of the earlier film. Its reduced budget is probably its biggest liability, resulting in it only have three main stories instead of five, and necessitating the padding out of the stories that remain. It does have some pretty stand out and gruesome effects work that provide something for fans to enjoy, though. Creepshow 2 is not the first film one should reach for if one is in the mood for a good anthology, but there are worse choices out there (I am looking at you Night Train to Terror (1985)).
Creepshow 2 (2.8 / 5)