The horror anthology has a rich and storied history, from Dead of Night (1945) to the more recent Three Extremes (2004) and V/H/S (2012). For a certain generation, such as myself, it was the 1980s that served as an introduction to this sub-genre. The comic book-inspired Creepshow (1982) will always be my favourite, but The Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) and Cat’s Eyes (1987) are also remembered fondly.
Directed by George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead), the original Creepshow was an ode to 1950s EC Comics. Featuring five short horrifying tales by Stephen King, it captured the comic-book aesthetic perfectly to tell its gruesome tales. After wrapping on Day of the Dead (1985), Romero moved onto writing and producing a Creepshow sequel five years after the original was released, with his Dawn of the Dead cinematographer Michael Gornick making the jump to direct for the first and only time.
The prologue introduces a young boy named Billy (Domenick John), peddling fast down the streets of Maine chasing a delivery truck with the latest edition of the Creepshow comic-book. As the back of the truck opens up, we’re introduced to ‘The Creep’ played by Tom Savini (Two Evil Eyes) and voiced by Joe Silver (Rabid). Looking like a pre-cursor to The Cryptkeeper from HBO’s TV series Tales From The Crypt (1989-1996), the devilish character is less than convincing than the ghostly apparition from Creepshow. Speaking mostly in puns, one can’t help but be reminded of the Coroner from John Carpenter’s Body Bags (1993).
The live-action sequence soon shifts to animation to fill in the gaps and introduce each vignette. There’s little in terms of story or character. It’s a simple morality tale about bullies getting their comeuppance at the hands of Billy’s pet Venus Flytraps. Although the animation comes off like a cheap imitation of Robert Balser’s animation in Heavy Metal (1981), it fares better than the live-action sequences. However, without any comic-book panels introducing each story, Creepshow 2 fails to capture the pulpy aesthetic of the original.
Old Chief Woodn’head
Elderly couple Ray and Martha Spruce (George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour) are living in a small town called Dead River. They’re the owners of a general goods store whose decor includes a wooden statue named Old Chief Wood’nhead on the front porch. After being visited by a Native American called Benjamin (Frank Salsedo), they’re given turquoise jewellery as collateral for the debt his tribe has incurred. Upon returning to their store, the Spruces are subject to a vicious robbery led by Sam (Holt McCallany) and are fatally shot. Sam and his thugs drive away with the stolen jewellery, but Old Chief Wood’nhead promptly comes to life and embarks on a vicious warpath to avenge the murdered couple.
Old Chief Wood’nhead is the weakest of the three tales, but not without its charm. Despite an outlandish premise, Gornick manages to make the material interesting. When things get violent, admittedly, it hits harder, because the first 20-minutes play like a straightforward drama. Both Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke) and Lamour (Road to Bali) bring style to their roles as the store owners on the verge of bankruptcy. Although they’re not in the segment long, both give sympathetic performances. But the real star is McCallany, who’s perfectly cast as the sneering Sam. His OTT acting with constant hair flipping and extreme verbal threats, add to the characters scum factor.
For what it’s worth, Sam does have beautiful hair. He should be auditioning for a L’Oreal commercial rather than dreaming big and going to Hollywood. Nonetheless, seeing him show it off makes him all the more drolly hilarious. The costume design and make-up for the Indian Chief specifically are fantastic. Greg Nicotero’s (The Walking Dead) wooden body-suit for actor Dan Kamin (Benny & Joon) still looks impressive 30 years later. Although the choppy movements appear cartoonish, his bloody revenge is ultimately fulfilling to behold. But due to the budget limitations, there’s not much gore on offer. However, Gornick does a fine job of executing the kills economically. Often the camera will look away revealing a silhouette on the wall as the slashing occurs, finishing with a blood-splatter on the wall akin of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920).
Four college students—Deke (Paul Satterfield), Laverne (Jeremy Green), Randy (Daniel Beer), and Rachel (Page Hannah)—are freewheeling to a deserted swimming hole, hoping for an afternoon of smoking weed and getting laid. They paddle out to a wooden raft in the middle of the lake, then notice a mysterious blob skimming on the surface. Little do they know that a creature is floating around looking for fresh blood…
The second tale is an adaptation of the Stephen King story The Raft from his anthology Skeleton Crew. The Raft is the strongest tale and features all the hallmarks of iconic ’80s slashers like Friday the 13th (1980) and The Evil Dead (1981): a remote location, archetypes, and a mindless antagonist picking folk off one by one. The acting is hilariously camp and all of the characters contain a real carefree attitude—especially Paul Satterfield’s portrayal of dumb jock Deke. The simplicity of the tale allows Gormick to build up some great tension in a short space of time.
However, running a mere 20-minutes, The Raft discards character development for gruesome deaths. Although it’s a minor flaw, one can argue it would have benefitted with an extra 10-minutes to flesh out the characters. It’s particularly jarring when Daniel Beer’s (Point Break) good guy character turns into a rapist. Perhaps it’s a continuation from the original source material or a sign of how tone-deaf some features could be in the ’80s. Nevertheless, it leaves an unpleasant feeling lingering that I don’t think the filmmakers intended. Despite this, The Raft really captures the essence of ’50s monster movies such as The Blob (1958), making it the strongest tale of the three.
Adulteress businesswoman Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles) wakes up after spending the night with a gigolo (David Beecroft). Realising she has to get home before her wealthy husband, Annie hops into her car and starts the seven-mile drive back. Unfortunately, after losing control at a slippery corner, she accidentally kills a Dover-bound hitchhiker (Tom Wright) and considers continuing her journey because nobody witnessed the accident. But as she wrestles with her conscience, the dead hitchhiker appears outside her window.
I’m unsure if The Hitchhiker is a low-budget precursor to I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) or a play on Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 short story The Tell-Tale Heart, but it plays with similar concepts. Louis Chiles (Moonraker) does a great job of holding the segment together as Annie, being alone on screen for most of it. She makes her character sympathetic despite the fact Annie’s cheating on her spouse and has committed a crime. Her wry monologue portrays madness within herself as her guilt slowly drives her crazy.
Personally, the highlight of the segment is the hitchhiker himself. Played by Tom Wright (Marked for Death), he’s phenomenal at portraying an unstoppable force and has a fantastic catchphrase (“thanks for the ride, lady!”) It’s never clear if the hitchhiker is actually coming after Annie or if it’s the moral lesson of the complexities of repressed guilt. Once the tale ends it certainly leaves things open to interpretation. However, the dark humour permeating through a simplistic idea certainly pays homage to EC Comic’s potent formula. With a cameo by Stephen King himself and plenty of blood, Gornick certainly ends Creepshow 2 on a high note.
As with the first Creepshow, where this sequel excels is with the special effects. Savini stepped down as SFX artist allowing his protege Greg Nicotero to take the reins. Although Nicotero doesn’t use them as often or as creatively as his mentor, there are some glorious blood splatters during Old Chief Wood’nhead. Whereas the gratuitous use of blood and fleshy prosthetics used during The Hitchhiker is some of Nicotero’s best work. The ever-deteriorating appearance of Wright’s character is truly disgusting.
However, perhaps the most impressive VFX is during The Raft. Nicotero utilises his skills by creating some horrific scenes that will keep gore-hounds licking their lips. Once the characters are engulfed by the blob, their skin melts before tearing away from the bone…. revealing a goopy tar-like substance mixed with blood and human flesh. It’s visually pleasing and reminiscent of the face-melting sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
One critical element Creepshow 2 lacks is another wonderful score from John Harrison (Day of the Dead). The sequel instead features music from veteran composer Les Reed (Edward Scissorhands) and synth wizard Rick Wakeman (Crimes of Passion). While Harrison’sscore was instantly recognisable and spooky, Reed and Wakeman have no luck replicating it with their mix of orchestral compositions and electronic synth. The harmonica melody in Old Chief Wood’nhead harkens back to old Hollywood, creating a sense of melancholy instead of dread. Whereas the sound of a guitar and electronic drums during The Hitchhiker is too generic. The score’s highlight is the low droning synth during The Raft, as it’s the only time the composers instil a sense of genuine terror.
Sadly, whereas Creepshow showcased five comic-strip horror vignettes, budget restraints lead to the sequel only incorporating three. Horror pictures, in general, tend to be made on low budgets, and this was certainly the case with Creepshow 2. Romero had $8M to spend, whereas Gornick had less than half that money, making this sequel with a modest $3.5M. Unfortunately, Gornick isn’t unable to stretch out the finances the way Romero did as a master of working with shoestring budgets. And that means Creepshow 2 looks like something where the filmmakers cut too many corners. While the first Creepshow felt like seeing an EC Comic brought to life, Creepshow 2 feels like a feature-length Tales from the Crypt episode. Nonetheless, Creepshow 2 remains a cult ’80s classic with some great touches that make it hard to dislike.
The lack of active involvement from Stephen King is noticeable, sadly, but having George A. Romero co-write the screenplay (with an uncredited Lucille Fletcher) saved Creepshow 2. In its defence, this sequel was also fraught with production issues. Originally intended to include five new stories, The Cat from Hell was jettisoned and later used in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), so it’s difficult to say what Creepshow 2 could have been if everything had gone to plan. Nonetheless, it’s a campy journey into the dark side with a gleeful mix of horror and comedy.
USA | 1987 | 92 MINUTES | 1.85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
Blu-ray Limited Edition Special Features:
- Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements.
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation.
- Original Uncompressed PCM Mono 1.0, Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround Audio Options.
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
- Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick. The director talks with producer Perry Martin about the production of Creepshow 2. Carried over from previous disc releases, the pair discuss the difficulties of switching the rights from Warner Bros. to New World Pictures. Martin also explains why two stories had to be removed, along with the difficulties of working with a budget of $4M. Gornick gives an in-depth account of the time devoted to filming The Raft, discussing the trouble creating the blob. There’s even an entertaining story regarding the difficulties directing the overworked Stephen King during The Hitchhiker, as the author made ridiculous demands including product placement of his latest novel and having Billy’s story being entirely filmed in Maine. What makes this commentary so wildly entertaining and informative is Gornick’s treasure trove of trivia. The director clearly recalls everything.
- ‘Poncho’s Last Ride’. A brand new interview with actor Daniel Beer. An entertaining and informative account with the star of The Raft, Daniel Beer. He talks about how filming during autumn resulted in him catching hypothermia, resulting in the production shutting down briefly. He also fives a light-hearted account of how awkward filming a sex scene can be, the problems with the studio’s bad promotion of Creepshow 2, and a heartfelt tale about co-star Page Hannah.
- ‘The Road to Dover’. A brand new interview with actor Tom Wright. The Hitchhiker star Tom Wright gives an in-depth account of his experience on set. He delves into what made the tale such a gruelling shoot, giving an interesting insight performing as both an actor and a stuntman. He also openly discusses how his stunt work led to many other roles in Hollywood. There’s some great behind-the-scenes footage of Wright in the make-up chair, too.
- ‘Screenplay for a Sequel’. An interview with screenwriter George A. Romero. A 10-minute interview with writer-producer Romero, reminiscing about his fascination with EC Comics and speaking candidly about collaborating with Stephen King. While discussing original ideas for the sequel, he gives an informative description of the two tales that never came to fruition: The Cat from Hell and Pinfall, a short tale about a bowling team of ghosts. Romero acknowledges that Creepshow 2 didn’t live up to the original. Respectfully, he blames the budget rather than the director or the choice of stories.
- ‘Tales from the Creep’. An interview with actor and make-up artist Tom Savini. A short interview with SFX guru Tom Savini. Relishing the opportunity to create monsters rather than just gore, he reminisces about his experience being involved in the original picture. He openly admits that he was more than happy to return for the sequel as The Creep. Ironically, when accepting his role, he mentioned he’d only do it if there was a shower on set due to his hatred of latex. Whilst making quips about the paycheque he received, he also discusses the difficulty of lip-synching to Joe Silver’s pre-recorded vocals.
- ‘Nightmares in Foam Rubber’. Archive featurette on the special effects of Creepshow 2, including interviews with FX artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero. This 30-minute retrospective is a highlight of the extras. VFX wizards Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero discuss the trials and tribulations during Creepshow 2 and how they were brought on-board to oversee make-up artist Ed French. After countless delays and continuously shifting production problems onto others, French was removed from the production. The pair give a detailed account of how SFX had to be created over a cold a weekend in Maine, resulting in most of their materials freezing. Speaking highly of Gornick, they also point out how their collaboration on Creepshow 2 laid the groundwork for KNB EFX—their VFX company specialising in prosthetics, animatronics, and other practical effects. There’s a plethora of great information on the design and information of all the gory scenes and grossly gags.
- ‘My Friend Rick’. Berger on his special effects mentor Rick Baker.
A brief interview with Howard Berger about meeting his mentor, Rick Baker. Berger discusses how his persistence led to spending a day in Baker’s workshop for David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983). After working alongside his mentor on Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Berger soon became an SFX legend himself.
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage. A brief home video of Tom Savini during the production. We see the legendary effects artist in the make-up chair, along with many outtakes of The Creep delivering bundles of Creepshow comics.
- Image Gallery.
- Trailers & TV Spots.
- Original Screenplay (BD-ROM Content). Arrow Video have included a PDF of the original screenplay. Unfortunately, this is a shooting script so The Cat from Hell and Pinfall stories are missing.
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth. Unavailable for review.
- Creepshow 2: Pinfall—Limited Edition booklet featuring the never-before-seen comic adaptation of the unfilmed Creepshow 2 segment “Pinfall” by artist Jason Mayoh. Unavailable for review.
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Mike Saputo.
Cast & Crew
director: Michael Gornick.
writers: George A. Romero & Lucille Fletcher (uncredited).
starring: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour & Tom Savini.