Creepshow 2 (1987)

MARCH 21, 2012


I saw Creepshow 2 as a kid at least 2-3 times, but all I remembered in the slightest was the middle segment, “The Raft”. I could remember the basic idea of “The Hitchhiker” and “Old Chief Wooden Head”, but nothing specific, and the wraparound segment was a total blur – I didn’t even recall that it was animated! As it turns out, my memory was just trying to protect me – “The Raft” is the only one I fully enjoyed as an adult.

In fact I’m actually kind of amazed that 8 year old BC was able to make it that far, because “Wooden Head” is the first and by far the weakest. For starters it takes way too long to set up – I’ve seen feature narratives that get to the damn point sooner, as we spend an interminable amount of time listening to George Kennedy and his wife discuss their failing store, and then a Native American talk endlessly about his own financial problems before trusting some sacred stones to Kennedy as collateral for his debts. Then some jerks show up out of nowhere, and THEY talk endlessly as they trash the store and then kill the couple. We’re now nearly a half hour into the movie, which doesn’t leave much time for the title character to exact his revenge – the kills have almost no buildup and aren’t particularly interesting. Plus we barely see him in action – arrows are shot from off-screen, or we watch a shadow… it’s certainly not worth the wait. Also, the main jerk (an Indian played by the white Hoyt McCallany in an early role) talks about his hair endlessly, which just makes his fate (being scalped) far too obvious.

But then “The Raft” begins, and it’s all back on track. This would easily fit in with the first film (or the superior Tales From The Darkside*), as it has a simple story and a fast pace that befits an anthology – it’s the shortest of the lot as well. No time is wasted as our protagonists are introduced and catch sight of the monstrous ooze in the first five minutes or so, and then someone dies every couple minutes thereafter. Sure, the climax makes no sense with regards to the rest of it (if it could do that, why didn’t it do that at the raft?) but it’s fun, boasts great FX, and was, I think, a young BC’s first exposure to the idea that people in horror movies didn’t really care about their friends dying if there was a chance that they could get laid out of the deal. This may be true in real life, I dunno – I’ll let you know if the situation ever presents itself.

Then there’s “The Hitchhiker”, which isn’t as woeful as the first tale, but is also drawn out and lacks a good punchline – it’s just an endless fight between our terrible heroine (she cheats on her husband AND runs people over without worry? What a prize!) and the zombie hitchhiker, who just keeps saying “Thanks for the ride, lady!” in hopes that someday it gets turned into a T-shirt. The makeup on Tom Wright as he is continually mangled by the lady (Lois Chiles) and her car is impressive, but it’s just too repetitive for my tastes. And she talks to herself too damn much; her repeated imaginary conversations with her mechanic about all of the damage she’s racking up drove me up a wall (even if they have that King flavor that a lot of the movie lacks – the script was by George Romero this time but the stories were all King’s).

And I never quite got what was actually happening – was she really being menaced by this guy or was it just her imagination? The body is seemingly being taken care of by other drivers on the road (including Stephen King), so it doesn’t quite fit that he’d be able to get up and follow her. But she has his “Dover” sign, which was clearly left at the scene, so I dunno. Not that it’s a dealbreaker, but the original Creepshow had such great final bits or twists, so it’s a bummer when the end of a tale is more of a question mark.

The wraparound is kind of weak too, though the idea is fun. A “Creepshow” loving kid orders a Venus flytrap, only to run afoul of some bullies who proceed to destroy his purchase. The twist is that this is just his NEWEST flytrap, and thus the bullies get chomped by the others, who are giant and thus could probably swallow Audrey II whole. I couldn’t help but think how much better this story would be in live-action – the animation is kind of lame and poorly directed (notice how everyone’s positions change before the flytraps appear). Plus, the animated Creep isn’t nearly as cool as the rarely seen live action one, who is played by Tom Savini. You’ll miss Tom Atkins, is what I’m saying.

The limited number of stories is also a sore spot, and has seemingly set precedent for anthology films since. The original had five (plus the wraparound), and the 70s ones from Amicus and such were mostly four stories if memory serves, but from Creepshow 2 on, 3 was pretty much the norm. Sure, Creepshow is pretty long and 90 minute movies make more sense for TV broadcast, but there’s no rule that every tale has to be a half hour. If anything Creepshow 2 should have set the precedent for THAT – the story that goes the longest is the weakest; the shortest the best. If they were all the length of “The Raft” they could have fit another story in and still came in around 95 minutes.

So it’s uneven at best, but it still has its charms. If you fast-forward through the bullshit on “Wooden Head” and can put up with Chiles’ constantly talking to herself, it’s certainly amusing and relatively fast paced (again, once you get past the bulk of “Wooden Head”), and the FX all hold up quite well. And since to this day I have yet to hear a single good thing about Creepshow 3, and can unfortunately vouch first hand for the awfulness of the Deadtime Stories movies, it actually ranks quite high in this little sub-genre of Romero-related anthology films. But I still say Darkside (the unofficial but still more legit 3rd Creepshow) is the better followup. Swap in “The Raft” for that one’s underwhelming Rae Dawn Chong story and you have a movie almost as good as the original, in my opinion.

What say you?

*Oddly, the middle story of that one was the only one I had remembered as well. Why does my memory work so weird?


  1. Dead on review. Even 11-year old me, watching this in the theater after loving the original, thought Old Chief Woodenhead took forever to get going. But I found enough charms to make it a "nostalgia" movie.

    There's absolutely no reason to watch Creepshow III, though. Horrible stories and crappy production values (the wraparound animation is Flash, for God's sake). I'd actually love to see you tackle it, but also want to save you the agony.

  2. Even when I watched this movie when I was 12 and really into Stephen King, "The Raft" was the only one I found interesting. In fact, I'd completely forgotten what the other two stories were until I read your review.

  3. I was 15 when this came out and managed to see it in the (nearly empty) theater on its opening weekend. The original CREEPSHOW was (and remains) one of my all-time favorite movies. So my expectation level was pretty high, especially with Gornick directing and Romero on screenplay duty (from King stories no less). I also remember going in assuming that there would have to be at least four stories...

    Saying I was disappointed was an understatement. What's with this lousy cartoon opening? Where is John Harrison's theme music? No stylized "comic book" lighting/framing/scene transitions? Why doesn't this FEEL like CREEPSHOW at all? I mean, I was open to the idea that these would be entirely new stories, but at least try to retain the flavor of the original, you know? I mean, this one is being directed by the cinematographer of the original -- don't you think he would at least stick with the crazy lighting?

    And ONLY three stories?? REALLY??

    And you hit the nail on the head with OLD CHIEF WOODEN HEAD: the "first act" of that story is endless and awful. And you can tell right away that the wink-wink, horror-fiends-having-fun mindset of the first film is not going to be present. We are in bad TV movie hell.

    THE RAFT is always the pass this movie gets. It works and I totally agree with you: snip it out of this movie and either watch it on its own or graft it onto another horror anthology movie. It's the best of the shit.

    And THE HITCHHIKER is bad for all the reasons you mentioned, though I would add that the music in that particular segment is especially terrible. Seventies TV movie bad. And I also felt like "Thanks for the ride, lady" was a deliberate attempt to create a memorable one-liner. In fact, it felt to me like they were trying to outdo "Where's my cake?" or "Just call me, Billie, everyone does." Ironically enough, that one line seems to be the only thing people consistently remember about the movie. (That and "isn't that one with the kids on the raft?")

    I have since grown a strange, Stockholm-Syndrome style nostalgia for the movie. I mean, CREEPSHOW III doesn't count (it's unwatchable), so TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE THE MOVIE and this are all we've got in terms of "more CREEPSHOW." So I put it on once every couple of years and remind myself "oh yeah, this was a huge disappointment."

  4. Yep, fully in agreement. THE RAFT was, and remains, the only segment that grips me. It sticks pretty close to Kings tale, and has a strangely primal quality to it that I still admire. The hitchhiker segment was always good for a laugh, too.

    Also, as Gavin rightly pointed out, aviod Creepshow 3 like the plague. Its a horrendous 'film' and its director belongs in jail!

  5. I agree with this review although my favorite is the last, once it gets going (it does take too long). But I think you're being too literal with the hitchhiker, revenge from the grave doesn't have to be a literal body coming after her...I just took it that he's more like a ghost, albiet one you can smash up. That's why he's able to essentially teleport from place to place.

  6. Old Chief Woodenhead was definitely a stinker, but I felt the other two stories made up for it (at least to my younger self's mind). Then again, as a kid I liked the animation, and my friends and I actually did adopt the "thanks for the ride lady" line - although we were probably just fascinated by the great, gooey makeup.
    I think I'll have to re-watch this one just to make sure I'm not being blinded by nostalgic memories...

  7. I saw this for the first time about 6 years ago, so I was 12, and my friend and I couldn't stop laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. We did enjoy it though, I liked the idea for the second story, but what stuck in my mind was 'thanks for the ride lady!' from the third story, simply because my friend and I couldn't stop laughing whenever he said it. Not the best of movies by a long shot, but I still smile whenever I remember it because it was entertaining.


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget