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?