In 1982, director George Romero teamed with writer Stephen King to make Creepshow, a comedy/horror anthology film designed to wax nostalgic about the old DC and EC horror comics of their youth. It was a surprise hit and remains a classic among horror hounds to this day. Five years later, they made a sequel. Romero took over writing duties (though it was still based on King stories) and Michael Gornick directed. Arrow Video has released a newly restored Blu-ray of the sequel filled with more extras than it deserves.
I have very vague memories of seeing the first one on VHS when I was a kid. I remember me and my cousins being very excited by the cool cover of a skeleton ticket-taker offering up a pass to the show. We must have begged our parents enough to get them to take it home one day. I remember my parents watching it in their bedroom first to make sure it was appropriate for us. I’m pretty sure they made me skip at least one of the stories, as I still have feeling of jealous over my cousins whose parents were a little more lenient of those things. Still, we spent many a night excitedly talking over each story with each other all summer long.
In my Pick of the Week,I noted that I had forgotten there was ever a sequel to Creepshow. That’s not entirely true as I have some recollection of its existence; it's just that by the time it came out I had moved on from caring about such things. I’ve now seen it and all I can say is that I was better off not remembering.
Similar to Creepshow, this one tells three separate horror stories (down from five for budgetary reasons) with a wrap-around story to transition them. They range from pretty okay to rather terrible with the wrap-around being completely pointless.
"Old Chief Wood’n head" starts us off with an image of a giant wooden carving of an Indian chief. It's so obvious that it's eventually going to come to life and wreak carnage that this doesn’t even count as a spoiler. When it eventually does, it's a lot of fun, but it takes so long to get there my I had to tie my finger down to keep it from fast-forwarding.
George Kennedy stars as the proprietor of a shop on the outskirts of a town that’s seen better days. They are visited by an old Native American elder who praises their kindness and gives them some prized jewelry as collateral for all of the debt his people have accrued at the store. Later, three hoodlums show up to rob the place and commit some good old fashioned violence. On their way out, they even shoot the wooden Indian, sealing their fate.
It comes to life (and again it's so obvious from the first scene that this really isn’t spoiling anything) and murders them in fairly interesting ways. If they had gotten to that point faster, instead of layering on a lot of useless dialogue in the beginning, I’d rate this story a lot higher. Instead, it is the loser of the bunch.
Next up is "The Raft" in which four teens drive out to a secluded lake for some fun on a raft. They call it a raft, but it's more like a small pontoon that’s anchored to the ground. Why these kids (or anybody for that matter) would drive a long distance to sit on that thing is beyond my realms of logic. They swim out to the “raft” only to find themselves trapped by a sea monster. The kids think it might be an oil slick gone evil but I’d call it a floating trash bag, or if I’m being generous, a remote-controlled tarp covered in trash.
Its better than "Wood’n head" but not by much. It moves along at a faster pace, the kids are entertaining, and the monster is ridiculously fun. There is a bit of sexual assault at the end that was no doubt added because of boobies (and every good '80s horror has to have some naked breasts) but it's so poorly done that modern audiences will likely find it not only distasteful but downright horrifying.
Lastly is "The Hitch-hiker" in which Lois Chiles plays a rich adulteress who accidentally runs over a hitch-hiker on her way back from getting it on with her gigolo friend. She flees the scene only to find the dead guy stalking her. You can’t, by any means, call this one good, but it is fun in a dumb, bad-film sort-of way.
The wrap-around story features an animated boy who purchases a Venus flytrap from the back of a Creepshow comic and uses it for revenge on a couple of neighborhood bullies. It's poorly animated, neither scary nor funny and is does a bad job of transitioning the other tales. Its only redeeming quality is that it features Tom Savini as The Creep (at least for a minute or two until the live action turns to animation and The Creep’s voice is done by Joe Silver).
Arrow’s done another bang-up job releasing a mediocre film. The new 2K restoration from the original film elements looks great. It's obvious the film was shot on the cheap, but I found no elements of degradation or problems with the transfer. The extras are plentiful and exhaustive. They include audio commentaries, features on the special effects make-up, behind the scenes footage, trailers, and an essay by Michael Blyth.
Creepshow 2 plays like a few episodes of those horror anthology series that were so plentiful in the 1980s. With its limited budget, it probably felt making one of them as well. The stories do not hold up well. They are fun enough for those who have fond memories of such things, but for the rest of you I’d stick with the original.