Saturday, September 24, 2016

#2,201. Creepshow 2 (1987)

Directed By: Michael Gornick

Starring: George Kennedy, Lois Chiles, Domenick John

Tag line: "Good to the last gasp!"

Trivia: One of the segments dropped from this film eventually appeared in 1990's Tales From the Darkside: The Movie)

Like the original Creepshow, Creepshow 2 features the combined talents of two horror titans, George Romero and Stephen King (only this time, instead of directing, Romero’s involvement was limited to writing the screenplay. King provided the original stories, and Michael Gornick was in the director’s chair). And while this latter entry isn’t quite the classic the first film was, it offers a few tense moments that, at the very least, keep things interesting.

With three stories this time instead of five (two were dropped for budgetary reasons, one of which, Cat From Hell, turned up in 1990’s Tales from the Darkside: The Movie), Creepshow 2 kicks things off with Old Chief Woodn’head, in which kindly shopkeeper Ray Spruce (George Kennedy) and his wife Martha (Dorothy Lamour) are robbed at gunpoint by Sam Whitemoon (Holt McCallanny) and his pals Andy (Don Harvey) and “Fatstuff” (David Holbrook). Sam is a Native American who’s grown weary of living in his dusty, dying western town, and is headed to Hollywood in the hopes of becoming a movie star. The original plan was to load up on food and take all the money Ray and Martha had in the cash register, but when a tragic accident occurs, it awakens a creature that had been dormant for years, one that won’t quit until it’s had its revenge on the three would-be crooks.

Next up is The Raft, about a group of friends: Deke (Paul Satterfield), Randy (Daniel Beer), Rachel (Page Hannah), and Laverne (Jeremy Green), who, for kicks, drive to a remote lake and go for a swim. Seeing as its autumn, the water is damn cold, but the real problem arises when the four make their way out to a wooden raft, which is floating in the middle of the lake. It’s then that Randy notices what looks to be an oil slick, which is skimming the water’s surface and heading directly towards them. Only it isn’t oil; in fact, whatever it is, it’s very much alive. And what’s more, it’s hungry!

The final tale, The Hitch-Hiker, introduces us to Annie (Lois Chiles), who, following an evening of adultery with a handsome gigolo (David Beecroft), heads home to her rich husband, fearful that, if she arrives too late, he’ll begin asking questions. As it turns out, though, thinking up an alibi will be the least of Annie’s worries; after dropping her cigarette in the front seat of her car, Annie loses control and accidentally runs over a hitch-hiker (Tom Wright), killing him instantly. In a panic, she drives off just before several other motorists (including a truck driver played by Stephen King himself) arrive on the scene. Fearful that her conscience won’t allow her to forget this terrible ordeal, Annie soon discovers that fate has a way of catching up with you, resulting in a night of terror she won’t soon forget.

Tying the three segments together is an animated framing story, narrated by the “Creep” (voiced by Joe Silver), in which a young boy (Domenick John), while riding his bike back from the post office, is harassed by a gang of bullies, who learn, far too late, that it isn’t wise to pick on someone much smaller, and a lot smarter, than yourself.

I did enjoy, to varying degrees, all three of the main sequences in Creepshow 2. While not particularly frightening, Chief Woodn’head featured some damn fine kill scenes, as well a handful of strong actors (Kennedy and Lamour are predictably good, but it’s Holt McCallanny as the very pissed off Sam Whitemoon who steals the show). Despite some mediocre performances, The Raft did manage to turn the terror dial up a click or two, thanks in large part to its very mysterious “monster”. And like any decent anthology, Creepshow 2 saved the best for last: from the moment Annie runs over that poor guy trying to hitch a ride, The Hitch-Hiker kicks it into high gear, with a few jarring jump scares and some impressive gore (even though Tom Savini was on-hand, playing the “live” version of the Creep, the effects were instead handled by Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, among others). The film’s lone weakness is its framing story, which, with its sub-par animation and less-than-stellar plotline, never really amounts to much.

1982's Creepshow is my all-time favorite horror anthology, and I’m happy to report that, even though it’s a step down from the awesomeness of the original, Creepshow 2 has its charms as well.

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