AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY: 13th July, from ARROW VIDEO
RUNNING TIME: 92 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera
1/ Old Chief Wood’nhead – In an Arizona town which is now struggling financially, local Native American chief Ben Whitemoon gives shop owner Ray Spruce some jewels as a guarantee for their debts. Ben’s nephew Sam then turns up with theft on his mind, but he hasn’t reckoned with the wooden Indian at the front of the shop….
2/ The Raft – Teenagers Deke and Randy travel with Laverne and Rachel to a lake expecting to smoke weed, swim and get laid. They see a raft that’s floating in the middle of the lake and decide to board it, but also in the lake is a carnivorous blob that’s very hungry….
3/ The Hitchhiker – In Maine, the unfaithful Annie Lansing stays too long having sex with her escort and is late to meet her husband in the airport. Driving fast, she accidentally runs over a hitchhiker then drives off. However, the hitchhiker will not leave her….
1982’s Creepshow, Stephen King and George Romero’s wonderfully fun tribute to EC Comics such as ‘Tales from the Crypt’, ‘The Vault of Horror’ and ‘The Haunt of Fear’, didn’t set the box office alight, but did go on to become one of the most popular of horror anthologies, and quickly became my third favourite after Black Sabbath and Dead Of Night until I recently saw a certain Japanese masterpiece named Kwaidan which soundly beats them all. But people rarely seem to talk about Creepshow 2 even though it’s obviously popular enough to have got several releases on DVD and Blu-ray. Having not ever remembered even reading a review of it let alone seeing the thing, i expected it to be not very good at all, though the first film seems to be one of those films which all of us on HCF enjoy greatly, and when I asked the others their opinion they all said that it was pretty good, if still inferior. And for once [I’m often the odd person out in terms of opinions on movies] I entirely agree with this. What we have here is one good story, one average one, and one very good one indeed [which of course may not be the very good one that one of my colleagues mentioned], ensuring that, much like its predecessor, Creepshow 2 finishes on a high, though in some other ways it’s rather different; two of the three tales are comparatively lacking in humour, there’s more violence even if it’s often just implied visually, and Stephen King’s performance doesn’t become the wieirdest thing in the whole film.
Because the first one wasn’t the hit expected, Warner Bros. passed on a sequel and New World Pictures took over, meaning that there was considerably less money at hand. Romero passed on directing this time around, sticking to the writing of the screenplay while the first film’s cinematographer Michael Gornicks was promoted to helm the project after Bob Balaban and Tom Savini turned down the job. The plan was to have five Stephen King stories again. Though Old Chief Wood’nhead and The Hitchhiker had been considered for Creepshow, all were recently written tales except for The Raft, which was based on King’s short story of the same name from 1982. However, two were discarded were discarded for budgetary reasons; Cat From Hell, about [surprise surprise] a vengeful feline, and Pinfall, in which a rivalry between two bowling teams takes a fantastical and macabre turn. Cat From Hell later turned up in Tales From The Darkside, but plans to film Pinfall have so far not come to fruition despite several attempts. The shooting in Arizona went over budget because a huge amount of rain delayed production by eight days and filming had to switch from the first story to the second. During the shooting of The Raft, actor Daniel Beer almost died from hypothermia due to the water being very cold. Then make-up Artist Ed French walked off the production during filming of the same story after rows with Gornick about the blob monster, Gornick then turning to Howard Berger for advice on how to fix it. Berger and Greg Nicotero finished the remaining effects in the film without French. This mean that they now needed a new Creep as French was supposed to play him. After no less than Nicolas Cage was considered, Tom Savini ended up playing the part. Box office was okay and no more.
Old Chief Wood’nhead begins in surprisingly touching fashion, as our old couple are still clearly in love after so many decades, yet are finding times hard because the town is on its last legs and their shop is struggling, especially with Ray often letting people take stuff without paying. He wants to give something back to the town which has given him so much throughout his life, but wife Martha is trying to restrain him. George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour [who’s last role this was] have real chemistry together, and I’d have been happy to have had a few more scenes just featuring the pair of them before trouble really starts when a gang of four, led by Sam the out-of-control and extremely vain son of Chief Ben Whitemoon, turns up to rob the place. It gets pretty tense – I’ve always found it especially grim when elderly folk are threatened – before things go even more wrong. However, the shop’s wooden Native American statue’s suddenly shut in a very nice moment when the statue is in the foreground on the right and the youths are coming out of the shop on the left. The scene where it comes to life is good even though it’s just a man in a suit moving slowly with a few close-ups of separate props, though its creepy effect is slightly undercut by the rather light musical backing from the score. And then it’s stalk and slash time. The gruesome deaths, one of which is perfect poetic justice in the EC tradition, are cut away from, but this still has a very serious tone apart from the robber who just loves to eat and is more interested in scoffing all that food in the shop rather than robbing it, telling us that the approach will be a little different, at least for a while. Generally well put together, this is possibly the most intriguing of the three tales, and could maybe be spun out into a feature film.
Featuring a truly classic Idiot Moment when some brainless lady puts their fingers in the water even though there’s a weird and sinister thing in the water right by which, for reasons never explained, goes more for the women than the men, The Raft sounded like it could be a terrific exercise in uncomfortable suspense, though it’s never quite as tense as it ought to be, and I can’t quite work out why. Our over-aged teenagers are annoying immediately as they drive to a lake in the countryside, but that’s hardly a new thing, and we get a nice sense of the character relationships in just a few camera shots, not even dialogue. Once at their destination, instead of a murderous maniac they encounter a strange creature in the water which one of them thinks is an oil slick. An early scene, where one of the girls is the last to get out from having a swim, is quite edgy while the monster, even if it does tend to resemble a huge dustbin bag, benefits from being barely seen under the water at first. Close up it looks rather oily and we get some slimy and sometime mildly gruesome effects much like the remake of The Blob; not quite as good but better than you might expect. This creature can get you from even under the raft so our protagonists are always in danger. You’d think that they wouldn’t be able to go to sleep either, especially as lying down is a definite no-no, but somehow it’s managed and they look really fresh when they wake up. It’s good old lust, in a scene that you probably wouldn’t get if the film was made today, even if some people in that situation would unfortunately do this, that truly ruins things. The sheer vulnerability of the teenagers trapped on this raft doesn’t make for the bed-wetting experience that it should do, and the lukewarm acting doesn’t help, but there’s some lovely photography of the lake, and overall it’s reasonable ‘B’ monster fare.
The Hitchhiker was unlikely to disappoint this writer, who’s been frightened of hitchhikers ever since he was allowed to stay up and watch a certain episode of the Hammer House of Horror TV series when he was very young – and soon after that was a complete idiot and hired out the video [my local rental place didn’t care less about age] of The Hitcher even though logically it ought to have been something for me to avoid. And indeed it didn’t disappoint, this being not just because it’s tonally closer to the more tongue-in-cheek stories in Creepshow. By now I’d settled into the more sober tone. Lois Chiles [one of my favourite under-appreciated Bond girls] gives a compelling performance as Annie, first seen not paying her gigolo quite enough even though he’s given her six orgasms. Driving too fast home results in her running over a hitchhiker [look out for Stephen King] and then driving on, though she knows that, if she can’t live with what she’s done, she can always turn herself in. However, said hitchhiker keeps on making appearances, even though Annie keeps on doing things that ought to kill him. His increasingly bloody, broken appearance reminded me of An American Werewolf In London. And, also for me, this tale totally nails its mixture of fright and laughs, aided by fine makeup effects climaxing in what looked like a terrific puppet in the climax. It’s also the only episode to have an ambiguity about it – could Annie be imagining all this because of her guilt? Annie voicing her thoughts and pretending to talk to her husband may grate some, though for me it added an eccentricity to the whole affair which was rather appealing. Better than most, though not all, of the stories in Creepshow, The Hitchhiker is cracking stuff; a furiously paced affair that will make you both chuckle and shiver.
The stories are all book-ended by the story of young Billy. He absolutely loves the ‘Creepshow’ magazine and even gets to meet the Creep. He’s lonely and bullied, though manages to buy some interesting and even potentially useful plant seed. Billy is probably a typical ‘5os ‘monster kid’, who doesn’t quite fit in with his peers and finds some solace in monsters, some of whom he probably identifies with, and horror [I can relate]. I can imagine his mother ranting at him for bringing this horrible publication home. Told mostly in animation which really gives the impression that an EC Comics story has just come to life, this adds a bit of heart to the whole enterprise. The serviceable music is credited to Les Reed with additional music by Rick Wakeham. It seemed to me that most of the scoring was Reed’s, while Wakeman composed the opening synth piece, it sounds like his work, though he may have played keyboard on some of Reed’s work too. Creepshow 2 is slightly lacking. The stories don’t really surprise once they’ve got on their way, and Gornick’s direction, while perfectly decent, only occasionally attempts the comic book-based visual approach that Romero brought to Creepshow and helped to make it such a fun experience. He can’t really disguise the cheapness either, though the often really bright cinematography, especially in Old Chief Wood’nhead, credited to two people – Richard Hart and Tom Hurwitz – is quite distinctive at times. Creepshow 2 is a solid little horror anthology movie if taken on its own, and has nothing really to be ashamed of – unlike, so I’ve heard, Creepshow 3. And I reckon that I’m going to have the words “thanks for the ride” haunting me for a while now. Um – thanks.
This appears to be a re-release of Arrow’s 2016 Blu-ray with a few more tidbits, notably a previously unseen comic adaptation of the un-filmed story Pinfall, and a BD-ROM of the screenplay. Arrow’s transfer is then probably the same, possibly with some tweaking. The picture looks incredibly vibrant, and if some find it to be too bright, that’s probably how the film was intended to look anyway. There are a few clusters of grain here and there, some no doubt due to opticals, but nothing to make a big deal about.
The 2016 special features were mostly new aside from two featurettes taken from the Anchor Bay DVD. Director Mike Gornick is moderated by Perry Martin, who continuously asks the right questions in a very dense audio commentary which covers every aspect of the production. The issue with French isn’t discussed, but we do learn that Richard Hart was replaced as cinematographer by Tom Hurwitz because of the production delays, where you see the storm coming which caused so much trouble, and how Gornick originally wanted a wraparound story showing EC Comics’s Bill Gaines appearing before the senate committee. Not the liveliest track, but hugely informative, and it’s easy to tell that Gornick is reasonably proud of what he was able to achieve despite some considerable limitations.
Screenplay for a Sequel has Romero discuss how the EC comics were actually very moral, and both Creepshow films; he says how the first one didn’t do as well as it could have done because Warners pulled the advertising, and that he feels the second isn’t so good though perfectly okay. I miss Romero, surely one of the nicest-seeming directors who worked in horror. Poncho’s Last Ride has Daniel Beer [Randy Beer, one of the teenagers in The Raft] tell in detail of his hypothermia [he still suffers cold really badly], a story involving co-star Page Hannah which is perhaps not as interesting as he makes it out to be, and his ‘sexy’ scene. The always enthusiastic-seeming Tom Savini talks of his tiny Creep role in Tales from the Creep, as well as praising the Indian effects and having gotten used to Gornick giving his orders seeing as he was previously a cinematographer. Tom Wright, who played the the title character in The Hitchhiker, tells us in The Road to Dover that he did all of his own stunts, that the nighttime shooting of this segment was hard with lots of cold, snow and wind, and that a rather good time was had, so much so that the manager of the Holiday Inn they stayed in probably never let another film crew stay there again.
The three Anchor Bay featurettes follow, beginning with Nightmares in Foam Rubber where Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero discuss their early life, becoming friends while working on Day Of The Dead, and tell a wonderful story about two canisters of slime leaking into a car. The two are always good to hear from because of their obvious love for what they do. My Friend Rick has Berger discuss meeting his hero Rick Baker after finding his number in the phone book and ringing him up for six months [what a different world it was back then?], and then we have some Behind-the-Scenes Footage of Savini with his makeup, though sadly not extensions of some earlier glimpses behind the scenes.
Decent, archetypically ’80s horror fun in a comprehensive package. Recommended.
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
*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
*Creepshow 2: Pinfall – limited edition booklet featuring the never-before-seen comic adaptation of this unfilmed Creepshow 2 segment “Pinfall” by artist Jason Mayoh
*Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick
*Screenplay for a Sequel – an interview with screenwriter George A. Romero [19 mins]
*Poncho’s Last Ride – an interview with actor Daniel Beer [15 mins]
*Tales from the Creep – an interview with actor and make-up artist Tom Savini [8 mins]
*The Road to Dover – a brand new interview with actor Tom Wright [13 mins]
*Nightmares in Foam Rubber – an archive featurette on the special effects of Creepshow 2, including interviews with FX artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero 32 mins]
*My Friend Rick – Berger on his special effects mentor Rick Baker [2 mins]
*Behind-the-Scenes Footage [5 mins]
*Image Gallery [3 mins]
*Trailers and TV Spots
*Original Screenplay (BD-ROM Content)
*Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth
*Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Mike Saputo