Director: Michael Gornick
Cast: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Tom Savini, Daniel Beer and many others
Ah, Creepshow 2. No matter what, I constantly find myself going back to it every October, along with the first movie, to get me into the spirit of the season. The first time I watched this film, I didn’t really care for it. Even when I decided to give it a second go, it still didn’t work for me. Yet for some inexplicable reason, I always find myself watching it every year, and the more I do, the more I enjoy it.
There are many reasons why this sequel is considered inferior to the original. Whereas the Creeper was a mysterious figure given no lines at all in the first film, here he’s given way too many, and the majority of them are lame puns (“It’s time for this boogeyman...to boogie!”). Whereas the original film had a disturbing wraparound segment involving a small child using a voodoo doll to get back at his domineering father, this one involves an animated segment where a young boy uses a giant Venus Flytrap to take revenge against the neighborhood bullies (although I’ll admit that I found the animation charming).
And whereas the original movie had some genuinely creepy stories, this one has three stories which are never really that scary. Entertaining? Yes. Scary? Not really. And instead on playing on universal fears the way some of the stories in the original did, the stories here follow the same theme: If you’re an unrepentant a-hole, then you’re gonna get it! Thinking about stealing and murdering for fame? Some wooden Indian statue is gonna chop you up! Are you thinking about smoking pot and sexually taking advantage of an unconscious woman? Some oil slick from hell is going to gobble you up! (If only that last part were true. I know. I’ll go to confession this Saturday!)
Sometimes, it’s fun just to watch bad people get their just desserts, which is probably why I enjoyed the first of the three stories (Ol’ Chief Wood’nhead) as much as I did. After a kindly elderly couple who run a general store at a dead end town are gunned down by a pompous Indian with dreams of making it big in Hollywood (Holt McCallany’s Sam Whitemoon), the giant wooden Indian outside of their store comes to life to dish out some cold hard justice against the responsible party. Well photographed with some excellent use of shadows (this is especially true of the segments most violent death), what makes this segment so satisfying is that it makes the Sam Whitemoon character and his gang so repulsive that we’re practically salivating to see them get their comeuppance, and are satisfied when they finally do.
The next story, simply titled The Raft, is perhaps my least favorite of the three. It follows four obnoxious college kids as they drive fifty miles to a lake to swim out to the titular wooden structure that floats right in the middle of it. What they didn’t count on (probably because the “No Swimming” sign is in the one place where no one is going to see it) is the fact that the lake is home to a man-eating black blob that has no intention of letting them get away. The sole sympathetic character is the first to go, and it’s no surprise that she’s dispatched after first picking up a joint. The other characters are either bland or intensely unlikable (the latter is especially true of science nerd Randy, played Daniel Beer).
The one thing this story has going for it is the villainous black goo in the water. Mysterious, disturbing (it can apparently inflict unspeakable pain just by touching you), and unnerving to look at, I’ve always found whatever was in the water to be unusually creepy, even after watching the movie for the first time. The fact that the movie never tells us what it is makes it all the more unsettling.
The film’s final and best story is called The Hitchhiker, which follows an adulteress, stuck-up rich woman (Lois Chiles) as she inadvertently runs over a hitchhiker (Tom Wright) on her way home from sleeping with her lover. Because she fails to take responsibility for her actions (“If I can’t live with it,” she says, “then I’ll turn myself in!” Uh-huh!), the hitchhiker she killed keeps popping up to get his revenge, and always says the same line to her (“Thanks for the ride, lady!”). This segment’s humor is of the blackest kind, but it is nevertheless quite funny (if you can handle the blood, that is), and Chiles is really good as the woman wrestling with her conscience (at first, anyway).
Director Michael Gornick makes the wise decision in not taking any of the stories seriously. Even if he had a bigger budget to work with, I still feel as though the wraparound segment would be animated, because the vibe here is more cartoonish than before. That said, he does retain that deliciously macabre spirit that was so prevalent in the first movie, and along with cinematographers Richard Hart and Tom Hurwitz’s dexterous work, he certainly succeeds in making a good looking horror movie.
Is the movie as good as the first? Not at all. Is it good enough to stand on its own? That depends. It’s very easy to understand someone who doesn’t like this film. As a child of the 80s myself (and someone who still watches Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers on DVD), I can’t help but fall in love with this movie’s delightfully cheesy vibe, and while the movie has more than its share of faults, I just have too much fun with it to care. Many of my biggest guilty pleasures are films that were made in the 80s. Creepshow 2 is among those films.
Rated R for graphic violence, profanity, nudity, drug use, some sexual content
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)