The anthology horror craze seems to still be raging but George A Romero and Stephen King’s 1982 Creepshow is still one of the best examples of the subgenre, and an underrated classic in its own right. 1987’s Creepshow 2 never matches the heights of its predecessor, but those looking for more of the original’s blend of throwback comic book chills and gory shocks should give this loving restoration from 88 Films a look.
Romero returned to write the screenplay, while his longtime collaborator Michael Gornick stepping behind the camera. The Creep’s three tales (all based on Stephen King short stories) find a Native American statue taking bloody revenge on murdering hoodlums in ‘Old Chief Woodenhead,’ four teenagers getting hunted by a monstrous oil-like substance in ‘The Raft,’ and a woman being relentlessly pursued by her hit-and-run victim in ‘The Hitchhiker.’
Creepshow 2 wheels out the EC Comics charm early on with Tom Savini’s Creep delivering the latest issue to eager young reader Billy, whose animated adventures form the wraparound, but the movie doesn’t quite recapture the vibe of the original, at least not consistently.
‘Old Chief Woodenhead’ is the most self-serious, with veterans George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour bringing some gravitas as the victimised shopkeepers in a town that’s gone to dust. There’s not a lot of fun going on (and excellent character actor Holt McCallany is definitely not Native American), but the Chief’s animation and retribution are pretty great when they finally arrive.
‘The Raft’ is definitely the best of the bunch. It doesn’t get off to a very promising start with seemingly cardboard cut out characters and a very ropey oil slick effect (it looks like a lumpy bin bag), but Gornick isn’t pulling any punches. The effects of getting the oil on your skin are fantastically horrible, and there’s suddenly a very effective mean-spiritedness to it as the kids show their true colours while getting eaten alive. What should be the silliest of the lot is actually the most brutal and the most effective.
Things wrap up with ‘The Hitchhiker,’ in which Lois Chiles’ discontented trophy wife kills the titular character with her car while racing home from her weekly gigolo appointment. Chiles makes for a good anchor as she monologues through her growing insanity, while Tom Wright’s ever-more-gruesome victim keeps finding his way into her car, gurgling “Thanks for the ride, lady!” The problem is that, like ‘Old Chief Woodenhead’, it feels overstretched and the gag just keeps going on and on.
There’s a fun animated wraparound that works very nicely and Gornick does a solid job behind the camera. Although it doesn’t really hold a candle to Creepshow, it’s got something of the same charm, and we’d say it’s certainly worth a look for ‘The Raft’ alone. 88 Films’ Blu-ray includes cheery interviews with George A Romero and Tom Savini, both of whom are honest about the film’s strengths and shortcomings.