Memorably dubbed Cheapshow 2 in John McCarty’s The Official Splatter Movie Guide, this vintage New World Pictures sequel to one of the most beloved sleeper entries from either director George A. Romero or writer Stephen King is, by any reasonable standards, a total bust. But it’s a loveable bust, and to most children of the ’80s, a dorky reminder of cinematic joys past. The five EC-styled horror stories in the original Creepshow anthology weren’t models of narrative richness or character depth, but even the worst of them (“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” in which Stephen King himself plays a backwoods bumpkin who is mildly perturbed to discover that he is being engulfed by space weeds) looks like “The Gift of the Magi” compared to the three used here, all of which were stories rejected during the making of the first film. (A fourth, the “Foul Play”-esque bowling tale called “Pinfall,” was scrapped for budgetary reasons.) The first, “Old Chief Wood’nhead,” is generally considered the direst of the lot, but at least it has the spectacle of George Kennedy as a Southwestern grocery store owner acting alongside what would appear to be Dorothy Lamour’s reanimated corpse. Unfortunately, Lamour is one of the few actors in Creepshow 2 who isn’t supposed to be a zombie, and so it’s mostly sad to watch her struggle to emote something, anything when a trio of punks rob her store. (One hoodlum to a stagnant Lamour: “Over here lady!”) It’s a bit much to presume that a 1950s comic book would’ve dealt with Native American economic slavery and frontier justice, but it’s also probably stretching the limits of logic to accept that a storefront wood sculpture needs war paint before it can go on a killing rampage. By the way, that fat fuck who grabs his crotch and pukes is David Holbrook, the son of the first Creepshow’s Hal.
“The Raft” is the only story in this collection that had been previously published, in a far more druggy (and, if memory serves, extremely homoerotic) form in King’s Skeleton Crew. Four teens, intending to smoke pot and screw, find themselves caught on an idyllic lake’s raft as a brackish blob slimes and then digests each of them. While the original story was one of King’s better efforts, it really doesn’t work as an EC homage as the teens aren’t guilty of anything more serious than marijuana use and the blob doesn’t act as a discriminating moral avenger. Unless, of course, the whole enterprise is yet another worn-out riff on the Friday the 13th blueprint wherein libidinous and good-looking teens suffer coitus interruptus at the hands of a psychotic and prudish punisher. “The Hitchhiker,” the film’s final and best segment, would appear to be engaging in the exact same anti-sex paranoia, although at least Lois Chiles’s urbane diva (who, in her very first shot, parades her breasts in front of the camera almost nonchalantly) is married and cheating on her husband with a paunchy gigolo. Chiles’s fizzy and frazzled portrayal of Annie Lansing, the woman who accidentally mows down a hitchhiker, flees the scene and is terrorized to discover that he won’t go away, is almost too good a performance for the Creepshow archetype (much like Viveca Lindfors and Adrienne Barbeau in the original). King himself appears once again, and though he has less screen time, he comes off every bit as inbred as he did in “Jordy Verrill.” As a trucker who pulls up to the hitchhiker’s body, his most trenchant observation is “Looks like a black guy, huh?” The segment doesn’t exactly delve into the racial politics of the story (wealthy white woman in her Mercedes running over and shooting a black vagrant), but leave it to King to make us think it did. Ultimately, the hitchhiker’s immortal catchphrase “thanks for the ride, lady” is just another way of saying “Yessuh, massuh.”
Pressed under the DiviMax banner, the incredibly wan-looking Creepshow 2 is a benefactor of a format that only stresses the limitations of the original product. The transfer is great, but every scene looks like it’s been dipped in blue haze. Blacks are probably as dark as they could get them on the DataCine. Just as unnecessary is the remixed 5.1 Dolby surround, which mostly just accentuates how wretched Les Reed and Rick Wakeman’s tinny synth score is (especially compared to the first film’s John Harrison music, one of the most effective horror scores of the ’80s).
The first Creepshow should have been treated this well. First up there’s an audio commentary with director Michael Gornick who, as the cinematographer behind the first film’s luscious, Argento-inspired reds and blues, I expected nothing less than an apology from him for eliminating one of the formal elements that made the original so distinctive. Nothing doing. The commentary’s as dull as the movie’s look. More interesting is the effects featurette "Nightmares in Foam Rubber," which shows a lot of behind-the-scenes video footage and gives a much clearer indication of just how strapped this production was financially. It also has a compelling subplot about how the studio wanted the original effects supervisor fired and, for some odd reason, didn’t actually do it but instead made sure that he was made to feel as inconsequential and uncomfortable on the set as possible until he simply quit. Corporate fuckers. Rounding out the disc are photos, storyboards, trailers, and a DVD-ROM copy of the script, which actually reads a good deal better than the film itself. Oh, and there’s an easter egg featuring one of the make-up effects artists gushing shamelessly over meeting Rick Baker. I think he literally cries a few times during the anecdote.
"Thanks for the ride, lady."