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2 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Creepshow 2
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by Jack Sommersby

"An Unforgivably Lazy Sequel to a Brilliant Original"
2 stars

Debuting director Michael Gornick proves most cinematographers who take up directing suck at it.

Creepshow 2, the sequel to George A. Romero's groundbreaking 1982 original, is distressingly lame. You go into it wanting nothing more than a scary good time, and end up getting as much a cinematic lemon as could possibly be drawn up by filmmakers presumably responsible enough to serve up, at the very least, a work of mere competence. There's nary a bright spot to be found anywhere in its eighty-nine-minute running time -- just a barrage of mind-boggling ineptitude. It's somewhat startling being that Romero, who brilliantly directed the original, was solely responsible for the screenplay, while Stephen King, who wrote the screenplay for the original and whose stories were the basis for the sequel, could be responsible for lending such dubious grounding support. Yet, looking back, while the stories in the previous anthology were grabbers, they weren't particularly creative -- they served as mere taking-off points for a talented director to fuse with their own unique vision. Creepshow was the closest Hollywood came since the 1950s to producing an audience-pleasing "comedy chiller": a film that amused even when it was pleasingly scaring you. Romero gave King's comic book stories a nightmarish intensity while cannily coating them with self-aware, sly humor; they worked on the viewer on so many responsive levels that you were never quite sure how they were going to play themselves out. The editing rhythms were complex, with Romero expertly juxtaposing the film frames to keep the audience off-kilter -- the how became a lot more pertinent to getting a reaction out of you than the what. Creepshow 2, by contrast, is so listlessly played out that the plasticity of the creatively bankrupt material is made overtly apparent.

The director this time around is first-timer Michael Gornick, who served as the cinematographer for the original. As is usual the case for most lensers-turned-directors, Gornick possesses no earthly idea of how to properly shape, pace, or cut a film; his previous gig consisted of composing individual images for the director to piece together in the editing room, so he needn't concern himself with developing a rudimentary sense known as a through-line, something that enables a director to know how to piece together those images into a coherent whole. Creepshow 2 exists as nothing more than a compilation of half-realized potentials -- they haven't been intelligently thought through on a true cinematic level that would make them effectively play out when interconnected with one another. Gornick has made the fundamental mistake of not locating the right tone for the stories to be played out on; he's relied on the content to carry the show, when in fact the stories are pure hogwash which need the utmost sprucing-up to elevate them above the mundane. The film plays out like an incurring joke about why the chicken crossed the road, without providing that tired-as-hell joke with a reason for being for its re-telling. You sit there watching and waiting to be let in on the joke, just to be hugely disappointed because a director simply hasn't done their job right. If a mere simpleton can clearly see that the film has gone so obviously awry in the first five minutes, is it too much to expect that the presumably-wise filmmakers behind a multi-million production would be privy to this, as well? Creepshow 2 is a hopelessly negligible cinematic endeavor, one prone to negligence for the sole sake of catering to zombified audiences who seem to crave the mere intention of inherent horror without even remotely wishing to actually receive it in a solidified, semi-reputable form.

The first segment is titled Old Chief Wood'nhead, and it's by far the worst of the three segments. In fact, even before the segment is introduced, the pre-title sequence leading up to it is rendered hopelessly inane by Gornick's plain-Jane execution. The film opens with a master shot of a small-town Main Street with a rusted hearse-like vehicle traveling down it, with its driver, The Creep (acted out by f/x wizard Tom Savini), revealing himself (or itself) from the rear end tossing out a tied bundle of Creepshow comics to an impressionable young teen named Billy. We follow Billy through the animation segues between the segments as he purports to use a send-away offer for a giant-like Mantis monstrosity to exact revenge on the bullies pestering him. Unfortunately, Gornick has opted to shoot the film in a non-abstract visual style, so whatever possibilities of a Gothic-like storytelling mode are all but dissipated by the drabness of the presentation -- you're being served up junk with a straightforward approach that makes you all too aware of the creative drabness behind it all. Romero, by contrast, infused the visuals in the original with a voluptuousness so as to make you aware that you were transported to a unique filmmaker's sometimes-perverse vision. Gornick, a directorial novice, just doesn't seem to have gotten how to visually interpret material from a directing standpoint, even though he displayed no problem with this from a cinematographer's standpoint in the original. The film is not only visually bland and inconsistent but also narratively inert, as if it were playing out in a fugue state; there's no momentum worked up from the onset, and during the three segments you never get a sense of immediacy to the given situations as if any of the characters were in any genuine, actual peril. Sitting through Creepshow 2 is trying because you find yourself putting more effort into remaining involved in it than the director presumably did in actually making it.

Getting back to Old Chief Wood'nhead, it stars screen veteran George Kennedy as the elderly proprietor of a general store in Dead River, an economically depleted desert town that has definitely seen better days. Business is bad, most of his customers are taking advantage of him by running up store credit, yet Kennedy remains optimistic about things. As he tells his doubtful wife, "There are worse things than good intentions; it was that this country was built on"; and to make the cringe-inducing factor on this horrific line reading even worse, the unctuously syrupy music score by Les Reed (which was the second-worst score of 1987 next to the truly excruciating one from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles) is laid on thicker than maple syrup. (It also doesn't help that Kennedy, who's agreeable as Leslie Nielsen's partner in the Naked Gun series, overemotes like a son of a bitch.) Matters take a turn for the worse when this elderly couple is slain by a trio of punk thieves (in a prolonged, poorly done sequence where even the reaction shots don't match), and the seven-foot-high carved wooden Indian statue (like the kind you'd see in a tobacco store) comes to life to avenge his slain owner and spends the duration of the segment hunting down and slaughtering each of the dastardly culprits responsible. Bereft of eerie atmosphere, the story rests on the gimmick of its title character, and fails because this walking totem pole isn't in the least bit frightening. Furthermore, director Gornick fails to generate so much as an iota of suspense in the moments leading up to the victims' untimely demises; the set-ups to them are stagnant, the ploys at throwing off the viewer over-obvious, and, with the shots held too long and at uninteresting angles, you're left too many opportunities to practically spot the chalk marks the director isn't hitting. (I can recall how effectively unnerving an old Night Gallery episode involving an evil statue came off in that the storytellers were wise enough not to show the statue actually move, but instead chose to insinuate this by having it alarmingly appear out of nowhere. Where's Rod Serling's influence when you need it the most?)

The less nauseous of the segments is The Raft, and not because it's really any good but simply because it's got the kind of catchy story premise that'd be all but impossible to completely screw up. Four Utah college students (two guys and gals, of course) drive to an isolated location in the mountains where a beautiful lake awaits them. They all switch into their bathing suits, toke on some joints and down some beers, and then swim out to a platform raft in the middle of the lake. A problem arises, though: Something in the shape and color of an oil slick, appearing to have a life of its own, gobbles up a couple of birds and then surrounds the raft. The nubiles are trapped, it's about fifty yards to shore, and this Mobil-mobile monstrosity starts picking them off one by one. While King's short story (which appeared in his Skeleton Crew collection) was appropriately swift and harrowing -- it didn't waste time with needless exposition -- the film adaptation is disappointingly pedestrian. Instead of emphasizing the sense of isolation and toying with the limited spatial logistics of the central setting of this seven-by-seven-foot raft, Gornick commits a major snafu by occasionally leaving the raft and letting us see from the safety of the beach how dangerous a situation the potential victims are in. But we're already aware of this, and whenever the camera leaves the raft the tension immediately dissipates; what was needed was the kind of kinetic intensity director George Miller brought to the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment in 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie (Sterling again), to where the audience would be constantly kept off-balance in a limited setting and wouldn't have the time to think matters through any more than the characters in jeopardy. As it plays out, you can't get out of your mind two things: first, how much more sensible it would've been for everybody to take a chance and swiftly swim for shore; second, because of the film's low budget, the villain looks like a cross between a tarp and a giant Fruit Roll-Up. Saving graces: the prudish girl you think is going to survive takes a hit off a joint and immediately becomes the first victim; and the fresh-faced hero who would usually survive seals his fate by raising the top of another girl who's asleep on the raft and proceeds to fondle her tan-lined (and not-bad) breasts. A passable time to be had from The Raft, but it should have been much, much better.

Rounding things out is The Hitchhiker. The sexy Lois Chiles plays a libidinous Maine housewife married to a boring rich attorney. She's been seeing a high-priced gigolo, and one night she oversleeps at his place and speeds away in her Mercedes to make it home before her husband arrives. She gets momentarily distracted while on the road, however, and winds up hitting a hitchhiker head-on; the man is dead, Chiles panically speeds off, but she soon discovers her troubles are far from behind her -- for the hitchhiker has come back to life and mercilessly terrorizes her. We've seen far too many variations of this countless times before, and the by-the-numbers follow-through here fails to make anything seem anew. A fundamental mistake in employing an indestructible villain in a simplistic premise like this is that we know no matter what physical punishment is done to the villain that it'll nevertheless keep on coming like a possessed Energizer Bunny on speed; this is what produces anti-climaxes out the ying-yang -- and induces yawns and ho-hums out of an audience. Since Gornick can't even work up an adequate "Boo!" moment -- he carelessly telegraphs every attempt to surprise -- and being that the pacing is so lazy the story stalls out as much as Chiles' car, all that's left to potentially work on us is the humor, which consists of the hitchhiker spouting off a series of pathetic one-liners that go splat each and every time. Gornick can be given credit for insisting Chiles do a nude shot while getting out of bed instead of having her character rise from underneath the sheets implausibly clad in a nightgown after a smoldering sex-a-thon with a hunky stud, but he shows an innate ineptness of a film sense when he cuts away from Chiles driving off from the hit-and-run scene and concentrates on some civic-minded motorists surrounding the dead hitchhiker and calling the police. Didn't it occur to Gornick that you can't establish something like this without following through on how the motorists reacted when the hitchhiker came back to life and started off after Chiles? By not showing this, Gornick accomplishes something few directors would care to be accredited with: Making you call into question logical lapses in a film about a refuse-to-be-dead human being who takes the time out in between malicious actions to mouth teasing insults to a sex-starved woman who hit him with her Mercedes.

Creepshow 2's biggest liability is that it's lazy. Without a lot of concern for its audience, the filmmakers have simply trotted out a series of half-realized stories without bothering to take the time to infuse them with imagination and implore them forth with storytelling zeal. Director John Carpenter didn't exactly have a whole lot to work with in his 1993 made-for-Showtime horror anthology Body Bags -- one of the segments even involved a young gas station cashier terrorized by a serial killer while working alone one night -- but his staging was so assured that he could get away with presenting familiarities because, at the same time, he seemed to be winking at the audience as if saying, "I know it's cliched, but you gotta admit when it's done right it can still be fun!". 2000's Terror Tract also managed to balance the absurd with the frightening even when the material was decidedly lacking. Come to think of it, even 1983's abysmal Nightmares was a horror anthology that didn't reek of laziness -- it simply came off as an artistic miscalculation (though the segment showcasing cult actor Lance Henriksen as a priest doing a Duel-like battle with a Satan-personified truck still lingers in the memory as being semi-recommendable). Creepshow 2 is too inoffensive and impersonal to offend or induce anger from filmgoers; it comes off as just another thoughtless Hollywood by-product that you neither remember nor miss. It'll linger maybe forever on video shelves, and probably in the mind of Michael Gornick being that it turned out to be the only feature film he would direct (he was soon thereafter relegated to the bowels of prime-time TV dreck), but not in the minds of even non-discriminating horror fans, who don't generally ask for a whole lot except to get the impression that the filmmakers tried with all their might and talent to serve them up a good time. The ones behind Creepshow 2, alas, should droop their heads and turn their backs in shame in failing to do just that.

While there's plenty wrong with the film itself, there's little wrong with the DVD. Leave it to the ever-reliable Anchor Bay Entertainment to give a third-rate film a first-rate transfer. Presented for the first time on home video in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this super-duper letterboxed transfer boasts vibrant colors, sustained fleshtones, great shadow detail, and deep, glossy blacks (a testament to the power of the laser to penetrate darkness). Some occasional grain and video noise surface along with a few blemishes, but these were likely inherent from the master print. And considering all the bright primary colors in the animated sequences, there's absolutely no bleeding. The 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono is surprisingly adept and makes good (but not great) use of channel separations. The special features are limited, though: Only a theatrical trailer, a three-minute gallery of stills, and some linear notes. Still, the interactive menu is fun to navigate through: There's a spooky-looking castle with lightening and loud thunder overhead, and when you select a special feature, a small dragon chained to a dungeon wall leaps forth and eats it. Another stellar accomplishment from the good folks at Anchor Bay.

Check out the original instead. After all, the letterboxed DVD of it is quite beautiful -- and affordable at under $10!

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originally posted: 04/06/03 08:54:38
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell it sux like the raft episode tho 1 stars
12/11/12 Lisa A good sequel. The Raft and The Hitchhiker are two of the bets Creepshow stories. 5 stars
6/22/11 Michael Creepshow 2 is just plain awful 1 stars
1/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Huge letdown from the original. 2 stars
5/30/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Not bad, but know where the first 3 stars
8/19/07 cody a decent sequel with lot scary stories, the best being the hitchiker. 3 stars
3/22/07 action movie fan passable anthology 3 stars
8/12/05 ES The raft was excellent, the others eh, not so much 4 stars
2/16/05 Wilt Chamberlin Stephen King and George Romero are back! 5 stars
7/20/04 Mark Went you bring out on DVD Creepshow 1 it great film 5 stars
3/21/04 john the raft is worthwhile -the rest is boring and uninspired 2 stars
11/06/03 American Slasher Goddess The Raft is the only good one, the other two are stupid. 2 stars
9/21/03 prince6 Suprisingly decent horror anthology, enjoy. 4 stars
8/08/03 Adrian Rocha Very Good Movie 5 stars
4/19/03 y2mckay Only story #2 "The Raft" is halfway decent. Animation between stories SUCKS ASS 2 stars
4/06/03 Kyle If it weren't for the 2nd story, this would be completely worthless. 2 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby All 3 stories are lame, but the anime and boobs are decent. 2 stars
10/20/02 Charles Tatum How the mighty have fallen 1 stars
9/12/02 palaboy101 The best of the bunch is "The Raft" 4 stars
8/06/01 ted v. Great, but not as good as the first movie... 4 stars
4/01/01 Jesse L This movie blows chunks... 1 stars
4/01/01 Andrew Carden Really, really bad camera work, but surprisingly scary. 3 stars
1/04/01 Andrew Lines The 2nd and 3rd stories r the best and quite scary but the 1st has ok gore<on the fat guy> 5 stars
8/22/00 oZed Great scary-movie 5 stars
6/12/00 Bender "Shut up laverne or i'll smoke you, I mean it" Very funny about as good as the original 4 stars
3/16/00 Steve Layne For some reason I think This movie a little more entertaining than the original. ahoot also 4 stars
2/16/00 Kyle Broflovski Needed more segments...Liked "The Raft", though... 2 stars
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  02-Jan-1987 (R)



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