It’s been 31 years since The Creep arrived in Dexter, Maine with his truck full of Creepshow comics. With a gleeful grimness, he delivered a copy to young Billy, who served as our animated guide through the horror anthology Creepshow 2.
Fans and critics alike have been split on their opinions of Creepshow 2 since its 1987 release. However, many fans regard it as an entertaining continuation of the original Creepshow from 1982. Both feature short stories of the supernatural and horror from the minds of Stephen King and George Romero. (The shorts are based on stories by King that were adapted into a screenplay by Romero). And while Creepshow 2 seemingly falls short, fans were still eager to get their hands on the 2016 Blu-Ray release from Arrow Video. This special edition includes interviews with the cast and crew as well as behind the scenes footage.
What is it about Creepshow 2 that has viewers so split for over 30 years? Let’s revisit the stories and find out.
During our opening sequence and the interludes between stories, we have the animated versions of Billy and The Creeper to guide us. Some may complain that the animation is subpar, but it actually seems fitting of the time. While not as stylistic as Heavy Metal, it does make me a bit nostalgic for Don Bluth films or even Rainbow Brite and The Star Stealer.
The animated backgrounds and setting have an eerie feel that helps set the tone for the film. Plus Billy has his own short adventure that The Creeper keeps us updated on. This involves ordering giant Venus flytraps from the back of the Creepshow comic. What we discover by the conclusion is that the enormous plants really are carnivorous. Billy’s closing line, “THEY EAT MEAT!” has stuck with me since my youth.
Old Chief Wood’nhead
Just one of many 1980s nightmares that made me nervous about inanimate objects as a kid, Old Chief Wood’nhead (Dan Kamin) kicks off the live-action vignettes. Chief, a vintage cigar store Indian, stands proudly outside a general store in a rundown town called Dead River. The shop is owned by a senior couple named Ray and Martha Spruce (George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour). When the couple is savagely attacked by local teen hooligans, Old Chief Wood’nhead sets off to avenge them.
To be honest, this was my least favorite of the three stories growing up. I think because the real monsters in the story happen to be the humans and not the supernatural being. Maybe that felt more disturbing than anything else. However, seeing the wooden Native American smash through walls to get at Sam Whitemoon (Holt McCallany) was chilling. Chief Wood’nhead was invulnerable, determined, and set on retribution. The special effects used to bring Chief to life are quite admirable, especially considering the over-use of CGI in today’s films.
We close the story with Old Chief Wood’nhead clutching the bloody scalp of Sam Whitemoon and fresh warpaint upon his cheekbones, having avenged The Spruces.
Quite possibly my favorite of the three stories, The Raft is simple, straightforward, and scary. Four college students fitting in the usual ’80s archetypes drive to a remote location for a swim. For some odd reason they decide taking a swim in autumn is a great idea. After swimming out to the raft in the middle of the lake, the foursome quickly discover a strange-looking oil slick traveling around on the lake’s surface.
Randy, (Daniel Beer), notices ducks getting pulled into the oil slick and starts to get freaked out. The others give him a hard time about needing to sober up. But then they each snap out of their stoner haze when Rachel (Page Hannah) gets yanked off the raft. The friends watch in horror as she’s eaten by the floating blob. As the remaining trio start to realize no one knows where they are, panic starts to set in. Deke, the jock played by Paul Satterfield, decides he can out swim the goopy monster. Instead, he gets yanked through the slats in the raft before he gets the chance. This leaves Laverne (Jeremy Green) and Randy shivering on the raft overnight.
The thing that bothers me the most about this segment (besides the comical overuse of the word “poncho”) is how Randy disregards Laverne. After waking up with Laverne in his arms, Randy puts her down on the raft (despite knowing how Deke met his demise) and decides to cop a feel while she’s snoozing. This results in the watery monstrosity eating half of her face off while she’s lying there! As Laverne screams his name while being devoured, Randy decides to make a break for it. It’s a tense scene with fun overhead angles of Randy swimming with the slick coming up right behind him.
Randy makes it to the shore, breathlessly calling, “I beat you!” before the slick transforms into a wave and washes over him, taking him into the lake. We hear the aquatic blob belch as the radio from the now abandoned car continues to blare. The camera then pans over to the overgrown brush where a sign reads, “NO SWIMMING.”
I always thought this was this was the strongest of the three stories. I enjoyed that it had more of a monster movie feel to it. The oil slick creature in The Raft really is like an aquatic version of The Blob. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…
In the final story we meet Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles). Annie is having an affair with a gigolo while her attorney husband works nights. When she over sleeps because of a faulty alarm clock, Annie has just seven minutes to make a 20 mile drive in order to beat her husband home. It’s during that drive that she encounters The Hitchhiker. In addition to speeding and talking to herself, the overtired Annie also lights a cigarette. After a puff or two, she drops the butt on the seat of her Mercedes (It’s real leather, Mrs. Lansing. That’ll cost you!) and begins losing control of the car.
As she rounds a corner and begins taking out road reflectors on the Massachusetts highway, we get a brief glimpse of a man in a yellow rain coat. Too startled to get out the way, The Hitchhiker (Tom Wright) is struck and sent sprawling into the street. His bloodied sign reading DOVER dances in the wind around his limp body as the stunned Annie looks on.
Annie then makes the split-second decision to leave the scene of the crime when she realizes another car is coming down the road. She turns off her lights and speeds away in an effort to go unnoticed. A man driving a BMW (Richard Parks) and a truck driver (Stephen King himself) stop at the scene of the crime and call 911. From there, Annie has to decide if she can live with killing a man and tells herself that if she can’t, she can always turn herself in later. However, during the remainder of her ride, The Hitchhiker keeps making appearances and attempts to get into her car.
In a panic, Annie drives off the road, through trees and practically totals her car in an effort to shake The Hitchhiker. Each time he appears, he’s sure to say “Thanks for the ride, lady!” which only shakes her up more. Never have five words made someone question their sanity as much as these have. (Repeated a dozen times over 24 minutes, some viewers questioned their sanity as well. In my house, however, it was one of my mother’s favorite movie quotes, so I’ve always had a soft spot for this segment).
When Annie eventually finds her way home, she believes a concussion caused her to see The Hitchhiker repeatedly. But her dirty deed catches up with her when he shows up from under her car. His monstrous, mangled voice screams, “THANKS FOR THE RIDE LADY!” as he strangles her. Afterward, he leaves his DOVER sign sprawled across her chest as a clue to her misdeeds.
Perhaps the most interesting twist I noticed years later as an adult was that Annie’s husband was the man in the BMW who called 911. So, the only reason she actually arrived home before he did was because he stopped for the hit and run accident she was responsible for. Speed kills, kiddies.
When it comes down to it, Creepshow 2 may not have impressed critics as much as it’s predecessor, but it’s an eerie compilation of campy creeps. It’s also a complete nostalgia-fest for anyone who hasn’t viewed it in a few years. Personally, I find it to be an enjoyable, fun fright. Thanks for the ride, Stephen and George!
What side of the fence do you fall on when it comes to Creepshow 2? Tell us…