Sunday, May 15, 2016

Creepshow 2

Creepshow had three horror talents at the top of their game: writer Stephen King, director George Romero, and special makeup effects artist Tom Savini. The resulting movie was fun and scary, filled with sharp wit, a droll sense of humor, and a wonderfully crafted comic book aesthetic.

Creepshow 2 (1987) reunites those three talents, kind of. Savini plays the Creep, the Crypt Keeper like host who introduces each segment in this anthology (though his voice is dubbed), leaving the makeup effects mostly to his proteges Howard Burger and Greg Nicotero. Romero provides the script, adapting three stories by King. His longtime cinematographer Michael Gornick steps into the director's chair, and well, he ain't Romero.

I don't blame Gornick for all the film's failings. Occasionally, he throws in a cool image, like when Old Chief Wood'head goes after the final hood. Gornick does what he can, but Romero's script is by-the-numbers and lacks much beyond the usual just desserts morality tales, and it's loaded with filler and just drags and drags and drags. More destructively, the film appears done on the cheap, leaving the whole enterprise just feeling hokey. There are animated bits between the stories, and they are terribly done. The colorful, exaggerated aesthetic of the original is sorely missed.

On with the stories. In the first, a Cigar Store Indian comes to life in "Old Chief Wood'head" and seeks revenge against the young hoods who murdered a kindly, old couple who own a store. "The Raft" concerns a group of teens who become trapped by a blob-like monster on a lake in the middle of nowhere. Lastly, an undead hitchhiker haunts the adulterous woman who killed him with her car and drove off.

The original Creepshow had five tales of differing tones, but they moved with a brisk pace and had a pitch perfect sense of black humor. Creepshow 2 has only three stories (apparently two more were scripted but were cut before filming), and maybe if they were shorter, they could have had more snap.  Here, they're told too slowly, the points being made are obvious and repetitive, and the impact is muted. The gleeful humor has also been stripped away, and the result is these stories are overlong, not very much fun, and kind of mean-spirited.

The characters are one-note shticks: the lovable old couple, the horny teens, the fat guy who's always eating, etc. True, the original Creepshow had character that were types, but it was enlivened by a great cast that brought them to life. Except for George Kennedy as the store owner and Tom Wright as the hitchhiker, this cast is pretty much lifeless. The lead hood thinks he'll make it in Hollywood because of his long, flowing hair. That click you heard is the sound of my eyes rolling.

All that said, Creepshow 2 has its moments. Old Chief Wood'nhead, the titular cigar store Indian, is a pretty cool creation (I like how he creaks with each movement). "The Raft" is probably the best tale here, a decent, straightforward bit that actually generates some tension, even if the monster looks like an over-sized garbage bag; what happens to the teens is disgusting and a fate worse than death (basically being digested alive). And the ghostly hitchhiker, each time looking worse for wear, is fun with his catcalling refrain of "Thanks for the ride, lady!"

Overall, Creepshow 2 is weak, but it's not terrible. I know: what a ringing endorsement. There's some fun to be had if you're predisposed to like the genre and have some patience. Otherwise, give it a pass. Creepshow felt like a bunch of horror masters having a ball as they scared us. This feels like a cheap knockoff.

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