It took five years to get around to Creepshow 2 (1987, 89 minutes). The original flick was George Romero and Steven King's zippy tribute to the wild and wooly world of EC Comics and a who's who of both horror and Hollywood. While its sequel was an apparent victim of downsizing. Just three short films instead of five. George Romero passed the helm to right-hand man Michael Gornick. Special effects genius Tom Savini, who wrangled roaches and created a toothy terror for the first picture, took a more advisory role (and donned serious latex as the live-action Creep). And the stories themselves aren't among King's more frightening or mind-bending material. But a darkly charming undercurrent of whimsy and blood-soaked nostalgia remains.
The movie: Like the previous film, we're introduced to each story via animated vignettes featuring a kid thumbing through the pages of his favorite fringe publication. First is "Old Chief Wood'nhead," starring BreathAsure pitchman George Kennedy who yammers for 10 full minutes about what a great little town Dead River used to be, and how it's all dried up now. The only folks there to listen are the giant wooden indian in front of his store and his longsuffering wife, played by Dorothy Lamour. When bad things happen to the doddering couple, Old Chief Wood'nhead hits the warpath and wreaks vengeance in interesting ways. The second, and my favorite, is "The Raft." It's the tale of four frisky college students who sneak off to a secluded pond and face the ultimate terror -- an enormous, water-logged Glad bag. Yes, they're trapped on a wooden raft by malevolent sludge that oozes its unique brand of death on them one-by-one. Finally we have "The Hitchhiker," which follows the misfortune of Dr. Holly Goodhead, ahem, Lois Chiles who portrays a cheating wife who clobbers a vagrant with her Mercedes while speeding home from an evening's tryst. Unwilling to risk exposing her affair, she flees the scene of the accident and is then haunted/stalked by the mangled corpse of her victim. Freeze-frame perverts know Ms. Chiles gets "artistic" in this one, but tragically, at LEAST 10 years too late. One wonders if TV queen Barbara Eden, originally in line for the role, would have taken her craft so seriously.
Notables: Four breasts. 11 corpses. Celebratory howling. Scalping. Reefer madness. Puking. Gratuitous gigolo. Car vs. Tree demolition derby. Dude in yellow Speedo. Shotgun murders.
Quotables: Sam Whitemoon values his looks, "This hair is gonna get me paid and laid." Romero has some fun with Top Gun dialogue, "I feel the need, the need for weed." Cartoon bully makes fun of Billy's Venus flytrap seedling, "What are you going to do with this? Plant it and grow more pansies like yourself?" The movie ends with this 50-year-old poignant quote from Collier's magazine, "Juvenile delinquency is the product of pent-up frustrations, stored-up resentments and bottled-up fears. It is not the product of cartoons and captions. But the comics are a handy, obvious, uncomplicated scapegoat. If the adults who crusade against them would only get as steamed up over such basic causes of delinquency as parental ignorance, indifference and cruelty, they might discover comic books are no more a menace than Treasure Island or Jack and the Giant Killer."
Time codes: Something bad finally happens (15:50). Cisco Kid on TV (29:03). In the face of disaster, including the death of his girlfriend, Randy decides NOW is a good time to feel up Laverne (53:10). Special guest star Stephen King as "The Truckdriver" (1:05:40). Stuntman seriously earns his pay (1:16:35).
Audio/Video: Clean, briefly vivid widescreen (1.85:1) print. Dark scenes hold up well. Artifacts appear during the animated vignettes, but that's likely due to the original production, rather than this transfer. The utilitarian Dolby Digital mono track isn't timid.
Extras: Scene selection menus creatively resemble panels of the Creepshow comic. Insert card features original movie poster. Widescreen theatrical trailer. About 30 behind-the-scenes stills. Animated menus with audio. And curiously, if you slip out the cover sleeve, there's some production notes printed on the back. Put that in the "Cheap Bastards or Evil Geniuses?" file.
Final thought: Falls short of its superior sibling, but this installment congers a few shocking and tasty moments of its own. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.