The horror anthology subgenre is all the rage in Hollywood, thanks to the success of V/H/S and ABC’S OF DEATH, a trend likely resurrected thanks to the immense success of TRICK ‘R TREAT, one of the very best Halloween movies ever. Now you have a chance to revisit one of the films that helped revitalize the shtick back in the 1980′s, CREEPSHOW 2.
In many cases, horror anthologies are a mixed bag, an inherent risk you take when crafting a movie that strings together several different tales. When it clicks, it really comes together, as evidenced by Rod Serling’s TWILIGHT ZONE and NIGHT GALLERY, as well as TALES OF TERROR, BLACK SABBATH and of course, TALES FROM THE CRYPT. The Crypt Keeper presented stories ripped straight from the pages of E.C. Comics, or inspired by them at the very least, with many of horror’s biggest names pitching in.
Before TALES FROM THE CRYPT arrived on your TV sets and in the movie theatres (exhibit A: DEMON KNIGHT), it was CREEPSHOW, a horror anthology movie franchise that also owed its existence to the E.C. Comics that delighted and terrified many a Monster Kid in the 1950′s and 60′s. The first CREEPSHOW, which arrived in 1982, is a classic of the horror anthology subgenre, with Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, and other luminaries in five separate tales. The movie was the brainchild of the man who’s to blame for the 74 movies that end with the suffix: “of the Dead”; the one and only George A. Romero, who directs CREEPSHOW, along with the greatest living horror writer, Stephen King, providing the screenplay based on his short stories.
For the second go around, which arrived 5 years later, in 1987, George A. Romero delegated directorial duties to his longtime cinematographer Michael Gornick (DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD). Romero focused on writing, adapting from Stephen King’s stories once again. King remained involved, as he returned for a cameo in the tale “The Hitchhiker.” The movie misses King’s writing and Romero’s direction, as CREEPSHOW 2 misfires more than its first installment.
In many ways, CREEPSHOW 2 is a how-to NOT craft a horror anthology, kicking the action off with by far the worst tale of the three with “‘Ol Chief Woodenhead.” The tale stars George Kennedy (THE NAKED GUN, COOL HAND LUKE) and Dorothy Lamour (THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, ROAD TO BALI, and ROAD TO MOROCCO), a too-lovely elderly couple struggling to run a general store in Dead River (you think?). The first half of the story is more saccharine than a Hallmark card, followed abruptly by an awful robbery led by actor Holt McCallany (LIGHTS OUT and FIGHT CLUB), who somehow managed to escape this role with a career. As Sam Whitemoon and his terrible goons plunder the store and ruin the Spruce couple’s lives, the film becomes insulting and soul-crushing, and the swift revenge by the wooden Chieftain out front isn’t close to enough.
If you can stomach the first story, CREEPSHOW 2 does improve, and manages to have some fun almost immediately afterwards. In “The Raft” a bunch of 20-somethings gallivant on the water in, you guessed it, a raft. When blonde buffoon Randy (Daniel Beer) actually says “I feel the need. The need for weed,” you know the turbulent ride is gonna be worth it, especially when the pollution in the lake FIGHTS BACK. The final tale stars Lois Chiles (Dr. Holly Goodhead of MOONRAKER), in “The Hitchhiker,” which is about what you’d expect, in a mostly good way.
As evidenced by TALES FROM THE CRYPT, it helps when you have a great horror host, and unfortunately Tom Savini’s “The Creep” isn’t that. I love Savini and his contributions to the horror genre can’t be overstated, but ugh. A (mostly) animated tale about The Creep and Monster Kid Billy getting revenge on bullies (thanks to a mail order giant size Venus fly trap) acts as the flimsy packaging around this movie’s uneven center. It’s cool if you desperately want to live out revenge fantasies as a jilted Monster Kid, but Billy is definitely cut from the same cloth as Damien. His demonic facial expressions are (un?)intentionally horrifying.
Even with all its many warts, CREEPSHOW 2 captures a fascinating moment in horror history, placed after HALLOWEEN as the slasher genre explodes on one hand, and the horror anthology subgenre makes another comeback on the other.
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