18 – 89mins – 1987
CREEPY COMIC CONCOCTIONS
Half a decade after their first Tales of the Crypt-esque horror anthology hit number 1 at the US box office, genre legends – and good friends – George A. Romero and Stephen King collaborated once again for this second gleefully ghoulish morbid masterpiece, directed by promoted cinematographer Michael Gornick. Make-up supremo Tom Savini again returns as the sinister giggling Creep, finely animated in a vintage hand-drawn wraparound story.
Sadly, whereas 1982’s Creepshow showcased five comic strip-homaging horror vignettes, budget restraints lead to this follow-up only incorporating three – even though screenwriter Romero confirms in an interview on 88 Films’ recent features-packed blu-ray re-release that he did pen five, based upon King’s story outlines.
While there are still enough stomach-churning effects on show to ensure an ‘18’ certificate and keep fans who are “loyal to the gore” entertained, the slowness of the trio of shorts does imply they are being stretched to flesh out the sub-90minute runtime.
Rather than opening with a bang, OLD CHIEF WOOD’N HEAD is the most guilty of such padding, with its establishing of its Western ghost-town locale bordering on the quaint:
“Dead River is finally living up to its name.”
It takes 24 minutes for anything remotely horrific to transpire, with a gang of cocky store-looters savagely brought to rights for their murderous misdeeds by the eponymous awakened tribal statue. The scalping of the vain leader would have been even more grotesque had it not happened off screen, while I did question whether the vengeful statue wasn’t too late in carving out justice? After all, the innocent store owners had already been slaughtered by the time he sticks his wooden boot in.
THE RAFT sees a group of stereotypical pot-smoking springbreakers trapped on a tiny floating structure in the middle of a prohibited lake being hunted by an ominous “oil slick.”
The bright summer’s day does not invoke fear, nor does the rather pathetic amorphous villain, which looks more like a giant drifting bin bag. As the teens are picked off, the shy guy immorally takes advantage of the situation by feeling up his dead mate’s sleeping girlfriend – so you don’t feel any sympathy when he is engulfed by a black wave as the tale crashes to an end.
Romero saved the best for last with THE HITCHHIKER, wherein a cheating wife is haunted by the ever-more-bloodied zombified corpse of the man she killed in a hit and run. Its set at night, has a genuine sense of tension and peril due to the impossible persistence of the deceased stalker, and utilises some hideously gory effects as the poor victim is reduced to a mangled, unidentified mess of blood and bones.
“Thanks for the ride, lady!”
The admonishing, cautionary theme is extended into the cartoon wraparound, with avid Creepshow reader Billy eventually getting one-up on the bullies who steal his comic and smash his parcel. However, I can’t imagine many kids being desperate to purchase a comic book adaptation of these meandering morality tales – with superfluous waffle killing the pace and diluting the scares. I can see what they were attempting here, but a page-turner this ain’t.