Blasts From the Past! Blu-ray Review: CREEPSHOW 2 (1987)

This movie is being released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on December 13th, 2016.

creepshow-2-blu-rayFor me, the original Creepshow (1982) was a landmark movie that cemented a lifelong appreciation of horror films. Even today, I still get a kick out of the flick and it’s pretty easy to see why it made an impression. There’s great production design and photography, spectacular make-up effects and a darkly comic set of stories that pay homage to creepy comic books buoyed by a talented cast of actors who look like they’re all having a great deal of fun.

I was never as enthused with Creepshow 2, but will admit that it is a decent anthology that does have some fun moments – including one excellent segment. Arrow Video are releasing an impressive Blu-ray of the title. Besides a new and much sharper transfer of the feature, it includes with some great extras that will give viewers more of an appreciation for what the cast and crew did manage to pull off. In fact, this was a surprisingly troubled production.

creepshow-2-old-chiefThe sequel contains three moralistic horror stories that feature characters taking selfish actions and paying for it via some supernatural monsters. The first segment, “Old Chief Wood’nhead” involves a life-sized, fully-carved store figure that takes revenge on the nasty kids who steal from and assault the shop owners. “The Raft” involves teens who go to a remote lake to party, only to contend with a strange oil slick that attempts to consume them. “The Hitchhiker” is about a wealthy socialite who runs down the title character. Instead of helping the victim, she decides to simply drive off. The woman is pursued by the deteriorating corpse of the man, who repeats, “Thanks for the ride, lady!”

The first two are well-produced and feature impressive location work. Of course, this is a horror anthology and as such the big highlights are really the practical make-up effects. They include Old Chief Wood’nhead himself, who comes to life and creakily stalks his prey. While by today’s standards the blob from the second tale looks a bit less convincing, there are some nasty-looking moments as characters get grasped and absorbed. But it’s the third story that packs a the biggest punch. Truthfully, it’s an extended chase, but one that is loaded with tension and startling car stunts as the deteriorating hitchhiker continues to try and enact his revenge of the driver. In the end, this is the one that ultimately stays with you. All of the stunts and make-up were done for real on location and they look spectacular.

creepshow-2-hitchhikerThe disc presents a high-definition transfer that highlights some of those great effects, as well as shortcomings of the production. Some of the night footage in the final segment looks grainy, but sadly that’s the way it was shot. One can also see a few errors in the first tale (in particular, a camera lens hood that is visible on the side of frame). Overall, as a Blu-ray this is the best the film has or will ever likely appear. And the small problems with the original negative make sense, given the stories about shooting from the extra features on the disc.

There’s a fascinating commentary track with director Michael Gornick and plenty of interviews with screenwriter George A. Romero, make-up effects artists Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger and Tom Savini. There are also ones with actors Daniel Beer and Tom Wright (additionally, it contains behind-the-scenes footage, two trailers and an amusing TV spot). The bonus featurettes are over an hour of really informative interviews and extras that help explain what a difficult time they had on set.

To summarize, production company Laurel (the company behind the original Creepshow) secured financing from smaller outfit New World Pictures. However, the money raised was slightly less than $4 million, roughly half of the budget of the original film. As such, they had to cut two planned segments; at least one of which, “The Cat From Hell”, was eventually filmed as part of the 1990 Tales From the Darkside: The Move anthology.

creepshow-2-the-raftWhen the group came together to begin production on the film, it was in Arizona for “The Raft”. Not only was shooting on the water challenging and slow, but they immediately experienced terrible delays due to torrential rain and inclement weather. Segment star Daniel Beer caught hypothermia, slowing the shoot even more. Almost immediately, the feature was over budget and 10 days behind schedule. That’s a truly terrifying scenario for an small, independent feature.

And by the time they returned to the Northeast to shoot “The Hitchhiker” finale, even more problems had arisen. Being later than anticipated resulted in the lead actress having to leave and be recast (Lois Chiles stepped in for Barbara Eden). Winter had arrived and the weather had turned especially cold and icy, making the shoot all the more troublesome. Considering the unending trials of the production, it’s amazing the movie came off as well as it did.

creepshow-2-the-creepLike most sequels, Creepshow 2 isn’t as effective as its predecessor. However, it certainly has its moments and is still far more enjoyable than many other anthologies out there. I still feel compelled to revisit it every now and again for a few late-night chills and chuckles. As anticipated, the new Arrow Blu-ray is a great upgrade that also gives plenty of fascinating insight into the production. Horror fans should be impressed with the release.

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