George A. Romero cinematographer Michael Gornick's less auspicious sequel CREEPSHOW 2 hits special edition and limited Blu-ray stateside courtesy of Arrow Video USA.
Based upon stories by Stephen King and scripted by Romero, CREEPSHOW 2 would seem to have the right ingredients for a follow-up to Romero's anthology hit, but it all falls flat very quickly due to mostly uninspired stories and pacing that is simultaneously abrupt and drawn out. With only three out of the projected five stories filmed – the others being the unused "Pinfall" and "Cat from Hell" (which appeared in the TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE movie, produced by DAWN OF THE DEAD's Richard P. Rubinstein and directed by DAY OF THE DEAD composer John Harrison) – and generally uninteresting casting choices, CREEPSHOW 2 feels direct-to-video long before it was a thing (indeed, it fits comfortably with some of the lesser New World Pictures entries of the period that managed to score theatrical play along with those that did not). "Old Chief Wood'nhead" is the cigar store Indian mascot of Dead River's general store run by the kindly Spruces (DEATH SHIP's George Kennedy and THE HURRICANE's Dorothy Lamour). Tribal elder Benjamin Whitemoon (Frank Salsedo, THE GHOST DANCE) has gifted the couple turquoise jewelry towards the tribe's debts, but his nephew Sam (Holt McCallany, JADE) and two local white troublemakers (GIRLS NIGHT OUT's David Holbrook and THE RELIC's Don Harvey) decide to rob the store to fund their getaway to Hollywood. When the trio brutally murder the elderly couple, Old Chief Wood'nhead steps off his tree stump pedestal and administers revenge with his bow-and-arrow and tomahawk. An ideal scenario EC Comic-type supernatural revenge scenario spends an inordinate amount of time spent introducing the two innocent victims before rushing through the comeuppances of the three killers with no stalking or other attempts at suspense. A step up but lacking the characterization of King's original source story, "The Raft" – published in his anthology SKELETON CREW – finds Deke (GENERAL HOSPITAL's Paul Satterfield), Laverne (Jeremy Green), Randy (Daniel Beer, POINT BREAK), and Rachel (Page Hannah, SHAG) celebrating high school graduation at a remote lake in a raft soon surrounded by a flesh-eating oil slick. While the effects are suitably grisly, the character dynamics of the King source story are barely explored, with more time spent on the attempted escapes than the characters turning against each other due to the claustrophobic situation and past resentments. The best of the tales is "The Hitchhiker" in which unfaithful wife Anne Lansing (Lois Chiles, MOONRAKER) oversleeps after a tryst with an escort (David Beecroft, SHADOWZONE) and rushes home to avoid suspicion from her husband. She accidentally runs down a hitcher (Tom Wright, BARBERSHOP) but speeds off when she realizes there are no witnesses, only to encounter the same hitcher along every turn of the road. No matter how many times she runs him down, he refuses to stay dead ("Thanks for the ride, lady!"). A variation on a couple TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, it is a virtual one-woman-show for Chiles' terror who goes from terrified to pissed off, yet we still are left to wonder if it is all a projection of her guilty conscience (King cameos as a truck driver). The half-live action/half-animated framing story finds a young boy tormented by bullies, with effects artist Tom Savini in prosthetic make-up as "The Creep" but voiced by RABID's Joe Silver.
Released theatrically and on home video by New World, CREEPSHOW 2 has been available pretty much without interruption in the digital world from Anchor Bay – first in a barebones anamorphic edition and then a special Divimax edition with a 5.1 track, commentary by director Gornick, a featurette with KNB's Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, and a DVD-ROM screenplay – and then from Image as part of their half-hearted Midnight Madness series on barebones DVD and Blu-ray. 88 Films in the UK released a special edition Blu-ray featuring new interviews with Romero and Savini, a vintage featurette, as well as LPCM 5.1 and 2.0 mono tracks. Arrow Video's US-only release carries over the Romero and Savini interviews along with the Anchor Bay commentary (not present on the UK disc) for their new 2K-mastered 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray. The new transfer is brighter without looking boosted and reveals considerably more picture information on the left side of the frame (although the compositions of the older transfers generally do not look impeded). Audio options include original mono in LPCM 1.0, an LPCM 2.0 stereo track, as well as a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that highlight the synth score of Les Reed (GIRL ON A MOTORCYLE) with additional music by Rick Wakeman (THE BURNING) and some "pointed" sound effects. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.
Extars start off with the aforementioned commentary with Gornick moderated by Perry Martin. Gornick is diplomatic about such matter as his dealings with New World and the film's producers as well as the "shift change" that found Ed French (BLEEDERS) replaced by Howard Berger (DAY OF THE DEAD) as supervisor of the effects unit. He discusses his desire to direct and the opportunity to do so while working on episodes of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE but did not think he would be graduating to features so soon since CREEPSHOW 2 was earmarked for Tom Savini (Romero was never slated to direct since he and King were working on the unrealized adaptation of PET SEMATERY). On "Old Chief Wood'nhead" and "The Raft" he recalls that the Arizona location was chosen for fair weather since they started shooting in the fall, but a hurricane elsewhere lead to days of cold weather and rain that stopped production (delays during the shooting of "The Raft" did allow him to spend time with Kennedy and Lamour); as such, it was snowing when production moved to King's home of Bangor, Maine to shoot "The Hitchhiker." He also discusses the unfilmed episodes ("The Raft" and "The Hithchiker" were rejected episodes from the first film that he was glad to see in the sequel's script), the replacement of Eden by Chiles in the final segment, and how the animation of Rick Catezone on the bookending and interstitial segments saved the production the expense of live action opticals.
In "Screenplay for a Sequel" (10:45), Romero discusses his love for comics as a teenager, particularly the gleefully horrible EC Comics, working with King and their unrealized adaptations of PET SEMATARY and THE STAND, Gornick as a jack-of-all-trades filmmaker who worked with and for him at Latent Image, the unfilmed stories, and the ingredients the sequel lacked behind the camera (the family atmosphere of the first film's crew and the lower budget). In "Tales from the Creep" (7:59), Savini discusses playing "The Creep", lip-synching Silver's dialogue, and hating to wear prosthetic appliances. He also reveals that his own wife and stuntman Taso Stavrakis both became certified scuba divers to pilot the oil slick in "The Raft", that stuntwoman/actress Patricia Tallman (the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake) doubled for actress Hannah once she was covered in the UltraSlime, and that he prepped King's GRAVEYARD SHIFT for New World on a "pay or play" contract and was paid for the job even though it was never realized at the studio (it would eventually be shot at Paramount under the direction of Ralph S. Singleton). Ported over from the Anchor Bay DVD is "Nightmares in Foam Rubber" (32:03) in which Berger and Greg Nicotero (THE INTRUDER) discuss their childhood interests in effects, meeting on DAY OF THE DEAD and being called back to work on CREEPSHOW 2 by producer Rubenstein while they were finishing up EVIL DEAD 2. Both discuss how the effects chores were delineated, discussing in detail the effects work for each, as well as the tension with French who ended up walking off the film during "The Raft." Form the Anchor Bay UK edition comes "My Friend Rick" (2:43), an extension of the featurette in which Berger discusses working with Rick Baker on HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS.
New to the Arrow release is "Poncho’s Last Ride" (14:44), an interview with actor Beer who recalls the chilly shoot in Arizona and coming down with severe hypothermia that stopped the production for a few days and required that he be accompanied by a paramedic for the remainder of the shoot. He also reveals that Gornick threatened to walk off the film when the producer's wanted to keep working him (Gornick mentions Beer's hypothermia on the commentary but admirably does not boast of his stand). He also discusses his feelings about the episode and the controversial "love scene" (and the suggestion that audiences might not have been so gleeful about his fate without it). In "The Road to Dover" (13:31), actor Wright recalls that he got his SAG card for stuntwork and that, though he had appeared in more prominent acting roles subsequently, his work as a stuntman lead to his casting in CREEPSHOW 2 (and his role here lead to his casting in TALES FROM THE HOOD). He not discusses the stunts he did for the film and the extensive make-up effects work for the various stages of his injuries, but also the story's thematic elements. Also included is behind-the-scenes footage (5:50), a stills gallery (3:34), two theatrical trailers (2:50), a TV spot (0:34), and the screenplay as a BD-ROM extra. Arrow Video's US release of CREEPSHOW comes in a standard edition with reversible cover as well as a limited edition featuring a booklet containing a comic adaptation of the unfilmed segment "Pinfall" (the other unfilmed segment "Cat from Hell" appeared in the TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE movie). (Eric Cotenas)
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