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Thanks for the ride, lady

Welcome back, boils and ghouls, to another helping of comic book chills courtesy of the Creep. Young Billy’s already got his copy, hot off the presses, so why don’t we jump straight into our first story…

Old Chief Wood’nhead

In a dusty, deserted town, an old man is outside the general store, touching up the paint on his Indian statue. This is Dead River, and the old man is Ray Spruce (George Kennedy), who owns the store with his wife, Martha (Dorothy Lamour, in her last on-screen performance). The town has seen better days, and so has Ray’s store – as Martha remarks, “it’s been four days since you had a cash-paying customer. It’s been four weeks since anyone has given you any money on a credit account”. As Ray is considering Martha’s plea to close the store and enjoy what time they have left, a car pulls up and Benjamin Whitemoon gets out. He greets the couple, and the statue, who he refers to as Chief Woodenhead, and follows Ray into the store. It turns out that Ben and his tribe owe Ray an amount of money – money they don’t have – so the head of each family has donated an item precious to his family, for Ray to hold in trust until they can pay their debts. Ray tries to refuse, but Ben insists. As he leaves, Martha tells Ben that he has restored her faith in people’s honesty. However, as Ray and Martha return inside, they are met by three young men, intent on robbing the store. Sam Whitemoon, Ben’s nephew, is their leader; he is planning to move to Hollywood, where he is sure his hair will make him popular both with film-makers and with the ladies. Holding the couple at gunpoint, Sam shoots first Martha and then Ray, and leaves with the pouch of treasures Ben had left. He shoots up the store, including the Indian statue, before leaving with his friends. As they leave, Chief Woodenhead comes to life, puts on his war paint, and heads after them. Vince is the first to die, shot through the chest and head with arrows whilst watching TV. Andy is next; whilst sneaking out of his parents’ house, he finds his car wrecked and is the victim of a tomahawk to the head. Finally, the Chief heads to Sam’s house, where he drags the boy through the wall and appears to cut his hair off. The next morning, Ben awakes to find the pouch of treasures on his bed. Driving back to the store, he finds Chief Woodenhead back on the porch, holding a fresh scalp…

Returning to our wraparound story, Billy has arrived at the post office to pick up a package. When asked what he has sent for, Billy claims the box contains giant venus flytrap bulbs. As he leaves, the Creep appears to introduce the next vignette…

The Raft

Four kids, Deke, Laverne, Randy and Rachel, are driving to a lake to go swimming. It’s late in the year, almost Halloween, but Randy assures the others that the 50-mile drive will be worth it, that the swimming raft will still be on the lake. Sure enough, when they pull up at the lake shore, the raft is there, and Deke wastes no time in heading out into the water. Randy is next, followed by the two girls, but as he swims out to the raft he sees what appears to be two ducks struggling in the water. As he reaches the raft, the ducks get pulled under and a strange shape heads towards the group. Randy panics and pulls first Rachel then Laverne out of the water, the latter narrowly missing being touched by the shape. Randy points it out to the rest of the group, and Rachel foolishly pokes at it – as soon as she touches the mass, it grabs her arm and pulls her back into the water, where it envelops and seems to eat her. As the rest argue about what it is, the shape slips under the raft and grabs Deke’s leg through a hole in the slats. Being pulled down, Deke is folded in half and dragged under the raft. The two survivors try to avoid standing on the gaps in the raft, and manage to survive through the night. The next morning, the obvious happens – this being the 80s, and the kids being stuck in a perilous situation, Randy, true to his name, tries it on with Laverne. To increase his chances of success, he doesn’t bother waking her up first. Laverne is disturbed from her sleep by Randy’s curious fumblings, but doesn’t have time to reject him as the shape has latched on to her face as she slept, and she is pulled from the raft. Quick to recover, Randy spots his chance and dives into the water while his erstwhile conquest is being digested. He makes it to the shore and, in true idiotic fashion, turns to shout at the shape (which presumably has no ears). “I beat you” he yells, as the shape rears back, grabs Randy from the beach, and drags him under the water…

Meanwhile, Billy is riding home when he gets cornered by a group of bullies, who steal his package and crush the bulbs inside. Billy, angered, cycles off as the Creep introduces our final tale…

The Hitch-Hiker

Meet Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles), unfaithful wife who is having an extra-marital affair with a gigolo. Jumping out of bed, she realises she is late to meet her husband. Speeding home, Annie drops her cigarette, which causes her to swerve wildly and hit a hitch-hiker. Assuming the man in dead, Annie turns and heads off before anyone sees her. Another car pulls up, along with a truck (driven by a cameoing Stephen King), and the driver calls for help. Annie, meanwhile, is trying to calm down and justify her actions when she sees the hitch-hiker, covered in blood, in her rear view mirror. She drives off, but no matter what she does, the hitch-hiker keeps coming back; she knocks him off the roof of her car, he comes back; she shoots him twice, he comes back; she runs him over again, he’s still on the front of her car. Eventually she crushes him repeatedly against a tree and blacks out. Waking up, she believes it all to have been a dream and drives home. However, when she parks in her garage, the hitch-hiker reappears and attacks her again. Eventually Annie’s husband returns home and finds his wife dead in her car, surrounded by exhaust fumes and holding the hitch-hiker’s sign…

Finally, we return to Billy, who is being chased by the gang of bullies. He rides into a secluded clearing and appears to be cornered, but the area is surrounded by giant venus flytrap plants which eat the bullies.

The sequel to 1982’s Creepshow, Creepshow 2 continues in the same vein, only with rather weaker stories. There’s nothing here to rival Father’s Day or The Crate from the first movie; having said that, there’s nothing as pointless as The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill either. Old Chief Wood’nhead is the best on offer here, which is not saying much, although it would have been a lot worse without George Kennedy. Also, watching the actor playing the wooden statue (Dan Kamin, if you’re interested) trying and failing to stand still before he comes alive is almost worth the price of a rental. The Raft takes a good Stephen King short story, which works well on paper, and translates it to an appallingly comedic film; despite everyone’s best efforts, the shape in the lake looks like nothing so much as a large discarded plastic bag. The Hitch-Hiker is a decent enough effort, but it just fails to grab my attention; by the time Chiles tries to kill the guy for the second time, I’m already bored. Despite these criticisms, this is a better film than the completely unrelated third film, imaginitively titled Creepshow III, which went straight-to-shelves in 2006. Overall, I’d give this a miss and watch the original again instead.

Creepshow 2 stars Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Daniel Beer, Jeremy Green, Page Hannah, Don Harvey, David Holbrook, Stephen King, Holt McCallany, Frank S. Salsedo, Paul Satterfield, Tom Wright and Tom Savini. It was written by George A. Romero, based on stories by Stephen King, and directed by Michael Gornick.
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