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Creepshow 2

Creepshow 2

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Today’s feature is Creepshow 2, the 1987 sequel to the hit anthology horror film, Creepshow.

The plot of Creepshow 2 is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Three more bone-chilling tales that include a vengeful wooden Native American, a monstrous blob in a lake, and a hitchhiker who wants revenge and will not die.

Creepshow 2 was directed by Michael Gornick, who served as George Romero’s director of photography on Martin, Dawn of the Dead, and the original Creepshow. However, Creepshow 2 is his only feature-length directing credit.

The movie’s screenplay was written by George Romero, who directed the original Creepshow (as well as influential horror films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead). Interestingly, he didn’t have any hand in the writing of Creepshow, as Stephen King penned the screenplay. While King did lend material for Creepshow 2, he was not involved with the sequel’s screenplay writing process beyond that.

The special effects and makeup effects team for the film provided early credits for Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, who have each had distinguished careers in the decades since, working on films and television shows like Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, The Hateful Eight, Drag Me To Hell, Sin City, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead.

Tom Savini, who provided the effects for the original Creepshow, returned as a consultant for this sequel, and appears on screen as the host between segments.

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The stars of Creepshow 2 include George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Tom Savini (From Dusk Til Dawn), Stephen King (Creepshow), Daniel Beer (Point Break), and Lois Chiles (Moonraker).

Apparently, Creepshow 2 was initially intended to have 5 sequences, just like its predecessor. However, budget constraints led to two sequences being cut. One of them, “The Cat From Hell,” eventually made it on screen as part of Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, which many consider to be the spiritual successor to Creepshow 2.

In 2006, a Creepshow 3 was released without any involvement from George Romero or Stephen King. The fan reaction, predictably, was overwhelmingly negative. However, its release was so limited that most fans of the franchise aren’t aware of its existence.

The reception to Creepshow 2 was generally negative, and paled significantly in comparison to the original. It currently holds an IMDb user rating of 6.0/10, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 39% from audiences and 33% from critics.

Creepshow 2 took in an estimated $14 million in its total lifetime theatrical release. While this was profitable given its $3.5 million budget, it was hardly a blockbuster smash.

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The biggest burden that Creepshow 2 has to carry is the baggage of its namesake. Honestly, I think this is a pretty decent horror anthology movie, but it so fails to live up to the affectionate detail and loyalty of the original Creepshow, that it is actually made worse by bearing its name.

The original Creepshow is fun, funny, and did a whole lot on a very small budget, thanks to a scrappy, independent crew. Creepshow 2 was expected to match it with a fraction of its budget, a director without a track record, and without the direct help of Stephen King on the screenplay. From the onset, the die was cast for Creepshow 2 to be a disappointing sequel.

Yet, while it certainly isn’t as good as Creepshow, Creepshow 2 could certainly have been a lot worse. Most of the makeup effects actually look quite good in spite of the budgetary limits, thanks in large part to folks like Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, who were still making names for themselves as quality and innovative effects workers. The writing is probably the weakest aspect of the movie, but I suspect this is the result of the last 2 sequences being cut out of the film: they needed to make up that time somewhere, so they padded out the existing features. Unfortunately, the result is that all 3 remaining vignettes feel bloated as all hell, and the pacing of the film as a whole suffers for it.

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Creepshow 2 desperately misses a bunch of the little details that really defined the original movie, too. While there is an attempt to recreate the animated transitions, the result isn’t creepy as much as it is cartoony and goofy, and the style just seems a bit off. Likewise, there is a limited attempt to re-capture the creative and vivid lighting work from the first film, but it is definitely minimal. The dramatically limited death sequences from Creepshow, for instance, don’t make a return.

I think the key to enjoying Creepshow 2 is to manage expectations, and ignore its title. When stacked up against Creepshow, it just can’t compare. However, I think it is better than similar anthology films like Cat’s Eye, and is worth checking out for horror fans, at least for the effects work. However, that does come with a massive caveat.

There is something that absolutely has to be mentioned about this movie: it features the most egregiously inappropriate and unnecessary sexual assault I have ever seen in a major motion picture. During the segment “The Raft,” two characters (a woman and a man) are trapped on a raft in the middle of a lake, set a-siege by a flesh-eating blob that floats on top of the lake’s water. By the time night falls, both of their respective partners have been eaten by the creature, and they decide to take shifts to keep watch. During the male’s shift, he decides not to watch the monster, but to kiss and fondle his fellow trapped acquaintance in her sleep, which leads directly to her death via his negligence.

There are so many things wrong with this, that it is hard to know where to start. First off, pragmatically, it was also in his interest to keep an eye on the killer monster lurking mere feet away, rather than assault his fellow captive. Secondly, from a writing standpoint, there was no established precedence for the action: the character was never shown in a negative light, or revealed to have salacious intent towards the woman. The action is completely out of nowhere, and turns the character into something totally different than he was established as: a cautious, science-obsessed quasi-dork who plays second fiddle to an alpha jock friend. Last but not least, what the ever-loving fuck was the point of it? This kind of casual sexual assault is way too common throughout the genre, and contributes to the genre as a whole having a reputation as a tone-deaf dudes’ club. Particularly without any kind of story or character justification, this was clearly just thrown in for the hell of it, and was even tossed into the movie’s trailer to boot. The ultimate result of the sequence is that the monster is able to sneak up on the pair, which would happen anyway if they had just fallen asleep of exhaustion. It isn’t like there wasn’t an obvious alternative here.

If Creepshow 2 were absent that short sequence, I could confidently recommend it to people. As it is, however, it merits that caution.

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Trucks

Trucks

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Today’s feature is Trucks, a 1997 television movie adapted from a Stephen King story about killer automobiles.

Trucks is based on the same Stephen King short story that turned into the 1986 movie Maximum Overdrive, which King himself directed and adapted. The screenplay for this made-for-television adaptation, however, was written by Brian Taggert, who also penned Omen IV and Poltergeist III.

Trucks was directed by Chris Thomson, a career television director who worked on a variety of television movies, as well as on the shows Flipper and Time Trax.

The cinematographer for the movie was Robert Draper, whose credits include Halloween 5, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, and numerous episodes of both Tales From The Crypt and Tales From The Darkside.

The editor for Trucks was Lara Mazur, who worked extensively on television shows like Andromeda, Dead Like Me, and Highlander.

The team of producers on Trucks included Mark Amin (Leprechaun, Evolver, Leprechaun 3, The Dentist, The Dentist 2, Chairman of the Board), Bruce David Eisen (Leprechaun In The Hood, The Dentist 2), Greg Griffin (Ice Road Truckers, America’s Next Top Model), and Jerry Leider (My Favorite Martian).

The effects work for Trucks was provided by a team that was made up of Pamela Athayde (Capote), Erich Martin Hicks (Babylon 5, Leprechaun In The Hood), Cara Anderson (Marmaduke, Baby Geniuses 2), Darcy Davis (Final Destination, A Christmas Story 2), Kevin Stadnyk (Deep Evil, Blade Trinity), and Rory Cutler (Iron Eagle II, The Fly II).

trucks4The musical score for Trucks was provided by Michael Richard Plowman, who also did music for Laserhawk, the cartoon Sonic Boom, and a number of nonfiction documentaries like Triggers: Weapons That Changed The World, Untold Stories of the E.R., and The Man With The 200 lb Tumor.

The cast of Trucks includes Timothy Busfield (Revenge of the Nerds, Field of Dreams), Brenda Bakke (Demon Knight, Under Siege 2, L.A. Confidential), Aidan Devine (A History of Violence), Jay Brazeau (Insomnia, Best In Show), and Brendan Fletcher (Freddy vs. Jason).

The plot of Trucks is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Based on the short story by Stephen King, this tells the tail of trucks suddenly coming to life and attacking their owners.

trucks3Given that Trucks was a television movie, it wasn’t particularly widely seen. That said, the people who did see it didn’t exactly like it: the movie currently holds a 3.8 user rating on IMDb, along with a 30% audience aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Comparisons between Trucks and the earlier adaptation of the same story, Maximum Overdrive, are unfortunately impossible to avoid, which doesn’t do Trucks any favors. As much as Maximum Overdrive is a bad movie (a good bad movie if you ask me), it was also a big movie with impressive effects work and a sense of visual spectacle. Trucks, being a much smaller production, just can’t compete with what Maximum Overdrive put on screen. Likewise, the low-budget cast isn’t nearly as impressive, which is saying something given how weak the performances were in Overdrive.

trucks2Overall, outside of a couple of memorable highlight moments, Trucks is just an immensely forgettable movie. It mostly exists as a footnote on the much better known Maximum Overdrive, but I think it is worth checking out for die-hard Stephen King fans, or for people who got a good laugh out of Overdrive. Trucks does take itself a bit too seriously, and never quite feels fun, which I think was a mistake for what is a pretty goofy premise. However, the handful of highlights make it worth digging up for bad movie fanatics.

Plotopsy Podcast #3 – Maximum Overdrive

Maximum Overdrive

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Episode 3 of the (Plot)opsy Podcast spotlights one of my favorite good-bad movies, 1986’s “Maximum Overdrive”. Stephen King took up the role of director for the first and last time in this cult classic about killer machines possessed by aliens…or a comet…or something. It features some of the most ridiculous deaths in mainstream cinema history, and is a must-see flick for bad movie fans. As it turns out, there are some interesting narratives tied up behind the scenes of this one as well. Enjoy!


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AC/DC wrote a number of original songs for “Maximum Overdrive”, including the hit “Who Made Who”
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Stephen King’s cameo at the beginning of “Maximum Overdrive”, in which an ATM calls him an asshole
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An accident involving this radio-controlled lawnmower took the eye of the Director of Photography on “Maximum Overdrive”. A hefty lawsuit followed.
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One of the most famous sequences in the movie features a murderous vending machine, which attacks a little league baseball team
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“Maximum Overdrive” star Emilio Estevez alongside the Green Goblin truck, which serves as the primary villain of the movie.
DVD cover for “Trucks”, a 1997 movie made from the same source material as “Maximum Overdrive”

The trailer for Maximum Overdrive oozes with hubris on the part of Stephen King, who introduces the film in much the same way that Alfred Hitchcock once did. King does this while simultaneously putting down the many well-regarded adaptations of his works by other film-makers in the past. I’m sure this trailer is one of the more embarrassing entries in the history of Stephen King.