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‘Creepshow 2’ (R) and ‘Deadtime Stories’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 06, 1987


Michael Gornick;
Jeffrey S. Delman
Lois Chiles;
George Kennedy;
Dorothy Lamour;
Scott Valentine
Under 17 restricted

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In modern Hollywood, some films seem designed for the VCR, not for the theater. A case in point: "Creepshow 2," a sequel to 1982's generally desultory "Creepshow," an attempt to revive the long-dormant anthology film. Though it was no "Dead of Night," "Creepshow" had its moments, and writer Stephen King (whose stories form the core of both films) and director George Romero (who wrote both screenplays) were at least aiming at something, even if they were off target.

King and Romero -- the horror genre's equivalent of the daily double -- are back on the storyboard for "2," but with director Michael Gornick in charge, "2" goes nowhere slowly. Part of the problem is that King's short stories simply work better in print.

For instance, "The Raft" is terrifying in print. Four college students out for a joy-swim at an abandoned lake are stuck in the middle thereof and menaced by an ominous blob. But something's lost in the translation, which is neither as ghastly nor as suspenseful. Then again, if it had been literal, this would be X-rated, not R.

"Old Chief Woodn'head" is a tale of crime and punishment in a deserted dust bowl town. "It'll come back to life someday," says storekeeper Ray Spruce (George Kennedy), whose two loves are Mrs. Spruce (former film star Dorothy Lamour, looking incredibly awkward in her first role in some years) and the old cigar-store Indian on his front porch. When the Spruces are offed by three local toughs, old Woodn'head turns into a sort of Mad Mannequin (by far the best special effect).

The third story is "The Hitchhiker," which makes no sense at all, provides the most senseless violence, the goriest special effects and a line that will probably make its way into popular culture.

And yes, everybody's favorite narrator, the Creep (special effects master Tom Savini), is back, as are the animated comic book sections that connect the episodes.

Unfortunately, none of these episodes is a good as HBO's "The Hitchhiker" (no relation) or the syndicated "Tales From the Darkside." Bloodier, but not better. And yes, King makes a cameo appearance in "2"; his American Express ad is better.

"Deadtime Stories," which is lurking in far fewer theaters, is pretty bad itself, but there's a perverse originality at work by director Jeffrey Delman, who cowrote the stories with Charles F. Shelton and J. Edward Kiernan. Some things may have been lost in cuts made to bring the film's rating from an X to an R, but a wacky sense of humor is at work in these offbeat recastings of children's tales told by a distracted uncle to put his demanding nephew to sleep.

The best is "Goldi Lox and the Three Baers," in which Jewish mother Ma Ma Baer, after biding her time at a community college learning "psychedelics, hand-to-hand combat and macrame'," breaks Papa and Baby out of the Home for the Hopelessly Insane, where they've been incarcerated for some serial killings (ormaybe that was cereal killings?). When they get to their hideaway, they find Goldi (actually Golda -- she was born during the Six-Day War) and a house full of dead suitors. Seems Goldi has psychic powers, a nasty temper and a lot of sexual anxieties. The Baers and Goldi link up ("you'll be like the parents I already slaughtered," she gushes), and after escaping the law, "live happily ever after, though not all the people they came across were so lucky."

"Little Red Runninghood" is a twist on another familiar tale: This wolf is actually a reformed werewolf who doesn't get his sleeping pills before the moon is full. "Peter and the Witches" is a period showcase in which the witches speak with English accents but disintegrate in Italian.

Admittedly, the acting in "Deadtime Stories" is mostly bad, but some of the lines are hilarious. "You lie down with dogs, you get up with puppies," says Ma Ma Bae rated R and contain explicit language and extreme violence.

r, and she might as well be talking about this genre of films."Creepshow 2 and Deadtime Stories" are b

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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