Halloween Scene: Creepshow 2 (1987)

As a big fan of both George Romero and Stephen King, I’m not quite sure why I haven’t seen the two installments of Creepshow the horror duo worked on (neither had anything to do with Creepshow 3). I remember my pal Rickey Purdin had a copy of the first Creepshow hanging around our apartment when we lived together and I think I tried watching it once, but either got bored or fell asleep and haven’t revisited since. When I decided to check the sequel out on Netflix Instant last night I had forgotten this fact, confusing this King-based horror anthology for another, Cat’s Eye. It’s not like it really matters, though, as they are both anthologies and don’t have anything but casual references to one another in common.

Creepshow 2 features three stories. The first is about a killer cigar store Indian (“Old Chief Wooden Head”), the second about a water monster in a lake (“The Raft”) and the third about a woman being terrorized by the man who shit hit with her car (“The Hitchhiker”). There’s also a wraparound story featuring a kid who loves the EC Comics-like Creepshow comic book buying beans to take care of the bullies who mess with him.

“Old Chief” might feature great actors George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour who are excellent, but the three guys they got to rob the country store owners gave pretty boring, cartoonish, one-note performances and kind of killed the whole thing for me. Plus, the idea of a cigar store Indian coming together and killing dudes — most of which we see via shadows — isn’t super interesting or original.

On the other hand, I really liked “The Raft.” It’s a very Stephen King kind of story with a quartet of friends swimming in a remote lake that has an oily monster patrolling the surface. This is the kind of story that works perfectly in the anthology format. It’s a small story as far as who’s involved and the danger present, but for those people, it’s a very terrifying thing. It doesn’t really matter if you’re trapped in the arctic or on a diving raft in the middle of a lake, you’re still trapped and probably going to die. That’s encapsulated very well in this segment.

“The Hitchhiker” was less interesting to me and felt like an episode of Tales From The Crypt (yeah, I know the show came after these movies, but I experienced it first). Even though the story of the woman getting hounded by the dead man is eerie, it felt familiar and not in the way that “Raft” did where familiar elements were done on a different scale, this one just felt tired.  I actually thought the wraparound stuff with the kid and the Creep were more interesting than this particular story.

I think another reason I haven’t gotten around to watching the Creepshow movies is that I’m just not that into horror anthology  movies. They sound great in theory — more stories, possibly more creative talent for your buck — but most wind up feeling like this movie where there’s one great story surrounded by mediocre ones. Maybe I just haven’t seen the right horror anthologies. I think I might check the original Creepshow out today, but are there other ones that do a really great job? I’m also thinking of looking at Twice Told Tales and/or Tales Of Terror from my Vincent Price box set, but I might just be horror-ed out for a while after this month.

Party On: Pajama Party (1964) & Ski Party (1965)

After watching and really enjoying Bikini Beach, I’ve been on an Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon kick. Pajama Game is not part of the surf movie series as Annette plays a different character and Frankie’s barely in it. However, the motorcycle gang called The Rats does show up, so maybe this is a Mallrats/Chasing Amy kind of thing and different actors just play different characters in the same universe. Anyway, this time around, a group of kids hang out at the beach and at nice houses with pools. Anette’s boyfriend is more interested in volleyball than anything else (clearly asexual) so she winds up falling for a new boy in town named George. Meanwhile, a neighbor wants to break into a widow’s house and steal all the money her husband left, so he convinces her to have a pajama party to cause a distraction.

Oh, by the way, George is actually a Martian played by Tommy Kirk who also played Biff in The Absent Minded Professor (an often played film in my house growing up, his dad in that movie was the old guy in Bikini Beach!). He’s supposed to be paving the way for an alien invasion, but winds up falling for Annette which works out fine because her boyfriend would rather bump balls.

Oddly, the trailer for the film isn’t on YouTube, so here’s one of the musical numbers:

This movie was very high on fun and hijinks. I love the elaborate way the widow has to go about getting her money. I love the low tech way they set up a teleporter to bring in more Martians for the invasion. I love how instead of relying on either one of the two storylines (breaking into the old lady’s house, alien invasion) they went with both of them along with all the teen drama that usually surrounds these story. I love the cameos by Dorothy Lamour, Buster Keaton, Avalon, Don Rickles and a couple of background dancers/actresses better known as Teri Garr and Toni Basil.  Really, I just loved this movie.

In the following year’s Ski Party, Annette plays a cameo as a professor while Frankie and a fellow college student pal go off to a ski resort to pick up chicks. To get really close to the ladies, they decide to dress in drag to infiltrate their ski class…and maybe learn a little something along the way.

While this film might have been far less complicated than the previous one, I was impressed with how funny it was. Sure there’s the goofy, campy stuff like Frankie inflating his ski coat to go further on a ski jump and accidentally flying all over the place, but there were also some really funny jokes that are still funny today.

One the stereotypes people might have about these kinds of films is that they’re tame by today’s standards. And yeah, that’s true from an on-the-nose perspective. You’re not going to see any topless women or kids randomly hooking up, but that’s more because that kind of stuff wasn’t sold in teen films back then. But all that stuff is still there below the surface. I was surprised with the use of the word “sex” in these movies because it was like they were actually admitting the teenagers want to have sex (shocking!). A lot of creative types say that rules and regulations actually push them to be more creative when it comes to bawdy jokes and dealing with sex and I think that shows in these movies.

Oh, that reminds me of something. As you might expect, homosexuality isn’t mentioned whatsoever in these movies, but I think elements of it can definitely be seen on screen. Pajama had the boyfriend who was more interested in volleyball, which doesn’t really mean anything, but in this one, Frankie’s pal dresses up like a girl and it actually works for him. When, as his guy self, he calls up a girl and gets shot down, he dresses up like his girl self again, calls up a boy who was flirting with him earlier and they go out. And have a wonderful time. Heck, he spends the rest of the movie talking about how great this guy is and that he things he can make a marriage work with him, forget about that whole being a man thing. I guess you could argue this was played for laughs (“This would NEVER happen, so it’s funny!”) or if something got slipped past the censors. I can’t remember how Frankie’s pal ended the movie, but I thought that was a really interesting subplot. For what it’s worth, Frankie did not support his friend.

Another great thing about these movies is the music. While Pajama Party didn’t have anyone I recognized, Ski Party featured none other than the God Father of Soul, The Hardest Working Man In Show Business, Mr. James Brown! AS A SNOW RESCUE GUY! He literally rolls into a lodge on skis with cocktail carrying German shepherds, says a few jokes and busts into “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Holy poop! Oh, Leslie Gore sings “Sunshine, Rainbows and Lollipops” too, but that’s nowhere near as cool as James Brown. Double oh, Yvonne Craig — TV’s Batgirl — stars as one of the objects of affection. I think she was my first ever crush.

So, I just spent a great deal of time bestowing the virtues of these films, but I think the most important thing to take away is that they are silly fun with a real “Up With Kids” vibe to them. It’s funny to think that, right now as I watch these movies, I’m older than the characters in the film (though probably the same age as some of the actors). Even as a burgeoning fogey, I still relate to the themes in these flicks and can’t imagine living in an even more buttoned-up society. Remember, the sexual revolution was still a few years away from really blowing up, so this was the best kids had of seeing even the remotest, nicest form of rebellion on screen (I haven no idea if this is completely factual but it sounds good, doesn’t it?).