Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

[Aquaphobia] Creepshow 2: The Raft (1987)

Creepshow 2 - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
The horror anthology film CREEPSHOW was released in 1982, written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero, with special makeup effects by Tom Savini. With a hard-hitting crew like that, it's no surprise that it quickly became a fan favorite, and CREEPSHOW 2 entered the scene in 1987.

Responsibilities were shifted for this sequel, though. King was responsible for the stories that the segments were based on, but King himself did not write the script. Instead, Romero took on the position of screenwriter and passed directorial duties onto Michael Gornick, who was the cinematographer the first time around. Savini plays "the Creep" in the prologue scene (though, interestingly, he doesn't supply the voice of the same character in the animated bumper sequences), and the special effects were provided by Ed French and Greg Nicotero. It seems as if everyone took a sidestep for this production, which may not have benefited the film as a whole, but at least it works quite well for the second segment, THE RAFT, which is the only one that is important for our purposes here. Moreover, it is the one that most people fondly remember, like the Zuni fetish doll episode of Dan Curtis's TRILOGY OF TERROR.

Four teenagers—Deke, Randy, Laverne and Rachel—are hoping to spend a nice afternoon out at the lake. There's a wooden raft out in the center of the water that they can swim out to, and soak up some rays, listen to some tunes, and smoke a little reefer. Just your typical movieland teenage shenanigans.

Not so typical, though, is the inky blob that is floating on the surface of the water, and seems to be making its way towards them. Randy is the first to notice it, and the first to recognize it as a threat—look at the way it rolled over those ducks, almost as if it was eating them!—and so right away we've got him pegged as the hero of the group.

Creepshow 2: The Raft - Blob Food
Blob Food
The others don't pay much attention to his warnings, and Rachel, in a nearly trance-like state, reaches over the edge of the raft to caress the slimy thing. It burbles up out of the water, attaching itself to her, and pulls her into the drink. The others watch in horror as she struggles futilely against the gooey mass which covers and consumes her, all while she screams "It hurts! It hurts!"

Now fully convinced that they are dealing with a monster straight out of a 1950s sci-fi flick, they realize that they are trapped on the raft, as swimming back to shore would mean almost certain death. It becomes a contest of wills between the blob and the humans to see who can wait it out the longest. The blob has nowhere else to be, but the humans should be safe as long as they stay on the raft.

When it comes to villains in horror films, the term "should be safe" breeds new innovations. The blob eventually tires of waiting for his next meal to cannonball into the muck and so it slides beneath the raft. It reaches through the cracks between the wooden slats and wraps its tentacles around Deke's ankle, then proceeds to pull him down with such ferocity that the boards break beneath him. In a rather brutal scene, Deke is pulled slowly and sloppily through the hole and into what passes as the gaping maw of the creature.

And then there were two.

Due to the construct of this particular raft, the hole that Deke was pulled through does not jeopardize its structural integrity. Randy tells the now-shellshocked Laverne that they should be safe if they stand squarely on the slats and avoid the cracks. As the blob emerges from beneath the raft, Randy and Laverne take turns keeping watch. Night begins to fall and they hold each other in their arms to keep warm until morning.

It comes across as a rather sweet scene, which only serves to increase the sourness of what comes next. With Laverne sleeping soundly, Randy's true nature comes out. Living by the mantra that there's never a bad time to commit sexual assault, he begins to caress and molest her sleeping body. When she starts to stir, he quickly lays her down on the which point the blob, having covertly returned to its spot beneath the raft, reaches up through the slats and grabs ahold of her. Only then does she fully awaken.

Once Laverne is in the blob's grasp, Randy sees his last chance at salvation. He jumps into the water and swims wildly for shore with the blob in pursuit. Miraculously, he makes it to safety but rather than continue running, he turns to gloat and taunt the blob. "I beat you!" he shouts, but the blob still has at least one trick up his sleeve. It rises up in a massive black tidal wave to consume him—which is not only a hell of a good jump ending, but also just desserts.

The blob itself looks something like a floating trash bag slathered in petroleum jelly, but the camera doesn't linger on it long enough to make it laughable. The rest of the special effects are rather good, full of gooey red grue and slimy blob bits. This gory stuff was the lifeblood of the 1980s horror movie, and it looks better here than in many of its contemporaries. This, coupled with the quick pace, explains why the segment is so sealed into the subconscious of many genre fans.

As this is something of a nostalgic favorite for many people, there are a good number of conversations about it to be found online. There are two hot topics that seem to pop up time and again. The first one is, if the blob could leap out of the water like it did at the end, why didn't it do that earlier when the kids were trapped on the raft? There are a number of theories floating around about that, the most prominent being that either the blob was not strong enough to do so until after consuming three square meals; or that the blob is bound by the same gravitational laws as we are, and it had nothing to "push off" from until it was closer to the shore, where it could reach the bottom. Both, of course, make sense, but we'll never know the real answer. It is as obscure as the monster's origin.

The other topic that is frequently debated is whether or not Randy intentionally sacrificed Laverne, or if it was an accident that he merely took advantage of. The look of shock on his face when Laverne is attacked seems to imply that it wasn't planned, but rather he had merely lost track of the blob's location while he was busy gearing up to rape Sleeping Beauty. I do believe that people would actually sympathize with him had he skipped the sexual assault and simply tossed her overboard. At least then it could have been written off as a survival mechanism. Nobody knows how they would react in a situation like that, but I'm pretty sure most people know damn well they wouldn't react the way that Randy did.

Creepshow 2: The Raft - Gooey Goodness
Gooey Goodness
Although this was made in the 1980s, it has an indescribable classical feel to it—but with a definite 80s vibe. It's so simple and familiar that it almost feels like a remake of an old black-and-white creature feature. THE RAFT really does play as an abbreviated version of your classic monster movie. There is no filler and no wasted time giving backstory of any of the characters. In fact, there isn't the slightest clue given as to where this monster came from. That makes it all the more mysterious and all the more frightening, as we are just as much in the dark as the victims are. The fact that the blob lives in the water, as well as the fact that the teens discuss its similarities to an oil slick, make THE RAFT seem like an ecologically-oriented horror film, though that isn't necessarily the case. We have no reason to believe that the water is polluted—it's just as likely that the blob fell from outer space as it is that he's a product of man's carelessness towards Mother Nature. Some horror stories give too much away, feeling the need to explain everything in real world terms. This short does not give into that temptation, knowing that sometimes, ambiguity is a strength. The monster here has no origin, it simply is. And as viewers, we have to accept that.

Unfortunately, that also means that we have to accept the human characters as they are, as well. From the moment this entry opens on a muscle car barreling recklessly down the road, and you hear that first line of dialogue—"I feel the need...the need for weed!"—you know that the young people in this story are ones that your parents don't want you to be associated with. As the minutes wear on, and you hear the inanities that they consistently sputter (almost as if they are afraid of the minutest of silences), you realize that you wouldn't want to associate with them, either. In most horror films, nearly everyone under a certain age is depicted as, for lack of a better term, annoying and tittering jackasses. It's a shame that this one caters to that same perception. Had there been better characterizations here, THE RAFT could've been a true classic of the genre.

I'm hoping that someday this will be made into a full-length picture, where tensions will have time to blossom and the minor mistakes can be corrected. Make it one part OPEN WATER, one part THE BLOB, and one part CABIN FEVER and I'm fairly certain that it would be an instant hit—Deke's speedo can be recast, however. But until that day, I'll have to be content with rewatching this entry...even if I do decide to skip the rest of the movie.

Creepshow 2: The Raft - Gallery Booklet
Gallery Booklet
Creepshow 2: The Raft - Twilight Zone Magazine
TZ Magazine
THE RAFT was based on a short story by Stephen King, originally printed in booklet form and included with a 1982 issue of nudie magazine Gallery. It was later reprinted in the Twilight Zone magazine—owned by the same publisher as Gallery—in 1983, and was included in King's 1985 short story collection Skeleton Crew. In King's notes at the end of this collection, he explains how an earlier version of the story entitled "The Float" was accepted by skin mag Adam, and though payment was received in 1970, indicating publication, he has never been able to unearth a copy...nor have collectors of King's work.

 The short story version of “The Raft” is very close to the adaptation, though the former does offer up more insight into the characters. Of notable changes in plot, only a few exist: it is much more obvious that the blob is able to mesmerize its victims by the colors swirling on its black skin, which would explain why Rachel would stare at it so intently; furthermore, Randy is not cast as a sexual predator in the story, and although he and Laverne do engage in full (and unlikely) intercourse, it is strictly consensual; and finally, as jump scares do not work nearly as well on the page as they do onscreen, King went with a more low-key, but ultimately haunting, ending.

The small cast is comprised basically of also-rans, whose dreams of Hollywood stardom never fully panned
Creepshow 2: The Raft - Original Newspaper Ad
From Deseret News 05.29.87
out.  Deke was played by Paul Satterfield, who is best known for his work on the soap operas ONE LIFE TO LIVE and THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. His buddy Randy was played by Daniel Beer, who can also be found in POINT BREAK (1991). Actress Jeremy Green played Laverne, and although she was a natural beauty with talent, she appeared in only one other film: the soccer drama HOTSHOT (1987). She also showed up in a single episode of MY LIFE AND TIMES (1991), as well as a Doublemint gum commercial with her twin sister, but has since faded into obscurity. And finally, Rachel was played by Page Hannah, who had small parts in SHAG (1989) and GREMLINS 2 (1990), and made appearances on MONSTERS (1988) and FREDDY'S NIGHTMARES (1989), but is probably most remembered for her stint on the FAME television series (1986).

As solid of an entry as this was, you would think that it would have launched at least one major career, but that was obviously not the case.

Blob or not, sometimes it's hard to just get off the Raft.


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