Summer always makes me think of the end of summer. I know that sounds stupid, and rightly so, but hear me out. I love the fall. It’s my favorite time of year. Leaves, pumpkin lattes, and Halloween. I know, this is a post about the summer. I am getting to that. During September and sometimes if you’re lucky October, the cold weather holds off for a bit, giving us an Indian Summer. It’s almost as if summer is holding on tight and isn’t going to let go. Unfortunately as pale white gentleman the summer and I have never truly had a great relationship. However Indian summer and I, we are best friends. And it’s during this unseasonably warm time of the year that the film in which I would like to discuss takes place.
The Raft is the second segment in Creepshow 2 (1987), the follow up installment of the horror anthology series Creepshow (1982) by director George A. Romero and author Stephen King. Originally this story appears in the anthology of short stories by entitled Skeleton Crew by Stephen King (note: when looking for this at the bookstore or library do not ask for Skeleton Key, the person helping you will never find it). The Creepshow 1 and 2 modeled after the great pre-code EC comics such as Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Weird Science. This was not the first time the comics of EC have influenced cinema. Amicus Studios produced a two films in the anthology format which were based on stories from EC, Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Vault of Horror (1973). The classic John Hughes film Weird Science (1985) is also based on an EC tale.
As they swim toward the raft Randy notices a duck struggling to fly out of dark mass. The mass is moving towards them. Randy urges the girls to swim faster, even pulling Rachel up onto the raft with some force. Laverne makes it on to the raft as the mass drifts past them. “Looks like it was going for the girls” Randy looks concerned, “No one knows we’re out here. No one at all.” The others are not phased by this. A discussion of whether or not it is an oil slick, who has seen an oil slick over a couple of joints ensues.
Rachel is mesmerized by the blob, sticking her fingers out to touch it. She is almost instantly consumed as the blob runs up her arm eating her flesh and pulling her into the water. “It hurts!” she cries as she is pulled under. Obviously it is now apparent to the group that this is not an oil slick.
From the very opening scene the hierarchy of characters is apparent. Deke is driving. He is a macho, football player type. The one who takes Randy’s words regarding the raft and puts them into action. Next to him is Laverne, presumably his girl rolling a joint for him. Between them is Randy, or Poncho as he is called by Deke. Randy sits positioned between the two, inching his way into the front seat festivities. Rachel sits quietly in the back, not partaking in the fun. Randy is already poised as the brains of the operation, as he remembered the raft being out on the lake three weeks ago on his geology field trip. This fact will be brought up by Deke later when he is trying to asses the nature of the creature that just consumed Rachel, “You read all the science books...” Visually we see that the group has been paired into couples. Separated by their apparent personality types. Although once they reach the raft, the true nature of some of the characters is revealed.
Unlike Rachel, Deke’s death possibly more strategic, if not simply unlucky. He is the only one of the group who would be able to swim past the creature. A fact he points out right before it grabs him. Given that he does not read the science books, as he puts it, physicality is the only attribute Deke has to offer the group. Once this is taken out of the picture it is no longer up to the group to out run the creature, but to outsmart it. A feat they do not succeed in doing. I mean maybe it was full, and ate Deke to take that option out of the equation.
Randy’s character posses the most hope from the group and yet ultimately aides in the death of his friend. He is the first to notice something is amiss. The one who states the muck in the water is not an oil slick. Yet this inevitably does him no good. He chooses his baser instincts over intellect, and in the process gets Laverne killed. Up until that point, there is hope for him. At least in the sense that he might make it. Laverne is too stupid, sorry Laverne it’s true, to make it out of this alive. Once the morning comes Randy has in a sense given up. He might as well take advantage of the situation. At least until Laverne wakes up. From a blob eating her face. Sexy. From there on out he is running on impulse. He doesn't use his intellect, gloating on shore about how he beat the creature by arriving to the beach. Failing to ask the question, is this creature an amphibian. Such promise Randy, you were pre-med.
Like Randy points out, it’s no coincidence that the creature shows up once they arrive. It catches a little pre-game duck snack along the way before the main course. It might be speculated that the creature posses the ability to mesmerize its victims. Both Rachel and Randy seem to be in a trance for a time. Maybe it told him to lay Laverne down and pull up her shirt. This also makes me wonder about the owners of the lake. The ones who leave the raft out until the lake freezes, and who post a “No Swimming” sign. Perhaps they have been mesmerized by the creature as well and use the raft as a baiting tool to feed it. Some sort of ritualistic worship. And if we panned the camera further we’d see a pile of cars partially buried ala From Dusk til Dawn (1999) style. Anyway, I am getting a little off topic. While I could wax intellectual about what the creature may possibly represent, either overt or subversively. I’ll leave that up to you for your own interpretation.
The characters in this film are trying to cling onto something, whether its warm weather, a wooden raft or life itself. Everything in this film is fleeting. Except of course for that Camaro’s battery. I mean the radio is on for like 24 hours.
The Raft reminds me of why I don’t like swimming in lakes. All that muck and branches at the bottom. Slimy through your toes. Who knows what’s in there. But it also reminds me of what is so special about summer, its brevity. So whether you're hitting the beach or your local lake this summer, swim safe. Make sure there's a lifeguard on duty, and turn your car off.