This post is part of the Beach Party Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Click here to check out all the bodacious babes, beach parties and gnarly creatures others have been writing about for this blogathon.
...therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” -John Donne
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.
The Raft begins on a highway in an unknown location. A Camaro winds its way down the road. Inside are Deke, Randy, Laverne, and Rachel. They are heading toward Cascade Lake, where there is a raft they can swim out to, smoke, bang, and say goodbye to summer. Although it is almost Halloween, Randy or Poncho as he’s called, is certain the raft will still be out on the lake. This is because the owners don’t take it in until “the lake is frozen”. Why Randy is privy to this knowledge is unknown. Deke is wary as this is a long trip out to Cascade Lake. Once they arrive Deke is gladly surprised that the raft is still there and immediately disrobes to head out toward it. Poncho follows suit with the girls lagging behind. The water is cold “45 or 50 degrees” in Randy’s estimate, which could stop your heart. He is pre-med so he should know these things. The girls follow with the previously shy Rachel leading.
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.
Randy is freaking out, Deke has to hold him back, “she’s dead” he tells Randy. And then there were three. Deke decides that he’s going to make a swim for it, perhaps whatever that thing is might be full from eating Rachel. He’s fast swimmer. He has yellow speedos on. He can probably make it. Ah but alas he’s been talking too loud and the creature has overheard his plan. Grabbing Deke from between the cracks of the raft and pulling him down he is helpless to overcome the mass of flesh eating ooze. He drops his lighter and his joint. Party foul bro. With the best swimmer gone, Laverne and Randy are left to balance themselves on the boards of the raft in a Mexican standoff with the creature. Growing tired and cold they decide to huddle through the night for warmth. In the morning Randy wakes up. Laverne is still asleep, so he decides what might be best is to lay her down a little and pull her top up so he can get a fondle in before she and the creature wake up. Little does he know it’s the early creature that catches the humans. Before Laverne is fully awake it grabs her by the face through the crack of the raft. Eating her flesh and pulling her into the lake. Randy decides it's time to make a break for the shore. He dives in, pursued by the creature. He crawls onto the shore just in time. He proclaims “I beat you!”. This is when, like a wave, the creature consumes him. As the creature slips back into the water the camera pans to the right across the Camaro, still playing music, to a sign which reads “No Swimming”.
The Raft begins slowing, with its pace increasing once the characters arrive at the lake. The deaths come swift and fast. As if the creature has been waiting a long time to feed. The viewer is left as befuddled as the characters themselves. There is no back story. There are only hints given during the car ride up. It is not until the very end that we see, not the characters, that there were signs that they shouldn’t be doing what they were doing. Although,“No Swimming” is really just an invitation to swim.
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.
Although Rachel is quiet and reserved in the car, once at the lake she is the first to jump in the water. Perhaps prompted by Deke’s taunting of Randy. On the raft she strips off her outer layer of clothing, joining Laverne huddled around Deke. Not phased by the mass moving toward the raft. Rachel is the only obtainable woman in the group for Randy, unless his balls don’t turn to ice cubes that is. However it’s clear that she might not be that into him. I mean they went and saved some animals from an oil slick together. They love the environment, what’s not to like about Randy, Rachel? Come on. Unfortunately it is Rachel's nonchalant attitude toward the creature that gets her killed. And we never get to find out if Randy would have made it with her.
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.
Laverne is characteristically different than that of Rachel. She doesn’t go on trips to save animals from oil slicks. Though she does show school spirit. She is an object of men’s desires. She is out of Randy’s league. A fact he will attempt to move past later on, using the old “end of the world” scenario on her. Sort of. As he says when holding her above the raft “I’m not Deke!” He can’t use his strength to save her, something she is not used to. It becomes apparent she has almost nothing to offer the situation by nightfall. She complains, and refuses to watch the creature. Opting to convince Randy to watch it together instead. It is her objectivity that eventually leads to her demise.
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.
The Distracted Blogger
I watch movies. I write about them here. I watch more movies. I get nothing else done.
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