Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Masters Of Horror! (Stephen King, Part 1)



So, here we go, let's start with the actual King (and fellow Mainer), Stephen King.

Spent a good chunk of high school reading his stuff.
When I wasn't drawing Harry, I had a King book in front of me.
Often cracking up.
Reviewers often leave out what a funny bastard he is.

Well, Hyla did a more thorough thingy on his birthday, I'll just lazily link to that.
Yoink!

Course, I'll be focusing on his movies, cuz movies are kinda my thing at Shmegalamonga.
I'll be leaving out the crappy sequels, cuz he didn't write those.
And anthology TV episodes, because meh.
And "Lawnmower Man", because fuck it.
Aaand, here we go!


Carrie (1976)


Briefly mentioned here.

This one still holds up.
Unca Stevie has problems with the novel, he's merged his whole universe together through the Gunslinger books, and "Carrie", doesn't make the cut. "Carrie", is a fictional novel written by Stephen King within the King-verse.
Dunno what's up with that, but whatever.

Anyway, there's a remake of this being advertised on TV right now, and, I think it's superfluous.
I mean, I know they do remakes for money, but artistically, anything from the 70's-80's where the effects did the job well enough ought not be remade.
Anything with just people talking, once technicolor comes along, it doesn't need a remake.
The only artistic excuse they have is a technical one, and if they don't have that excuse, what gives?
Yeah, yeah, I know, money.
Ka-ching.

Anyhoo, the commercial for the remake spoils the whole plot for you.
I ain't gotta tell you a thing, it's all in that trailer.


Salem's Lot (1979)


See here.


The Shining (1980)


See here.

The sequel novel "Doctor Sleep", just came out.
I'm sure the movie will be along in short order.
I'll probably see it at the theater.


Creepshow (1982)


See here.


Cujo (1983)


Seen the flick, read the book....I'm wavey hand on both.
Structurally, I think it's a ripoff of "Jaws", right down to the affair the wife has.
I dunno, this one feels like commercial exploitation more than some true artistic vision from the heart, y'know?
I could be wrong, but, yeah, not a fan of this one.
Sorry.


The Dead Zone (1983)


See here.


Christine (1983)


It's all right....but I have the same ambivalence as "Cujo", for some reason.
I'll watch it, it entertains, but I've never been able to be scared of a car.
It feels like an R-rated version of the were-car episode of Futurama to me.

I dunno, maybe cars are too new on the scene for the caveman fear parts of my brain to be wired up to react properly.
Because, car accidents certainly top the charts on human death in this country.
Dwarfs gun deaths, makes terrorism a statistical blip.
I should be afraid of them.

Can't muster it.
Maybe it's because I'm such an avowed technology worshipper.


Children Of The Corn (1984)


Tch...another one I'm not a big fan of.
Sorry, folks.

Well, you've got religious mania, I always like when that gets a kick in the front of the pants.
The whole killer kid thing has been run into the ground at the multiplex lately, maybe that's it.

And holy shit, have they milked this property to death with sequels, remakes, and remake sequels.
Yumpin' yiminy.

But, if killer kids with religious mania scares you still, this is the one, accept no substitutes.


Firestarter (1984)


See here.

Yeah, screw "horror", I totally count this as a superhero origin issue.
The "terror", element comes from the fucking U.S. government.
I have no sympathy for their paranoia position at all.
Fuck 'em.

In fact, I don't have a lot of sympathy for humanity, frankly.
I'm on the Magneto side.
That's what I'd be in the King-verse, fucking Magneto trying to find Charlie McGee, and Carrie White, and Danny Torrence, and Jack Sawyer, and training and preparing them for the revolution.
...I'm probably on an NSA watch list now.


Cat's Eye (1985)


The first of two King flicks where kitties save the day.
I'm a cat person, so, naturally I was always cheering on General.

As a gag, General runs across Cujo and Christine in the early scenes of the film.
So, this is more canon than "Carrie", in King's mind.
Process that.

Hey, there's another spinoff idea, a team-up of General, Clovis, and whatever the name of the cat from "Doctor Sleep", is going to be.

The Justice Society Of Hero Kitties!


Silver Bullet (1985)


See here.


Maximum Overdrive (1986)


The only one directed by King himself.

He's ashamed of it, I fucking love it.
It is what it is.
What more was it supposed to be?

He takes the "Christine", concept, cranks it up to a worldwide epidemic, and makes it a fun survival horror thing like a Romero flick.
AC/DC soundtrack.
And Lisa Simpson is there.

What's not to love?

This fit right in with stuff I was growing up with, Knight Rider, Transformers, so, I thought it was a gas.
And, that Green Goblin truck is still famous.
I can't gush over it enough.


Stand By Me (1986)


This, "The Princess Bride", and "This Is Spinal Tap", make Rob Reiner immortal.
He's good to go.
He never need worry.

Definitely a case where I actually like the movie better than the book it's based on.

The novella has too much indulgent divergent crap that pulls away from the main narrative, and doesn't add anything.
But, that's a flaw in King I sort of discussed in the linked review for "The Shining".

Oh, with King, even the divergent crap is interesting, but you're like "come on, come ON!".

Anyway, this flick is a classic.
In the ensuing decades, and centuries, this'll be right up there with "Huckleberry Finn", for American masterpieces.
I really believe that.
With no irony, or hesitation.


Creepshow 2 (1987)


It's all right.
I enjoy it.
It doesn't quite capture the magic of the first one, but I like it okay.

The only King related sequel not to blow chunks.
Because he was involved.
They're his stories, and he's in the thing, so there's no better stamp of approval than his cameo.

Screenplay by George Romero, and directed by the cinematographer of the first one, and effects by Tom Savini (who also plays The Creep).
If you don't have King, Romero, and Savini, it ain't Creepshow.
So, this one counts.
Three, not so much.

But, more on that later.


The Running Man (1987)


See here.

Okay, this is almost as radically different from the short story as "Lawnmower Man", but...the premise and message are still there, so I'll count it.

Man, King just totally owned the 80's, didn't he?


Pet Sematary (1989)


Saw this one at the theater.
I think this was my first King movie at the theater.
*Thinks*....yeah, it totally was.

And I was old enough by now, that even though it scared the shit out of me, it was a fun scared.

I think this one's underrated, both as a film, and an adaptation.
It left some stuff from the book out, but what's left in is all book stuff, nothing made up by the screenwriter.
I think it's fucking great.

But, I think "Pet Semetary", is underrated in the canon period, I'd put it up with "Carrie", and "The Shining", for his absolute best horrors.
Those, and "It".


Tales From The Darkside The Movie (1990)


Tom Savini considers this the real "Creepshow 3", and so do I.

It uses a Stephen King story that got left out of "Creepshow 2", George Romero adapted it, and it's obviously a continuation of "Tales From The Darkside", the series, which George Romero created, and Stephen King wrote episodes for, and only legal issues kept that from being Creepshow The Series, so, if "Darkside", the series is Creepshow The Series in everything but name, then "Darkside", the movie is Creepshow The Series The Movie, so is Creepshow 3.

Adds up to me.

As far as King related anthologies go...mmm....somewhere between "Cat's Eye", and "Creepshow 2".
Not bad.
I like it.
Your mileage may vary.


IT (1990)


From here.

Stephen King's It 

One of the better Stephen King miniseries.
I find it to be a very worthy adaptation of the book.
Tim Curry's Pennywise is a pure delight.
And John Ritter is in it.
A fellow Stephen King fan on top of everything else that made him cool.
I really miss that guy.
Anyhoo, they're gonna remake this soon, R rated for the theater, I don't know how to feel about it.

Yep, that was 2 years ago, and still no word on that R rated theater version.

Although the director says he wants to film every scrap of the novel, even the gingerbread house witch, and the child orgy, and have whatever won't make the theater cut be on an ultimate DVD cut like "Watchmen".

The director of the miniseries says in the commentary that time and money prevented the witch, and he really tried to make a substitute for that, but ultimately was as disappointed as we were, and as for the orgy, he would have had no objection of filming it, and putting it on an unrated director's VHS (cuz that's what we had at the time) but he didn't think that scene really was true to the characters, and was more King having a kinky fantasy, which he refused to judge, but ultimately, it was a story issue for him.

John Ritter was alive for the commentary, and he wanted it in there.

The debate rages on.


Graveyard Shift (1990)


Meh....


Misery (1990)


Another Rob Reiner classic.

The flick speaks for itself.


Sometimes They Come Back (1991)


Ehhh....
The short story has a darker ending, which I prefer, but neither version has me doing cartwheels.


Golden Years (1991)


The only miniseries written specifically for TV, and not adapted from something.

It was well done, and held my interest, but it was cancelled before it could come to a proper conclusion, and the final episode was tacked on in home video, and network TV audiences didn't get to see it.
Sci-Fi/SyFy reran it with the ending included, and naturally, it was a rushed anti-climax.
Overall, it had potential though.
I weep for what could have been.


Sleepwalkers (1992)


An army of kitties (lead by Clovis) versus incestuous were-cats.
The rest is the buildup to that moment.

Enya sings the end theme.

Meh...


The Tommyknockers (1993)


Um, it's sort of a telepathic/biological Borg invasion.
The book was better.


The Dark Half (1993)


Another King/Romero team up.

*Wavey hand*

This came at the tail end of his coke addiction, and...it's not politically correct, and maybe even a bit evil, but I think coke was his Super Mario mushroom.
The stuff hasn't been the same without it.
IMHO.


Needful Things (1993)


Nope, didn't dig it.

Haven't read the book, but the flick was a flop for me.

The first King flick that flat out let me all the way down.
I found things to like about all of 'em up to this point.

Okay, when the two chicks fight to the death, and the bigger broad says "come at me if you're comin!!", that scene was morbidly enjoyable.

The rest, ppppt!


The Shawshank Redemption (1994)


Ahhh, that's more like it.
Apology accepted.

This, "Stand By Me", and "Misery", were parodied on "Family Guy".

And, this, "Stand By Me", and "Apt Pupil", were 3 of the 4 stories in "Different Seasons".

The 4th one was about a decapitated chick giving birth, and was really stupid.
I'm glad there's no movie to go with that one.


The Stand (1994)


See here.

Okay, you wouldn't know by how sneering and cold-blooded I was on it there, but I actually dug this.

Hey, I was brutal on "The Exorcist", and I actually think that's a great horror film.

It's when you apply logic to religion is when you run into trouble.
That's the message I was going for in those.

This is pretty damned good, but you know, I actually think "The Walking Dead", as an apocalypse story is doing even better.

Anyway, this began King's long association with Mick Garris.
In miniseries.
They met on "Sleepwakers".
They've been like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp ever since.


The Mangler (1995)


Um....well....it's got Robert Englund.
That's something...


The Langoliers (1995)


I really got a kick out of this one.
It didn't scare me at all, but I'm a hard audience for that now anyway, but as a story of characters problem solving within a weird situation, it felt like "Twilight Zone", or classic Star Trek.

Dean Stockwell and Bronson Pinchot especially are a real kick in this.

Tom Holland directed, but I'll save gushing over him for his own entry.

Hmm, you know, you can kind of see seeds of "Under The Dome", in this.
Same general idea.
Characters trapped within a weird phenomenon, and a crazy person undercutting their escape efforts.

Yeah, I like this.


And, that's it for that chunk.

Tomorrow, Stephen King Part 2.

3 comments:

Hyla Tracy II said...

Damn, that's pretty comprehensive!

(and thanks for the link and shout out, BTW)

I'm wracking my brain trying to think of what's left for "Part 2" . . .

Anonymous said...

Yeah, pretty comprehensive indeed. I must admit I love Carrie and the one with the demon car. Interesting stuff... Rune...

Hazel said...

Just finished reading Doctor Sleep.

It is pretty good, King is in good form with that one.

The Shining was his book that scared me as an 12 year old kid. Aided by the fact that I was living in a hotel run by my parents at the time of reading.

*Shudder*

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