Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kings of Horror (19 - 25)

Ryan Turek and William Bibbiani are still valiantly making their way through the Stephen King movie canon with their month-long series Kings of Horror.   Because the sheer volume of adaptations is overwhelming, they've restricted themselves to theatrical horror releases... but I'm changing thee lineup a bit, and including a few non-horror theatrical releases.

I'm also trying to include Stephen King's opinions in my posts.  Since the author is  pretty outspoken about Hollywood's adaptations of his work, it's usually not hard to find out what he thinks about them.  Unfortunately there are a few movies in the 1990s and 2000s that King has not publicly reflected on -- at least, not to my knowledge.  (If anyone knows otherwise, please share...)


TOM MCLOUGHLIN (director): It wasn't fleshed out properly.  The writers had to expand a short story, so they put a lot of 'the best of Stephen King' moments into it.  Like the evil car [from Christine]... a lot of things that were borrowed from other works to flesh out the story.

MADDREY: For me, this is one of those almost movies.  It boasts solid performances and atmospheric direction, and it is a surprisingly heartfelt story in spite of 'the best of Stephen King' moments.  My biggest problem is with the monsters.  I feel like the story would have benefited from a bit more clarity about their nature, where they come from and how to get rid of them.  Without that inherent logic, I have a hard time taking the threat seriously.  It's the same problem I often have with the villains in "rubber reality" horror movies.  For me, "reality" requires rules.  If anything goes, fear becomes too abstract.  That said, this film is artfully made and it deserves more recognition than it gets. **1/2


GEORGE ROMERO (director): "I thought I did OK work on THE DARK HALF, but the experience was hell.  So I can't list that as one of my favorites."

MADDREY: This is King's Jekyll and Hyde story, and I think it suffers (like SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK) from lack of clarity about the nature of the monster.  The novel is not one of my favorites, and I can't help wishing that King and director George Romero had reunited on a more worthy story... like THE STAND, PET SEMATARY or IT, all of which Romero was attached to at one point.  Still, THE DARK HALF is a respectable little horror movie that significantly improves on the novel in some ways.  I love the way Romero uses colored filters to suggest the intrusion of chaos into conventional reality... Little details like that demonstrate what a sophisticated storyteller he is.  I also love Christopher Young's score, which adds a beautiful ethereal quality of the film.   **1/2


KING: "The movie was a special case.  The first cut was shown on TNT.  I have a copy of it, and the length of this film was four hours long.  As a four-hour miniseries, it works.  When edited down to 'movie length', it is almost indecipherable because it doesn't have time to tell all the stories and do all the setups."

MADDREY: This is another case where I'm not crazy about the source material.  Unlike Ryan Turek, I don't think the novel is "epic"... I think it's a brilliant idea, flatly executed on the page.  King was going for satire (a new mode for him as an author), and I think satire overwhelms the story.  The movie shores up some of the novel's weaknesses by  making the devil a more subtle menace and generally doing a better job of illustrating King's message about temptation and greed - especially in the final act.  Despite those improvements, the movie still rings a bit hollow for me.  It's well acted and well produced, but I don't find it particularly fun (with the exception of a few of von Sydow's line deliveries) or scary.  This is another almost movie.   **1/2


KING: "I thought SHAWSHANK was a terrific piece of work, and it is not a one-to-one adaptation.  There are a lot of things in the film that are not in my book.  The scene where Andy is playing the opera music in the yard is a good example.  It's a film about human beings."

MADDREY: I was one of the three people who saw this film in its theatrical release -- and I only went because, at that time, I saw everything that had anything to do with Stephen King.  The source novella is good, not great, but the movie is simply brilliant.  Everything about it works: Darabont's restructuring of King's story, stellar performances by every single cast member, an unforgettable score by Thomas Newman... even the recurring voiceover.  I usually hate voiceovers with a fiery passion, but Morgan Freeman brings gravitas to every word.  I left the theater after that first screening feeling completely elated.  Many years and many screenings later, the film still has the same effect on me.  *****


KING: "Tobe Hooper, who directed it, is something of a genius... But when genius goes wrong, brother, watch out... The movie's visuals are surreal and the sets are eye-popping, btu somewhere along the way (maybe in the copious amounts of steam generated by the film's mechanical star), the story got lost."

MADDREY: I was also one of the three people who saw this movie in its theatrical release, and I was appropriately embarrassed afterwards.  And yet... while I admit that this is an utterly ludicrous movie that shows poor storytelling judgment on almost every level, there are some things I like about it.  I have written about this film at length in attempt to justify my belief that it is not the worst Stephen King adaptation.  Take that for whatever it's worth, if anything.  **


KING: "Unfortunately, DOLORES CLAIBORNE is a film, like Kubrick's THE SHINING, that is nearly overwhelming because of its beautiful photography, but the story that surrounds the photography is flawed."

MADDREY: As a first-person narrative exploring real-world horror, the novel Dolores Claiborne was a departure from "traditional" Stephen King stories -- a remarkable display of the writer's talent, but not an entirely enjoyable reading experience.  Likewise, this film is a departure from the earlier Stephen King movies.  It's a character-based A-list melodrama rather than a thriller, and as such it is interesting... though not a particularly enjoyable viewing experience.  Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh give studied performances as a mother and daughter haunted by the unforgivable actions of their husband / father, but just as these two characters refuse to let each other in, so the movie holds the viewer at a distance.  It is beautiful to look at, but emotionally unavailable.  **1/2


KING: "When they finished it, it seemed like such a barker, and I don't mean Clive, I mean a dog.  We all tried our hand at cutting it, but in the end they turned it over to the suits at Spelling.  I don't know who finally made the creative editing decisions, except they weren't creative decisions - they were made by people who have no sense of humor."

MADDREY: I love the concept, and I have come to appreciate the novel more and more over the years... but I still can't muster much enthusiasm for this movie.  The performances are hammy.  The visual and makeup effects look cheap and silly.  The lighting is too bright (why are all Stephen King adaptations made in the 1990s so damn BRIGHT?).  The tone is all over the place.  I don't know what else to say except that watching this movie makes me feel tired and annoyed.  (Sorry, Larkin, if you have fond memories of this one...) *

The marathon continues HERE.

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