24 September 2009

A Stephen King Viewing List

A Spooky Stephen King Marathon
By Kristin Battestella

For being such a horror buff, I’m not a fan of Stephen King and his books. Stranger still is that I really like films based on his torrid tales. As the macabre season nears, here’s a list of scary King shows to snuggle in with this Halloween.

Carrie- Yes we can all relate to the sheltered, special Sissy Spacek and her demented mother Piper Laurie-both ladies received Oscar nominations for their chilling performances. But its director Brian Depalma’s creepy look at the trauma of high school that stays with us. The gym shower, the prom, the pig’s blood, and an all star supporting cast keep this 1976 flick worthy. Forget any sequels or remakes here.

Christine- The dream of a hot rod gone horribly awry! There are a few past names here-and the film is sometimes billed under director John Carpenter’s clout-but the 1958 Plymouth is the star here. You can still enjoy these creepy car deaths today, and the early eighties motifs and fifties sentimentalities add to the scary nostalgia.

Salem’s Lot (s) - Both the 1979 release from Tobe Hooper and the quickie 2004 version starring Rob Lowe suffice for a night of vampires run amok in a supposedly safe New England inlet. If you’re looking for goth, glamorous vampires-they’re not here; but freaky, old fashioned suspense always works. Comparing both versions back to back might also be fun. Do however skip the useless sequel Return to Salem’s Lot.

The Shining- The recent miniseries adaptation isn’t bad, but you know I’m talking about Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson’s crazy writer stranded at the isolated, snowbound Overlook Hotel. I get tired of all King’s writer protagonists and their hang-ups, but Nicholson owns the alcoholic Jack Torrance and all his drama. Say it with me now, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’

Silver Bullet- Ah, a wheelchair bound Corey Haim insists there’s a werewolf in town but no one believes him! A well-rounded cast and scary wolf mysteries make you jump in your seat the first time you see this one. Several memorable, frightening scenes here still stick with me 25 years later. Younger audiences might be too frightened-but it’s only a movie, isn’t it?

Pet Semetary- Who hasn’t lost a pet or a loved one and wouldn’t do anything to bring them back? Another simple life truth askewed delightfully into freaky charm and horror. The cast here is small but memorable-Dale Midkiff as the desperate father and Fred Gwynne as the wise old neighbor who meets a very bizarre end. And the baby, well, he’s just so dang cute and disturbing at the same time! This is another one that might be too disturbing and confusing for super young ones.

Misery- James Caan and Oscar winner Kathy Bates are exceptional as a wounded writer and the obsessive fan who’ll do anything to keep him writing what she likes best. Another one memorable and disturbing in its simplicity; the gut wrenching thought of an entire manuscript on the barbeque, the masterfully painful two by four scenes, ouch! Known more for his charming comedies and dramas, Rob Reiner spins the creepy human elements here wonderfully.

Sleepwalkers- Often frowned upon as one of the weaker King pictures; I like Brian Krause and Alice Krige as the freaky mother and son cat people lusting after young meat. It’s bizarre, sexy, gory, and all those cats are really creepy! Maybe the effects aren’t exceptional now, but the cat morphing and slick score add some extra scary spice.

Children of the Corn- This original isn’t the best, and the entire series is fairly lowbrow in plot and effects. Nevertheless, all those rustling cornfields, creepy kids, and plant worship go a long way for a Halloween Harvest marathon. Name players come and go despite the low-budget status; and even if you’ve never actually seen all-count ‘em-seven films, you’ve probably heard of ‘He who walks behind the rows.’ I prefer Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest myself. And to think, I grew up on a farm.

Thinner- After killing a gypsy woman with his car, Robert John Burke is cursed to waste away just by the gypsy king’s touch upon his face. The gypsy plots are a bit stereotypical, yes; but this plays into our fears about what creepy curses they might be capable of. The social analysis of weight, dieting, and such stereotypes are all here, along with the freaky deterioration of body, soul, and self. I guess guilt and food do go together.

Rose Red / Diary of Ellen Rimbauer- If Rose Red were a King novel instead of a miniseries original, I might actually read it. This lengthy analysis of the haunted house, ghosts, greed, parapsychology, and telekinesis develops all its effects, scares, and talent fully. Nancy Travis, Julian Sands, and Emily Deschanel are delightfully creepy here. The prequel telefilm Diary of Ellen Rimbauer fills in King’s back-story, but it’s not as scary or in depth as its preceding sequel. Despite its period piece explanations and charming cast, I’d spend the day with Rose Red first.

Secret Window- A little obvious toward the end, yes, but Johnny Depp fans can enjoy this creepy thriller about an unreliable narrator writer shacked up in the woods with a freaky John Turturro pursuing him over a plagiarized story. There’s nothing super new here, but this one’s creepy and violent enough for a scare or two.

1 comment:

Kristin Battestella said...

Hey there Horror Folks!

Several of these mini reviews on the fearful and the macabre are also archived at Blood Theatre in their Guide to Gore database!

Check out the entire Guide and a few of my longer reviews here