Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Desperation (2006)

So, I must be on a bit of a Stephen King kick, because last night I watched Desperation. Originally a TV movie, and then released on Lions Gate Films, Desperation is based on the 1997 King book of the same name. I loved the book Desperation, and was excited to see the movie especially since one of my secret favorite horror actors is in it (Steven Weber -- yipeee!!)

The teleplay for Desperation was written by Stephen King, so I was definitely expecting a lot out of the movie. I was excited to see that, in general, the movie was able to portray the intense creepiness (not outright "boo" factor) that the book did.

The movie follows four groups of people as they're all consequently headed towards the town of Desperation, Nevada. They comprise a family in an RV, an aging writer traveling cross-country, his roadie and a hitchhiker, and a couple driving a relative's car back to New York. They all, for one reason or another, end up in the back of a crazy cop's cruiser and headed for Desperation.

The cop is Collie Entragian, played by a very convincing Ron Perlman. To be honest, I was expecting more of a Henry Rollins type to play Entragian, but I think Perlman pulled it off very well. Especially the "tak" line (repeated throughout the movie) which could have been really awkward, but instead was convincing and creepy.

Back in town, and a couple family members short due to Entragian's rage, all of these poor people are loaded into jail cells in order to await their fate. The cop ends up knocking off the little girl from the family, as well as Mary's husband, and peaces out for a bit, apparently to gather more victims.

Then the kid from the family (David) goes on one of his many god-streaks, soaps himself up, and escapes from the jail cell. Everyone somehow escapes without the wacko cop noticing, armors themselves with weapons, etc. and head for the movie theater, which according to old dude is the safest place in town.

Well, obviously it's not, but this is when the movie starts to go downhill anyway. The "hiding out" part was one of the better parts of the book, but here, it just plods along. There are numerous "flashbacks" and that dead little girl keeps reappearing and leading everyone around. Sooner or later, some more people are dead, the cop has switched bodies, and everyone is running around Desperation for their lives.

Finally, it gets to the conclusion which pretty closely follows the book, but goes off on another God-tangent, and WHEN ARE THESE PEOPLE GOING TO QUIT PRAYING?! Seriously, get out of there! WTF?! Sometimes, I wonder if Stephen King gets on a little too much of a religious streak for his own good. So yadayada, some people survive and then there's this random photo album, andddd by this time, I've given up on this nonsense.

So the consensus? This movie could have been really good. The book was great, the premise was scary, and the vibe was creepy. Steven Weber was dead sexy but there was absolutely no chemistry between him and the punk chick. And the God thing just went on and on until I was rolling my eyes.

I really wanted to like this movie like I loved the book, but much like SK's IT, it was creepy throughout but then it took a weird fantasy turn that left me giggling rather than shreiking.

Fingers crossed that the upcoming Talisman and Black House miniseries are a billion times better.

Grade: D (When the Freddy-sweater-colored convertible top comes over the kids in Nightmare on Elm Street -- I mean, WTF did that even mean?!)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Masters of Horror: Jenifer (2005)

I decided to dive head-first into the Masters of Horror series and started with "Jenifer". The screenplay was written by Steven Weber, and he also stars in the episode (these MOH things are less than an hour long -- like little mini-movies)
So it begins -- two police officers are eating some Chinese food on a quiet road when they hear screaming and commotion. Detective Spivey (Weber) goes flying out of the car just in time to save a young woman from a man who is about to hack her up with a meat cleaver. When Spivey approaches the woman (Jenifer), he sees that although she has a gorgeous body, her face is hideously deformed (I am not exaggerating -- that face is fricken' crazy)
Spivey finds himself strangely attracted to Jenifer, and even goes so far as to take her from the mental institution she is being housed in and BRING HER TO HIS HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. Obviously his WIFE (??!!) and teenage son are not thrilled with this plan. They would also not be thrilled to discover that he begins sleeping with Jenifer behind his wife's back. The sex scenes are pretty graphic, and in fact, they had to cut some additional content out, due to being too racy for even Showtime. We soon discover that her issues are not limited to her f-ed up face, andn the ensuing action involves lots and lots of gore and an extremely strange decision on Spivey's part. The end is pretty shocking as well.
I liked this movie and it has inspired me to rent more of the MOH series. The nice thing about the less-than-an-hour running time is that there's none of the fluff and boring extra content that clouds up some full-length horror movies. It's just sixty minutes of pure horror goodness -- yummy.
Grade: B+ (Creature/friend in the basement in Evil Dead)

The Shining (1997)

Although I saw this when it was first on television, I've been in the process of re-visiting all Stephen King movies, and this one landed in my mailbox via Netflix. Although many would not agree, I did not like the first version of The Shining with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. Unfortunately, I saw it after I read the book, and I was disappointed with the casting, as well as the fact that the movie didn't follow the book at all. As many people know, Stephen King was also not happy with the 1980 version of the movie, therefore, he wrote the teleplay for this version, which was originally aired as a miniseries.

This version of The Shining stars Steven Weber (Jack) and Rebecca DeMornay (Wendy), as well as Courtland Mead as Danny. I feel the casting in this version fit much better since Jack was supposed to start out as a fairly regular person who descends into insanity, whereas Jack Nicholson pretty much looks crazy from the start. Same with Shelly/Rebecca -- Wendy was meant to be the cute and innocent ex-cheerleader type, characteristics that really weren't portrayed by Shelly Duvall.

Anyway, enough with the comparisons. The Shining is a really long movie, because of the fact that it was originally shown over 3 or 4 nights on television. It follows the original Stephen King book to the letter. As most know, the story is that a family (complete with alcoholic ex-professor father/husband who can't get work) move into an old hotel for the winter to perform caretaking duties. The hotel is completely inaccessible and snowed in through most of the winter, and that's where the troubles start.

The hotel is obviously possessed with all kinds of crazy spirits and such, and it doesn't help that the child, Danny, has a sort of sixth sense which allows him to see and interact with all the psycho shit going on. Unfortunately, Jack also gets sucked into the world of ghosts, monsters, and madmen, and becomes convinced to turn on his family. There's no escape, Jack's running around with a croquet mallet, Rebecca DeMornay screaming in a nightgown, bottles of Jack Daniels materialize out of nowhere, etc. etc.

As a huge King fan, I really want to like this movie. But, honestly, it is kind of boring. There's not really too many scares, and the story kind of plods along for a few hours, trekking onwards towards a pretty predictable ending. It's a good movie for true King fans who want to see the movie made "the right way", but it was probably better on TV, and difficult to watch in a 4 or so hour stretch.

Grade: D (Chucky re-emerging alive from a bunch of melted wax -- I mean,