There’s no denying that Stephen King is a hell of a writer and has been responsible for not only countless acclaimed novels and short stories, but also that his work has made for some classic movies. This latest adaptation, based on the 1992 novel of the same name finds a married couple, Jessie and Gerald who travel to a woodland holiday home in hope of reigniting the fire in their already troubled marriage. Once there Gerald has the idea of a little kinky bondage and role play, of which Jessie is initially game, that is until Gerald has a heart attack, leaving Jessie to ponder a grim fate.
This intriguing concept plays out very cleverly, exploring Jessie’s horrible dilemma, whilst throwing in hallucinations and memories of long buried secrets linked to childhood trauma. It’s brilliantly acted, especially from Carla Gugino (Sin City) who’s plight I found utterly compelling. Add to this a tense, cleverly written and at times creepy as hell plot and this twisting and turning horror-thriller kept me equal parts guessing and gripped.
I felt reminded of that other, claustrophobic King adaption ‘Misery’, and to a larger extent Oscar magnet ‘127 Hours’, and even if where it finally goes is a little ‘oh of course’, I still was both entertained and particularly impressed by this little low budget thriller I’d pretty much stumbled on by accident. A simple idea done well it seems, is all that’s needed sometimes.
For me director John Carpenter has been one of the greatest genre film makers probably since Roger Corman, and through the late seventies to late eighties had a streak of classic movie after classic movie. Who can argue with his pedigree when he’s made such entries as Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China? The fact he also composes all the music for his movies as well just shows a dedication to his craft.
This 1983 effort may not get the same kind of love as the aforementioned titles but still has a status as once again another decent, if rather low-rent adaptation of a Stephen King novel. The quirky tale of a high school nerd, Arnie (Keith Gordon) who stumbles upon a 1957 Plymouth Fury in an old man’s back yard and decides to buy it and restore it to it’s former glory. Said shiny red car named Christine, of course soon changes Arnie’s persona from the nerdy victim to a somewhat cooler kid about town, attracting not only the hot girl in school but also the attention of a group of bullies. The only thing is, Christine has a bit of a mind of her own and quickly get’s protective of Arnie and jealous of anyone who tries to take him away.
Of course it’s a bit dated and the acting is passable at best, and well, everyone (especially the bullies) looks way too old to be in high school. That being said as a master of the genre, Carpenter still fills the movie with assured direction, solid atmosphere and some effective moments (the attack on the gas station, the final showdown). The mixture of Carpenter’s own synth soundtrack and 50’s rock ‘n’ roll songs also works a treat. I’d have liked it to have got a bit more violent as the kills are tame as hell … even for the time this was made. The plot also jumps from one thing to another with this viewer not really getting that invested in Arnie’s descent into madness, and well Harry Dean Stanton’s detective just seems to wonder into the movie like he’s walked onto the wrong set. But for an old-school horror, this was fun, inoffensive stuff and I’m glad I’ve finally seen it.
The Blu-ray from Indicator comes with a detailed booklet that covers not only the movie but also the director’s influences throughout his career. What looks to be a new documentary is also on the disk, split over several parts with interviews with John Carpenter as well as several cast members, as is an audio commentary from Carpenter and lead actor Keith Gordon. Add to this a handful of deleted scenes, a photo gallery and an isolated score. The image quality whilst not amazing pops with Christine’s bright red paint work and overall is very pleasing. We also get the soundtrack in a choice of the original 2.0 or a more than welcome 5.1 even if surrounds aren’t really used. Top notch treatment then for a worthwhile, but not exactly essential entry in both Stephen King movie adaptations and Carpenter’s filmography.
Dru Struzan is an artist for Hollywood movie posters who lives in a small American town. One morning he wakes up to the aftermath of what appears to have been a hurricane and subsequently heads off to the local supermarket for supplies. Once there with his young son, he meets up with various locales, just as a strange mist descends on the town.
Now I jest, as it’s actually Thomas Jane and not the famed movie poster genius whose work is curiously portrayed in the opening scene. Jane leads a d-list cast who you’ll most likely recognize from various TV shows. Some will also be familiar to fans of The Walking Dead, no big shock as the movie is directed by Frank Darabont (The Green Mile) who helped launch that popular show. This is a similar group who we get to know as they get to know one another, whilst holed up in a supermarket; a setting not that far removed from famed zombie classic Dawn Of The Dead. However, this isn’t about zombies but ‘things’ lurking in the mist. So we get stupid people going outside and meeting a grizzly end, whilst everyone squabbles, a religious loon gets people worked up, and generally they’ve all got to figure out a way to survive. An always fun concept no doubt, but let down by only passable acting and fairly limp characterization. Thomas Jane as the lead is rather wooden, especially when he has to deliver earnest and emotional lines, where he just fails to convince. Some of the other cast fair better – but this clearly wasn’t the focus here (but should have been). Thankfully we do get some nail biting and freaky encounters that although horror-lite, still pack a punch. Darabont’s direction, working from a fairly run-of-the-mill Stephen King story is well done thankfully, and he brings what feels like a hand-held camera style that helped crank up the claustrophobic tension.
With a reliance on clichés and stereotypes (yes, there’s a hill-billy whose a bit of a dick), however and some instances of very ropey CGI, the potential here mostly fell short. The ending also felt like a last ditch attempt to throw a curve ball – but fails. That being said, for typical monster movie thrills, I still managed to have some fun with this regardless of shortcomings.
I really have no clue as to why it has taken me so long to see this highly acclaimed movie. Following in the wake of Frank Darabont’s industry defining Stephen King adaptation The Shawshank Redemption, the same director tackles another King story. Originally published in a series of small novellas, The Green Mile was a sort of experiment and follows the story of an elderly man in a care home who recants his time as a prison officer in charge of the inmates on death row; specifically his time in the company of convicted double murderer John Coffey. Tom Hanks plays prison warden Paul Edgecomb and is perfect casting in my opinion, as is the late Michael Clarke Duncan as the imposing but gentle-giant Coffey.
This well shot and atmospheric movie gathers together several solid performances and a powerful, magical tale that certainly left it’s mark on me. The fate of John Coffey, the mystery surrounding two dead girls and an unexplainable ‘gift’ kept me mesmerised. Hanks is as complex and believable as always and in the closing moments truly excellent (seriously, I cant watch Hanks cry … I just can’t). It’s one of the most emotional films I have seen in a long while and yes, brought a tear to my eye. It also gets fairly disturbing in places, mainly surround the cruel character of Percy (you may recall him from his stint as ‘toobs’ in The X-Files …). But don’t let that put you off as this is one of those stories that is tragic but also life-affirming and made with real passion for it’s source material. Essential viewing.
The Blu-ray is mostly impressive. The movie itself is in fairly good condition but for a slightly smudgy colour pallet (this may be intentional) and detail overall is good, with only occasional softness creeping in on distant and wide shots. Close-up detail is often excellent. Sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is pretty decent if a little lacking in the surrounds. Yet the big plus here is the extras consisting of a feature-length documentary named ‘walking the green mile’ as well as a commentary by the director, several deleted scenes and a trailer. Not too shabby for a modern classic. Packaging could have been better though.
It’s difficult to really say what we as movie lovers actually want from a remake. In my opinion they have usually only worked when the source material is ropey or lacking in the first place, with some exceptions of course. So now we come to what was possibly one of my most dreaded rehashes. First mistake – remake a bonafide classic of the genre, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel. Second mistake – the casting of pretty starlet Chloe Grace Moretz, something I have ranted about here on this very blog.
But brushing such fears aside, what is it actually like? Well let’s back track a little and tell you what we have here. Moretz plays lonely, bullied high school kid Carrie White, who lives in the shadow of her god-fearing, domineering mother (Julianne Moore) and pretty much tries to go unnoticed … until that is she gets her period in the school showers and becomes a cruel laughing stock to everyone who witnesses it. But hey, Prom Night is on the horizon, so things can only get better … right?
Let’s just say straight away, I was wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz. She is actually surprisingly convincing as the outcast Carrie, something I didn’t see coming and hey I’ll admit when I am wrong. She portrays the iconic role previously played by Sissy Spacek very well indeed, and even seems to have grown somewhat as an actress in the process. The second slam dunk is Julianne Moore – absolutely perfect as Carrie’s demented bible-quoting mother, and does the impossible by equalling the performance of the excellent Piper Laurie – possibly the true highlight of the original. The rest of the cast aren’t quite so interesting; we get the token popular girl who grows a conscience, the bully who basically is like every other bitch in such movies, and the do-gooder gym teacher … all not adding much. Director Kimberly Pierce however is clearly well-traversed in De Palma’s movie and this is basically a very close never-really-daring-to-try-anything-new sort of remake – although when the original pretty much hit all the right notes, that can be (mostly) forgiven.
Some bits are drawn out (the car sequence…), there’s too much CGI and the final prom bit fails to go for the jugular … oh and sorry Chloe you don’t look scary covered in blood. Yet this was still better than I expected. Worth a look.