Posts Tagged Stephen King

Odds and Ends

I haven’t made a legitimate contribution to this blog in a solid six weeks mainly because I’ve been busy purchasing my first home which, combined with working every day, is more time consuming and stressful than I could have imagined. [INSERT PUN ABOUT HOME PURCHASING BEING A "HORROR"].  So, rather than a series of fully-developed posts, I’m going to touch on a few things here that I’ve seen/done/been thinking about/etc and hopefully you, Dave Rogers dear readers, will accept this as a post.

First up, I managed to check out Paul, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s take on the sci-fi genre.  I’m a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead, which I’ve seen at least a dozen times, and I’m always excited when Pegg and Frost have a new project in the works.  In case you’re even less up to date than I am, Paul is about Graeme and Clive, two sci-fi/comic book fans from the UK who attend Comic-Con in California and take a road trip in an RV around the Southwest to visit notorious UFO-related locations.  As their trip is barely underway, a car blazes past them on the highway and suddenly crashes into a ditch.  Walking out of the wreck, the two friends find a small alien who promptly lights up a cigarette and begins talking.  Clive immediately pisses himself and passes out while Graeme speaks with the creature.  Though Clive is uneasy, the two agree to give Paul a ride to an unknown destination while the FBI is close behind.

I enjoyed Paul, though not nearly as much as Shaun of the Dead or even Hot Fuzz but I suspect that my opinion will change with subsequent viewings.  Pegg and Frost are masters of paying homage to the genres they choose and I know I missed at least half of the references in Paul because I’m not the best with my sci-fi knowledge.  I was, however, one of the few in the theater to catch a Jaws reference which made me realize I’ve seen that movie more times than anyone probably should.  There were dozens of other references that I’m sure no one caught.  References aside, I thought Paul was fast-paced and funny throughout with great supporting performances from Bill Hader, Joe Lo Tuglio, Kristin Wiig and Jason Bateman.  I’m definitely looking forward to a second viewing.

Shifting gears, I finally watched The Thing on Blu-ray which I picked up about 6 months ago.  I’ll probably lose horror fan points here, but this was only the second time I had seen the movie.  The first time was about 7 years ago via a mediocre quality DVD rip.  I remembered liking it but not necessarily why I did.  This viewing made those reasons very clear.  Most importantly, it’s scary and suspenseful.  I know that should be a given with horror, but sadly not many contemporary efforts manage to pull it off.  John Carpenter’s film creates a feeling of isolation and uncertainty about who the viewer can trust at any given point.  The lines between protagonist and antagonist shift abruptly throughout.  Even at the film’s bleak, perfect final scene, we still don’t know what’s going to happen and Carpenter doesn’t tell us.

Especially in Blu-ray quality, The Thing is also a showcase of how old-school latex and corn syrup gore special effects trump modern day CGI.  That autopsy scene is particularly nasty as Wilford Brimley (in his pre “Diabeetus” days) excises gooey intestines and organs from the victims.  I forgot how much I enjoyed The Thing and I’m glad that I took the time to remember why it’s considered a classic of the genre.  On a sadder note, a The Thing prequel focused on the Norwegian crew that initially discovered the alien is planned to be released this year.  I wonder how that one is going to end…ugh.

Moving on…I’m pretty sure I mentioned this at some point in the past and that it’s old news now but Stephen King has announced a new book in the Dark Tower series called The Wind Through The Keyhole.  The book is set to be released in 2012 and will take place following the events of Wizard and Glass, arguably the series’ strongest book.  Or possibly it will take place before the main narrative of Wizard and Glass begins.  King has been contradictory about the book’s premise thus far.  Either way, here’s where I’ll advocate that you should read the entire Dark Tower series if you have no idea what I’m talking about.  Or maybe you shouldn’t.  That’s what brought this topic back into my mind.  I was talking to a friend about the series who said he was into it until the very end (and then he pretended to erase something with an imaginary pencil – you’ll get it if you’ve read the books).  I have always raved about the Dark Tower books but I think I’ve always skipped over the fact that the ending was underwhelming to say the least and King’s insistence on inserting himself as a character was annoying.  Conceptually, I get it – that the worlds of the Dark Tower are all interconnected, which means that we too (and therefore King himself) are included.  I actually like that idea a lot but did he really have to spend a whole book writing himself into it?  I’m ranting now.  I can’t lie though – I’ll purchase the new book on the day it’s released, stay up all night reading it, rave about it, and then in a couple years I’ll look back and cite its flaws like I am now.  I’m so predictable.

Lastly, it looks like we’re going to get Trick ‘R Treat 2 sometime in the near future.  Last week, an ominous “Sam WILL return…” message was posted on the official Facebook and Twitter accounts for the film.  Sam, if you haven’t seen the first film, is the demonic child/thing from the most popular story segment.  I think a lot of horror fans are excited to hear this news, even if it’s not confirmed yet.  The first Trick ‘R Treat was a collection of four horror stories ala Creepshow but rather than being standalone pieces, all of the stories intertwined in subtle ways.  Better than any other films that have tried, it managed to really capture the essence of a creepy Halloween night.  Watching it, you can almost smell the brisk Fall air and hear the rustling of dead leaves.  Hopefully the film studios will have learned from their mistakes and will give Trick ‘R Treat 2 a proper theatrical release instead of bailing at the last minute.

So, there it is.  A real post.  Finally.  Don’t worry, I’ve got more to contribute here and maybe after I get through the horror (I crack myself up) of moving, I’ll get back to my regular half-assed posting schedule.

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The Dark Tower: A Ron Howard Film? Color Me Skeptical.

darktower1News is hitting the blogosphere this morning that Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer and writer/producer Akiva Goldsman have purchased the film rights to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower - easily my favorite books he’s written.  Previously, J.J. Abrams had purchased the rights from King for $19 (you’ll know the significance if you’ve read the books) but returned them to the author after realizing he wouldn’t be able to do the series justice.  It is being reported that Howard intends to shoot a movie that will lay the foundation for a TV series.

While I think The Dark Tower deserves some kind of film adaptation, this news makes me nervous for a couple of reasons.  In my ideal world, each book from The Dark Tower series would be made into a series of HBO or Showtime episodes ala True Blood (well, minus all the vampire sex).  I really don’t see any other way to do the books justice because of their intricate plot layers, flashbacks, and character depth.  Inevitably, any kind of adaptation will inspire ire from fans for one reason or another but I think an HBO approach would significantly reduce complaints.  Howard seems to be talking regular cable, which really sucks.  The Dark Tower books are often gritty, violent, and sexual.  Obviously they’re going to lose most of that by airing on NBC or something.

Also, is Howard really the right director?  He’s brilliant and responsible for some great films but how will the director of The Da Vinci Code treat our epic hero, Roland?  I felt more comfortable with Abrams owning the rights as he is a more experienced sci-fi/horror genre director and writer.  Then again, he did write Armageddon and Mission Impossible III.  Bah.  I guess I’m one of those ire-filled fans I was just writing about.  I’ll never be completely satisfied with the end product, I’m sure.  Let’s just hope this doesn’t go the route of IT – a great and very violent/graphic book dulled down by network television.  Do our boy Roland some justice, will ya?

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King’s Picks

Stephen King_webJust to be thorough, the article by King, which I cited from last week, had a second part in which he gave his list of the best scary movies in recent history. While King’s list didn’t really suggest a hierarchy he still agreed with us that Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and The Descent deserved high honors.

The rest of his list included: From Dusk Till Dawn, Scream, Mimic, Event Horizon, Deep Blue Sea, Stir of Echos, Final Destination, Pi, Red Lights, Saw, The Jacket, Pan’s Labyrinth, Jeepers Creepers, The Moth Man Prophecies, Eight-legged Freaks, The Hitcher (2007), The Mist, 1408, Funny Games, The Strangers, The Ruins, and Snakes on a Plane…

While it’s hard to agree with many of his choices… King, at least, presents a diverse from across the genre. King also gives great justification for each one. Without rehashing the entire article, a perfect example of this is his description of Final Destination where he compares it to “R-rated splatter versions of old Road Runner cartoons” because of the “Rube Goldberg” nature of some of the death sequences.

Also noteworthy, is that two his picks are based on things he wrote, however his praise of them are objectively geared towards the film elements. I personally thought 1408 was one of the weakest horror movies I’ve seen in a long while with the scariest element being the unnecessary casting of Samuel L.

Regardless, King’s list illustrates a diverse appreciation and open mindedness that we try to maintain here at No Room In Hell and more importantly doesn’t acknowledge the works of our patron punching bag, Rob Zombie.

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King Revists Blair Witch For Formula On Fear

KINGIn a recent Fangoria article, America’s favorite son of the macabre, Stephen King, took his best swing at our recent motif  here at No Room In Hell’s, “What’s Scary?” The article, which was titled as such, dealt with King’s experiences with horror cinema throughout the years, but focused on Blair Witch, docu-horror, and zombies. His analysis of the subject matter  was intriguing but once again the demon of subjectivity reared his large horns.

Subjectivity in itself is interesting. After Matt’s piece, “The Search For Genuine Scares – Horror Fans And Bloggers Weigh In,” we discovered that horror is a personal experience. Something we couldn’t pin down. What is it about that feeling in our hearts and stomach that thrills us and freezes our blood in its veins that creates such diversity from person to person? When thinking about Blair Witch, I always ask what the hell made sticks and the extreme close up of an annoying girl’s  nostrils terrifying? King’s answer, “The first time I saw Blair Witch was in a hospital room about 12 days after a careless driver in a minivan smashed the shit out me on a country road. I was,  in a manner of speaking, the perfect viewer: roaring with pain from top to bottom, high on painkillers, and looking a poorly copied bootleg video tape on a portable TV.” I knew it; it takes heavy drugs, excruciating pain and bad picture quality. Seriously, though, the situation of how you watched that movie for the first time was important.

My girlfriend talked about seeing it in a basement at Princeton before the hype. Watching it in the dark on an unlabeled VHS and seeing those grainy woods, rough cuts, and just anti-Hollywood dinginess (King observes how one scene you can actually hear the sound of plane passing overhead) had to make the audience wonder could this be real? That spell was long defused when I watched in 2007, on cable TV,  on a 54 inch TV screen, probably in HD, and my girlfriend sat by waiting for a reaction that would never come. Why? Because the magic was gone, the compilation of weak images had no value without a dose of imagination that I could not stir up after knowing it was fake.

Brain BlairFamily Guy, in its endless wisdom, once a had a scene where Brian Griffin brings a blind man to Blair Witch and describes the film to  him. Brian basically goes through a lot of “nothing happening, something about a map,something about a witch, the camera keeps moving, the credits are rolling and everyone is leaving the theater really pissed off looking!” Silliness aside, when you break Blair Witch down to its images that’s all this film was. It’s the personal experience of people who came to it at the right time and right place that brought it its success.

King attributes much of the recent docu-style horror to a formula that Blair Witch introduced. He praises Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) for its fast-paced opening that tears across the screen and settles into a title sequence designed to show our society responding to a zombie crisis. The blurry faux news clips, King asserts, seem to be inspired by the Blair Witch formula. King talks about one image in this sequence,  “What we see in that brief black and white  shot is what looks like a thousand devout Muslim worshipers, bowing towards Mecca in Unison—an image of mass belief that most Americans found troubling.” King goes on to make Synder’s unyielding, charging zombies a parable of terrorists, creatures that won’t respond to reason or threats; only a well placed bullet puts them down. His point seems to be that terror is about right audience, right place, and right time. In his words, only three years after 9/11 “What haunted us was the idea of suicide bombers driven by unforgiving (and unthinking, most of us believed) ideology and religious fervor.” What more is a zombie than a creature driven by a single purpose?

Horror is the blood stained mirror that allows us to look at our terror in a jar in a place we know we’re safe from its contents. Night of Living Dead 68’ hit society in a time of The Cold War and has often been analyzed as a parable of the “red scare.” Unknown monsters with a different way of moving about, turning us into them, and sweeping their ways across the country side. Communism or terrorism, the media will always have suggestions on what you should be afraid of, but just the classic fear of being lost with the unknown in the dark woods may do it for you (worked for Little Red and her wolf problem). Fear depends on what dark fingers tighten around your heart when you are afraid.  For me, I’ve seemed to miss the boat on Blair Witch, but I think King’s analysis of it as a formula, giving the audience a douse of grainy reality, will be a growing trend in the next decade as low and high budget filmmakers alike try to find ways to run their claws down our spines.

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Stephen King Planning Sequel To The Shining?

ShiningJust read an interesting post on The Playlist about Stephen King’s interest in writing a sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep.  Apparently, while on tour recently promoting his new book Under The Dome, King let on that he’s been kicking around the idea in his head – seriously enough that he’s already figured out the premise:

Danny is now 40-years-old and living in upstate New York, where he works as the equivalent of an orderly at a hospice for the terminally ill. Danny’s real job is to visit with patients who are just about to pass on to the other side, and to help them make that journey with the aid of his mysterious powers. Danny also has a sideline in betting on the horses, a trick he learned from his buddy Dick Hallorann.

King also revealed he’s working on a new Dark Tower novel and words cannot convey how excited I am for that.  If you’ve never read The Gunslinger, you can’t consider yourself a real Stephen King fan.  Stop reading this and buy it now.  But back to the topic at hand.  While it’s being called a sequel by The Playlist and other bloggers, I’m not sure (based on the little information we have now) that it can be classified as one.  King is notorious for integrating characters from older books into new ones.  For instance, in the Dark Tower series, both Randall Flag from The Stand and Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot make an appearance.  It sounds to me that this could be less of a Shining 2 than a new novel using older characters/references.  But we’re talking semantics now.

The premise doesn’t sound too thrilling as it stands now but knowing King, he’s got some supernatural/demonic/other-wordly tricks floating around in his brain too.  Having just reread The Shining this past summer and finally appreciating its excellent character depth, pacing, and suspense, I’m down to learn more about what became of Danny, Wendy, and Dick Halloran.  Would you read it?

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Erik Estrada and Stephen King’s It all in one post!

I’m away on business right now and I have had literally no time to write anything here but I have a small break in the action right now before I have to escort Erik Estrada to a tent at the golf course I’m on.  Yes, that’s right, I’m escorting Ponch from CHiPs.  You might not know who that is, since everyone I know is about my age but he’s that dashingly good looking guy from 70′s television.  Check out his heartthrob photo:

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But the real reason I started this post was because my friend down here just told me that Stephen King’s “It” is being remade.  I don’t know how I missed that one, seeing as I tend to be obsessed with bitching about remakes these days.  At first, I had an initial feeling of excitement since I’ve always felt the 1990 TV miniseries was lacking in some areas and I would be interested in seeing it done justice with a full length movie.

Apparently, people have been kicking this idea around for at least five years (as a lot of movies are) and Variety just announced that Warner Brothers has signed Dave Kajganich to write the screenplay.   I suppose this is both good and bad news.  Kajganich has an almost non-existant track record- his most notable effort being The Invasion (2007) starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.  I haven’t seen it but it didn’t look very good.  However, the fact that It is being made into a feature film is good news because the idea for SciFi Channel to remake it as a four-hour miniseries (didn’t they do that already?) was on the table for years.  Now, if you know anything about cable television, you’ll already know that SciFi is responsible for some of the best (read: amazingly awful) self-produced movies and television shows in history.  Please watch this clip in its entirety- it’s really worth it.

So, we should all be terribly grateful that disaster has possibly been averted and It still has a chance to shine.  Like I said before, a lot of the original miniseries didn’t do it for me.  Sure, if you’ve got a fear of clowns with razor-sharp teeth, the 1990 version can be creepy and Tim Curry does an excellent job as Pennywise.  However, the limitations of television certainly prevent It from being as graphic and scary as it could have been.  That, and the ending was so anti-climactic.  A spider thing?  Really?  I’m holding out hope that this remake will earn a solid R rating.  If you’ve read Stephen King’s novel, you’ll know that the Pennywise needs to be portrayed as the embodiment of evil for the film to be effective and that involves graphic violence.  Still, I don’t understand how the filmmakers plan to cram 1,000+ pages of novel into a two or even three hour movie.  The original miniseries was six hours and it still failed to capture much of the back story and mythos of the novel.

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More details to come I’m sure.  After I finish becoming buddies with Ponch, that is.

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