As I mentioned in my Stranger Things-inspired post, I’ve been watching a lot of horror films lately. And you can’t have a mention of that Netflix series without thinking of Mr. Stephen King, now can you? Well, I read and listened to a crazy number of his novels earlier this year (and am still sloooooowly working my way through The Stand) but I’ve also watched a few of the films he’s worked on.
While flipping through movie options on TWC On Demand I saw Maximum Overdrive as an option and immediately turned the film on. Usually, I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about my choices, but this was nearly instantaneous. You probably know that this is King’s only directorial effort, that it’s based on his short story “Trucks” (which I haven’t read) and that he claims to have been coked out of his mind when he made it. And yet, with all that, the film about machines coming to life and killing people, especially the ones at a truck stop, including Emilio Estevez. There’s an obvious camp factor to this film, which is funny when you compare it to something very similar handled by a far more experienced director in John Carpenter’s Christine, which to me is a lot more effective.
And yet, you can still see a lot of the elements that have worked so well in King’s stories: a group of survivors doing their best to continue living in the midst of insanity, a kid on the run for his life and the terror found in everyday objects. I get why people laugh at this movie, but there’s also goodness there if you’re willing to look.
I also finally checked out Tales From The Darkside: The Movie which proved to be one of my favorite anthology films along with Carpenter’s Body Bags. The foundation of this one revolves around a captured Matthew Lawrence reading stories out of an old book to Debbie Harry as a way to delay her eventual cooking of him.
The stories feature Steve Buscemi, Christian Slater, Julianne Moore and a mummy as well as David Johansen trying to kill a bonkers cat for Wililam Hickey and a demonically tinged relationship between James Remar and Rae Dawn Chong. I won’t get too far into each of them, but usually when it comes to anthology films, there’s a dud. In this case, I thought all of them were solid and would gladly revisit this one again.
Most recently I checked out Riding The Bullet, a Mick Garris adaptation of an ebook that came out in 2004. This one stars a guy from Nashville (Jonathan Jackson), one of the women from Parenthood (Erika Christensen), the restaurant owner from Eureka (Chris Gauthier), Barbara Hershey and David Arquette. This one’s set in 1969 and would actually look it if there had been a filter or two to take away the glossiness of the early 2000s (or just done in a similar style to Mad Men). Or maybe Jackson just looks too much of his era.
The story’s a bit wild, but mainly focuses on Jackson trying to get to his hospitalized mother (Hershey) in Maine by hitchhiking with a variety of individuals who may or may not actually be alive. As he travels, Jackson sees a series of strange occurrences and rides with some less than stable individuals. In the end he has to make a horrible decision in true King fashion that will torture him regardless of his response.
I will say that there’s a bit of a problem with the film. Jackson is constantly flashing back to his past and also imagining events that might happen (sometimes the latter actually happens during the former). It’s an interesting idea that actually plays into some fears I have as someone with an overactive imagination, but you stop trusting what you’re seeing, waiting for the reveal that it’s just a vision. It’s not a deal breaker, but it can take you out of the movie a bit.
I’m definitely looking forward to reading this short story — it’s collected in Everything’s Eventual — and giving this one another watch in a few years. For what it’s worth, I wonder if research into the carnival Jackson eventually ends up in helped inspire King to write Joyland, another of his more recent works that I really enjoyed.
Finally, I watched the Bag Of Bones adaptation by Garris awhile ago and didn’t get around to writing about it, but the two-part A&E TV offering starring Pierce Brosnan, Mellisa George, Annabeth Gish, Anika Noni Rose and the rest. Brosnan stars as an author who recently lost his wife. In an attempt to get back into the authorial role, he goes to their lake house to focus. While there he not only encounters a spirit in his house, but also a young woman and her son in a custody battle with the boy’s grandfather, a mean old so-and-so who has some kind of connection to the spirits.
I was surprised at how intense this movie got. The haunting stuff is top notch, but the real scares come from the old man’s obsession, the sadness of living on after your partner and the origins of the ghost and how a curse continues to end with parents trying to drown their children. As with the best King tales, this one features supernatural scares, but the parts that hit the hardest revolve around how poorly people can treat each other just to keep themselves comfortable.