Tag Archives: stephen king

Christine – Review

29 Aug

I recently reviewed the first ever Stephen King adaptation, Brian DePalma’s film Carrie and its remake. I guess I just can’t stay away from his stories, since I’ve got another one for you today. In 1983, King released a novel called Christine which was adapted into a movie by John Carpenter that same year. As you might expect about a movie where a car is the primary source of fear, this isn’t a particularly scary story, but there is just enough flair and personality to make it another success for both King and Carpenter.

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Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon), who along with his friend Dennis (John Stockwell), are starting their senior year of high school with high hopes. The only difference between the two boys is that Dennis is popular, on the football team, and has girls fawning over him. Arnie has a different sort of appreciation that comes from the school bullies. While the two still remain good friends, Arnie finds a real companion in a 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine. He loves the car so much that it begins pushing him away from everyone he formerly cared about, including his new girlfriend, Leigh (Alexandra Cabot). As Arnie and Christine spend more and more time together, Christine begins getting jealous of the people around Arnie, and they soon begin to disappear one by one.

Now, while this movie is regarded among a lot of people as a small classic of the horror genre, there certainly is an elephant in the room and I just want to point it out. The premise to this movie is…like… really weird. A sentient car seduces a teenager, which pretty much turns him into a totally different person, and then the car goes on a rampage to prove just how much she (the car) cares for the guy. It’s not an easy task to take a story as ludicrous as this and make it into something that is easy to believe. That being said, it’s pretty necessary to suspend all disbelief for Christine. Once that is done, I feel like most people can have a pretty good time with this movie.

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What the story does very well is present characters and, certainly in Arnie’s case, the arc that the character goes through over the course of the movie. There’s also characters that get along that you don’t really expect to, and in that sense Christine is a pretty unconventional movie. Dennis and Arnie get along right from the get go, which gives these two main characters a past, and therefore make them feel a lot more real. The only character who doesn’t feel like there’s much of a past behind them is our title character, Christine. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Christine, especially when she begins her murderous rampage. Is it Christine or Arnie committing these crimes? This builds a lot of suspense, but there’s mystery around Christine that doesn’t really need to be there. Why is Christine sentient? Where did Christine really come from? I know in the book there’s more of an explanation, but it unfortunately didn’t really translate well to the screen.

This being a John Carpenter movie, there are a few things you can expect. The first is that this film is shot better than your average horror movie. Carpenter knows how to block shots using wide lenses to get the most into a shot as possible. There are also great scenes where Christine fixes herself, which was accomplished using plastic, vacuums, and reversing the footage. Really creative stuff. Now the idea of a car that’s actually alive isn’t particularly frightening (Pixar did it after all), but Carpenter knows how to use what material he has to the fullest. The black tinted windows add a nice layer of suspense, and this film probably has the best use of headlights you’ll ever see. It gives the film more menace than it probably would have had under a less talented hand.

John Carpenter and Stephen King are two masters of their genre, so seeing them both work together is something to really enjoy. Would it have been a little cooler if it was a different, more scary story of King’s? Maybe, maybe not. I do know, however, that while Christine isn’t a particularly scary story, it’s one that is told with clever writing, a confident hand behind the camera, and a vision provided by both of these minds that comes together quite nicely. While this isn’t the best of either of these two titans, it is a very good movie that is accessible to more people that some of their other works.

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Carrie (1976 & 2013) – Review

30 Jul

With 54 novels and almost 200 short stories, along with over 100 film adaptations of these works, Stephen King is one of the most prominent writers to walk the face of our Earth. Incidentally, the first novel he ever published was the first of his works to be adapted. This, as the title of the review may suggest, is Carrie. The first film to be released in 1976 became a horror classic as the years went on, which spawned a little known sequel in 1999 and a TV movie in 2002. Along with these was a remake from 2013, which despite what I originally expected, isn’t half bad.

Let’s start with Brian DePalma’s 1976 classic.

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High school can be tough for just about anyone, but it’s especially tough for Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). Having grown up under the roof of her Christian zealot mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie), she hasn’t been exposed to close to anything that kids her age have been, making her a social outcast and victim of extreme bullying. One day, the humiliation gets so bad that Carrie discovers latent telekinetic powers, which her mom claims to be the work of the devil. When Carrie is asked to prom by track superstar Tommy Ross (William Katt), after his girlfriend Sue (Amy Irving) demands it to atone for her bullying Carrie, it seems like her world is about to open up to new possibilities. Unfortunately for Carrie, school bully Chris (Nancy Allen) and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) stage a prank at the prom that unleashes not only more of Carrie’s telekinetic powers, but also years worth of rage and a violent desire for revenge.

Anyone who knows the story of Carrie should be able to understand why it’s actually so important, and also an iconic staple of the horror genre. It’s a devastating story of a young girl who is pushed too far by bullies, and she just so happens to have supernatural powers to get back at them. While this is a horror film, it can also be looked at as a drama, especially since the horror that it is known for happens during the last twenty minutes of the film. The other horror is also just watching her get tormented by the students and teachers at school, but also finding no solace at home with her mother who abuses her in a different kind of way. Carrie is a horror movie with a moral, and that’s to respect everyone, no matter how strange they may be… especially if they’re also gifted with murderous supernatural powers.

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Everything about the original Carrie just fits so perfectly. Brian DePalma’s highly stylized use of split diopter lenses and split screen editing makes for a unique experience, especially for a movie like this. The performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are also something to take note of, and they were both nominated for Academy Awards for their work in Carrie. Isn’t that odd? Two actors being nominated for a horror movie? What I’m getting at is that this is more than just a run of the mill horror movie. It’s a cautionary tale told by one of the world’s greatest storytellers, and it deserves its spot as one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

So, when another Hollywood remake was released 37 years later, I kept finding myself wondering why it had to happen. Do we really need another remake of a classic horror movie? Well, like it or not, we got one so I did my best to approach it with an open mind.

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There really isn’t a whole lot of difference between this film and the original, aside from the casting and the use of technology. This time, Carrie is played by Chloë Grace Moretz and her insane mother is played by Julianne Moore. Of course all of the other kids are recast, but they aren’t really worth mentioning. What this movie does, however, is add the use of social media to heighten the level and stretch the reach of the bullying done to Carrie. The most complaints I’ve heard about the original Carrie, even given by Stephen King, himself, who loved the movie, is that it’s outdated. Kimberly Pierce, most famous for her critically praised film Boys Don’t Cry, updates the movie for today’s audience who might not have seen the original. In that way, this film still succeeds just as much as the original with a message that is universal and timeless.

This being a remake, there’s no way that I could look at this movie and not compare it to the original. One thing that I think actually did improve was Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Margaret. This may be completely sacrilegious to cinephiles everywhere, but I just think that out of every actress ever, she was the perfect choice for this part. She just does creepy and insane very well. The same can’t really be said for Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular character, however. She does a fine job, but doesn’t have the power that Sissy Spacek had. Just look at the iconic scene from the prom in the original. Spacek is genuinely terrifying in that scene, which is something that Moretz unfortunately couldn’t capture.

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Most people say that this remake, along with may others, didn’t need to happen. The original has become such a classic that that’s the one people should be watching. The reality of the situation is that a lot of younger people don’t have an interest in older movies. This version of Carrie is actually a good way for younger audiences to experience the story and hopefully learn a little something about how they treat people because of it. It definitely doesn’t reach the high standards set by the original film, but it’s a worthy remake that is actually worth checking out, if anything just for the fun of comparing.

The story of Carrie has become known to pretty much everyone, even to the people who have never seen the movie. It’s pretty cool to think that a story originally written in 1974 is still relevant today and probably will be years from now. It truly is a sad story that ultimately ends in tragedy, but it works great as a horror film as well. For purists, it may be best to stick with the 1976 classic, but (and I really can’t believe I’m saying this) the remake really isn’t bad at all.

Creepshow and Creepshow 2 – Review

30 Dec

Doesn’t it seem almost too good to be true to have a movie exist that was written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero? It almost sounds unreal, but this is not the case. In 1982, a movie called Creepshow, a movie made up of five different stories, was released. This proved to be a huge success, which is unsurprising, and it’s also unsurprising that a sequel would be released five years later, Creepshow 2. While the first film is a really solid horror comedy that has become a classic, the sequel only provides the least amount of entertainment needed to keep and audience’s attention.

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Like I said before, this movie is broken up into five different short films written by Stephen King. A sadistic, deceased father (Jon Lormer) returns from the dead to get revenge on his murderous family and also enjoy his father’s day cake that he loves so much. A dim witted farmer (Stephen King himself) discovers a meteorite and is exposed to its chemicals that makes bushes and grass grow all over him and his property. A vengeful husband (Leslie Nielsen) gets revenge on his wife (Gaylen Ross) and her lover (Ted Danson), but soon gets more than he bargained for. A mysterious crate is found in a college that contains a bloodthirsty and hungry beast. Finally, a man (E.G. Marshall) who is deathly afraid of bugs and germs must defend himself from a swarm of thousands of cockroaches during a power outage.

Now, a lot of these stories sound cheesy and that’s because they are deliberately cheesy to the point of being comical. The style of Creepshow is heavily influenced by the E.C. horror comic books of the 1950s which were full of violence, sex, and dark comedy all of which combined to form a parent’s worst nightmare. That being said, a lot of this movie feels like it’s straight from a comic book with crazy color designs and dialogue boxes that seemed to be ripped right off the page. The gore and brutality of this movie is also appropriately tuned down, especially compared to Romero’s other works, like certain scenes in Day of the Dead.

The horror, the comedy, and King’s knack for clever stories all come together perfectly in Creepshow. This movie may not have hit the same level of success of other horror movies of the ’80s, but it certainly holds a very special place in the hearts of horror aficionados everywhere. It’s stylistic, creepy, and hilarious with a cast to really DIE FOR!! Wow, I’m hilarious.

In 1987, Creepshow 2 was released, but things were different. Instead of five stories, there are only three, Stephen King wrote the stories, but George Romero wrote the screenplay, and Michael Gornick, the cinematographer of the first film, was in the director’s chair.

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After the owners of a small shop in the middle of nowhere are murdered during a robbery, the wooden statue of a Native American goes on a rampage to get revenge on the people that ran the store and took care of him. Four college students head to the middle of the woods to relax on a raft in the middle of the lake, only to start being devoured by a blob that swims on the surface of the water. The last story tells of an adulterous woman (Lois Chiles), who while rushing home to meet her husband hits a hitchhiker and flees, only to be haunted by his corpse and reminded of what she’s done.

Remember how I was say Creepshow was the perfect combination of horror and comedy? Well Creepshow 2 sort of is…kind of…maybe. There’s something seriously lacking in this movie. For one, the clever comic book references are gone, and instead cliche horror tropes are added. The first one is pretty much a slasher, and so is the second for that matter. There’s nothing really special in these ones, except the effects of the statue and the blob. The last one with the murdered hitchhiker is the only one that really holds up with the standards of the first. That one was not only creepy, but also really funny in a twisted kind of way. Also, the talents from the first like Leslie Nielsen and Hal Holbrook are nowhere to be found.

Don’t get me wrong, Creepshow 2 isn’t horrible, it just is ok. The first film is a special piece in the history of horror where two titans of the genre combined forces to make something awesome. The second film is just a failed rehashing of what already was, but without the style, cleverness, and scares of the original.

So, there’s a quick look at the Creepshow movies. Anyone who claims to be a fan of horror movies are pretty much required to watch both of these movies, just for the history alone. There’s also an unofficial third movie that Romero and King had nothing to do with, so forget all about that, but don’t miss out on the other two.