Take a Ride with "Christine"


1/15/2019

Stephen King has brought us stories of possessed Dogs, Cats, and werewolves, now we move on to inanimate objects like the bright red 1957 Plymouth Fury in “Christine”.  Can a car have a mind of its own? Most definitely, but can it kill people, well that would make for a good story.  Directed by the master of horror himself John Carpenter, who just 5 years earlier debuted “Halloween” that changed horror movies forever.

Arnie Cunningham, played by Keith Gordon, is the epitome of the nerdy high school student, even his hame screams dorkiness.  Although he is best friends with Dennis the quarterback of the football team.  Arnie then has a serious run-in with the school's motorhead bullies with their leader the ironically name Buddy.  Buddy, who looks about 30 years old, whips out a switchblade and terrorizes Arnie only to be saved by Dennis.  Dennis drives a hot muscle car and Arnie wants to get one for himself.  He finds a rusted out and beat to hell ’57 Plymouth Fury in an old man's junkyard and has an instant connection with it.  The 20-year-old car has a history, in the movies opening scene we see the car rolling off the assembly line and taking its first victim.  Arnie’s parents are not too keen on him having the car and forbid him from keeping it at the house, so he brings it to a big garage where he can restore it.  He strikes a deal with the gruff and greasy shop owner and Arnie gets to work.  

Although the premise of “Christine” sounds a little ridiculous and in the wrong hands could be really bad, Carpenter and writer Bill Phillips turn Kings novel into a decent movie.  The idea that people, especially men, can get obsessively attached to their cars to the point that it changes their attitude and behavior is quite believable.  Arnie eventually restores the car to like new condition.  Arnie also starts to change, he does away with his glasses and adopts an edgier and rebellious personality.  He also starts going out with the prettiest girl in school, Leigh, played by Alexandra Paul.  Noticing Arnie’s transformation and new reputation with his hot new car, Buddy and the guys absolutely trash Christine an even take a crap on the dash (nice touch!).  Furious and defeated, Arnie looks to get revenge and nobody wants it more than Christine, who in a bit of cool 80s special effects fixes and restores herself.  Arnie is completely under Christine’s spell and nothing else in his life matters.  The bullies start showing up dead and detective Rudolf Junkins, played by Harry Dean Stanton, start poking into Arnie’s business.  When they see their friend going off the deep and acting all crazy Dennis and Leigh try to help Arnie, but is too far gone?  Has Christine claimed yet another victim?

“Christine” is an interesting movie in that it's not really a horror movie, it’s not gory or all that suspenseful, but it has strong characters and is a well-written teen thriller.  They wanted the movie to be rated “R” so they actually had to add in a lot more swearing and dirty language to achieve it.  It’s a movie that a lot of people who grew up in the 1980s can remember seeing and like a lot of other Stephen King movie holds a special place in peoples lives.


Stephen King's "Silver Bullet"

1/12/2019

Continuing on our tour of Stephen King films from the 1980s.  “Silver Bullet” was released in 1985 and is your classic werewolf story.  Like most of the films in the King Universe, this story takes place in a small New England town and features kids battling supernatural evil.  Stephen King himself adapted the novel for the screen while Dan Attias directed the film.

Although the main character of the film is Marty (played by 80s teen star Corey Haim), a teenage boy in a wheelchair, the story is presented in voiceover from his older sister Jane years later.  Deep down this is really a story about the relationship of a brother and sister.  Marty’s wheelchair is called “The Silver Bullet” as it looks to be a combination of a wheelchair and a go-cart.  Marty also has this crazy goofball of an Uncle named “Red” played by who else Gary Busey.  When the townspeople start to die off, especially after a kid is killed, an angry vigilante mob is formed.  The people are being hunted by a werewolf, which is obviously a man in a suit but the make-up and effects are decent for the time period. There are a couple of transformation sequences that are well done and fun to watch.


Red builds Marty a new even more badass Silver Bullet chair that goes like 50 mph and also gives him a bag of fireworks, does Red trying to kill Marty or what’s the deal here?  Marty breaks curfew and goes out by himself at night with a werewolf on the loose to shoot off his fireworks.  Of course, he is stalked and nearly attacked by the wolf but he is able to shoot a rocket into his eye.  Now he and Jane just need to find the person in town with an eye patch and it’s the person you would least expect, Reverend Lowe.  Nobody including Red initially believes in werewolves, but after a crazy car vs wheelchair chase and some convincing evidence, Red gets a silver bullet made of the kids' necklaces.  The suspense and terror obviously comes from the fact that Marty is in a wheelchair and his seeming inability to fight back, but he is a very smart and resourceful kid.  The situation also brings him closer to his sister as they have to work together to survive.  To wrap this story up Red is able to get the parents out of the house and during the next full moon, they get ready for the final showdown with Reverend Lowe.  The whole movies kind of plays out like an essay on “What I did on summer vacation”.  “Silver Bullet” is not one of my favorite King adaptations but it does have its charms.



Stephen King's "Pet Semetary (1989)"

1/6/2019

“Pet Semetary” is another classic Stephen King adaptation that debuted in theaters in the late 1980s.  What might be a little shocking is the fact that this horror film was directed by a woman. Director Mary Lambert, who was known for directing music videos was hired for the job and almost 30 years later female directors in any genre are still in the great minority of the male driven movie biz.  Although that’s a topic for another time, I thought it was important to point out.

“Pet Semetary” is a movie about death and the supernatural.  More specifically the way children learn about death and how adults must find it in themselves to let go.  Just like the poster's tagline says “Sometimes dead is better”.  The Creed family has moved out of the busy urban jungle of Chicago and into the quiet rural town of Ludlow, Maine.  Louis, his wife Rachel, and their two young kids Gage and Ellie are a model of your typical family.  Upon arrival to their new home, they immediately notice that the road in front of the house has an almost constant stream of big rig trucks flying down it.  Their new neighbor Judd, a big older gentleman is there to greet them and tell them about the road.  Although Judd seems like a nice old grandpa type, there is something a little more sinister going on under those overalls.  He takes them up to the “Pet Semetary” and shows them all of the dead pets that the road has claimed.  It was created by and for the children of the area, hence the misspelling of cemetery.  It’s a place where children learn about death and say goodbye to their beloved companions.  Daughter Ellie has a cat named Winston Churchill or Church for short, who in a short time will make a visit not this cemetery but an even more special one.

When the rest of the family flies back to Chicago to visit Rachel’s parents, Louis is left to care for the house and Church.  I think we all know where this is going.  In short time Louis gets a call from Judd, Church has been found dead in his yard, another victim of the road.  Not wanting to break his daughter's heart Judd takes him on a hike beyond the Pet Semetary to an ancient Indian burial ground.  Oh my God did they not see “Poltergeist”.  Church is buried there and the next day he shows up alive at the house, but smelling like a rotting corpse.  This is only an appetizer of what is to come.  While on a beautiful sunny afternoon picnic the family and Judd are having a good time when tragedy strikes.  Two-year-old Gage is flying a kite when he drops the handle and the wind keeps dragging it towards the street.  Louis who only turned away for a second now sees his son about to run into the path of one of those annoying tanker trucks.  He runs after him but doesn’t make is and Gage is run over.  After the funeral Louis is unable to rid himself of the guilt and torment, along with the nudging of Judd, he decides to dig up Gage’s little body and rebury him in the special cemetery.  Yeah, I would say that’s a bad idea but he has already kind of lost his mind.  This is where the movie gets really creepy and scary, Gage comes back and is like a “Chucky” doll.  Louis’s inability to deal with death weather with Church or  Gage has put everybody’s life at risk.  You would think that being a doctor and all Louis would be the kind of person where this wouldn’t be a problem.  This movie is not without its flaws but its still a fun and entertaining film to watch.

There are also a number of different subplots that I haven’t mentioned that make this film a more fully rounded and terrifying film.  This was a movie that was extremely scary when it came out and has lost a little bit of its punch over the years but there are a few scenes that are absolutely timeless and frightening.  The ending of the film also takes the storyline one step further and actually introduces a bit of humor to the whole thing.  There is a remake coming to theaters in the spring of 2019 and it should be interesting to see this new interpretation.




The Trailer for the 2019 Remake

"Cujo" is a Classic Horror Masterpiece!

12/30/2018

Stephen King is one of the worlds greatest storytellers with over 350 million copies of his books in print, not to mention about 75 movies based on his books and short stories.  Some of the earlier movies that came out in the 80s are now being remade and updated for the modern era.  Most notably “It” from 2017 and “Pet Cemetery” which will come out in 2019.

“Cujo” is one of the greats and an icon of horror, similar to that of “Jaws”.  It’s the story of a big lumbering St. Bernard who is bitten by a rabid bat and turns in a slobbering, bloodthirsty beast.  Dee Wallace plays Donna, a wife, and mother, who must save herself and young son Tad from Cujo with only their tiny Ford Pinto to protect them.  She gives a miraculous performance full of emotion and determination that gives her character some real depth and dimension.  Although she is far from the perfect wife as she has been having an affair with a close family friend, Steve, played by her real-life husband Christopher Stone.  Her onscreen husband Vic is an advertising executive who drives a hot little red sports car, while she gets the trashy, broken down Pinto.  He does, however, seem to be a relatively good guy and a loving father to Tad.  Tad, their five-year-old son, is also well payed by Danny Pintauro.  

“Cujo” spends a good amount of time building its characters and creating a compelling drama that makes the latter half of the film even more terrifying.  When Donna’s infidelity is revealed to he husband, he takes off on a business trip leaving her and Tad to bring the Pinto up to the mechanic shop.  They barely make it to the dusty and remote shop when the car finally dies.  The Camber family owns the joint are nowhere to be found, although a side story about the family explain where they are.  Cujo is the only one present and he is not looking very good as the rabies are taking full effect.  Director Lewis Teague mentioned that they used 11 different St. Bernards along with a mechanical head and a man in a dog suit to fully realize the character.  Cujo has already torn apart a Camber family friend when Donna and Tad come rolling in.  They are introduced to Cujo in a very well earned jump scare as he ferociously attacks the car.   The two of them are now prisoners in the claustrophobic confines of the Pinto.  They wait and hope for someone to come by and save them but as night falls so does their hope of rescue.  In today's world, a person would just pop out their cell phone and boom problem solved.  The invention and proliferation of smartphones have almost single-handedly killed off the horror movie.  It becomes more and more difficult to explain them away, but hopefully, this will lead to better stories and newer ways to scare people.

A few days into their showdown with Cujo, the hot summer sun beating down on them, Donna decides to make a run for the house and the phone.  This is a total failure as Cujo is always waiting, always ready to attack.  Donna is bitten and scratched, Cujo even manages to get inside the car.  Tad is balled up and crying in the back, it’s a pretty intense scene.  She eventually kicks him out and they are back to where they were before, only bitten and defeated.  Her husband Vic has been trying to reach her for days but has gotten no answer.  A bit worried he contacts the police who go to their house to find that their bedroom has been ransacked by Steve.  An officer then goes up to the mechanic shop to check things out only to meet his end at the jaws of Cujo.  All this in full view of Donna and Tad.  Tad then starts having some serious medical issues, Donna can't wait any longer and makes a second attempt for the house and this time with the help of a baseball bat is successful.  Tad is unconscious and she vigorously tries to revive him and brings him back to life.  This is a major departure from the book where is actually dies.  As with most horror films, Cujo does give us one last scare until he is finally put down.  “Cujo” is one of the more well known and terrifying of King’s adaptations and I’m sure a remake is in its future somewhere down the line.


"Fright Night" is a Magical 80s Horror Classic!


"Fright Night (1985)"
12/20/2018

“Fright Night” is an absolute classic of 80s horror that spawned many imitators as well as a remake in 2011.  The original film stars William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, a suburban teenager who becomes suspicious of a new neighbor.  This mysterious person is Jerry Dandridge, played by Chris Sarandon, a tall dark and handsome man.  Charley and his girlfriend Amy, played by Amanda Bearse, are fooling around one night while watching the TV show “Fright Night” and its’ host Peter Vincent who is played wonderfully by Roddy McDowell.  Vincent is an Elvira type character who was known for playing a vampire hunter in old horror movies and now plays host to vampire films.  When Charley notices movers in the middle of the night carrying a coffin into the house next door he becomes more interested in that than possibly having sex with Amy.

“Fright Night” has that perfect balance of humor and horror.  Charley is an extremely likable and relatable teenager and has an obnoxious but funny best friend nicknamed Evil Ed.  Charley becomes obsessed with watching Jerry’s house and when he gets busted for peeping their little cat and mouse game begins and lasts throughout the movie.  Jerry likes his apples for some reason and only comes out a night for more substantial meals (if you know what I mean).  He has a male roommate named Billy who acts as a sort of servant who looks after the house in the daytime.  The same night Charley is busted, he then sees Billy taking a body bag out of the house and loading into a car.  He’s finally seen enough and calls the cops.  But who is going to believe a crazy kid, right?  And Vampires?  Charley is made to look foolish and Jerry starts to seek revenge and starts becoming a terrible menace in his life.  Even playing up his charms to his mother.  Jerry really is a terrifying character even though his name is Jerry, I mean come on Jerry the Vampire?  Charley then looks to Evil Ed for help who gives him a few pointers and a cross.  Shortly after though Ed is paid a visit by Jerry and needless to say, Charley needs to find a new best friend.  

Charley and Amy then get the idea to recruit Peter Vincent, who better right?  Although we find out he is just a washed up actor who doesn’t even believe in vampires.  After working on him for a while Peter agrees to at least meet with Jerry to prove to the kids that he is not a vampire at all.  All is good until Peter drops a mirror only to find that Jerry doesn’t have a reflection.  This is where shit starts to get real.  After a few scenes of some seriously intense staring, Amy is glamoured by Jerry and becomes his slave.  It is now up to Charley and Vincent to take down Jerry, just like one of Vincent’s old movie roles.  The final battles are fun, scary, and a little weird, which is great.  The effects are awesome and to plug in a cheesy cliche, it’s quite the wild ride.  “Fright Night” captures this magic that can’t quite be described.  For me, it’s probably a big dose of sentimentality since it was part of my childhood horror movie experiences, but even if you’re seeing it for the first time it is hard not to like it.