Stephen King's "Graveyard Shift" is Quite the Chore

1/30/2019

Stephen King’s “Graveyard Shift” in another scary story involving demonic animals, this time it’s rats.  Released in the fall of 1990 and years after the golden era of horror films that was the 1980s.  “Graveyard Shift” is shall we say one of King’s least admired adaptations.  I have not read the short story on which the movie is based, but I’m sure something was probably lost in translation.

As per usual the story takes place in a small New England Town.  This time an old textile mill that is overrun with rats is the focus of the horrific events to come.  The rats seem to work as a team and controlled by a large mutant mother rat that for some reason has large bat wings.  The story is filled with colorful over the top characters starting with the Exterminator played by Brad Dourif,  he is a Vietnam vet and is very into his job.  He reminds me of Dale Gribble from the show “King of the Hill”.  Our hero is a drifter that blows into town looking for work and the mill is looking for people to clear out their basement.  John Hall is his name an he looks and acts just as bland as his name suggests, but does have a certain quiet dignity about him.  

The Bachman Mill as it is called is in reference to Stephen King’s writing pseudonym Richard Bachman, for which he wrote the story under.  The Mill’s foreman, Warwick, is another crazy shady character who is your typical tyrannical businessman.  The movies flow or lack thereof becomes an issue, it feels like it was edited by about six different people.  The acting is, of course, way over the top and comical at times, we never really get to know any of the characters in any important or interesting way.  What I did like though was the set design and the wet dreary atmosphere of the dilapidated mill.  The pieces are there for a good movie but the execution just misses the mark completely.  


Our group of mill workers make their way through a series of tunnels in the bowels of the old mill each of them eventually being picked off one by one by the mutant rat-bat.  We end up with John finding the creature’s lair, a giant boneyard of skeletons and leftovers.  He then leads is up to the giant industrial cotton grinder and the rest writes itself.  If you're in the mood for some stupid mindless horror with the Stephen King name then this is the movie for you.  The early to mid-90s was a dark time for scary movies as the idea tank was bled dry.  Although that being said 1990 was also the year that the two-part miniseries“It” hit T.V. screens.


"Firestarter" is a Smoldering Mess

1/24/2019

In May of 1984, just a few months after Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” was released, “Firestarter” came to theaters.  Starring the young Drew Barrymore who was just coming off her big break in “E.T.”  “Firestarter” did not perform terribly well at the box office just barely making its money back, but it the years since it has more than made enough.

David Keith plays Andy McGee you average dude who looks a lot like Patrick Swayze.  In his college days, Andy and 9 others take part in an experimental drug trial run by a secret government agency called The Shop.  There he meets his future wife Vicky, played by Heather Locklear.  The drug called “Lot 6” is administered to some while others just get a placebo.  Andy and Vickie discover they can talk to each other through telepathy, while the other subjects have more violent reactions.

Years later Andy and Vicky have an eight-year-old girl named Charlene or Charlie (Barrymore), who also has special powers.  She can start fires when she gets angry.  Andy and Vicky have been constantly on the run from The Shop agents who want to terminate the two remaining subjects of the failed experiment.  They do however desperately want Charlie before she can fully develop and control her powers, which could literally destroy the world.  The Shop is led by Martin Sheen’s character Captain Hollister and his right-hand man John Rainbird played by George C. Scott.  John gets to Vicky and is killed while Andy and Charlie are eventually captured.  They are both put through a series of tests and John goes undercover to gain Charlie’s affections.  He ends up coming off a creepy pedophile uncle.  This film has numerous flaws and just utter craziness that makes it my opinion a complete misfire.

“Firestarter” felt a lot a really bad version of “Carrie”.  A young girl with telepathic powers that will be fully realized at puberty and ends in a fiery armageddon.  The acting is completely over the top and ridiculous especially from Sheen and Scott.  While attempting to capture Charlie a team of silver-suited spacemen from the 1950s runs after her.  I get it they are supposed to be fire suits but it just looks super cheesy and low rent.  Although the fire and effects were good for the time, I’m sure they could make an effective remake of the film.  Drew Barrymore is quite the little actress and outdoes all of her older counterparts.

With all of Stephen King films released in the 1980s, “Firestarter” in my mind was a miss.  They can’t all be classics, but for some people, they do have a nostalgic love for the film.  A year later in 1985 Drew has another part in the Stephen King anthology film “Cat’s Eye”.  If you looking for “Firestarter” it does have a special edition Blu-ray release from Shout Factory.


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