5 MOVIE COLLECTION: FROM THE WRITTEN MINDS OF STEPHEN KING
Featuring the films: Pet Sematary (1989), Pet Sematary (2019), The Stand, The Dead Zone, Silver Bullet
As we all know, Stephen King is the horror/thriller king of books and a certified genius when it comes to planting images in our nightmares. From obsessive fans to killer clowns, Stephen King’s books were meant to become legendary movies for all of us horror weirdos. (Make ‘The Long Walk’ into a limited series, you cowards!) Some of the adaptations don’t match the books, but some are great or legendary adaptations of King’s masterful works.
Paramount has given us not one, not three, but a five-movie collection with some of the best Stephen King adapted works to put on screen. To review this collection is revisiting some films and watching others for the first time, so let’s take a look at the movies in the collection and see if this Blu-Ray set would be King approved.
**Note: I couldn’t review The Stand because, by the time I received it, we were in the middle of a festival and I had other obligations. I’m sorry! Spoilers: There’s a new one soon that’ll probably be better.
PET SEMATARY (1989)
Starring: Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Miko Hughes, Blaze Berdahl, Fred Gwynne
Directed by: Mary Lambert
Written by: Stephen King
Based on the book Pet Sematary by Stephen King
The Creed Family – Louis, Ellie, Gage, Church (their cat), and Rachel – come to live in Ludlow, Maine, when Louis, a doctor, changes jobs to better support his little family. Once they get there, they meet Jud, their friendly neighbor, who has lived in the town forever. The Creed’s happiness soon interrupted when their cat Church dies. To spear Ellie from the pain of knowing, they bury Church in the PET SEMATARY. When Church comes back, he’s not the same as before. Jud explains that those buried in those grounds don’t come back the same way. Another tragedy strikes when Gage, the baby of the family, dies. Jud, consumed with grief, buries Gage in the Pet Sematary with… VERY bad results.
I can count my favorite Stephen King adaptation on one hand. I would say Carrie and Pet Sematary (1989) rank at the very top of that list. There’s something about Pet Sematary that really captures you, and it lingers in your mind for a while after you view it. While the newest Pet Sematary has a lot to do with death (check out that review below), the original has a lot more to deal with grief and how we deal with grief.
Pet Sematary almost asks you the moral question of “What would you do?” If you lost your loved one, would you want them back? Would you do anything to get them back? If you kept losing them, would YOU bury your family in the Pet Sematary so you can be a family again? It would never be promised that they’d come back the same way, and you may lose your life as well, but at least you’d have them. This is also the grief mind’s mindset because grief consumed makes you do things that you never thought you’d be able to do.
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest watching the original Pet Sematary. Not only is it one of my personal favorites, it’s an instant classic filled that’s a sinister and creepy adaptation, but has heart and sadness surrounding it.
PET SEMATARY (2019)
Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie & Lucas Lavoie, John Lithgow, and Leo, Tonic, Jager, and JD (Church the Cat)
Directed by: Kevon Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
Written by: Matt Greenberg
Based on the book Pet Sematary by Stephen King
When seeing this film for the first time, there was a divide about it. I remember lingering voices from the theater. Everyone complained about how the director and writers switched up the entire story. There were also complaints that there didn’t need to be another Pet Sematary. While I might agree with the second point, I also don’t. Pet Sematary (2019) does something that the first 89′ Pet Sematary doesn’t do. It turns his focus towards the concept of death instead of grief, which, to this story, is a lovely way to take the narrative of the story and moved me completely.
Death in Pet Sematary is treated like an old friend, hard to swallow but shown in many different ways. I had the privilege of writing about this film when it first came out. I’m a sucker for Pet Sematary, both the book and film. This rendition of it made me think about how we deal with death. We grieve, of course, but we also have these rituals and different types of ways we as a society take it. We either shy away from it or do whatever we can to overcome death. However, inevitably, we will all die sometimes, but Louis Creed is trying to erase that.
With great performances, especially by Jason Clarke & Amy Seimetz (watch her film She Dies Tomorrow after reading this), it’s an adaptation that King fans should give a chance, but I can understand why some people wouldn’t. It enhances the original film with some cool narrative additions with some well-thought-out changes to the story. (Even though I agree totally understand why you’d be like, “the hell is this?” Cause I was too.) But, give it a chance.
THE DEAD ZONE
Starring: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Michael Sheen, Herbert Lom, Tom Skerritt
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Screenplay by: Jeffrey Boam
Based on The Dead Zone by Stephen King
John “Johnny” Smith (Christopher Walken) is a schoolteacher who loves his job and equally loves his lady Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams). After dropping her off home one night, he gets into a terrible car accident that leaves him in a coma for five years. If life after being coma isn’t bad enough, Johnny has been granted the ability of second-sight to see into their future, past, and present. When he’s able to stop someone horrific, he tries to decide the moral thing to do for himself and the world.
Watching The Dead Zone in this particular day and age would almost be too damn depressing to watch if it wasn’t so good. The film lingers with doom with every step Johnny takes. It’s a story that centers around loss. Not only the loss of Johnny’s previous life, but the life that Johnny has for himself going forward. The love of his life, his mother, his job, everything is taken away from him in a split second, and he has to come to terms with that and his new reality of being this clairvoyant. It’s heartbreaking to see that struggle.
Christopher Walken, as the title character of Johnny Smith, shines. To me, Walken plays this role as a toned down like version of his role in The Deer Hunter. He’s sympathetic, and you feel for him deeply. You want to help him, but you don’t know-how. After five years of being in a coma, he’s straddled with such a huge responsibility that’s helpful for others, but not for himself. You understand why he wants to be left alone and why his ending had to be as tragic as the way he lived.
Another character we have to talk about is Martin Sheen’s, Greg Stilson. I don’t have to point out why this character is very much a Trump of his time. In this movie, he’s done a particularly great job of showing what a deranged and dangerously unstable man can do with so much power. (So please, dear god, go vote in November.)
The Dead Zone carries a heavyweight on Johnny’s shoulders and spreads it out enough where he (and you) can take a bit of a breather. It’s one of Cronenberg’s finest films and one that can not be missed.
Starring: Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Terry O’Quinn
Directed by: Dan Attias
Written by: Stephen King
Based on the book Curse of the Werewolf by Stephen King
Jane (Megan Fellows) is just trying to live her best life without her brother, Marty (Corey Haim), pestering her. Marty is confined to a wheelchair but is a pretty optimistic kid with an overbearing mother, aloof father, and rad uncle Red (Gary Busey). Red builds him the Silver Bullet, a cool ass motorcycle/wheelchair hybrid. One day, gruesome murders start happening in their small little quiet town. At first, it seems just as evil as what a man would do, but the kids discover there’s something more happening that no one could imagine.
Silver Bullet feels like it would be better in 100% in writing form. The story is great. Don’t get my message twisted about that. The film’s pacing makes it drag on for a little bit too long, and it’s only an hour and thirty minutes long.
One of the biggest criticisms I have about the film is the use of voiceover. It feels weirdly out of place. Let me watch the action and know that it’s happening myself. In the end, the voiceover says, “I love you too, Marty. Goodnight.” Who the fuck is she talking to? Wasn’t she supposed to be talking to us? Is she talking to Marty? Is Marty dead? What happened to Marty? Is Marty a figment of her imagination? Why didn’t MARTY tell us this story?! See?! Out of place, indeed!
The highlight of Silver Bullet is the trio of Megan, Corey, and Busey. Busey’s great comic relief with Corey and Megan matching his dynamic personality and energy. When they actually get it together and start believing each other, it feels like it should’ve happened about halfway through the story.
The BIGGEST highlight (and the biggest draw for me) was Everett McGill. If there’s one person who does THE WORK in this film, it’s McGill. He almost carries it off his back. He’s creepy, kind, weird, but not unfriendly (at first, ’cause you’re supposed to trust your local priest, ya know?) But when he makes that heel turn, and they discover his secret, oh man, what a fucking knock out performance he gives.
In the end, it’s a semi-solid movie. It has great action, but another criticism, the ending feels WAY too soon. It has a very “let’s wrap this up, kids” vibe. But it’s not a BAD film by any means. It’s a good turn off your brain and enjoy the werewolves kind of time.