Arleigh’s Top 10/Bottom 5 Stephen King Film Adaptations


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“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” — Stephen King

Last week we saw the release of the Carrie remake starring Chloe Grace Moretz and directed by Kimberly Peirce. This got me to thinking that of all the writers I grew up reading it was Stephen King whose novels, novellas and short stories made for easy film adaptations. His stories may be supernatural, horror scifi or dark fantasy but they all share that common denominator of having some basis in the real world.

They’re stories of how the real world and it’s seemingly normal inhabitants will react to something just beyond the norm, the pale and the real. In one story we pretty much have a Peyton Place-like setting having to deal with a arrival of a Dracula-like figure. On another we see the isolated work of hotel sitting during the winter turn into something both supernatural and a look into the mind of someone cracking under the pressure of issues both personal and professional.

With all the Stephen King film adaptations since the original Carrie I know I have seen them all and can honestly say that I’ve become an expert on the topic. So, here’s what amounts to what I think would be my top 10 best and bottom 5 worst film/tv adaptations from Stephen King stories.

Top Ten

1. Salem'sLot2. TheShining3. DeadZone4. Carrie5. Christine6. Misery7. TheMist8. PetSematary9. shawshankredemption10. standbyme

Bottom Five

1. GraveyardShift2. maximumoverdrive3. Dreamcatcher4. TheMangler5. ChildrenoftheCorn

Halloween Horrors 2013 : “Carrie” (2013)


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Let me preface this review by saying one thing : Lou Reed died today, so not much else matters.

Seriously — in a world dominated by poseurs and phonies, Lou was the read deal. Avant garde before there was avant garde, glam before there was glam, punk before there was punk, new wave before there was new wave — Lou stayed six steps ahead of all trends by simply not giving a flying fuck about any of them and staying true to himself. Plus, he was quintessential New York in a way that just can’t be faked. In many ways, he was a mirror to the Big Apple’s other favorite creative son, Woody Allen — Woody’s world is one of stuffy academia, anally rententive dinner parties, emotionally distant family patriarchs and matriarchs, and lifeless and pretentious gallery openings, while Lou’s world wasn’t just the streets but the gutters : strung-out drag queens who will give head to strangers to earn enough for their next heroin fix; two-bit hustlers looking for a gullible mark from out of town; desperate AIDS patients freezing in the cold because they lost their homes, families, and jobs; kids fresh from the Port Authority bus terminal looking to hit it big but willing to do anything to get by in the meantime while secretly knowing from the outset that their dreams are never gonna come true.

In short, the kind of people Woody Allen tells stories about are outnumbered by the kind of people Lou Reed told stories about by a factor of about 1,000 to 1, but the rarified elites from planet Woody love to glamorize and pine for the kind of lives that folks on Planet Lou lived — unless, of course, they had to spend one night on the streets, outside the safe confines of their luxury condos, at which point their romanticized notions of life among the “unwashed” would dissipate in a hurry. They know that, of course, so they just “take a walk on the wild side” comfortably by purchasing framed photographs and paintings by down-and-out artists who may or may not become “the next big thing” but are, they know, quite likely living hand-to-mouth existences right now and probably always will.

Burroughs. Warhol. Basquiat. Reed. Our connection to that New York as it was is fading rapidly, isn’t it? Disney has cleaned up 42nd Street. The grindhouses are gone. Harlem has been Clintonized. And another link to the past was severed today, irrevocably. New York’s got class now, but it ain’t got soul. Characters like Alan Alda’s blowhard from Woody’s Crimes And Misdemeanors have won. Poverty and desperation are more widespread than ever, but they’re inside, keeping their mouths shut. And one of the last honest voices that chronicled the lives of the poor and desperate with no pretense, no bullshit, and no flinching is silent  forevermore. Iggy Pop’s doing car commercials now, for Christ’s sake, and Debbie harry’s touring the casino circuit — all is lost.

And on that note, let’s talk about this new Carrie remake, shall we?

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Competence shouldn’t be a dirty word, all things considered, but when it’s all a movie has going for it, is that really saying very much? Director Kimberly Peirce doesn’t really do anything new with Stephen King’s horror classic apart from giving the unfortunate title character a more lurid backstory, but it’s not like she’s done anything actively bad here, either. The story proceeds more or less along the lines of the original (and along the lines of the made-for-cable remake starring Angela Bettis), so hey — it’s a decent little horror tale, we all know that. Likewise, Chloe Grace Moretz turns in a respectable enough performance in the lead role, Julianne Moore takes a completely different tack with the elder White than did Piper Laurie but it really works, and among the supporting cast Gabriella Wilde deserves special mention for her nice turn as the well-enough-meaning-but-hopelessly-misguided  Sue Snell.

Still — where’s the soul? Like the new, cleaned-up Manhattan, Carrie circa 2013 is an exercise in mere presentation, with no substance beneath it whatsoever. DePalma’s dramatics are nowhere to be found here, nor his shocks. This is a movie that knows we already know the story and proceeds accordingly. “Just don’t fuck things up” seems to be all the more that Peirce and company were aiming for here, and as a result that’s all we get — a movie that gets in, does the job, and gets out.

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Little touches like having Carrie make her prom dress herself make sense, but serve no real purpose in terms of broadening our understanding of the character or her situation, much less get us to go so far as to re-evaluate either — and adding camera phones to the infamous shower scene at the beginning don’t so much as “modernize” the proceedings as they draw attention to the fact that elements are being tacked on her for the sake of — well, nothing, I suppose.

So — we come back to competence again. Lou Reed wasn’t a “good singer” in any conventional sense of the term, but man, he was in there. He lived and breathed the kind of life he wrote songs about. He brought the same kind of immediacy to his work that Brian DePalma brought to Carrie in 1976. And that’s what’s missing here in Perice’s cold, clinical, by-the-numbers remake. That doesn’t make this new version a bad one, I guess, as I said — but it does make it a pointless one. This has all been done before, and been done a whole lot better, so — why bother?

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But again — none of this matters all that much. Lou Reed died today. I’m wasting your time — and mine — by talking about anything other than that.

Horror On TV: Are You Afraid Of The Dark 5.13 “The Tale of the Badge”


This episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? is important for two reasons.

First off, when it originally aired on April 20th, 1996, it was meant to be the series finale.  It would be another 3 years before the show would start up again with a new Midnight Society sitting around the campfire and telling tales.

Secondly, and most importantly, this episode is about Irish magic!

And, as we all know, that’s the best type of magic that there is.

Horror Film Review: The Rage: Carrie 2 (dir by Katt Shea)


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(I originally posted a version of this review over at HorrorCritic.Com.  I’m sharing it here because I think it makes a nice companion piece to both Ryan’s review of the original Carrie and Leonard’s review of the remake.)

Lately, the 1999 horror sequel The Rage: Carrie 2 has been showing up fairly frequently on Encore and I have spent many an insomnia-filled night watching a wild-eyed Rachel use her brain to kill every high school football player on the planet.  It seemed like every time I came across Carrie 2, the film was already halfway over.  For some reason, I always seemed to find the movie at the exact moment that Rachel was using a stack of CDs to decapitate some of the most obnoxious jocks to ever crawl out from underneath a cinematic rock.  However, once I managed to catch Carrie 2 from the start, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s actually a pretty good film and that — surprise! surprise! — it has a lot more than just bloody ,mayhem on its mind.

In Carrie 2, Rachel (well-played by Emily Bergl) is the half-sister of the original Carrie White.  Like her sister, she can move things with her mind and, again much like Carrie, Rachel goes to a high school that is totally and completely dominated by jocks.

However, these are not just your typical high school football players.  No, this is the most dangerous collection of clean-cut young sociopaths to be gathered in one place since the beer garden scene from Cabaret.  With the exception of sensitive Jesse (played by Jason London, who is so handsome in this film that he looks like he belongs on the cover of a book), the entire football team is obsessed with seducing every virgin at the school.  When Emily’s friend Lisa (played by Mena Suvari) is deflowered and then rejected by moronic jock Eric (Zachary Ty Bryan — yes, the oldest Home Improvement kid), she ends up killing herself in a scene that is surprisingly effective because of both Suvari’s sensitive performance and the fact that she was named Lisa.

Seriously, folks, be nice to the Lisas in your life.

Mena Suvari In The Rage

Anyway, Rachel soon starts to investigate the circumstances behind Lisa’s suicide and this leads to the jocks hatching a ludicrously complex scheme to silence her. Much as in the first Carrie, it involves humiliating Rachel at the biggest party of the year and, just as in the first film, the end result is Rachel killing a lot of people.

I’m like a lot of filmgoers and horror fans in that I have gotten burned by so many bad sequels to classic movies that, as soon as I see a number in a title, warning flags go up. I tend to watch these films with the expectation that they’re going to both cheapen the original and not bring anything new to the table.  However, Carrie 2, while hardly a perfect film, is an exception to the rule.  No, it’s nowhere close to being as good as the original Carrie but, when taken on its own term, it’s an effective and entertaining movie.

Along with the strong performances from the entire cast (seriously, you will hate Zachary Ty Bryan’s character so much by the end of this movie), Carrie 2 is well-directed by veteran genre director Katt Shea.  Wisely, Shea does not attempt to recreate the original film (despite the similarities in plot) but instead, she brings a unique, feminist perspective to the story.  Under Shea’s direction, Emily Bergl makes Rachel into a strong, independent character. She may be victimized but — unlike Sissy Spacek in the original — she is never a victim.

There’s a lot of scenes that stick in my mind from Carrie 2.  The film’s final massacre is outrageous and over-the-top and it’s all the more effective because of it.  (It also features death by shattered lenses and I have to admit that this myopic reviewer always cringes whenever she sees that scene.)  However, to me, Carrie 2 is most disturbing when it explores the pathology behind the film’s doomed football team.  One need only watch the scene where the entire team gets their heads shaved, transforming them from being individuals into a mass of virtually indistinguishable teammates, to understand that Katt Shea was looking to accomplish more here than just making a run-of-the-mill horror sequel.

And, to a large extent, she succeeded.

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Horror On The Lens: Messiah of Evil (dir by Willard Huyck)


MOE Mariana HillWith only five days left until Halloween, I wanted to make sure that I shared this film with our faithful and wonderful readers.  Messiah of Evil was first released in 1973 and, since it’s in the public domain, it has since been included in a countless number of bargain box sets from Mill Creek.

I can still remember the first time that I saw Messiah of Evil.  It was way back in 2009, when I was living in my first apartment.  I had recently picked up a 10-movie DVD box set called Tales of Terror and I was using the movies inside to try to deal with a bout of insomnia.  I had already watched The Hatchet Murders (a.k,a. Deep Red) and The House At The Edge of the Park and, at two in the morning, I was faced with a decision.  Should I try to sleep or should I watch one more movie?

Naturally, I chose to watch one more movie and the movie I chose was Messiah of Evil.  So, there I was at two in the morning, sitting up in bed in my bra and panties and watching an obscure horror movie while rain fell outside.

And, seriously — this movie totally FREAKED me out!

Messiah of Evil tells the story of Arletty (Marianna Hill), a neurotic woman who drives to an isolated California town in order to visit her father.  Her father is an artist who specializes in painting eerie pictures of large groups of black-clad people.  However, once she arrives at his home, Arletty discovers that her father has vanished and left behind a diary where he claims that a darkness has overtaken the town.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man named Thom (Michael Greer) is wandering about town with two groupies (played by Anita Ford and Joy Bang) and interviewing random townspeople.  One crazed man (Elisha Cook, Jr.) explains that “the dark stranger” is returning.  After meeting Arletty, they all end up moving into her father’s house.

But that’s not all.   There’s also an odd albino man who shows up driving truck and who eats mice….

Messiah of Evil is literally one of the strangest films that I’ve ever seen.  It’s shot in a dream-like fashion and the much of the film is left open to the viewer’s interpretation.  There are two classic scenes — one that takes place in a super market and one that takes place in a movie theater and the movie’s worth watching for these two scenes alone.

Messiah of Evil is a film that will be appreciated by all lovers of surrealism and intelligent horror and I’m happy to share it with you today.