Here’s The Trailer For The Boogeyman!

Another year, another Stephen King adaptation.

The Boogeyman is based on a short story that King wrote in 1973.  Obviously, King is a big name in horror but how can any film called Boogeyman hope to top the work of Ulli Lommel?

Here’s the trailer:

Guilty Pleasure No. 60: The Running Man (dir by Paul Michael Glaser)

“Killian, here’s your Subzero… now plain zero!”

Uhm, excuse me, Mr. Schwarzenegger, but a man just died.  He probably had a family who just watched you kill him on national television….

Oh well, it happens!  In the role of Ben Richards, Arnold Schwarzenegger kills quite a few people over the course of the 1987 film, The Running Man, but they were all bad.  In fact, when we first meet Ben Richards, he’s a cop who is trying to save lives.  His superiors want him to open fire on a bunch of protestors who simply want enough food to eat.  When Richards refuses to do it, he is framed for perpetrating “the Bakersfield Massacre” and is sent to prison.  When he is recaptured after escaping, he is given a chance to compete on America’s number one game show, The Running Man!  Hosted and produced by Damon Killian (Richard Dawson, oozing smarm in a performance that — in a fair world — would have received Oscar consideration), The Running Man is a show in which prisoners are given a chance to win prizes like a trial by jury or maybe even a pardon.  While the audience cheers and puts down bets, the prisoners are stalked by professional killers like Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch), Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth), Fireball (Jim Brown), and Sub-Zero (Professor Toru Tanaka).  Along with Killian, Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura) provides commentary and analysis on how the game is going.  Ben soon finds himself joined by Amber (Maria Conchita Alonso), who proves herself to be just as tough as he is.

Seen today, The Running Man feels more than a bit prophetic.  Due to worldwide economic collapse, the poor are getting poorer while the rich are getting richer.  The American government has become both increasingly corporate and increasingly authoritarian.  The citizens are entertained and manipulated by “reality” programming.  On camera, Killian is a charismatic host who delivers his lines with faux sincerity and who loves to meet and give away prizes to the public.  (There’s something both undeniably creepy and also rather familiar about the way that Killian sniffs the hair, rubs the shoulders and holds the arms of the audience members to whom he’s speaking.  It’s all very calculated and one gets the feeling that Killian washes his hands as soon as the camera are off of him.)  Behind the scenes, he drinks, smokes, curses, and is full of contempt for everyone around him.  He may not be happy when Ben outsmarts and kills the show’s stalkers but he definitely cheers up when he hears how good the ratings are.  The film is set in 2017, which was 30 years in the future when The Running Man was first released.  Seen today, The Running Man’s 2017 feels a lot like our 2017….

That said, The Running Man is also a big, flamboyant, and undeniably entertaining film.  It’s also surprisingly funny, at times.  Living in a dystopia ahs turned everyone into a quip machine.  None of the bad guys die without Schwarzenegger making a joke about it.  (“Buzzsaw?  He had to split.”  Yes, he did.)  The show’s vapid studio audience, who go from cheering the prospect of witnessing a bloody death to crying when their favorite stalker is killed, is both disturbing and humorous.  (Also memorable is the faux somber dance number that is performed while the show memorializes all the dead stalkers.)  For all the costumed heroes and villains, the film is practically stolen by an older woman named Agnes who becomes Ben Richards’s favorite fan.  The gaming “quads” may be dark and dangerous and full of angry people but they’re also full of advertisements for Cadre Cola.  Dey Young of Rock and Roll High School and Strange Behavior fame has a cameo as Amy, who pays six dollars for a can of Cadre.  (That may seem like a lot for a can of anything but Cadre is the official cola of The Running Man!  Damon Killian endorses it!  And, of course, when The Running Man was produced, the studio was owned by Coca-Cola so the jokes about Cadre’s corporate dominance also serve as a “take that” towards the corporation who put up money for the film.  Either that or Cadre is stand-in for Pepsi.)

It’s easy to compare The Running Man to The Hunger Games films but The Running Man is infinitely more fun, if just because it doesn’t make the mistake of taking itself as seriously as The Hunger Games did.  (Add to that, The Running Man manages to wrap up its story in 90 minutes, whereas The Hunger Games needed four movies.)  Like The Hunger Game, The Running Man is based on a book, in this case a very loose adaptation of one of the pulpy novels that Stephen King wrote under the name of Richard Bachman.  While King said that he enjoyed the film, he also asked that his real name not be listed in the credits because the film had little in common with his book, which is fair enough.  The Running Man may have been inspired by a Stephen King novel but it’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger production through-and-through.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars
  41. The Dead Are After Me
  42. Harper’s Island
  43. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  44. Paranormal State
  45. Utopia
  46. Bar Rescue
  47. The Powers of Matthew Star
  48. Spiker
  49. Heavenly Bodies
  50. Maid in Manhattan
  51. Rage and Honor
  52. Saved By The Bell 3. 21 “No Hope With Dope”
  53. Happy Gilmore
  54. Solarbabies
  55. The Dawn of Correction
  56. Once You Understand
  57. The Voyeurs 
  58. Robot Jox
  59. Teen Wolf

Horror Film Review: The Lawnmower Man (dir by Brett Leonard)

The 1992 horror/sci-fi hybrid, The Lawnmower Man, tells the story of two men.

Dr. Lawrence Angelo (played by Pierce Brosnan) is a scientist who is experimenting with ways to make less intellectually inclined people smarter. Dr. Angelo is kind of a burn out. You can tell he has issues because he needs to shave, he’s always sitting in the dark, and he’s never without a cigarette. You look at Dr. Angelo and you just imagine that he smells like smoke, bourbon, and lost dreams.

Jobe (Jeff Fahey) is the kind-hearted but intellectually disabled man who lives in a shack and spends his time mowing everyone’s lawn. Hence, he’s known as the …. wait for it …. THE LAWNMOWER MAN!

Together, Dr. Angelo and Jobe solve crimes!

No, not really. Instead, Dr. Angelo decides to experiment on Jobe. This leads to Jobe not only becoming smarter but also quicker to anger. Soon, Jobe is developing psychic abilities. He can move things with his mind. He can magically set people on fire. Basically, he can do whatever the script needs for him to do at the moment. Jobe is soon tormenting everyone who once bullied him. Father McKeen, the pervy priest, gets set on fire. Jake, the gas station attendant, is put into a catatonic state. An abusive father get run over by a lawnmower.

Dr. Angelo knows that Jobe is out-of-control and that the experiment has to be reversed. However, the sinister group behind Angelo’s research wants to use Jobe as a weapon because …. well, because they’re evil and that’s what evil people did back in 1992. Jobe, however, has other plans. He wants to become pure energy so that he can rule over a virtual world….

Or something like that. To be honest, it’s kind of difficult to really figure out what’s going on in The Lawnmower Man. The movie shares its name with a Stephen King short story but it has so little in common with its source material that King reportedly sued to get his name taken out of the credits. (Considering some of the films that King has allowed himself to be associated with, this is kind of amazing.) The film tries to be a satire, a slasher film, a conspiracy film, and a technology-gone-crazy film all in one and the end result is one big mess.

Along with all of that, The Lawnmower Man is also a time capsule of when it was made. A good deal of the film takes place in Jobe’s virtual reality universe, which looks a lot like a mix of Doom and Second Life. I imagine the film’s special effects may have seen impressive way back in the 20th Century but, seen today, they’re rather cartoonish, if occasionally charmingly retro.

On the plus side, the film does have an interesting cast. Pierce Brosnan is never convincing as burn-out but he tries so hard that he’s still fun to watch. Underrated actors like Jenny Wright, Geoffrey Lewis, Dean Norris, and Troy Evans all get a chance to show what they can do in minor roles. Finally, you’ve got the great Jeff Fahey, giving a far better performance than the script perhaps deserves. Though the film may be a mess, there’s something undeniably fun watching Jeff Fahey’s Jobe go from being meek to being a megalomaniac.

It’s a silly film and not one that’s meant to be watched alone. This is a film that has to be watched with a group of your snarkiest friends. Watch it the next time you’re looking for an excuse to avoid doing the yard work.

Sometimes They Come Back (1991, directed by Tom McLoughlin)

In 1963, nine year-old Jim Norman witnessed a group of juvenile delinquents murder his older brother Wayne in a tunnel before getting killed themselves when a train came barreling down the tracks.  Twenty-seven yeas later, Jim (Tim Matheson) is a history teacher and he has returned to his hometown to take a job at his old high school.  He is haunted by memories of what happened in the tunnel and then he is haunted for real as, one by one, all of the dead delinquents returns to life and enroll in his class.  They want revenge on the man that they blame for their fiery deaths.

Based on a Stephen King short story, Sometimes They Come Back was actually produced for television.  It originally aired on CBS, complete with a warning that viewer discretion was advised.  Though the ghost greasers are too ridiculous to really be scary (one of them laughs like a hyena), the movie was still more graphic than anything else that played in primetime that year.  I wonder how television audiences, in those pre-American Horror Story days, reacted to one of Jim’s students being dismembered in the backseat of a car and the ghost greasers then tossing pieces of his body over the bridge?

Tim Matheson takes the material seriously and gives an intelligent performance as Jim Norman.  Fans of Newhart might enjoy seeing William Sanderson (a.k.a. Larry of Larry, Darryl, and Darryl) playing a serious role as the one greaser who wasn’t killed by the train.  Most of the other characters, including Jim’s wife and his students, are forgettable.  The movie’s glaring weakness is the ghost greasers themselves.  Even with their Satanic car and their threatening ways, they’re too cartoonish to be frightening.  Sometimes They Come Back has its strengths but ultimately, it’s a middling Stephen King adaptation.

Live Tweet Alert: Watch Sometimes They Come Back with #ScarySocial

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, for #ScarySocial, Tim Buntley will be hosting 1991’s Sometimes They Come Back!

In this adaptation of a Stephen King short story, the dead refuse to stay dead!

If you want to join us on Saturday night, just hop onto twitter, start the film at 9 pm et, and use the #ScarySocial hashtag!  The film is available on Prime.  I’ll be there co-hosting and I imagine some other members of the TSL Crew will be there as well.  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.

Horror Scenes that I Love: Pennywise Visits The Library In It

Admittedly, this scene from the 1990 version of It is a bit more goofy than scary but still, I love Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise the Clown.  When the first part of the latest version of It came out, it was kind of fashionable to dismiss the 1990 version.  But then the second movie came out and everyone was like, “We waited a year for this!?  Give us back our Tim Curry!”

Anyway, in this scene, Pennywise shows at the Derry Public Library and offers Richie (Harry Anderson) some balloons.

Scenes That I Love: The Job Interview From The Shining

I don’t care what Stephen King says.  Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining is great.

One of King’s big complaints about the film is that Jack is obviously unhinged from the start.  King is right that Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance as being someone who has a few screws loose even before he starts to work as the caretaker.  But it works for the film, as can be seen in this scene in which Stuart Ullman tells Jack about what happened to previous caretaker.

Incidentally, Barry Nelson’s performance as Ullman is seriously underrated.  Ullman is a far more interesting character in the movie than he was in King’s book.  For that matter, the same can be said of just about every character in the movie as opposed to the way King envisioned them in his novel.  Maybe that’s the main reason King doesn’t like this movie.  Kubrick understood King’s story better than King himself did.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Stephen King Edition

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy birthday to Mr. Stephen King!

In others words, it’s time for….

4 Shots from 4 Stephen King Films

Creepshow (1982, dir by George Romero, written by Stephen King, DP: Michael Gornick)

Maximum Overdrive (1986, dir by Stephen King, written by Stephen King, DP: Armando Nannuzzi)

Sleepwalkers (1992, dir by Mick Garris, written by Stephen King, DP: Rodney Charters)

The Stand (1994, dir by Mick Garris, written by Stephen King, DP: Edward J. Pei)

Horror Film Review: The Dark Half (dir by George Romero)

It will always fascinate me that Stephen King, one of the most popular writers in the world and one of the legitimate masters of horror, also has one of the least inspiring accounts on twitter.

Seriously, he may be the most popular author in the world but he tweets like a retiree who has just discovered the internet.  Go over to his twitter account and you won’t find memorable descriptions of small town hypocrisy.  You won’t find scenes of shocking psychological insight.  You won’t find moments of unexpected but laugh-out-loud dark humor.  Instead, you’ll find a combination of dad jokes, boomer nostalgia, and an unseemly obsession with wishing death on any public figure who is to the right of Bernie Sanders.  It’s odd because no one can deny that King’s a good storyteller.  At his best, Stephen King is responsible for some of the best horror novels ever written.  Everyone who is a horror fan owes him a debt of gratitude for the work that he’s done promoting the genre.  At his worst, he’s your uncle who retweets the article without reading it first.

Of course, someone can be great at one thing an terrible at something else.  I can dance but I certainly can’t sing.  Stephen King can write a best seller but a good tweet is beyond him.  That’s the dual nature of existence, I suppose.  That’s certainly one of the themes at the heart of both Stephen King’s The Dark Half and the subsequent film adaptation from George Romero.

Filmed in 1990 but not released for three years due to the bankruptcy of the studio that produced it, The Dark Half tells the story of Thad Beaumont and George Stark (both played by Timothy Hutton).  Thad is a professor who writes “serious” literature under his real name and violent, pulpy fiction under the name of George Stark.  No one reads Thad’s books but they love George Stark and his stories about the master criminal and assassin, Alexis Machine.  (Alexis Machine?  George Stark may be a good writer but he sucks at coming up with names.)  After a demented fan (played, with creepy intensity, by Robert Joy) attempts to blackmail him by threatening to reveal that he’s George Stark, Thad decides to go public on his own.  His agent even arranges for a fake funeral so that Thad can bury George once and for all.

Soon, however, Thad’s associates are turning up dead.  It seems as if everyone associated with the funeral is now being targeted.  Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Michael Rooker) suspects that Thad is the murderer.  However, the murderer is actually George Stark, who has come to life and is seeking revenge.  Of course, George has more problems than just being buried.  His body is decaying and he’s got a bunch of angry sparrows after him.  The Sparrows Are Flying Again, we’re told over and over.  Seeking to cure his affliction and to get those birds to leave him alone, Stark targets Thad’s wife (Amy Madigan) and their children.

The Dark Half has its moments, as I think we would expect of any film based on a Stephen King novel and directed by George Stark.  Some of the deaths are memorably nasty.  Hutton is believably neurotic as Thad and cartoonishly evil as Stark and, in both cases, it works well.  Rooker may be an unconventional pick for the role but he does a good job as Pangborn and Amy Madigan brings some unexpected energy to the thankless role of being the threatened wife.

But, in the end, The Dark Half never really seems to live up to its potential.  In the book, Thad was a recovering alcoholic and it was obvious that George Stark was a metaphor for Thad’s addiction.  That element is largely abandoned in the movie and, as a result, George goes from being the literal representation of Thad’s demons to just being another overly loquacious movie serial killer.  Despite having a few creepy scenes, the film itself is never as disturbing as it should be.  For all the blood, the horror still feels a bit watered down.  Take away the sparrows and this could just as easily be a straight-forward action film where the hero has to rescue his family from a smug kidnapper.  Comparing this film to Romero’s Martin is all the proof you need that Romero was best-served by working outside the mainstream than by trying to be a part of it.

Add to that, I got sick of the sparrows.  Yes, both the film and the book explain why the sparrows are important but “The Sparrows Are Flying Again” almost sounds like something you’d find in something written in a deliberate attempt to parody King’s style.  It’s a phrase that’s intriguingly enigmatic the first time that you hear it, annoying the third time, and boring the fifth time.

The Dark Half was a bit of a disappointment but that’s okay.  For King fans, there will always be Carrie.  (I would probably watch The Shining but apparently, King still hasn’t forgiven Stanley Kubrick for improving on the novel.)  And, for us Romero fans, we’ll always have Night of the Living Dead, Martin, Dawn of the Dead, and the original Crazies.  And, for fans of George Stark, I’m sure someone else will pick up the story of Alexis Machine.  It’s hard to keep a good character down.

Book Review: “They’re Here….” Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute, edited by Kevin McCarthy and Ed Gorman

On Saturday night, I watched Piranha, which featured the great character actor Kevin McCarthy in a supporting role. This led to me remembering McCarthy’s iconic performance in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (as well as his cameo in the 70s version). And that led to me remembering a book that I found at Half-Price Books a few years ago.

First published in 1999, They’re Here is a tribute to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, featuring essays about the films and interviews with some of the people involved. For instance, Stephen King and Dean Koontz both write about how seeing the original film influenced their later approach to horror. Jon L. Breen, James Combs, and Fred Blosser write about Jack Finney, the author of the book that served as the basis for the film. Other essays take a look at the remakes that were directed by Philip L. Kaufman and Abel Ferrara. Ferrara is himself interviewed and is as outspoken as ever. Also interviewed is Dana Wynter, who co-starred in the original.

However, the majority of the book is taken up with a terrifically entertaining and informative interview with Kevin McCarthy himself. McCarthy not only talks about filming the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers but also his entire career, his friendship with Montgomery Clift, and his status as pop cultural icon. Sometimes it can be disillusioning to read or listen to an interview in which an icon turns out to be kind of boring (call it the Steven Soderbergh syndrome) but, fortunately, McCarthy comes across as being just as eccentric, intelligent, interesting, and downright lovable as you would hope he would be. Kevin McCarthy, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 96, was one of the great character actors and this interview shows that he was …. wait for it …. quite the character! (Sorry.) The interview is a great tribute not only to McCarthy’s most famous film but also the man himself.

Seriously, if you’re a Body Snatchers fan but just appreciate great character acting, order a copy of this book!