Horror Film Review: It (dir by Tommy Lee Wallace)

Last month, before I saw the latest film version of Stephen King’s It, I watched the 1990 miniseries version.

This was my first time to watch the It miniseries, though I had certainly heard about it.  Most of the reviews that I had read seemed to be mixed.  Everyone seemed to agree that Tim Curry was the perfect choice for the role of Pennywise the Dancing Clown.  However, many other reviewers complained that the program’s television origins kept It from being as effective as it could be.  “Not as scary as the book,” everyone seemed to agree.  The actors who played the members of the Loser Clubs as children all seemed to receive general acclaim but not everyone seemed to be as enamored with the adult cast.  And everyone, even those who liked the miniseries as a whole, complained about the show’s finale, in which Pennywise took the form of a giant spider.

Well, I have to agree about the giant spider.  That spider looked painfully fake, even by the standards of 1990s television.  Not only does the spider look too fake to truly be scary but, once that spider showed up, that meant that Tim Curry disappeared from the film.  Curry deserved every bit of acclaim that he received for playing the role of Pennywise.

All that said, the miniseries was still a lot better than I had been led to believe.

Certainly, it’s not as frightening as the book or the movie.  Considering that the It miniseries was produced for network television, that’s not surprising.  As opposed to the movie, the miniseries attempts to cover King’s entire novel.  That’s a lot of material, even when you have a five hour running time.  Obviously, a good deal of the story had to be cut and there are a few scenes in the miniseries that feel a bit rushed.  Characters like Audrey Denbrough and Stanley Uris, who were compelling in the novel, are reduced to being mere bystanders.  Some of the novel’s most horrific scenes — like Henry Bowers cutting Ben — are either excised or heavily toned down.  If the novel was as much about the hypocrisy of the adults of Derry as the paranormal horror of Pennywise, that theme is largely left out of the miniseries.

That said, It still had its share of memorable moments.  The image of a clown standing on the side of the road, holding balloons, and waving is going to be creepy, regardless of whether it’s found in a R-rated film or on ABC.  The death of little George Denbrough is horrific, regardless of whether you actually the bone sticking out of his wound or not.  Even the library scene, in which a grown-up Richie Tozier deals with a balloon filled with blood, was effectively surreal.

As for the actors who played the members of the Losers Club, the results were occasionally uneven.  The actors who played them as children were all believable and had a credible group chemistry.  You could imagine all of them actually being friends.  As for the adults, some of them I liked more than others.  Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, and Tim Reid gave the best performances out of the group.  John Ritter and Annette O’Toole were somewhere in the middle.  Richard Thomas was absolutely awful and I found myself snickering whenever he was filmed from behind and I saw his pony tail.  Richard Masur, unfortunately, wasn’t around long enough to make much of an impression one way or the other.

Ultimately, though, the miniseries (much like the book) suffers because the adults are never as interesting as Pennywise.  Tim Curry dominates the entire movie and, when he’s not onscreen, his absence is definitely felt.  Watching the miniseries made me appreciate why the film version kept Pennywise’s screen time to a minimum.  Pennywise is such a flamboyant and dominant character that, if not used sparingly, he can throw the entire production out of balance.

Despite its flaws, I liked the miniseries.  Yes, it’s uneven.  Yes, it’s toned down.  Yes, it works better in pieces than as a whole.  But, taken on its own terms, It was effective.  Director Tommy Lee Wallace creates a suitably ominous atmosphere and the child actors are all properly compelling.  And, finally, that damn clown is always going to freak me out.

Just for fun, here’s a trailer for It, recut as a family film:


Horror on TV: The Outer Limits 3.15 “The Revelations of Becka Paulson” (dir by Steven Weber)

For today’s excursion into the world of televised horror, we have another adaptation of a Stephen King short story.

In The Revelations of Becka Paulson, Becka Paulson (Catherine O’Hara) accidentally shoots herself in the head and subsequently finds herself being spoken to by a photograph of a tuxedo-wearing man (Steven Weber).  The photo has some suggestions as to how Becka can get out of her stifling marriage.

(In the original Stephen King short story — which he later adapted into a chapter of his novel The Tommyknockers — the talking photograph was a picture of Jesus.)

The Revelations of Becka Paulson originally aired on June 6th, 1997, as a part of Showtime’s The Outer Limits series.  Steven Weber not only played the man in the tuxedo.  He also directed this episode as well.

(The episode itself runs for 44 minutes.  The video below has some extra stuff, including alternate takes and a scene that was cut out of the original broadcast, tacked onto the end.)


Horror on the Lens: Sometimes They Come Back (dir by Tom McLoughlin)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have 1991’s Sometimes They Come Back.

Adapted from a Stephen King short story, this made-for-television film tells the story of a teacher (played by Tim Matheson) who returns to the New England town where he grew up.  If he seems reluctant to do so, it’s because he has some bad childhood memories to deal with.  In the 60s, his brother was murdered by a group of leather-clad greasers, all of whom subsequently died in a fiery car crash.

But, if all of them died in the 60s, why are they now showing up in his classroom?  And why have none of them aged?

Could it be that … sometimes they come back?

And could it also be that the reason that they’re coming back is so they can finish the job that they started in the 60s and murder the last remaining brother?

This campy but enjoyable adaptation features good performances from both Tim Matheson and, in the role of the main dead guy, Robert Rusler.  Why have they come back and what can be done to make them leave once again? Watch, find out, and enjoy!

Jedadiah Leland’s Horrific Adventures in The Internet Archive #6: The Dark Half (1992, Capstone Software)

For my latest trip into the most horrific section of the Internet Archive, I played The Dark Half (1992, Capstone Software).

The Dark Half was released as a tie-in with the movie version of Stephen King’s novel of the same name. I have read that some people consider The Dark Half to be one of the worst games of all time.  If I can ever figure out how to get out of the cemetery, I will tell you if they are right.

You play writer Thad Beaumont, who used to write under the pen name of George Stark.  As a publicity stunt, Thad and his wife hold a mock funeral for George Stark in the local cemetery.  When the game starts, Thad has just discovered that someone has dug up George’s grave.

The game uses a standard point-and-click interface, the type that was once very popular but which seems clunky by today’s standards.  By clicking on right side of the screen, you can walk over the groundskeeper and have a conversation with him.

The groundskeeper does not have much to say about “them Yankees” but he will unlock the shed for you.  Going into the shed, you can get tools that I think will help you later in the game.  The problem is that they do not help you get out of the cemetery which is where I’m running into trouble.

As soon as you leave the shed, this happens:

At first, I thought that was George Stark killing Thad but, according to a walk-through that I found, that is actually George killing the reporter who was sent to cover his “burial.”

This scene is followed by this:

That is a blank screen.  Creepy music plays in the background while you get to stare at the blank screen and it just keeps on playing.  I have literally counted the minutes that I have spent staring at the screen and listening to the music before getting annoyed and ending the game.  The longest that I’ve gone is 8 minutes.  There is no text nor pictures, just the most droning and repetitive music imaginable.  Is this a glitch that only effects the Archive version of the game or did The Dark Half really come with an 8 minute-plus musical interlude?  I’m hoping that someone reading this post can tell me.  I would like to play the game but there’s only so much time that I can devote to staring at a blank screen.

14 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part 3 (dir by David Lynch)

Because they’ve been available on OnDemand since last Sunday, I’ve watched and rewatch Parts 3 and 4 of Twin Peaks: The Return several times.  And I’m going to rewatch them again before I sit down and even try to write out a in-depth recap.  Until then, here are my initial thoughts on Part Three.

(Be sure to check out Ryan’s thoughts on Parts Three and Four!)

1. Whether it’s intentional or not, Twin Peaks: The Return has so far been full of references to David Lynch’s entire artistic output, both Twin Peaks and non-Twin Peaks.  The opening of Part Three, with Cooper apparently falling through space, reminded me of the opening of Eraserhead.  The subsequent scene, in which Cooper met the eyeless Ruth Davenport, immediately made me think of both Lynch’s short film, The Alphabet and the hotel scenes in Inland Empire.

2. An older woman who I used to work with once asked me if I thought Stephen King was a devil worshipper.

“No,” I replied, “why?”

“How else can he come up with all that scary stuff?”

I can only imagine what she would think about David Lynch.

3. Can we take a few minutes to appreciate the amazing performance of Kyle MacLachlan?  MacLachlan has always been a good actor but oh my God.  So far, his work on this show has been nothing sort of amazing.  Doppelganger Cooper gets all the good lines but, to me, MacLachlan is at his best when he’s playing the Real Cooper, the Dale who has spent so much time in the Black Lodge that he’s no longer quite sure how to be human.

4. To be honest, I could have done without all of the vomiting in tonight’s episode.  I hate watching people throw up.  That said, if Twin Peaks: The Return truly is a cumulation of Lynch’s career up to this point, I guess the vomiting could be seen as a tribute to his short film, Six Figures Getting Sick.

5. Speaking of shout outs to previous Lynch films, whenever Doppelganger Cooper was in the car, it was hard not to be reminded of Bill Pullman at the end of Lost Highway.

6. Las Vegas is the perfect David Lynch town.  Lynch has always had an eye for surrealistic Americana and that’s the perfect description of Vegas.  Of course, Vegas is often held up as a symbol of America, the ultimate triumph of man over his environment as well as a place where, depending on your luck, you’ll either find the American Dream or the American Nightmare.  In interviews, Lynch has always described himself as being a Libertarian and his artistic vision as being essentially apolitical (the only two politicians that I’ve ever heard about him praising were Ronald Reagan and Bernie Sanders) but still, the subtext of Cooper escaping into the glitz, greed, and potential misery of Las Vegas is intriguing.

7. “Do chocolate bunnies have anything to do with your heritage?”  I love the earnest way Harry Goaz delivered that line.

8. That lengthy scene of Russ Tamblyn painting the shovels was pretty much the epitome of what people either love or hate about David Lynch’s style of film making.

9. Cooper in the casino — “Hello!” — was everything.

10. Someone needs to do a Twin Peaks/Casino mashup.  I want to see Cooper greeting The Ace Rothstein Dancers.

11. It was hard not to get emotional when Miguel Ferrer showed up.  In both Part Three and Part Four, it’s obvious that Miguel was, physically, not in the best health while shooting his scenes.  However, as an actor, he remained just as sharp as ever.

12. Speaking of actors, David Lynch has actually become a pretty good one.  I just finished watching the first two seasons of Twin Peaks on Netflix.  During those seasons — and in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me — David Lynch’s role as Gordon Cole came across as almost a vanity thing.  Lynch was having fun and he was fun to watch but, at the same time, you were always kinda happy that he only appeared occasionally.  But in both Part 3 and (especially) Part 4, Lynch gives an actual performance in the role.  Cole has gone from being a joke to being a compelling character.

13. For some reason, I just love the fact that Cole’s office is decorated with a picture of a mushroom cloud.

14. That was The Cactus Blossoms performing at the end.  It’s nice to see that the Roadhouse is still doing well.

Twin Peaks on TSL:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland
  24. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (directed by Diane Keaton) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  25. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.16 “The Condemned Woman” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  26. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars” (directed by James Foley) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  27. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.18 “On The Wings of Love” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  28. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.19 “Variations on Relations” (directed by Jonathan Sanger) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  29. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.20 “The Path to the Black Lodge” (directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  30. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.21 “Miss Twin Peaks” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Leonard Wilson
  31. TV Review: Twin Peaks 22.2 “Beyond Life and Death” (directed by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  32. Film Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  33. Here’s The Latest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  34. Here’s The Newest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  35. 12 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two by Lisa Marie Bowman
  36. This Week’s Peaks: Parts One and Two by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  37. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  38. 4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Twin Peaks Edition by Lisa Marie Bowman
  39. This Week’s Peaks: Parts Three and Four by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)


Here’s a Teaser for The Mist!

In June, a TV show based on Stephen King’s The Mist will air on Spike TV.  I’m not particularly enthusiastic about it but I know some people are.

And, in all honestly, the latest teaser does look effective.  I’ve read a few comments online that have described this teaser as being gory but, to be honest, it’s no more extreme than the typical episode of The Walking Dead.  I mean, yeah, there’s some blood and there’s some dead people but … bleh.  How is that shocking?  That said, this teaser does create and maintain a properly ominous atmosphere.  I’ll give the show a chance when it airs.