Archive for the Me and Lil’ Stevie Category

Me and Lil’ Stevie Peek UNDER THE DOME – Episode 1

Posted in 2013, Based on a bestselling book, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies, TV Miniseries with tags , , , , , , , on June 27, 2013 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie

Peek

UNDER THE DOME

(CBS Summer Series, Episode 1)

UNDER THE DOME

(Exterior/Day.  Establishing shot of some farmland off a rural highway on the outskirts of Chester’s Mill, Maine.  There are cows out in yonder pasture, doing cow stuff and not paying any attention to the propane trucks that keep entering the town and driving off into some secret location.  We hear the sound of a single engine prop plane somewhere in the sky above, flitting in and out of the clouds.  Camera pans across the pasture when suddenly, WHOOMF, a huge transparent dome gets dropped out of the sky, cutting off virtually everything inside Chester’s Mill from the outside world.  One of the cows that was standing under the perimeter of the dome gets severed completely in half in an amazing CGI bifurcation.  A figure nearby turns to look at the recently deceased bovine, and we see that it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  Holy cow!

Peter:  More like “Halfie Cow!”  Good evening, Constant Viewer, and welcome to our Me and Lil’ Stevie bonus Miniseries Spotlight.  We’re examining the s premiere episode of UNDER THE DOME…brought to you by CBS.  Of course, we’re not going to get this in depth with every single episode, but we do want to bring you the best coverage possible of this summer’s biggest television event.

Lil’ Stevie:  Of course, this series is based on my 2009 novel of the same name, with the teleplay by Brian K. Vaughan (who produced the series LOST, 2009) and directed by Jack Bender (CHILD’S PLAY 3, 1991).  I even stuck around as an EXECUTIVE PRODUCER.

(Peter pushes his arm forward, planting Lil’ Stevie’s face against the side of THE DOME.)

Peter:  What’s that?  I can’t hear you when you’re talking into that weird force-field wall.

Lil’ Stevie:  Mmmff.  MMMMffff!

Peter:  (Pulling Lil’ Stevie back) The REAL Stephen King did have a hand in producing the project from novel to small screen, and has even gone on to confess that Chester’s Mill is heavily influenced by Bridgton, Maine.  But we’re here simply to recap tonight’s events and help readers decide whether they should invest the time in watching all thirteen episodes or not.  So let’s get started.

Lil’ Stevie:  Fine!

Peter:  The series begins with a stranger driving out into the woods to bury a dead body.  Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel, CLOVERFIELD, 2008) is seen tossing the body into the ground and covering it, and then making a very secretive phone call as he tries to high-tail it out of town.  He…

Lil’ Stevie:  No, no, no…this is ALL WRONG already!  In my book, he’s trying to flee town after being bullied at the greasy spoon he works at as a short-order cook.  He takes an ass-kicking out in the parking lot, and…

Peter:  (starts pushing Lil’ Stevie toward the side of THE DOME again.)  Do you mind?

Lil’ Stevie:  (Grimacing) I’ll be good!

Peter:  Anyway, we’re also introduced to other various occupants of this small Maine Town.  Sheriff Howard “Duke” Perkins (Jeff Fahey, GRINDHOUSE, 2007), Town Selectman and car dealer “Big Jim” Rennie (Dean Norris, TOTAL RECALL, 1990, and also best known right now for being one of the stars of the excellent AMC TV series BREAKING BAD), new editor of the Independent, Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre, THE CALLER, 2011), and “Big Jim’s” psycho son, Junior (Alexander Koch, THE GHOSTS, 2011).

Lil’ Stevie:  Don’t forget about “Scarecrow Joe” McClatchey and Angie McCain, and…

Peter:  All right, here’s the thing:  Way back when we reviewed STORM OF THE CENTURY, I noted that this was going to be a problem.  This novel is one of King’s widest-scoped projects to date, in terms of cast and plot lines.  In fact, if you open the 1,000+ page novel, right at the beginning you’ll find an annotated list of primary and supporting characters…three pages worth.  Now, I read the book back when it came out, and I’m already stumped outside of the primary players we’ve already listed as to who does what in the story.  It’s ginormous.  Hence the 13 episode series.  And even so, I’m betting at least a dozen names get bumped right out of the story in transition from novel to teleplay.  Hell, King even lists “Dogs of Note” in his character list.  That should tell you something right away.

Lil’ Stevie:  So I got carried away…

Peter:  (Shaking head.)  Anyway, to make this ginormous story short, the dome is dropped just as Barbie is about to leave.  He has a minor accident seconds before THE DOME impacts, and he takes out a fence on the McClatchey farm.  Young Joe sees the accident and runs out to help, and then just like it says above, WHOOOMF, THE DOME drops.  The cow is split in half.  And then the single-engine prop plane collides with it, and then dead birds start dropping out of the sky.

Lil’ Stevie:  Meanwhile, in town, it feels like an earthquake is happening.  The ground shakes, car alarms begin going off, the church bells ring out in vibration, etc.  “Duke” and “Big Jim” rush to the scene of the airplane crash and immediately take over in delegating authority.  Only, nobody really understands exactly what happened.

Peter:  Precisely.  And during this calamity, cub editor Julia Shumway gets tipped off about the strange number of propane trucks showing up in town.  She goes to investigate into what is obviously being foreshadowed as “Big Jim’s” big secret (and it’s obvious “Duke” is looking the other way in terms of what’s going down in this little town).  And meanwhile, there’s the little problem with “Junior” Rennie.

Lil’ Stevie:  Another case of “liberal scripting!”  In my book, Junior suffers brain-tumor headaches, which literally drive him crazy.  He kills Angie right off the bat, right in her kitchen, and then revisits her dead body over and over again…

Peter:  Not here in TV Land, Kimo Sabe.  Junior does knock her out in her kitchen, but she wakes up in the bomb shelter “Big Jim” has built outside his own home.  By the end of tonight’s episode, Angie has become a hostage in what is obviously a neat little cliffhanger.  And the same goes for “Duke’s” heart attack.

Lil’ Stevie:  There are a lot of other changes as well.  The storyline of Julia Shumway’s husband getting bumped off (remember the guy Barbie buries at the beginning?).  And who the hell are these radio personalities?  In my book, the only radio station is the one playing Christian broadcasting.

Peter:  Well, we knew going into this that parts of the story were going to be changed around…particularly the ending.  But for now, let’s sum this up and get to bed.  Overall, most of the characters and plot devices in this story have been done before.  Sometimes better, sometimes not so much.  Barbie instantly reminds me of Stu Redman from THE STAND.  “Big Jim” reminds me of Robbie Beals from STORM OF THE CENTURY (and quite frankly, Norris never captures the power-mad bully as King envisions him in his novel).  Chester’s Mill is another small Maine town where the people are all middle to lower class and have their dirty little secrets.  But to be fair, the acting has been rock-solid and nitpicking all these little discrepancies is kind of fun.  The special effects seem to be above average for television, and overall, I can honestly say I did enjoy the first installment.  Then again, I’m a rabid King fan, so I suppose I’m kind of biased.

Lil’ Stevie:  That’s right, boy!  Bow to my awesome power of storytelling.  I command you!

(Peter takes Lil’ Stevie off his arm and throws him at THE DOME.  There’s a faint buzzing sound as Lil’ Stevie’s body begins to convulse and smoke).

Peter:  What we’re trying to say is, “We’ll be tuning in next week for episode 2 to see where things are going.”  We think you should, too.

(Lil’ Stevie drops to the ground, panting and gasping for breath.)

Lil’ Stevie:  It’s like “Big Jim” keeps saying…”We’re all in this together!”

The End

© Copyright 2013 by Peter N. Dudar

(UNDER THE DOME will be airing throughout the summer on Mondays at 10pm EST, on CBS)

UndertheDome_FirstEpisodeTag

Me and Lil’ Stevie have finally found IT (1990)

Posted in 1990s Horror, 2013, All-Star Casts, Based on a Classic Novel, Demons, evil clowns, Evil Spirits, Horror, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies, TV Miniseries with tags , , , , , , , on May 7, 2013 by knifefighter

ME AND LIL’ STEVIE

Have Finally Found

IT (1990)

IT

(INTERIOR/NIGHT.  Establishing shot of the Derry, Maine standpipe…a central hub for the town’s main sewage line.  There are channels dug into the floor where gray water travels to and fro, leading off into different paths and corridors.  Somewhere in the darkness, we can hear an evil laugh echoing just over the incessant plop-plops of dripping water.  Camera makes quick pan toward one channel, where a paper boat is sailing along with the current.  It whisks through the channel swiftly, and when it passes off into one of the darkened chambers, a figure emerges.  It is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Peter:  Greetings, Constant Viewer, and welcome to another chapter of our beloved column.

Lil’ Stevie:  That’s right, folks.  Twenty films reviewed so far and ZERO “Cease and Desist” letters!

Peter:  If you’ve been watching the Cinema Knife Fight page on Facebook, you already know that we’ve been…ahem, dying to review today’s film.  But our DVD has been missing for a long, long, time now, so we were going to once again skip Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s IT.  That is, until the boss intervened on our behalf.

Lil’ Stevie:  You mean L.L. Soares actually bought us a NEW copy?

Peter:  Oh, hell no!  I was talking about Mrs. Dudar.   Thanks, Hon!

Lil’ Stevie:  Who’s the REAL dummy around here…?

(In the background, we hear the sound of a toilet flushing.)

Lil’ Stevie:  (pointing at something floating by in the sewage) Heh heh…Look, they all FLOAT down here!

Peter:  How did I know that was coming?  Let’s get started.  This film was a two-part miniseries that originally aired back in 1990.  It concerns an ancient evil that has inflicted itself on Derry, Maine…King’s second most infamous fictitious town right after Castle Rock.  This ancient evil can manifest itself in the form of whatever nightmares the children of Derry are afraid of, but it mostly takes on the form of Pennywise the Clown (Tim Curry, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, 1975).  IT uses the standpipe and its sewage lines throughout the town to lure in and kill children to feed upon.  The monster has been doing this on a cycle of every 30 years or so.  Of course, the town itself is poisoned and turns a blind eye over and over again until 1960, when…

Lil’ Stevie:  You’re already getting the movie’s chronology all wrong.  The movie begins in 1990, when another tricycle-riding tot is lured in and murdered by Pennywise.  And as the police investigate, the town’s librarian Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid, Television’s Venus Flytrap from WKRP in Cincinnati) shows up to make his own inquiries.  Mike remembers the summer of 1960, when his friend Bill Denbrough (Richard Thomas, Television’s Jon-Boy Walton from THE WALTONS) lost his little brother Georgie to the town’s malefic horror.

Peter:  Pretty good so far.  Mike Hanlon is the cornerstone of the film.  He’s the movie’s narrator; the one member of the “Loser’s Club” they formed as kids that remained behind in Derry after his childhood friends all moved far, far away.  Likewise, he’s the beacon that draws the other members back.  After this latest murder, Mike begins a string of phone calls that interrupt the successful lives of all the other members, reawakening the childhood terror that has remained dormant in their minds ever since leaving their hometown behind.  Bill Denbrough is a beloved horror novelist (big surprise, huh?) who has temporarily moved abroad to do some screenwriting for his beautiful wife Audra’s new film.  Getting the call whisks him away to the memory of him being deathly sick as a child, and sending his kid brother Georgie out to play in the rain with a paper boat he’d made.  And, of course, that was the last time Bill saw George.

Lil’ Stevie:  The other members of the Losers Club all follow suit.  The first part of the miniseries is all setup.  It’s all about introducing the individual characters, sharing their own childhood terrors at the hands of IT, and getting them on track for a reunion.  Only, they aren’t returning to reminisce and see how each other’s lives are going, they’re returning on a childhood oath that if IT ever came back, they would all come back to fight it and kill it.

Peter:  To expedite things a bit, Ben “Haystack” Hanscom (John Ritter, Television’s Jack Tripper from THREE’S COMPANY) is a successful architect.  Beverly Marsh (Annette O’Toole, Television’s Martha Kent from SMALLVILLE) is a successful clothing magnate.  Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson, Television’s Judge Harold T. Stone from NIGHT COURT) is a successful comedian, Eddie Kaspbrak (Dennis Christopher, Television’s Bellegard from DEADWOOD) owns a successful limousine service, and Stan Uris (Richard Masur, Clark the creepy dog-handler from THE THING, 1982) is a successful…um, did they ever say what his occupation was?

Lil’ Stevie:  Holy cow.  He was a real-estate mogul.

Peter:  Oh, yeah.  Thanks.  I have to confess, it’s been about 20 years since I’ve read this novel.  I should hope you’d cut me some slack.

Lil’ Stevie:  Yeah, no!  If you’ve forgotten, you should have reread it.

Peter:  Thanks, Dad.  Anyway, like we were saying, the first part of the film is all setup, laced with flashbacks to each character’s respective trauma and how that summer drew them together.  For Ben Hanscom, it was about dealing with himself and his mom being forced to move in with his aunt after his father’s death in Korea.  His relocation to Derry was difficult enough, but upon his first day at school he found himself at odds with town bully, Henry Bowers, and his buddies.  Ben is instantly smitten with Bev Marsh, who is the unfortunate daughter of the school’s drunken and abusive school janitor.  They make friends quickly, but it’s obvious that Bev has her heart set on “Stuttering Bill” Denbrough.  Bill is cute and brave, and looks super cool on his boss bicycle that he calls “Silver” after the Lone Ranger’s horse.  In a serendipitous chain of events, Ben meets up with Bill and Eddie down in the barrens, where the two are trying to flood the creek.  Being a bit of an engineering whiz, Ben will show them (along with the rest of the gang, who conveniently show up all at once) how to build a real honest-to-goodness dam.

Lil’ Stevie:  The rest of the gang, except for Mike.  He’s the town’s other new kid.  Only Mike is African-American, and immediately meets with intolerance from bigoted Henry and his buddies.

Peter:  The Loser’s Club end up rescuing Mike from Henry and the bullies in a rock war inside the old quarry.

Lil’ Stevie:  You mean they had a battle of the bands?

(Peter tips Lil’ Stevie upside down and dangles him over the filthy water.)

Peter:  Do you have any more stupid questions?

Lil’ Stevie:  I’m sorry!  I’ll be good!

Peter:  (fixes Lil’ Stevie upright again) That’s better.  To answer your question, the Loser’s Club has had enough of Henry and his shenanigans.  They’re dealing with a child-eating monster, after all.  So when they see Mike getting chased, they immediately “Dummy Up” with heavy rocks and begin an assault on Bowers and his hoods.  And they win their first real victory, thus cementing their kinship of “Lucky Seven.”

Lil’ Stevie:  Did ya catch that?  That’s important, y’all…

Peter:  It is, because Stan Uris, the non-believer in anything “empirically impossible” is also a huge coward.  By the end of part one, Ol’ Stanny is in his bathtub slitting his wrists rather than jumping the next available transit back home to Derry.  Their “Lucky Seven” dies with him.

(In the background we hear the sound of an evil clown laughing).

Pennywise:  He Floats Down Here…and soon, YOU’LL FLOAT, TOO!

Peter:  Part two begins with the Loser’s Club all returning to Maine, and each member dealing with their childhood horrors on an adult level.  Being away from Derry for so long has robbed their memories of a lot of stuff, and there are a lot of blanks to fill in.  Each member returns to their respective homes and hangouts, only to discover that Pennywise is constantly trying to turn them back and scare them away.  Fortunately, they brave these terrors and eventually reunite over a dinner of Chinese food, where Mike helps them remember the rest of what happened that summer, and how they eventually beat IT the first time.  Only, they didn’t kill IT completely, so now it’s back to feed again.

Lil’ Stevie:  So the Loser’s Club have to convince themselves and each other to fulfill that promise they made so many summers ago, and destroy IT once and for all.

Peter:  With the scope and length of this story, we seemed to sum it up pretty handily, wouldn’t you say?

Lil’ Stevie:  That’s a good thing.  It took me forever to write IT.

Peter:  Har har.  Let’s get a bit more in-depth about the good stuff and the bad stuff.  Let me begin by saying that time has NOT been good to this film.  The teleplay by King, Wallace, and Lawrence Cohen does leave a lot of stuff from the novel out of the movie, but that serves as utilitarian in keeping the movie at a reasonable length without being mired down by dull moments or unnecessary exposition.  Gone is that whole bit about the Edge of the World and the story of the Turtle which I, for one, never understood.

Lil’ Stevie:  You really ARE a dope.

Peter:  What’s left is a nifty little fright flick that elevates a lot of made-for-television actors into a very dark and creepy world.  Everybody turns in a rock-solid performance (although I must admit, Harry Anderson comes off as very whiny and self-absorbed).  And Tim Curry as Pennywise is absolutely perfect.  He’s just terrifying with his murderous antics and that lecherous scowl that turns into the mouthful of razor-sharp teeth at any given moment.

Lil’ Stevie:  Either you are the world’s biggest hypocrite or you have a really bad memory!

Peter:  Why do you say that?

Lil’ Stevie:  Because you just lambasted King’s STORM OF THE CENTURY a few episodes ago over Andre Linoge suddenly sprouting a mouthful of fangs.  In fact, you blamed that movie for being too Mick Garris-ish because Garris did the same thing in SLEEPWALKERS.  How easily we forget…

Peter:  Are you ready for that swim?

(Lil’ Stevie pulls his head down so that his mouth is hiding beneath the collar of his shirt).

Peter:  No more warnings.  And in fairness, this movie preceded those other two, so it gets rightful props.  This movie is beautifully shot and it does deliver the chills, all the way up to the end where Wallace drops the ball. Everything that happens once the adult version of the Loser’s Club enters the standpipe falls apart.  The monster finally appears in its true form as a gargantuan spider with “Deadlights” in its belly.  The spider looks so ridiculously fake that it kills any credible suspense the movie had been building up to.  It’s a massive letdown.  But not enough that I’d advise fans not to watch it.  It really is a beautiful movie that captures the love of childhood friendship and the paranoia of small-town living, where grown-ups would rather mind their own business and not get involved when bad things happen.  And if you look at how the internet has changed our society, it almost feels prophetic.  I loved the book because I felt like I belonged in the Loser’s Club.  Most of us do.  The film captures a huge part of that, and it really is wonderful to watch.  There’s a scene where adult Mike takes adult Bill out to the shed where Mike has been keeping Bill’s old bicycle.  Reid and Thomas act the scene out wonderfully, with the two fixing the flat tire and Bill is suddenly reunited with not just his bicycle but with his childhood.  It plays out with the two grown men speeding back and forth on the bike to some old Smokey Robinson tune, and it feels absolutely bittersweet.  The entire cast brings that magic to the film, making it a very pleasant experience.

Lil’ Stevie:  What the film DOESN’T capture is the depth of the children’s loss of innocence in order to combat the evil they face.  In my book, Bev actually winds up having sex with each of them as a ritual of preparation.  In the movie, they all take a tug off Eddie’s asthma inhaler.  Totally lame!

Peter:  What do you expect from prime-time television?  Besides, knot-head…you didn’t write it!

(More laughter from the corridor ahead)

Peter:  I think Pennywise is coming to pay a visit!

(Another figure steps out of corridor, only it’s L.L. Soares).

L.L.:  Hey, your column is LATE!   What’s taking so long?

Peter:  You came all the way down here just to harass us?

L.L.:  Actually, someone clogged the toilet.  You don’t have a plunger, do you?

Peter:  Here…use this!

(Peter takes Lil’ Stevie off his arm and tosses him over).

L.L.:  Thanks.  I’ll make sure he doesn’t get cleaned before I send him back.

Lil’ Stevie:  No!  NOOOOO!  Not the swirlies again!!! Please!

Peter:  Thanks for spending your time with us once again.  See you next month!

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Peter N. Dudar

Pennywise (Tim Curry) is coming for you in IT!

Pennywise (Tim Curry) is coming for you in IT!

Me and Lil’ Stevie: CREEPSHOW II (1987)

Posted in 2013, 80s Horror, Anthology Films, Ghosts!, Me and Lil' Stevie, Monsters, Peter Dudar Reviews, Sea Creatures, Stephen King Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2013 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie
Periodically Enjoy
CREEPSHOW II
(1987)
By Peter Dudar

creepshow II

(Exterior-day:  Establishing shot of quiet Maine town by morning.  There is a little boy sitting on his bicycle just outside the local newsstand, waiting for a very special delivery.  An old army-style canvas-covered delivery truck adorned with comic book graphics pulls up, and the little boy sits up tall on his bike.  The truck parks, and then there is a figure rummaging around the back of the truck, sorting through bundles of magazines.  The figure tosses a bundle out onto the curb, and the boy goes to reach for it.  Suddenly, the boy stops and looks up at the figure in the back of the truck.  The camera pans upward and we see that the figure is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  I wouldn’t do that, son…I really wouldn’t.

Peter:  Why not?  Little Billy, here, just wants the very first copy.

Billy:  Yeah!  It’s all mine!  I got here first!

Peter:  Go ahead, Billy.  Open it up.  You’ve earned it.

(Billy opens up the package.  Instead of being filled with comic books, the package is filled with autographed pictures of Justin Beiber.)

Billy:  Nooooooo!  (abandons his bicycle and runs away screaming).

Lil’ Stevie:  Hyuk Hyuk Hyuk…they fall for it every time!

Peter:  Welcome, Constant Viewer, to another fun-filled episode.  Today, we’ll be discussing Michael Gornick’s 1987 film directorial debut, CREEPSHOW II.  Gornick, like a lot of other directors that have cut their teeth on Stephen King projects, has a long history of working in the cinema, serving as a cinematographer, production manager, camera and sound engineer, actor, and producer.  He is equally steeped in made-for-television projects as well.  So, when George Romero (director of the original CREEPSHOW, 1982) passed on the project, Gornick stepped in (he was cinematographer on CREEPSHOW, and was familiar with the spirit of the project).

Lil’ Stevie:  And the fans of CREEPSHOW rejoiced!  Boo-ya!

Peter:  Not exactly.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  As you already know, Constant Viewer, we examined the original CREEPSHOW back in episode 7, and we happen to consider it a favorite of ours, so we want to treat this entry as fairly and unbiased as possible.

Lil’ Stevie:  Which means we sat our butts down and re-watched it, for old time’s sake.

Peter:  The film begins pretty much as we’ve established with the delivery truck, turning Little Billy’s wraparound segment into an animated storyline featuring him and “The Creep” (Tom Savini, special effects maestro and character actor, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, 1996).

Lil’ Stevie:  You’re already getting it wrong.  The Creep is played by Joe Silver (RABID, 1977).

Peter (sighing): Silver provided the voice.  Now, quit interrupting.  It bears mentioning that the original film was constructed with comic book panels and artwork interspersed with the live action sequences.  It made the movie feel like a comic-book-come-to-life, which was an enormous part of the campy charm that made the original so cool (not to mention comic art veteran Bernie Wrightson’s stunning contributions).  All of that is traded off for “The Creep’s” animated spookshow-host narration.  I found this to be an annoyance more than an upgrade.  At the time of this film’s theatrical release, HBO was already knocking ‘em dead with their “Crypt Keeper” in TALES FROM THE CRYPT.  This feels like a bad rip-off.

Lil’ Stevie:  Can we talk about my stories?   My stories are what bring the movie to life!

(Peter reaches down and snatches up an autographed photo of Justin Beiber)

Peter:  Here, this is for you.  Aren’t you his “Number-one fan?”

(Lil’ Stevie turns aside and throws up).

Peter:  Holy cow!  How are you doing that?  You’re a puppet.  You can’t throw up!

Lil’ Stevie: (Dragging his sleeve across his mouth) Oh yeah?  Well, you can’t write for beans!

Peter:  (Shaking his head).  You disgust me.  Anyway, the REAL Stephen King provided three stories for the film; OLD CHIEF WOOD’NHEAD, THE RAFT, and THE HITCHHIKER (with THE RAFT being the only one of the three segments to appear as a published story.  It was released in Gallery magazine in 1982, and then in the collection SKELETON CREW in 1985).  The first story, OLD CHIEF WOODN’HEAD, concerns Ray and Martha Spruce (George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour).  The Spruces (a loving nod, perhaps, to Tabitha King’s family) are an elderly couple who own and operate the only general store in Dead River, Arizona.  The town, it seems, has washed up and blown away, and its few remaining citizens (most of them being Native American) are in debt to the Spruces.  Ray Spruce doesn’t seem all that concerned, though.  He’s done very well over the years, and feels obligated to give back to the people that supported him.

Lil’ Stevie:  The beginning of the story sees Ray outside his store, painting new war stripes on Chief Wood’nhead; the cigar store-style Indian statue that stands on the store’s front porch.

Peter:  While he’s working, his neighbor, Benjamin Whitemoon (Frank Salsedo, MAGIC IN THE WATER, 1995) pays him a visit.  Whitemoon brings a pouch of Native American jewelry that he has collected from his people as a kind of promissory note to pay off the debts his people have incurred.  “I’ll guard it with my life,” Ray promises.  He tries to convince Whitemoon that prosperity is in the air and that the town is going to come back, but he and Whitemoon already know this isn’t to be.  The pouch is the only payment he is going to see for his kindness, and by taking it, he allows Whitemoon’s people to remain borrowers rather than beggars.

Lil’ Stevie:  You NEVER promise to guard something with your life.  You just don’t do it.

Peter:  That’s right.  Because Whitemoon’s nephew Sam (Holt McCallany, GANGSTER SQUAD, 2013) and his buddies want that wampum.  They hold up the store, taking what little cash the Spruces have, but Sam has his eye set on the pouch of jewelry.  The heist quickly turns into a killing spree, with Martha gunned down while her husband watches helpless, trying to talk Sam out of what he’s about to do.  When Ray refuses to let go of the treasure he promised to guard with his life, he, too is murdered and the pouch is pried from his cold, dead hands.  And then Sam and his buddies are racing off to leave Dead River for new digs in Hollywood.

Lil’ Stevie:  Not if Old Chief Wood’nhead can help it…

Peter:  Precisely.  In E.C. Comics-style vengeance, the Chief (Dan Kamin, MARS ATTACKS, 1996) comes to life and goes on the warpath against the hooligans who killed the folks that took such good care of him.  The siege doesn’t end until all three are dead, with Sam’s scalp (which he treasured) clutched in his hand as he finds rest at his original post outside the store.  The Chief is the real star of this story, and the makeup effects for the statue come-to-life by Gregory Nicotero and company deserve mad props.  This film is one of the last of its breed; the kind with guys in rubber suits and prosthetic appliances providing the scares rather than CGI.  It pays off as you watch the Chief’s subtle facial movements and statuesque body motions.

Lil’ Stevie: …and the blood shots, squirting all over the walls as the Chief swings his tomahawk.

Peter:  On kind of a funny off-note, I’d always believed that Rodney Grant played Sam Whitemoon.  Grant is the Native American actor that portrayed Wind In His Hair in 1990’s DANCES WITH WOLVES.  It turns out that Holt McCallany isn’t even Native American.  Crazy, huh?

Lil’ Stevie:  Hilarious.  You’re an imbecile.

Peter:  (pulls out a tomahawk and crunches it into Lil’ Stevie’s head.)  Heh.  That’s funny, too.  The second story, THE RAFT, is about four college kids who race off to a lake after the summer season has ended to go for a swim in the lake’s secluded waters.  A joint is passed around as Deke and Randy drag their best gals, Laverne and Rachel, to the lake in Deke’s bitchin’ Camaro.  They arrive at the lake with the radio blasting terrible 80s music, and the boys race right into the lake and begin paddling toward The Raft.  The girls follow reluctantly, and as they are swimming, the boys notice a weird, oily membrane floating on the water (the membrane eats a duck alive, to their horror).  Once they are all up on the raft, the kids are held hostage by the membrane, which now seems to move and have a mind of its own.  Rachel buys it first, gently prodding the membrane to see what it is, only to have the membrane snatch her off the raft and eat her up.  Deke dies next, as the membrane slides effortlessly between the raft’s slits and begins chewing away his flesh.

Lil’ Stevie:  Randy and Laverne manage to survive all night, but thanks to Randy’s randy hormones, Laverne falls prey to the membrane.  As the gelatinous blob eats her alive, Randy decides to make a break for it and swim to the shore…but will he make it out alive?

Peter:  This was my favorite segment of the film, and Gornick’s cinematography skills really shine in how this was shot.  It’s beautifully done, the way the camera floats past the kids on the raft at eye-level.  It’s great stuff.  Again, all that’s missing is the neat comic book panels from the original film.

Lil’ Stevie:  The acting was a tad weak in this one.  None of these kids had star quality, and none of them had any meteoric rise to fame because of this movie.

Peter:  Sad but true.  The last segment, THE HITCHHIKER, stars Lois Chiles (MOONRAKER, 1979) as Annie Lansing, the wife of a successful attorney.  Lois has been throwing her husband’s hard-earned money at her favorite gigolo for sex, but in spite of her infidelity, she’s terrified of being home one minute late from the affair as it will anger her husband severely.  So, after an evening of wanton sex with her lover, she notices she’s late and will never be home on time.  She floors the pedal of her BMW in her bid to get home, and in the process, she accidentally runs over some hapless hitchhiker (Tom Wright, BARBER SHOP, 2002) holding a sign reading DOVER.

Lil’ Stevie:  Stephen King cameo!  King plays a truck driver, who happens to be the first on the scene after Annie Lansing disappears in her BMW.

Peter:  The shaken adulterer speeds away, trying to convince herself that she can always turn herself in if she can’t live with the guilt, but the guilt has already begun to manifest itself.  It seems the Hitchhiker isn’t really dead, and will haunt her ride home.  The corpse seems to turn up over and over again, until Annie is literally running his body into trees, and then driving back and forth over the poor guy’s remains until he is the nastiest road kill you’ve ever seen.

Lil’ Stevie:  We really ramped up the gore on this one.  Like the first segment, this tale is all about revenge.

Peter:  It’s really all about guilt.  We don’t honestly know if the Hitchhiker is really haunting her, or if she’s injured her head in the accident and is hallucinating the whole thing.  But Annie eventually makes it back home and parks her totaled car in the garage, where the Hitchhiker visits her one last time…

Lil’ Stevie:  And her husband finds her dead body in a haze of carbon monoxide.  Maybe she couldn’t live with the guilt after all.

creepshow 2

Peter:  A couple of things about this movie…Putting aside the lack of comic book panel framing, this film’s stories verge more on the serious side rather than the campy side that the original movie had.  The first film’s characters were more like caricatures, more stereotypical than typical.  This film opted to play it straight, leaving the comedy to the goofy animated “Creep” segments, and that detracts from the overall impact of the movie.  It’s no wonder that so many King and Romero fans were disappointed with this film (and that’s taking into consideration that Romero wrote the screenplay based on King’s stories).  The stories are very stripped down and one-dimensional, making them predictable in their outcomes.  But they work.  They are entertaining stories built on morality plays.  What would you do if you accidentally ran someone over and killed them?  What would you do if you and your friends were stuck on a raft with something trying to eat you?

Lil’ Stevie:  I’d make sure you got eaten first!

Peter:  Thanks.  I can always count on you.  I guess my final word on this one is that it falls under the category of “What could have been…”  This could have been great if it stuck to the formula that made the first movie so great.  It could have been great if they left out “The Creep” and stuck with the nifty comic book with its pages flapping in the breeze.  It could have been great with a bit more campy humor.  And it could have been great with one or two more stories.  The three tales (and the wraparound story with Billy getting chased by the bullies) just don’t offer a satisfying meal for us to feast on.  Two vengeance tales and a badly-acted hostage story fall short of a complete anthology film.

Lil’ Stevie:  Unless you’re Mario Bava.  BLACK SABBATH (1963) rocks!

Peter:  In the meantime, we’ll keep hoping King and Romero get it together and put out a legitimate CREEPSHOW III, unlike the one that was released in 2006 that had nothing to do with either of them.  Agreed?

Lil’ Stevie:  Agreed.  Well, boils and ghouls, we’ll be slaying ya…er, seeing ya next month! Bwahahahaha!

(Peter leans down and picks up Billy’s bicycle and climbs on, setting Lil’ Stevie on the handlebars.)

Peter:  Thanks a lot, Billy…thanks for the ride!  (Pedals away).

© Copyright 2013 by Peter N. Dudar

Me and Lil’ Stevie Survive the STORM OF THE CENTURY (1999)

Posted in 1990s Horror, 2013, 90s horror, Demons, Magic, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies, TV-Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2013 by knifefighter

ME AND LIL’ STEVIE
Survive the
STORM OF THE CENTURY
(1999)

storm

(Interior-Night:  Establishing shot of a town hall-style meeting room, where the citizens of Little Tall Island have convened to both ride out a nasty Nor’easter blizzard and to decide what to do about the scary stranger that is holding the citizens hostage.  The crowd is buzzing with nervous tension as the clock on the overhead wall tick-tocks away.  The sound of a gavel banging on the podium at the front of the room makes everybody jump, and then a wave of silence fills the room as everybody turns to look at the man calling the meeting to order.  Camera pans to the podium where we see a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  (banging gavel on the podium) Oye, oye!  This meeting will come to order.

(An unruly woman in the crowd starts shouting.)

Sheri White:  Boo!  I just talked about this movie in my HORROR-MOM column.  Why don’tcha pick out something else to watch?

Peter:  Someone get her outta here!  Welcome, Constant Viewer, to another episode of our little column.  As you may or may not know, New England just got dumped on by a blizzard named Nemo; a collision of two storm fronts that left most of New England (and some of New York) buried under several feet of snow.  Pee Wee and I decided that maybe we should spend the storm chilling out and watching the Craig R. Baxley adaptation of the made-for-television screenplay by Stephen King and report back on it.

Lil’ Stevie:  I love ham-handed segues….hey, a portly gentlemen in the back has a question.

L.L. Soares: A “made-for-television screenplay” is called a teleplay, the last time I checked. And isn’t it true that this is a rare original teleplay by King, and is not based on a previous work?

Peter: Yes, Mr. Know-it-All. That is correct. Can I go back to what I was saying now? Or will there be more interruptions?

(The room falls silent)

Peter: Admittedly, Baxley is not a well-known director, but the guy has had his hand in the movie business for a lifetime, working as a stunt coordinator and then as a second-director and producer on an enormous number of made-for-television films and programs.  That said, I feel the urge to point out that watching this miniseries again after seeing it way back in 1999, I could almost find myself believing that Mick Garris had actually helmed the project.  It just has that feel to it.

Lil’ Stevie:  What…are you cursing it right out of the starting gate?

Peter:  Absolutely not!  This was not a bad film, and Garris HAS put out some great stuff.  I’m just talking stylistically.  Can we get started?

Lil’ Stevie:  Hang on a sec…(takes gavel and smashes Peter on the forehead with it).  Okay, we’re good!

Peter:  Ouch!  What was that for?

Lil’ Stevie:  Born in sin…Come on in!

Peter:  (Rubbing forehead) STORM OF THE CENTURY begins on Little Tall Island, a township of several hundred people on an island off the coast of Machias, Maine.  Fans of King will note that Little Tall Island is also the setting for his novel DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1992) and its respective film adaptation from 1995.  The film starts with a voiceover narrative from Michael Anderson (Tim Daly, television’s WINGS, 1990-97), Little Tall Island’s constable and local general store owner, who is about to tell his tale of horror and sorrow over the course of the three-part series.  “You pay as you go,” he tells us in his soliloquy about Island Life as we’re given a montage of lobstermen and boat skippers, all unloading their catches and mooring their vessels in preparation for the big storm.  We see other citizens in the process of hunkering down for the storm, all chatting away about what a doozy they’re in for as the ominous clouds roll in.  And this, of course, includes little old lady Martha Clarendon (Um…holy cow!  IMDB doesn’t have the actress’s name listed!).

Lil’ Stevie:  Hahahaha…she’s so old she forgot to write her name down for the credits!

Peter:  That’s terrible!  I had to Google her name, but the actress is (or was) Rita Tuckett (AGNES OF GOD, 1995).  Anyway, Martha’s parked in front of her television set watching the weather report when the doorbell rings.  She gets up and answers it, and then is quickly clubbed to death by a dark stranger for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Lil’ Stevie:  Hit her so hard her eyes popped out!  Hyuk Hyuk Hyuk.

(Peter snatches gavel and whacks Lil’ Stevie on the noggin, forcing his eyes to pop out and then comically spring back into place).

Peter:  Hey, that IS pretty funny.  The stranger then parks himself in the chair where Martha HAD been sitting and begins watching the news and grinning strangely to himself.  We jump across town to Anderson’s General Store where all the citizens on Little Tall are frantically making their last minute purchases before the storm.  Mike is waiting on people and making small talk with the citizens, basically to establish to us viewers that he is a swell guy and that we should like him.  And here we encounter one of my biggest difficulties with this film.

Lil’ Stevie:  I just knew you couldn’t get through this without bitching and complaining.  What’s your beef this time?

Peter:  You’ll notice that a lot of King’s characters, particularly in this movie, don’t just have that colorful Maine Yankee slate of colloquialisms, but they also feel a need to announce the character’s full name in conversation.  As in, “That’s a hell of a storm they’re predicting for us, huh, Mike Anderson?”  – “Sure is, Tess Marchant.  Do you need more sausage links?”  A lot of this has to do with the size and scope of the story, and the need to present an island full of people you want the viewer to care about over the next three nights.  But after a while it’s annoying and it doesn’t sound natural.  It strains the story for me.  And this story has so many characters in it that I can’t keep half of them sorted out anyway.  The important players in the story are all we need to know.  This movie could have a drinking game called, “Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?”  That line gets said over and over again!

Lil’ Stevie:  I’ll drink to that!  (Hoists a bottle of beer and drinks).

Peter:  To get on with the review, young Davey Hopewell (Adam Zolotin, ZEROPHELIA, 2005) is heading home, dribbling his basketball and imagining he’s the next NBA star.  He passes Mrs. Clarendon’s house and sees her walker on the front lawn and her door wide open, and…

Lil’ Stevie:  Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?  (Drinks again).

Peter:  …decides to investigate.  He sees the old woman dead on her hallway floor, hears the dark stranger speak to him, and then bolts off screaming bloody murder down the street.  He’s nearly run over by the town manager, Robby Beals (noted King character-actor Jeffrey DeMunn, THE GREEN MILE, 1999).  It’s obvious from the onset that Beals and Mike Anderson have some kind of pissing contest going on, mostly due to Robby’s overblown sense of self-importance.  Beals takes it upon himself to go to Martha’s house to investigate, and…

Lil’ Stevie:  Ish Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?  (Drinks AGAIN).  I love you, man!

Peter:  Will you cut it out?

Lil’ Stevie:  Born in vice?  Say it twice!

Peter:  Beals finds Martha’s body, and likewise encounters the dark stranger who tells him some terrible secrets about himself that a stranger isn’t supposed to know.  Robby bolts out like a coward and finally calls Constable Anderson on the CB.  The radio announcement goes off  in Anderson’s General Store, where half the populace is doing their shopping and can hear for themselves that Martha Clarendon is dead.  (Glances at Lil’ Stevie).

Lil’ Stevie:  Continue…

Peter:  You know you want to say it.

Lil’ Stevie:  Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?  (Drinks AGAIN).  Best. Game. EVER!

Peter:  Mike Anderson and deputy (and best buddy) Alton “Hatch” Hatcher (Casey Siemaszko, STAND BY ME, 1986) grab their guns and head on out to the old lady’s house, where we’re finally officially introduced to Andre Linoge (Colm Feore, THOR, 2011).  Linoge submits to arrest without incident, although we ARE given flashes of his morphing black eyes and mouthful of CGI fangs that never really look real (a Mick Garris staple if ever there was one).  He’s taken to a holding cell in the back of Anderson’s General Store, where he offers more humiliating insights into the sinful pasts of the town folk.  I find the concept of that to be terrifying, don’t you?  How would you react if strangers just showed up and started blurting out your worst secrets?

Lil’ Stevie:  As a celebrity, I get that all the time.

Peter:  You’re a puppet.  Nobody talks about you once the column is over and I drop you back in the corner of my office.  Let’s speed things up.  This is getting longer than I wanted it to be.  Linoge is kept in the cell for a good amount of time, where he uses his dark magic to manipulate the town folk into committing murder or killing themselves, each time leaving a death note reading, GIVE ME WHAT I WANT AND I’LL GO AWAY.  This happens for what feels like hours, where characters we really haven’t come to know (other than having their full names repeated over and over again) bite the dust, causing terror and chaos among the citizens.  The snowstorm worsens, and people are forced to abandon their homes for the storm shelter set up, conveniently, in the basement of the town hall.  Everyone is drawn together, with the exception of Mike, Hatch, Beals, and the other deputies who offer to help guard Linoge in the holding cell behind the General Store.  In truth, though, this is all very reminiscent of King’s novel, NEEDFUL THINGS (1991), where dark stranger Leland Gaunt arrives in Castle Rock and manipulates the residents into killing each other.

Lil’ Stevie:  I thought for sure you wouldn’t notice that…

Peter:  It’s a little familiar…just saying.  Linoge finally reveals himself for who he is; an ancient demon with long hair and strange vestment robes.  He escapes the holding cell in grand fashion, admonishing the guards once more to “Give me what I want and I’ll go away,” before slipping out into the blinding storm.  More chaos ensues between the town  folk as citizens ‘disappear’ without a trace, and then the eight children of the town suddenly begin acting strangely as they are manipulated by Linoge’s terrible magic cane.  Now, on this whole island, it seems very improbable that there are only eight children (each being the same age), and that none of these children seem to have siblings. How on earth can you justify THIS?

Lil’ Stevie:  Anderson’s store ran out of condoms during the STORM OF THE DECADE, which happened five years prior to the STORM OF THE CENTURY!  Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?

A cryptic message

A cryptic message

Peter:  You’re impossible!  So, after the first two nights, we’re finally told what it is that Linoge ACTUALLY wants; he wants one of the children to take as his own child.  Thus begins the heart and the conflict of this story.  This is all one big morality play that almost mirrors the Grimm’s fairytale of Rumpelstilskin.  Linoge is actually a demon who…

Lil’ Stevie:  It’s pronounced “daemon.”

Peter:  Say what?

Lil’ Stevie:  My monster is a “daemon.”  It’s different than a demon.

Peter:  Fine!  Linoge is a “daemon” that wants a child to raise as his own, and teach all of his terrible “daemon-y” secrets to.  And if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll lay to waste the entire island, just as he had with the town of Roanoke, Virginia centuries earlier.  And here is where the storytelling behind this miniseries actually rises to what it is SUPPOSED to be…We’re given a microcosm of society that is cut off from the rest of the world, and how this microcosm becomes symbiotic in order to survive.  The people are mostly good, even if they do have their terrible little secrets, but the reality is that ALL of us have those terrible little secrets.  But how far are they willing to go to save themselves, versus how far will they go to stand up for what is right?  And in that battle for virtue, in that fight for GOOD, Mike Anderson is a lone voice.  And when it’s over, this will cost him everything.

Lil’ Stevie:  I couldn’t have said it better, Peter Dudar.

Andre Linogue (Colm Feore) shows his real face.

Andre Linogue (Colm Feore) shows his real face.

Peter:  Sadly, though, it took two whole episodes of ho-hum to get this captivating bit of drama. The first two episodes never quite capture the urgency we feel once the children are involved.  Linoge could have told us what he wanted way back in part one and saved us a lot of time.  I think it was a mistake to film this beast as a three-part series.  There are points in STORM where it feels like King is just throwing things in to fill time.  It’s frustrating.  Had this been written as a novel rather than as a screenplay, I think he could have done a better job with story arcs and building characters.  That’s where he shines in his writing.  I also think under more capable directing, it could have been paced better.  I think someone with more vision and experience might have been able to stand up to King and make appropriate adjustments rather than film the script exactly as it was written.  And that’s a shame, because this really could have been a killer with less filler.  We could have done with fewer primary characters as well, so we could focus on the important players rather than trying to keep tabs on the whole town.

Lil’ Stevie:  So, in other words, bigger ain’t always better.

Peter:  Precisely.  And I think it’s worth pointing out that we’re probably going to be seeing this same structuring problem when King’s miniseries of UNDER THE DOME airs later this year.  But we’ll jump off that pier when we get to it.

Lil’ Stevie: A prediction! You heard it here first, folks.

(Peter stares at Lil’ Stevie, who shrugs)

Lil’ Stevie:  Is Martha Clarendon REALLY dead?

Peter:  Enough already.  That’s getting really annoying.

Lil’ Stevie:  Give me what I want and I’ll go away.

Peter:  (Sighing) What do you want?

Lil’ Stevie:  (Grabbing the gavel and smashing Peter’s nose with it).  I want you to know just WHO is in charge of our little column.  Goodbye, folks.  See you next month!

© Copyright 2013 by Peter N. Dudar

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Me and Lil’ Stevie work the GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990)

Posted in 1990s Horror, 2013, Animals Attack, Horror, Me and Lil' Stevie, Monsters, Peter Dudar Reviews, Rats, Stephen King Movies with tags , , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by knifefighter

ME AND LIL’ STEVIE

Sweat It Out On The

GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990)

Graveyard Shift

(Interior/Night)  Establishing shot of the basement of a textile mill, where a hundred years of old furniture, debris, and other miscellany have been carelessly scattered about, forsaken and forgotten.  In the dank dinginess of the basement, we can hear the drip, drip, drip of water, and the hair-raising squealing of rats as they scamper about in the dark.  Somewhere in the distance, in the blackened heart of the basement, we begin to hear the snarl of something monstrous and menacing, and the camera begins to zoom in, trying to find the source of the sound.  There’s a light up ahead, and in the light we see the silhouette of a figure hunting our unseen monster.  The figure turns toward the camera, and we see that it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.

Lil’ Stevie:  Rats!

Peter:  Yeah, they’re everywhere.  Pretty creepy, huh?

Lil’ Stevie:  No, I meant “Rats, I just broke a fingernail!”

Peter:  (Sighing) Good evening, Constant Viewer.  Me and Lil’ Pansy, here, are going to be discussing Ralph S. Singleton’s 1990 adaptation of King’s GRAVEYARD SHIFT.  Now, this was Singleton’s film directorial debut, but he HAS worked extensively in the motion picture industry as a unit production manager and assistant director, so he does have some knowledge and credibility in the field.  Choosing to adapt a King story for filming seems like a logical choice in terms of career building and turning a quick buck.

Lil’ Stevie:  Nothing packs ‘em in like a good monster movie!

Peter:  Well, that remains to be seen.  The story itself was originally published in Cavalier magazine, and then republished in…you know, it seems like you published a lot of stories in spank magazines.  What’s up with that?

Lil’ Stevie:  You do what you have to do to keep food on the table, ya know?  Besides, GRAVEYARD SHIFT isn’t the most literary work I ever put out.  It’s pretty elementary.  It’s the classic “submarine story,” where the protagonist and antagonist are compressed into an escapeless microcosm together.  It’s also a nifty little campfire tale, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s THE RATS IN THE WALLS (1923).

Peter:  Maybe, but screenwriter John Esposito (THE WALKING DEAD) deftly follows the trend of previous screenwriters by taking your elementary little story and expanding on it to fill 90 minutes of celluloid.  And based on previous films we’ve reviewed, that isn’t always a winning formula.

Lil’ Stevie:  (Rolling his eyes comically) Alas.  I hate it when they do that.  They always have to add a love story or a coming-of-age angle that muddies and detracts from the story’s original impact.  My original story was strictly protagonist, antagonist, and monster rats and bats.  There weren’t any female characters in it whatsoever!

Peter:  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, okay?  The story begins inside this very building we’re standing in, just a few floors above us, where a hapless worker falls into a giant metal-toothed cotton separating machine after being bullied by a horde of rats.

Lil’ Stevie:  Didja notice the name of the mill?  It’s the Bachman Mill, named after my alter-ego.

Peter:  Quit interrupting!  Naturally, after the fiasco, there is a job vacancy to be filled.  Enter our protagonist, John Hall (David Andrews, HANNIBAL, 2001), a drifter who somehow has made his way up to Gates Falls, Maine after bumming around the country for a while.  Of course, the townies don’t really care too much for the new guy in town, and they don’t mind showing it as he shows up at the local café (just when their graveyard shift is ending) for a bite to eat.

Lil’ Stevie:  I really wanted to point something out here.  The town of Gates Falls, Maine is fictional, but it IS based on Lisbon Falls, Maine…the very town where WE live!  And right down the street from us is the Worumbo Mill, where I used to work when I was younger.  It’s where I got the idea for the story!

Peter:  You mean, where the REAL Stephen King used to work.  And that’s a huge bit of information to throw out there.  Got any proof?

Lil’ Stevie:  As a matter of fact, I do!  On page 23 of George Beahm’s biography, STEPHEN KING: America’s Best-Loved Boogeyman, it tells all about his experiences there during his high school years, and how he used to spend his downtime throwing cans at the rats that would watch him working.

Peter:  (Picking up the book and leafing through it) I’ll be darned.  It DOES say that.

Lil’ Stevie:  Why would I lie about ME?

Peter:  You’re NOT you.  Er…You know what I mean.  You’re just a puppet.  Anyway, Hall goes and talks to the foreman, Mr. Warwick (Stephen Macht, THE MONSTER SQUAD, 1987) about a job.  Warwick is obviously a sleazebag, with his anti-union bullying of the employees and “fishing off the company pier” with his secretary (Ilona Margolis, FLATLINERS, 1990).  Warwick has his hands full with the Bachman Mill, with goals and demands to meet from the mill owners, the misbehavior of the surly employees, and the growing rat problem.  Warwick has already employed an exterminator (Brad Dourif, CHILD’S PLAY, 1988) to flush out the varmints, a job that he seems to love and obsess over, but there’s just way too many for one man to deal with.

Lil’ Stevie:  Of course, there was no exterminator in my original story.

Peter:  Granted.  And Dourif’s character does seem a bit over-the-top.  He appears in several scenes where he goes off on his little soliloquies, but they seem contrived and unnecessary and do nothing to make his character remotely likeable.  As the story unfolds, and the Workplace Safety Inspector arrives at the mill threatening to close it down, Warwick HAS to do something to keep the mill operational.  So he pays off the inspector to come back in a few weeks, promising he’ll get the mill up to code and the basement cleaned out over the Fourth of July holiday.  More mysterious deaths ensue (led by the monstrous thing lurking in the basement), and when Warwick puts his cleanup team together, Hall and company have no idea what they’re in for.

Lil’ Stevie:  In the meantime, Hall starts getting a bit comfy with coworker Jane Wisconsky (Kelly Wolf, LESS THAN ZERO, 1987).  Jane regales him with her woe-is-me story about being a hometown girl stuck in her going-nowhere job after her divorce, and blah-blah-blah, yadda-yadda-yadda.  In my story, Wisconsky was a dude who whined a lot.  Why they turned her into a hot chick for the movie, I have no idea.

Peter:  Story building.  Plus, it adds the whole “date movie” element.

Lil’ Stevie:  Well, I don’t like it!  Nosiree Bob, this is supposed to be a horror story, not a cuddle-fest!

Peter:  Look at the size of that rat over there…

Lil’ Stevie:  (Gasping) Hold me close.  I’m scared!

Peter:  (Chuckling) You big sissy.  Well, Warwick manages to bribe some of the non-union workers into the cleanup detail with double pay.  Other workers get bullied into it.  And come evening of the Fourth of July, the crew meets at the mill and proceeds down into the basement to begin cleanup detail.  It goes smoothly at first, with most of the conflict shifting between pain-in-the-ass coworkers who get into a scuffle as debris is removed and the intruding horde of rats get blown away by a high-pressure fire hose.

Lil’ Stevie:  Again, most of these shenanigans never even happen in the story.  No love interests, no employee brawls, just workers who go down into the basement to clean it out.  But there IS one conflict that transitions from my story to the movie, and that’s the conflict that occurs between Hall and Warwick.  There is enormous mistrust between these two characters, stemming from a notion of right and just authority.  Warwick is clearly a villainous tool.  Hall counters this with a kind of stand-off of wills and wits, pushing his antagonist deeper down into the basement to find the source of the rats’ nest.

Peter:  That’s good stuff.  Back to our movie…The cleanup crew does proceed deeper into the basement, and when the nimrod with the fire hose accidentally blasts debris off a trap door, they discover a sub-basement that leads them down deeper into the darkness, into a world that seems almost ancient and long abandoned.  And here we feel that sense of Lovecraft’s ghost playing in.  By this point of the film, we’ve already been introduced to the weird giant bat that has been roosting in the bowels of the mill (and feasting on hapless victims), and here is its domain.

Lil’ Stevie:  In my story, we don’t meet the monster until we get to its lair.  What I DO treat the Constant Reader to is rats the size of puppies and mutant bats, which are plenty disturbing if you ask my opinion.

Peter:  The conflict between Hall and Warwick escalates the further they go into this sub-basement.  One of the hired hands will fall through the floor into ANOTHER sub-basement where the river flows.  Other workers are attacked and killed by the monster bat.  And ultimately, Warwick will turn on Hall and Wisconsky in order to try and save himself.  I don’t want to give too much more of what happens away, in case you were planning on seeing the movie, but I can tell you this much, the monster bat is cool as hell to look at.  He’s a show-stealer!

The monster bat in GRAVEYARD SHIFT is a scene stealer.

The monster bat in GRAVEYARD SHIFT is a show stealer.

Lil’ Stevie:  (Sighing) And, of course, the ending is NOTHING like the ending of my story.  My tale is a dread-inducing denouement that puts this ending to shame.

Peter:  I think that’s a matter of opinion.  This ending works for the treatment they rewrote in the screenplay.  Overall, though, this movie is a bit of a throwaway.  In more capable hands, this could have been infinitely more unsettling than just a “date-movie” horror flick.  From the starting gate, I disliked Dourif’s exterminator character immensely, I found Macht’s Mainer accent to be absolutely ridiculous (for a much better Maine accent, see Fred Gwynne’s Jud Crandall in PET SEMETERY, 1989), and most of the other characters involved seemed cartoonish and stereotypical.  But giving Singleton his due, the scenery is authentic (it was filmed in Harmony, Maine), and the mill with its labyrinth of tunnels and caverns is brilliantly designed and filmed.

Lil’ Stevie:  And rats are always creepy.  Especially in big hordes like in this film.

Peter:  Agreed.  The monster-bat is just gorgeous.  As a fan of horror, I would die to have this thing perched outside my house on Halloween night.  It reminded me of the monster from ALIEN (1979), and had that “submarine-movie” concept you brought up earlier.  The horror of this tale doesn’t happen in OUR world as much as it does in the world of the Monster-Bat, in the labyrinth under the mill.  And sadly, that horror is muddied by supplying the film with characters we care very little about.  Aboard the Nostromo, we see a crew that is fairly unified and happen to need and rely upon each other.  In the Bachman Mill, we see a group of macho idiots who  hardly get along, and almost deserve it whenever one of them bites the dust.  Which group would YOU be rooting for?

Lil’ Stevie:  I’d be rooting for the RATS!

Peter:  This story would have been much better suited for adaptation as a segment for CREEPSHOW.   The King short story has the same ambiance as the old E.C. Comics stories.  That would have been a much better vehicle to capture the same dread and creepiness.  I’d have loved to see how Romero would have treated this one.

Lil’ Stevie:  He’d have turned the victims into zombies.  You’d have hated it.

Peter:  RATFOODSAYSWHAT!

Lil’ Stevie:  What?

(Peter tosses Lil’ Stevie onto the ground and a horde of rats race over to begin feasting on him.)

Lil’ Stevie:  Arrrgghhh!  I’ll get you for this!

Peter:  (Laughing) Be sure and let me know when you get passed!  Goodbye, folks.  See you next month.

-THE END-

© Copyright 2013 by Peter N. Dudar

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Me and Lil’ Stevie’s Second Annual Holiday Turkey Shoot with MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Apocalyptic Films, Evil Machines, Just Plain Bad, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies with tags , , , , , , on December 18, 2012 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie’s Second Annual Holiday Turkey Shoot

King Turkey Shoot

Featuring This Year’s Turkey:
MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)
Review by Peter Dudar

maximum-overdrive-poster-01

(EXTERIOR/NIGHT:  Establishing shot of the Dixie Boy truck stop in North Carolina.  There is a convoy of heavy-duty semis circling around the building and gas pumps, some honking their horns furiously while others belch out clouds of toxic diesel smoke.  Overhead, the night sky is lit an ominous monster-green by vapors from the tail of a comet that is passing by.  Every now and then we hear the sound of people screaming in terror from inside the Dixie Boy.  One truck, a long, sleek black rig with the fiberglass visage of the Green Goblin attached to the front rolls to a stop in front of the café’s doors.  The door of the truck’s cab flies open, and a figure climbs out.  Camera zooms in and we see that it’s a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror Stephen King.

Peter:  Greetings, Constant Viewer, and welcome to our second annual Holiday Turkey Shoot.  Today, we’ll be examining King’s self-written directorial debut MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, adapted from his short story “Trucks,” which appeared in the story collection NIGHT SHIFT (1976).

Lil’ Stevie:  Actually, TRUCKS appeared first in Cavalier in 1973.

Peter:  Regardless, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE happens to be one of his fans’ least favorite movies of all time.  The film won King TWO Golden Raspberry Awards (for Worst Film and Worst Director), and is ranked at 17% favorability at RottenTomatoes.com.  Conversely, the adaptation of MISERY (1990) is ranked at 90% favorability, which shows an extraordinary discrepancy for disapproval.  It’s our job to dissect this film and figure out what went wrong.  And then, we can finally put MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE out of its misery…so to speak.

Lil’ Stevie:  I don’t understand all the bad hype.  This movie actually kinda kicks ass!

Peter:  Hey, what’s that white powder all around your nose?  Holy cow…are you on cocaine?

Lil’ Stevie:  Of course not!  I swiped some powdered donuts from the Dixie Boy before we started the review.

Peter:  (Shaking his head) Well, you’d better not be tweaking.  Let’s get started.  The film opens with a man approaching an ATM machine at a bank in Wilmington, North Carolina.  The digital time and temperature sign above the door begins flashing out filthy messages, and the man at the ATM is called an A*****E by the computer screen.

Lil’ SteveKing cameo!  The dude at the ATM is actually Stephen King.

Peter:  Yeah, that was pretty gratuitous to put himself in the first scene of the film, and give himself the first line.  Meanwhile, across town, a drawbridge decides to switch itself on while a pair of incompetent bridge technicians pays no attention whatsoever.  The bridge begins to ascend, to the terror of the motorists stuck on the bridge (the traffic light never turned red, so people just kept driving across).  It’s a pretty nifty scene in spite of more gratuitous nods (such as the van with the AC/DC logo stenciled on it…the band supplied the music to the soundtrack).  We see people thrown through windshields as cars begin slipping down into other cars, and a watermelon truck losing its load as the bridge’s gears continue to turn.  We see a truck tip over the chasm of the separated bridge ends, and plunge into the river below (an enormous fear of mine, personally).

Lil’ Stevie:  We also see a Little League game turn into a nightmare when the coach is attacked by a rogue soda machine and pelted with high-velocity soda cans to the groin and face.  A steamroller crashes through the outfield gate and crushes a fleeing player into a bloody pulp.  One of the players, Deke Keller (Holter Graham, SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY, 1997), escapes the carnage and races home.

Peter:  Meanwhile, back here at the Dixie Boy, we’re introduced to owner Bubba Hendershot (Pat Hingle, Commissioner Gordon from the 80s BATMAN franchise), and his crew of truck stop deviants.  It appears that Bubba takes on parolees as employees, and then blackmails them into working unpaid hours.  Can you say “douche bag?”

Lil’ Stevie:  Serves ‘em right for breaking the law…and for not being unionized.  Go Union!

Peter:  Short order cook Billy Robinson (Emilio Estevez, Brat Pack Dropout) is one of the poor slobs that is being chipped on Bubba’s racket.  The little gold star sticker on his timecard is all the reminder he needs to keep in line or go back to the hoosegow.

Lil’ Stevie:  Great writing, I tell ya!

Peter:  We’re slowly introduced to more characters, all of which seem like clichéd caricatures.  Deke’s dad, Duncan Keller (J.C. Quinn, BARFLY, 1987) is a pump jockey and grease monkey here at the Dixie Boy.  Waitress Wanda June (Ellen McElduff, JFK, 1991), is another parolee under Bubba’s thumb.  There’s a handful of truckers milling about, each of whom have a higher waist size than I.Q.  These people are all easily forgettable, and offer nothing in terms of building empathy.

Lil’ Stevie:  We’re also introduced to Brett (Laura Harrington, THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, 1997), a drifter who rolls into town after thumbing a ride with bible salesman Camp Loman (Christopher Murney, the greasy white guy in Berry Gordy’s THE LAST DRAGON, 1985).  Did you notice how I come up with cool names like that?  Camp Loman?  Camp as in juvenile humor and Loman as in Willy from DEATH OF A SALESMAN?

Peter:  Yeah, that’s priceless.  It’s equally amusing when the 18-wheeler runs him over, knocking him right out of his shoes, and then rolling over his suitcase full of bibles.  By the by…RottenTomatoes.com gave THE LAST DRAGON (1985) an 83% approval rating.  Can you believe that?

Lil’ Stevie: Sho’nuff!

Peter (chuckling): That’s very good…just like the Shogun of Harlem.  I STILL love that movie.

We’re ALSO introduced to Curtis and Connie (John Short, APOLLO 13, 1995, and Yeardley Smith, voice of Lisa Simpson), cruising through town in a car decked with ribbons and soap writing indicating that they are JUST MARRIED.  Connie is absolutely henpeck-ish and annoying throughout this movie.  Curtis, on the other hand, is a decent guy…far more heroic than all the truckers and grease monkeys at the Dixie Boy.  Curtis and Connie manage to dodge the convoy of driverless semis that have been parading around the truck stop.  Likewise, Deke finally makes his way to the truck stop as well, only to discover that his dad is dead (run over by the Green Goblin truck).

Lil’ Stevie:  Where this movie succeeds is how it pulls off a unique hostage situation, where humans are now captive to technology and machinery.   There’s no reasoning with inanimate objects!

Peter:  I’ll say.  Sometimes you’re just freakin’ impossible!

Lil’ Stevie:  Hey!

Peter:  Ask me how I feel about being held captive to this festering turd of a movie.  Yeah, the humans are held captive, but Billy and Brett somehow manage to figure out that all this nonsense is occurring because earth is in the tail of Rhea-M, the comet that is passing by in outer space.  All they have to do is stay alive for eight days, and then earth will be out of the comet’s tail again, and everything should just go back to normal.  This is kind of difficult, seeing that it’s an implied apocalypse where almost everybody else on earth is dead.  All of this brings up the point that an 8-day span is waaayyy too long to make this story an efficient thriller.  There’s a lot of waiting involved.  Now King has to devise ways to keep us entertained.  He kills off some of the characters, but they are none we have any sort of emotional attachment to.  Hell, I was applauding when annoying Wanda June gets gunned down after her second, “We MADE you!” screechfest at the circling rigs.  She’s so comically annoying that, had I been there, I’d have pushed her out the doors, myself.  If you put this hostage situation side to side with THE MIST (2007), you can see the night and day difference between King as a storyteller and King as a guy trying to entertain you with blood and gore.

Lil’ Stevie:  But I WANTED it to be comical.  I wanted people laughing one moment and then throwing up the next.  That’s the beauty of a good horror flick.

Peter:  No, Lil’ Stevie…that’s the beauty of a bachelor party.  King continues to kill time by having the vehicles communicate through Morse code that the humans are supposed to come outside and start filling their gas tanks.  Billy and the gang do so, but as they do, they finally devise an escape plan.  They tunnel through sewer lines to safety in the woods, then make their way to a marina to sail off to a car-free island for the rest of the week.  And as they sail off into the sunsets and closing credits, we’re told that a U.F.O. was shot down in space by a Soviet “Weather Satellite” just as the comet finally passes, and that the Dixie Boy truck stop survivors are still survivors.

Lil’ Stevie:  A masterpiece!

Peter:  I don’t get it, Lil’ Stevie.  You KNOW this is a terrible film.  As a directorial debut, it has all the flaws of an amateur storyteller, and the REAL Stephen King is NOT an amateur.  Maybe it showed some promise in terms of proving he could tell actors to look afraid or choreograph a major explosion sequence, but the story itself is a dud.  The characters are silly, the premise is astoundingly lame, and aside from a few neat gore moments, this just wasn’t scary.  So, WHY are you defending this movie?

Lil’ Stevie:  Because Mr. King told me to, or he would kill Santa Claus in his next book.

(Lil’ Stevie’s nose begins to grow).

Lil’ Stevie:  Because I’m secretly in love with Yeardley Smith.

(Lil’ Stevie’s nose grows longer).

Lil’ Stevie:  (Weeping) Because I secretly snorted some coke before we started, and now I’m all silly!

Peter:  Well, you should have just said NO!  (Pulls out a shotgun with his free hand).  It’s time.  Here, turkey turkey turkey…Gobble gobble gobble!

(The MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE DVD suddenly pops up behind a clump of bushes.  Peter draws a bead on it and pulls the trigger, and the disk explodes into a million tiny fragments).

Lil’ Stevie:  God bless us everyone!

Peter:  You’re overdue for an intervention.

Lil’ Stevie:  I was only kidding about the drugs.   I’ll give you a urine sample if you don’t believe me…

Peter:  Save it for the Cinema Knife Fight Christmas party.  Goodbye, folks.  Happy Holidays, and thank you for joining us.  We’ll see you in the New Year!

-The End-

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

Me and Lil’ Stevie Totally Get THINNER (1996)

Posted in 1990s Horror, 2012, Body Horror, Gypsy Curses, Horror, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Revenge!, Stephen King Movies, The Mob with tags , , , , , , , on November 28, 2012 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie
Totally Get
THINNER (1996)
By Peter Dudar

(Exterior/Night.  Establishing shot of a carnival midway filled with bustling activity.  Slow pan over the rows of tents where food is being served and games are being played.  We see carnival posters fixed to telephone poles, advertising that the Gypsy Carnival is in town for one week only.  At the end of the midway we see a tent where an old Gypsy man is seated next to an oversized “fool the guesser” scale.  Next to the old man is a beautiful woman, scantily clad, shifting slowly back and forth, as if in the midst of some hypnotic dance.  A crowd has gathered around the tent, and a figure steps forth and mounts the scale.  He stands there for a moment with his back turned to us.  He steps off the scale and turns toward the camera, and we see it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  I told you that you’re up a few pounds.  Pay up!

Peter:  If I’m heavier, it’s because I’m carrying your wooden butt.  What did you eat for breakfast…a piano?  Greetings, Constant Viewer.  We’re here at the carnival today to discuss Tom Holland’s (CHILD’S PLAY, 1988) adaptation of Stephen King’s THINNER (1996).  Now, this film…

Lil’ Stevie:  Ahem.

Peter:  …is Holland’s second foray into the realm of Stephen King, after directing the 1995 made-for-television adaptation of THE LANGOLIERS.  He…

Lil’ Stevie:  Ahem, hem, hem, cough, sputter.

Peter:  WHAT!  What is it, Lil’ Stevie?

Lil’ Stevie:  Somebody wants to speak with you.

(Lil’ Stevie pulls his arm out from behind his back, producing a smaller ventriloquist dummy that looks like King with a full beard.  This dummy is covered with burns and scorch marks from a previous column.  It’s a puppet of Richard Bachman).

Lil’ Richard:  I’m Ba-ack!

Peter:  What?  How can this be?  I killed you last time.

Lil’ Stevie:  You didn’t kill him…you only pissed him off.

Lil’ RichardTHINNER was MY book.  I published it back in 1984!

Peter:  Mayhap you did and mayhap you didn’t.  But the title credits for the movie specifically state, “Stephen King’s THINNER,” and “Based on the novel by Stephen King.”  Which means that you ain’t necessary for this review!

(Peter reaches into his pocket and pulls out a handful of termites.  He tosses the insects at Lil’ Richard, who screams in horror.  Lil’ Stevie also screams and drops the second puppet on the ground.  Peter and Lil’ Stevie watch as Lil’ Richard flails in agony while the termites feast on him.)

Lil’ Richard:  Ugh!  Not again…

Lil’ Stevie:  Nice touch.  Where on earth did you get a pocketful of termites?

Peter:  (Chuckling) It was supposed to be your Christmas gift.  Now, where was I?  Oh yes, Holland co-wrote the screenplay with Michael McDowell (TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, The Movie, 1990), based on the King/Bachman novel.  The story concerns William Halleck (Robert John Burke, ROBOCOP 3, 1993), a morbidly obese attorney from Connecticut who apparently has life by the cojones.  He is very successful at his practice, has a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife and daughter…

Lil’ Stevie:  (singing) “Letting the days go by…let the water hold me down.”

Peter:  Same as it ever was!  Anyway, the film begins with Halleck defending mafia wiseguy Richie “The Hammer” Ginelli (Joe Montegna from television’s CRIMINAL MINDS) in a case where Ginelli is accused of hiring a hit on a rival.  Halleck gets Ginelli off on a technicality, and is considered the hero of the day.  His law firm loves him.  Ginelli loves him.  Things are good in the world of Billy Halleck.

Lil’ Stevie:  I just want to point out how beautifully I work some common clichés and metaphors into my story.  The Fat-Cat lawyer.  The corrupt system.  Gluttony being a symbol of success.

Peter:  That’s very true.  And it’s important for the REAL King’s Wheel of Karma to spin full-circle before the story is over.  While Billy’s celebrating his victory, a Gypsy caravan is pulling into town and setting up their carnival right in the town square, just outside his office window.  We’re introduced to Tadzu Lempke, the Gypsy King (Michael Constantine, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, 2002) and his clan of traveling…erm…entertainers, including his ravishingly hot granddaughter Gina (Kari Wuhrer, EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, 2002).

Lil’ Stevie:  Where do Gypsies come from?  Is there like a country called Gypsylvania or something?

Peter:  You dope.  Gypsies, or people or Romanic descent, have roots of European and Indian heritage.  They have no true home country, per se, but rather are of nomadic traditions that concentrate between Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Eastern European territories.  Does that answer your question?

(The crowd parts, and suddenly Cher is standing at the front of the tent).

Cher:  (Singing) Gypsies, tramps and thieves, we’d hear it from the people of the town.  They called us…

(Lil’ Stevie pulls out a pistol and shoots Cher in the chest.  Cher immediately turns to dust and floats away in the breeze).

Lil’ Stevie:  I hate this carnival.

Peter:  No more interruptions, m’kay?  Well, just like in Cher’s song, the town-folk (Judge Rossington, in particular) look down on the Gypsies and want them gone.  Obviously these people lack some sort of moral turpitude and do not belong among all the decent upper-crust citizens, and Judge Rossington wants them gone as quickly as possible.  Of course, the Gypsies prove him right that very evening, when Tadzu Lemke and his kin go to the pharmacy to pick up medication for his rotting nose, and his kids start shoplifting to the horror of the store owner.

Lil’ Stevie:  KING CAMEO!  Stephen plays the pharmacist, aptly named Dr. Bangor!

Peter:  While this is happening, Halleck and his wife Heidi (Lucinda Jenney, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, 1998) are driving home from a celebratory dinner.  Heidi has been complaining about her husband’s weight problem for ages, out of concern for his health and the role model she wants him to play for their daughter.  On the drive home, she decides to “continue the celebration” by…erm…performing certain “wifely duties” on him.  This, of course, distracts Halleck as he tries to navigate the car.

Lil’ Stevie:  Tadzu’s daughter leaves the store and steps out into the street, and WHAMMO!  Billy runs her down and kills her.

Peter:  Of course, the system is broken, and Billy escapes the incident without even getting any points on his driver’s license.  Judge Rossington handles the legal proceedings, Chief Hopley conveniently skips the breathalyzer test, and the whole ordeal is ruled to be an accident.

Lil’ Stevie:  But the Gypsies want justice for their dead kin.  Tadzu Lempke approaches Billy after the hearing, brushes the large man’s cheek, and whispers one word.  Thinner.

Tadzu Lempke brushes Billy’s cheek, and whispers one word. THINNER..

Peter:  A gypsy curse!  Billy Halleck begins losing three pounds every day.  At first, the loss is welcomed after all the struggling with his weight.  Billy goes and buys a whole new wardrobe, continues to play golf and associate with the other town bigwigs, and continues with his incessant (and now shameless) eating habits.  But after a few weeks slip by and he’s down fifty pounds, the concern over his sudden weight loss grows into outright fear.

Lil’ Stevie:  And rightly so.  The storyline very much resembles Richard Matheson’s THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), where fear of dying and fear of the unknown blend together in one dark, terrible nightmare.

Peter:  And Billy isn’t the only one to be cursed.  Both Chief Hopley and Judge Rossington have also been cursed with their own respective ailments by Lempke.  As Billy races to figure out how to save himself, he’s forced to witness the tragic deaths of his friends, which compound the terror of what he’s going through.  He realizes just how much the system which he plays a part in is broken, but he continues to try and justify to himself that Lempke’s daughter’s death was an accident. Only now he’s devising a notion that his wife is complicit (she WAS distracting him), and it looks as if she is having an adulterous affair with Billy’s doctor.  All of this is beginning to drive him into madness as his body slowly withers away.

Lil’ Stevie:  So he calls his mafia buddy, Richie, to help him out.  Billy tracks the Gypsies to Maine at the end of the carnival season, and Richie joins him in trying to convince Lempke to remove the curse on the “White Man From Town.”  Blood is shed, and eventually Billy comes face to face with Lempke, who finally removes the curse and places it inside a pie.  Lempke instructs Billy that he has to pass the curse on to someone else if he is to be rid of it forever.  Or else…

Peter:  Indeed.  Overall, THINNER is a very good adaptation of the novel and an above-average (underrated, in fact) horror film.  The uncredited star of this movie is the special effects that turn actor Robert John Burke from grossly bloated to gaunt and skeletal through the movie’s progression.  The story of Billy’s plight is interesting and terrifying.  The characters (particularly the Lempke clan) are fun and very well cast.  And Joe Montegna’s performance is priceless.  This film is definitely worth the price of admission.

Billy turns to his “buddy” Richie Ginelli (Joe Montegna) for help in THINNER.

(The old Gypsy man in the tent stands up and shouts at Peter and Lil’ Stevie)

Lempke:  Hey, Mister.  You just won a free pie.  You should eat your own pie, mister!

(The young girl dancing beside the old man takes the pie and rushes down to give it to them).

Lil’ Stevie:  Aren’t you a hottie?  White Man From Town says, “Take it off!”

Peter:  Oh, no thank you, Miss.  We’re not hungry today.  I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Lil’ Stevie:  I’ve got an idea.  There was this one time, at band camp…

Peter:  On second thought…

(Peter takes the pie from the girl and smashes it in Lil’ Stevie’s face).

Peter:  I’ve been cursed with you long enough.  Thanks for joining us, folks.  And be sure to check in next month for our Second Annual Holiday Turkey Shoot.

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar