Stephen King’s The Stand

Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) – Not rated

“When a super-flu decimates most — but not all — of the human race, the lonely survivors divide into two civilizations which are destined to clash. Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King.”

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” – Yeats but quoted by Ed Harris in the show

Stephen King’s The Stand runs for six hours and still feels a little rushed in the storytelling department. I have no idea how they originally planned to make it into just a movie. It is also currently being thought of for a reboot because apparently American memories were wiped during Y2K. That said be aware that this is a long haul (albeit with a good payoff).

Mick Garris has made a good living from Stephen King. He directed 1992’s trashy but fun Sleepwalkers and somehow became the go-to guy for Stephen King adaptations. Perhaps this is because he is one of the few directors to have actually read the books but that is just speculation on my part. After The Stand, Mick would go on to direct The Shining mini-series, Quicksilver Highway (which adapts King’s “Chattery Teeth”), Riding the Bullet, Desperation, and the just aired Bag of Bones. He also wrote the screenplays for Quicksilver Highway and Riding the Bullet.

Stephen King wrote the screenplay based on his own magnum opus so this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel. He does an excellent job of juggling a huge and disparate cast of characters. King can’t resist appearing in his films and here he plays Teddy Weizak in the last two episodes.

Gary Sinise is fantastic as Stu “Country don’t mean dumb” Redman. Also excellent are Ray Walston (Glen Bateman), Ossie Davis (Judge Farris) and Ruby Dee as Mother Abigail. They are ably backed by Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer, Jamey Sheridan and a host of others. Regrettably a few of the actors are not so good, either too over-the-top (Matt Frewer as Trashcan Man, Rick Aviles as Rat Man) or just plain off the wall (Laura san Giacomo’s Nadine is not exactly a model of sanity so I suppose I should cut her some slack).

The episodes break down into fairly neat story arcs. The first episode is the best movie/TV depiction I’ve seen of an apocalyptic outbreak (until this year’s Contagion anyway). The second episode is all about the journeys of various characters after the apocalyptic events. The third episode is about community and the fourth is all about faith. It doesn’t break down perfectly but pretty close.

People Watch: Look for Ed Harris and Kathy Bates in uncredited cameos as a General and radio jock respectively. Yes that is former NBA superstar Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the doomsayer. The cane used by a character in the fourth episode is the same cane from Storm of the Century.

Bubba Ho-Tep – Bruce Campbell week

This is Bruce Campbell week. Bubba Ho-Tep is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Bubba Ho-Tep (2003)  – Rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief violent images.

“In this black comedy, Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) is an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home who switched identities with an impersonator years before his “death” and missed his chance to switch himself back. When the King teams up with a fellow resident (Ossie Davis) who thinks he is John F. Kennedy, the two old codgers prepare to battle an evil Egyptian entity that has chosen their long-term care facility as its happy hunting grounds.”

Elvis – My God, man. How long have I been here? Am I really awake, or am I just dreamin I am awake? How could my plans have gone so wrong?”

First a word or two of warning. This movie is profane. Really profane. This makes the target audience a bit tricky to judge as the main characters are two elderly men in a nursing home who spend much of their time graphically discussing how old age has betrayed them, often in reference to their naughty bits.

The elderly might be offended by the constant stream of profanity. I know I would not show this to my mother or my in-laws. On the other hand how is it to hold the interest of young people when there are essentially no young people in it?

While this is primarily a horror comedy, it also has a lot to say about our mistreatment of the elderly. The convalescence home is of course a misnomer – it is clear that even before the horror starts, no one is leaving the home alive.

I really like how Coscarelli portrayed the home as a place where people are just sitting around waiting to die. Elvis spends most of the movie in bed. Coscarelli has a lot of lovely time-lapse photography showing things from the invalid point of view.

The concept, from a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, is brilliant. Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy team up to fight evil beings in a nursing home. Don Coscarelli wrote the script and as I have not read the short story, I am not sure which one of them to credit more with the lunacy that occurs.

Don Coscarelli is best known as the creator of the Phantasm series of movies. He directs here in addition to writing the screenplay. He does quite well especially given his restrictions on using actual Elvis material.

Bruce Campbell does a wonderful job as Elvis. His wry, self-deprecating delivery is so spot-on that Coscarelli gives him a lot of voice-over material in addition to his dialogue. Next to Ash, Elvis is the best character Campbell has brought to life.

Ossie Davis provides fine support as a very dignified if pigmentally-challenged JFK. Ella Joyce has a scene-stealing role as the nurse. Coscarelli regular Reggie Bannister (Phantasm I-IV) has a small role here as the rest home administrator.

Fun fact: Not one piece of Elvis music is heard in the film. Not only that but the Elvis movie marathon does not feature Elvis. On the DVD audio commentary, Coscarelli mentions that playing just one Elvis song would have cost half his budget.

As a favor to Coscarelli and his micro-budget, noted special effects group KNB did the effects for just the cost of materials.

As long as you do not mind the profanity, I recommend this fun off-the-wall film.

People Watch: Although it has not yet been filmed, Coscarelli has written the script for Bubba Nosferatu.