STEPHEN KING 5-MOVIE
COLLECTION: THE STAND, PET SEMATARY (1989), PET SEMATARY (2019) THE DEAD
ZONE & SILVER BULLET
THE STAND (1994)
Starring Gary Sinise,
Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Rob Lowe, Adam Storke, Laura San Giacomo,
Miguel Ferrer, Ruby Dee, Bill Fagerbakke, Corin Nemec, Ray Walston, Matt
Frewer, Ossie Davis, Shawnee Smith, Peter Van Norden, Bridgit Ryan, Rick
Aviles, Max Wright, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mike Lookinland, Kathy Bates,
Ed Harris, John Landis, Sam Raimi and Stephen King.
Teleplay by Stephen
Directed by Mick
Distributed by CBS
Television Distribution. 366 minutes. Not Rated.
PET SEMATARY (1989)
Starring Dale Midkiff,
Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, Michael Lombard, Miko
Hughes, Blaze Berdahl, Susan Blommaert, Mara Clark, Kavi Raz, Mary
Louise Wilson, Andrew Hubatsek, Lisa Stathoplos, Chuck Courtney, Peter
Stader and Stephen King.
Screenplay by Stephen
Directed by Mary
Paramount Pictures. 103 minutes. Rated R.
Starring Jason Clarke,
Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo
Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Levine, Maria Herrera, Frank
Schorpion, Linda E. Smith, Sonia Maria Chirila, Naomi Jean, Suzi Stingl,
Kelly Lee, Nina Lauren, Alison O'Donnell, Raphaël Laporte, Simon
Pelletier-Gilbert and Leo, Tonic, Jager and JD the cats.
Screenplay by Jeff
Directed by Kevin
Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures.
101 minutes. Rated R.
THE DEAD ZONE (1983)
Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, Colleen
Dewhurst, Martin Sheen, Nicholas Campbell, Sean Sullivan, Jackie
Burroughs, Géza Kovács, Roberta Weiss, Simon Craig, Peter Dvorsky,
Julie-Ann Heathwood, Barry Flatman, Ken Pogue, Gordon Jocelyn, Bill
Copeland, Jack Messinger, Chapelle Jaffe and Cindy Hines.
Screenplay by Jeffrey
Directed by David
Paramount Pictures. 103 minutes. Rated R.
Starring Gary Busey,
Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Robin Groves, Leon Russom,
Terry O'Quinn, Bill Smitrovich, Joe Wright, Kent Broadhurst, Heather
Simmons, James A. Baffico , Rebecca Fleming, Lawrence Tierney,
William Newman, Sam Stoneburner, Lonnie Moore, Rick Pasotto, Cassidy
Eckert, Wendy Walker, Michael Lague and Myra Mailloux.
Screenplay by Stephen
Directed by Daniel
Paramount Pictures. 95 minutes. Rated R.
King 5-Movie Collection: (The Stand, Pet Sematary (1989), Pet Sematary (2019), The Dead Zone and Silver Bullet)
Not only is Stephen King
insanely prolific as a novelist – he has currently written over 60 published
novels, as well as many novellas, short stories, non-fiction books, serial
novels, screenplays, teleplays, theatrical plays, musicals, articles, etc.,
in a career of under 50 years – he may be the writer who has inspired the
most film and television adaptations. There are well over 80 movies based on
his work, and that isn’t even counting the TV and stage adaptations.
With this kind of sheer
bulk of product, of course the quality of his films is going to be wildly
inconsistent. While King’s writings have inspired some classic films (like
Stand by Me, It and The Shining), it has also been the source
of some insanely awful films (Maximum Overdrive, The Children of the Corn
or Dreamcatcher, anyone?)
Therefore, this new
collection of five films (well actually four films and one miniseries) based
on three King novels and one novella (one of the novels is represented by
two different film versions) could land anywhere over the map of quality.
Pleasantly, this grouping has more good than bad to offer.
This is the motherlode in this collection, however it should be pointed out
that despite the title of this collection, The Stand is not a movie.
It is a four-part, over-six-hour long 1994 television mini-series based on
King’s longest novel (and that is saying something for a man whose shorter
novels often flirt with 1,000 pages!).
That leads to certain
positives, and certain negatives. On the plus side, this film can luxuriate
in its complicated plot and a deep understanding of its multiple characters.
On the negative, because this was made for network TV – thirty years ago
when these things were policed even more – some of the shocks and scares are
tamer than they may have been in a movie. Not that The Stand isn’t
scary as hell, but at least some of those scares are implied more than
Preparing for the upcoming
CBS All Access reboot of this story (again as a miniseries), it is a great
time to revisit this landmark miniseries. In certain ways, The Stand
is all too topical in the current pandemic, however King himself has come
out to comfort people, explaining his mythical disease “Captain Trips” is
much, much more virulent and deadly than COVID-19. (Which is not to say that
COVID should not be taken very seriously…)
Because The Stand
is – quite simply – about the end of the world as we know it. And, honestly,
it may be the best post-apocalyptic story ever. (In full disclosure, in
general I’m not a big fan of dystopian movies.) The Stand takes a
look as a near-future US where a ravenous disease has killed more than 99%
of the human race. Now, in a new world full of rotting corpses, without
electricity and plumbing, the few survivors start having mystical dreams.
Some dream of an elderly African American woman who is by a cornfield.
Others dream of “The Dark Man,” an evil force.
The dreams lead the people
to two destinations. The good people end up in Boulder, Colorado, the evil
in Las Vegas. This sets up the ultimate war between light and dark and a
pitched battle for surviving humanity’s soul.
Pet Sematary (1989):
out by the author himself as the most disturbing story he ever wrote – to
the point where he is not sure he should have ever released the novel –
Pet Sematary has some significantly scary ideas. While I don’t quite
agree with King’s assessment of the book – both on the fact that it was the
most disturbing book he has written and the fact that maybe he would have
been better off letting the manuscript rot in a drawer – it was an
undeniably spooky book. And it has led to two movies – made 30 years apart
from each other – which frame the story in different ways, but both times
touch on something primal for humans.
The 1989 film directed by
Mary Lambert is somewhat more faithful to the source material – no big shock
since King wrote the screenplay – and has become something of a fright
classic over the years, even though it was a box-office disappointment on
its original release.
The story is as simple as
it is shocking. A young couple with two small children buys a new house in a
secluded area of Maine. It turns out that it is right nearby a local pet
cemetery which was built right next to a sacred Indian burial place. The
locals know that there is a legend that if your pet were to die, if you
bring it to the pet cemetery and bury it on the sacred ground, the pet will
come back to life. Of course, it is against the course of nature, and when
the pet returns it is normally angry and violent.
However, the film asks, if
this questionable possibility of returning a beloved pet to life is so hard
to resist that people would ignore their beloved pet’s complete change in
attitude, what would happen if the sacred burial ground were used on a human
Pet Sematary (2019):
the newest title in this collection, the 2019 reboot of
is both faithful to the
source material and experiments with it. There is one massive and very basic
change to the storyline. However, the new film does not mess with the
atmosphere of the story. The alteration even makes a certain amount of sense
as far as straight narrative goes. It actually leads into an ending that is
– if possible – even more disturbing than the original film’s closing shot.
I do have to say this,
though, the new movie version of Pet Sematary is spooky as hell. I
mean it, it’s one of the most chilling horror films I’ve seen in a long
time. And while it takes some different paths than the original film, in
many ways the newer version is even better than the first one.
Not to mention that John
Lithgow, in the flashiest role of an older local who knows where all the
bodies are buried – literally – does the near impossible by making his
character every bit as intriguing as the last great Fred Gwynne did in the
The Dead Zone:
This eerily prophetic film – tangentially about an amoral populist
politician gaining popularity in a political race even though he doesn’t
have the aptitude nor the empathy to govern properly (sound familiar???) –
is one of the mostly overlooked jewels in the King’s crown, both as a novel
and as a film adaptation. It was the first mainstream film by indie darling
David Cronenberg (hot off the heels of his cult favorites Scanners
and Videodrome). It offers a rare leading role to Christopher Walken.
The evil politician is played by the wonderfully unhinged Martin Sheen
(years before he soothed our country in The West Wing). And the evil
politician finally went too far for even his staunchest supporters, which is
kind of comforting in this political era.
Of course, the politician
and his story are only a small part of this movie – in fact, he does not
appear until well into the second half of the film. This is really the story
of Walken’s Johnny Smith (the generic name is completely intended), a high
school teacher who has a car crash and is in a coma for five years. When he
awakens, he has lost his job, he has lost his fiancée and he has gotten an
unwelcome psychic power: when he touches the hand of another person, he
sometimes sees their future.
It is an intriguing and
slightly tragic storyline, in which right and wrong get debated, thrown in a
mixer and come out with no clear answers. The ending is one of King’s best,
both tragic and strangely hopeful.
This 1985 werewolf thriller is the weak link in the collection. It is not
Children of the Corn-level horrible, but it’s certainly not very good
either. Unlike the other films collected here, Silver Bullet was not
based on an actual King novel. It was based on a limited-release novella –
and at 129 pages, including illustrations, a rather short one by King
standards – called “Cycle of the Werewolf.” Now being based on a novella is
certainly not necessarily a bad thing in King films, three of his best, most
timeless movies were based on novellas – Stand By Me (which was based
on a novella called “The Body”), The Mist and The Shawshank
Redemption (based on the novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank
However, “Cycle of the
Werewolf” was not on those story’s level of craft, and the movie based upon
it also falls well short.
Jay S. Jacobs
All rights reserved. Posted: September 15, 2020.
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Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 15, 2020.