24 May 2006

ABC's Desperation

Is Stephen King filmable?

While his books have sold millions over the last 30 years -most bestsellers (despite critical panning of his later novels), the films adapted from those works have a sordid history. From the big screen era, The Dead Zone remains my one favorite work, as its perhaps the most faithful -and one of the most linear of his works - of all King’s books.

TV has been better with CBS being the first network to take on King’s work with the 1979 4-hour mini ‘Salem’s Lot (TNT remade it in 2004). ABC has been the home of King’s work since 1990's 2-part It, which was followed by 1993's 2-parter The Tommyknockers (a horrid film from a horrid book), then the eight-hour mini of The Stand in 1994; 1995s The Langoliers (about 2 hours too long) followed next. The 6 hour-mini remake of The Shining came in 1997, followed by the big hit with King’s original teleplay for 1999s Storm of the Century. While ABC scored again with 2002s Rose Red, it was a critical dud.

Director Mick Garris has helmed many of the recent TV adaptations that include The Stand, The Shining as well as the theatrical Sleepwalkers (1992) and the recent Riding the Bullet (2004)

ABC last night aired Garris’ latest effort, Desperation. By far not the best of King’s work (he wrote the screenplay) for TV, the movie follows the book fairly well, and offers a sort of reunion for 3 actors who’ve appeared in previous adaptations of King’s work; Tom Skerritt from The Dead Zone, Matt Frewer from The Stand and Steven Weber from The Shining.

Horror films, in general, only work if the actors believe what they are saying and doing. Plus it would be good if you can act. What falters this movie more than even the disappearance of Ron Perlman as the sadistic Sheriff Collie Entragian (who for the first half of the film steals every scene he’s in) and who is possessed by the evil Tak spirit, is the acting of young Shane Haboucha as David Carver.

Carver is central to the novel and here in the movie and the actor had to be believable in the role, for he needed to spout many lines of religion gump and even King’s sometime stilted dialogue. Haboucha was just not up for the test, and comes off more wooden than 19th century pirate ship. He might be spiritually-guided, but that believability factor of the actor makes it all seem hokey and, at times, uncomfortable.

I assume that this film was originally going to run 2 nights, but after the producers and director fought to keep the film here in the US (Rose Red was filmed in Australia), my guess ABC cut an hour out to save money. While this helped with some lagging that generally happens in a longer King min-series, it still would’ve been nice to see the film longer.

I’m unsure what ABC will adapt next, though the Regulators would be cool, but perhaps the Holy Grail of King’s work might be The Dark Tower series. TV could only do it justice, at least length wise (as it runs seven books) but for language and violence, the silver screen could work, but it would require enormous following from the ticket buyers. But, so would a massive production of seven books spread over years.

In the end, though, Desperation is a good film, with its only drawback being a young actors performance which lacks the depth the role needed.

Meanwhile, TNT will return this summer to King with Nightmares and Dreamscapes, four 2-hour episodes (8 stories) based on his short story collection. The cast includes William Hurt, William H. Macy, Ron Livingston, Claire Forlani, Jeremy Sisto, Henry Thomas, Kim Delaney, Steven Weber (again), Samantha Mathis, Tom Berenger, Marsha Mason and Greta Scacchi.

1 comment:

Jebb said...

I was with it up until about half way through when the sheriff (Perlman) disappears. From there, it just got progressively sillier, and the book deserved better.