Tag Archives: Creepshow

King of Cameos

Stephen King has long been the number one name in horror but over the years his face has turned up, mostly in cameo appearances, in many of his adaptations long before the likes of Stan Lee was mugging in the background of the latest Marvel release.

King may not have been spotted stacking shelves in Haven just yet but Dean Newman takes a look back at the King of cameos.

Pet Sematary (1988)

This was the first of his books that King adapted for the screen, as well as scribing duties King also wound up popping up in the graveyard, how apt, as the minister giving the service at a funeral. It was a clip that was also heavily used in the trailer and King really looks to be relishing the role and is certainly my favourite appearance and so very apt to be surrounded by all that death with King as much the master of ceremonies as he is the master of horror.

Stand By Me (1986)

Okay so King himself doesn’t actually appear physically but the film, based on the short novella The Body, is semi-autobiographical and clearly King as the young writer to be. So essentially King is Wil Wheaton and Richard Dreyfuss, the latter who mostly appears as a voiceover apart from at the very end in perhaps one of the greatest most poignant endings in film history. King still has the marks left by the leeches scene…

Creepshow (1982)

 Less of a cameo as King appears in one of the segments In Creepshow, Stephen King plays Jordy Verrill in the segment entitled “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.” Jordy Verrill, a country bumpkin, discovers a meteor on his property and soon finds himself, and his entire home, consumed by some sort of meteor fungal that first takes over his house and then him – can’t wait to see what Dr Pixie makes of that on Embarrassing Bodies!

King also played a Truck Driver in Creepshow 2 during the segment, The Hitchhiker

The Stand (1994)

For many The Stand is regarding as King’s magnus opus and as such he delivered a script for epic in scope television adaptation. It was perhaps only fitting then that King kept on popping up, just to keep an eye on proceedings you understand, as Teddy Weizak throughout this land mark mini-series.

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

If it wasn’t committed to celluloid then King probably wouldn’t even remember his turn as an irate man at a cashpoint who swiftly gets his comeuppance due to the fact, by his own self admission, that he was pretty much off his face on drugs during this period. A curio more than a classic.

The Shining (1997)

No, not that one. Although the Kubrick version is hailed as a classic of horror cinema, King hated it, so, as you do, he had it remade closer to the original novel as a two part TV movie. In this adaptation King has a turn as the band leader.

Quantum Leap (1990)

Oh boy! In this horror tinged edition of the time travelling do-gooder Sam Beckett, which takes place on October 31st 1964 and sees him end up meeting a young boy who just so happens to have a dog called Cujo, that’s right a young ‘Stephen King’.

Allusions to other King books include Christine, Carrie and The Dark Half, and the episodes title? The Boogieman.

The Simpsons (2000)

Appeared as himself signing books in the episode Insane Clown Poppy, obviously a riff on IT. As an interesting side note, one of his more recent books, Under the Dome, was reminiscent of certain elements of The Simpsons Movie, not the Spider Pig bit I should imagine though.

The X-Files (1998)

King cameoed off screen as a writer of one of the shows fifth season episodes, Chinga, that dealt with witches, possessed dolls, random acts of violence (seeing as you ask people gouging their own eyes out), all of course set in Maine (where else!)

Sleepwalkers (1992)

 He was the cemetery caretaker in ‘Sleepwalkers’ –perhaps he should have buried it before it was released. It’s rather shonky to say the least with only the rather lovely Madchen Amick as its redeeming feature. He shared screentime in the good company of fellow horror scribe Clive Barker.

Horror hits high gear: remembering Maximum Overdrive

Stephen King adaptations have been part and parcel of the horror movie-going experience for more than 30 years and the results have been somewhat patchy, with The Shining and The Dead Zone at one end of the spectrum and the likes of Cujo at the other.

Also sitting pretty at this end of the line is Maximum Overdrive, a film based on a King short story (as so many are) featuring Emilio Estevez. But what sets this apart from other King fodder is that this was the first, and to date, only time that the bespeckled Maine writer has stepped from behind his typewriter to behind the lens to direct.

It’s a mess of a movie sure, but as always with ‘the King of horror’ there are intriguing ideas and interesting images to be had along the way, and to be honest it’s a gloriously fun B-movie in the same vein as Night of the Comet, Cat’s Eye and Creepshow, the latter two of which King was also involved in.

In many ways this is Transformers without the machines transforming into robots but what it does share with its Cybertron cousins is that is has plenty of explosions as pretty much everything you see on screen is blown to smithereens.  Unlike those robots in disguise there are also several rather cool and memorable death scenes including death by lawn mower, a cold drink machine that fires its cans of drink with deadly accuracy and a steam roller that makes a squidgy mess of a baseball team.

With a premise such as this, the emphasis is purely on the fun factor rather than the fear factor, which no doubt disappointed many, but when it’s someone like King running the show there is always some fun to be had. Sure, Emilio Estevez is the only character we give two hoots about (also look out for an appearance by Yeardley Smith AKA Lisa Simpson).

The ‘story’, as little of it there is, unfolds as thus: After a comet passes over earth it leaves a haze surrounding the planet which takes control of machines, making them deadly killers (no reason for this is given but we don’t really need or want one as it would only get in the way), it’s almost a homage to the likes of Day of the Triffids with machines running amuck instead of those pesky plants. A group of people try to stay alive hold up at the Dixie Boy truck stop, think of it as The Alamo with articulated lorries, including the particularly memorable ‘leader’ which has a face not too dissimilar to The Green Goblin.

Released in 1986, this was also the year that Halley’s Comet passed by close to Earth, so it could be seen as a reaction of that as being a supposed harbinger of doom, as it was allegedly sighted before The Battle of Hastings. It could also be seen as a pre-curser to the worry, even though it never materialised, over the likes of Y2K. For all of its comedy and its big bangs it certainly takes a tiny leaf out of the James Cameron book of doom mongering in posing questions about our over reliance on new technology and how we would cope if it bit back.

Before the days of mobile phones and our devotion to all things technology you can’t help but wonder whether it wouldn’t be the right time for a remake of sorts, like all geniuses perhaps King was just ahead of his time with this particular tale?

The mindless mayhem and death and destruction are worth a peek on its own and surely a film with little leaguers getting neatly pressed by a steamroller can’t all be bad!! A bonafide cult classic.

Pat’s Labyrinth III: The future of Horror

Fearful face off

In the final part of his exclusive interview with British horror film auteur, Pat Higgins, Dean Newman discusses the rise of low budget horror and what Higgins’ horrors await to be unleashed…

DN: Obviously low budget horror has been making the headlines this year with Paranormal Activity, Colin and even Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus…

PH: That last movie really breaks my heart as I have a deep love of giant octopus movies (there’s something you don’t hear everyday – Dean) since seeing Warlords of Atlantis when I was a little kid. For me though Mega Shark was real missed opportunity.

DN: What do you think is the audience appeal? Obviously the genre itself ebbs and flows but why do you think low budget horror has reared its head so triumphantly again this year?

PH: I know Marc Price, Director of the £45 budget zombie horror, Colin, and was lucky enough to see the film at the cast and crew screening prior to the media buzz. I always thought Colin was a remarkable movie as it was something that just hadn’t really been seen before and was a fresh, original take on a subject that people really liked.

Low budget movies can have a unique voice and I can’t imagine that a Studio would have got it. I could see them liking the idea of following a zombie but wanting some human characters in the mix as well.

The purpose of Colin is that it is just about a zombie and Marc really ran with that concept. You could also say the same for Paranormal Activity; I can’t imagine that that would have made it through an awful lot of focus groups where we end up watching a lot of static shots of two people sleeping. They’d probably look at it and think of ways of pepping things up. But of course the normality of it all is what helps suck people in.

I think that quite often when the Studios process such films they kill such choices as those, they like the idea of it but haven’t got the balls to follow through on it. Fair play to the audiences wanting to go on that journey with them and not have everything be spoon-fed or explained to them.

DN: It reminded me very much of the BBC’s Ghostwatch.

PH: I think that was just a wonderful piece of TV and that just came so far out of left field and it really seemed to upset people. I remember seeing that in a jittery room full of people who really bought into the whole experience.

Certainly that, Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch have really blurred the boundaries between what is implied as real and what isn’t.

 

Trilogy of terror

DN: What horrors is 2010 set to bring for you?

PH: We’ve got Bordello Death Tales, which is an anthology movie, which I contributed one story to. There are also stories directed by James Eaves who did Bane and The Witches Hammer, and Alan Ronald, who is regularly my Director of Photography but also made a wonderful little movie called Jesus Vs The Messiah.

I liked Trick ‘R’ Treat quite a lot but there hasn’t really been a good anthology movie since the likes of Creepshow. There have been quite a few separate short films knocking around that have been lumped together and called themselves an anthology but nothing really that was designed and written to be three stories with common threads but with their own unique voice. We’ve shared some locations and some actors, so it does have its own thread.

It’s a very old school interwoven anthology that really is a cool little movie and I’m sure it will do very well at lots of festivals.

In terms of development I’ve been working on a script for a movie called House on a Witch Pit that I keep coming back to and have been doing since about 2002. It’s just designed to scare people, that’s all it wants to do. I love that script so I don’t want to get it wrong and want to make sure that we get the right kind of budget to really do it justice.

 

Directors of Death: l-r Alan Ronald, Pat Higgins and James Eaves

DN: What advice would you give to any budding filmmakers or writers?

PH: The first thing I would say is don’t record important scenes onto a head-cleaning cassette, which is the voice of bitter experience (laughs). Other than that I’d say learning to shoot with what you’ve got rather than with what you’d like to have.

It’s solid advice from Robert Rodriquez and I wished I’d listened to it more on my first film where I thought I’m going to do this and that and in the end don’t think I took the full advantage of all the good things that I did have for free and was trying to overreach on other stuff.

In terms of writing though it is still the one place where we can really beat Hollywood and really can do stuff that they can’t do. They are always going to kick our arse in terms of special effects but in a way that can make it all the more creative.

The low budget gift and the ones who have really made the most of the medium are the ones who have made sure the script is perfect, we care about it and it comes from the heart before it goes in front of the camera. They’ve really taken that to heart and been a success as a result.

DN: As well as low budget horror being popular this year, so has 3D, is that something you are looking at getting involved in?

PH: I’ve started doing some poking around to see how feasible it would be on a low budget. I remember the 80s surge of 3D affectionately and it’s something I’d certainly like to dabble in. Never say never.

Pat might not be poised to make Avatar quite yet but even Cameron started off small with Piranha 2: Flying Killers and just look at where the newly Knighted Peter Jackson started out.