Tag Archives: The Shining

Tour De Westcliff

IMG_1535And so the Tour De France starts tomorrow, Iz loves her little bike and takes to the park whenever she gets chance. She’s not exactly Street Hawk or BMX Bandits level yet but she certainly enjoys getting those wheels in motion.

I do love the fact that she is wearing her Muppets t-shirt though as it conjures images of Kermit and Piggy in a London park on their bikes in The Great Muppet Caper.

We’ve got a looooong hallway and she even sometimes insists on going up and down it, which never fails to evoke memories of The Omen or The Shining!

IMG_1537Back to the park, you can really see her determination as the grown man next to her ‘races’ her. To be fair Iz never was a great fan of the colour yellow!

Perhaps she’d have been a little quicker if Anxious the Elephant hadn’t been hitching a ride.

Round and round the garden

Isabelle loved being chased round the garden by my dad (in his trademark red jacket – if he had an action figure you could be sure that it would come with a red jacket, in fact what with his beard and said jacket it was no surprise that my niece said that one of her friends said he looked like Santa, how we laughed – ho, ho, ho).

Talking of Santa and segwaying – of sorts – into snow, my dad running round the garden couldn’t help but remind me of those final scenes in The Shining where Jack Nicholson is chasing his son round and round the snow covered maze – hence me trying to emulate that somewhat with my tracking shot of sorts, well as much as you can with a digital camera! Obviously my dad wasn’t brandishing an axe and with him it was more a case of red coat, red coat than red rum, red rum.

Iz couldn’t get enough of the thrill of the being chased as her shrieks of delight testify, each and every time practically jumping out of her skin but then wanting ‘more’ (her fave phrase at the mo) as soon as the chase was  over.

No dads were harmed in the making of this video, so he wasn’t left to freeze like Nicholson did in the film.

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.

King of Kings: the top ten Stephen King adaptations

10. Carrie (1976)
Fittingly both the first novel penned by King and his first ever film adaptation, helmed by Hitchcock super fan, Brian De Palma. The split screen technique may have dated it all somewhat but that still doesn’t deny the film its power and ferocity. Nobody likes a bully and Sissy Spacek ensures we have a character that is both likable and much misunderstood.

A high school revenge coming of age horror, Degrassi Junior High was never like this; Carrie is note perfect in showing that bullies never prosper. The pig’s blood scene is truly iconic and disturbing whilst the scare the bejesus out of you ending has been oft-imitated but rarely bettered. With its soft focus at times it has a dreamlike feeling to it, but don’t fool yourself this is bonafide horror.

9. Pet Sematary (1989)
The film boasts some genuinely scary scenes, possibly the most frightening flashback sequence ever and Hermann Munster!

It’s undeniably creepy and raises some interesting questions about morality, death and how we deal with grief. Kings own screenplay adaptation, he even has a cameo at a funeral, blends supernatural horror with the ultimate real life horror of losing your family. The person you bury may return to life, but they aren’t the same person, there is something missing, something evil about them.

It also has an ancient American Indian burial ground, which is never, ever a good sign in a horror movie, even though it looks brilliant thanks to some excellent production design, a zombie cat, a murderous toddler with a scalpel that makes Chucky look like Maggie Simpson, and one helluva an ending. As former Munster, a fantastic Fred Gwynne, utters, “sometimes dead is better”.

8. The Mist (2007)
Also directed by Darabont this dark tale was pretty much ignored upon theatrical release, which is a crying shame as it’s a blinder. A small town is effectively cut off after a mysterious mist descends on it. Much of the town hole themselves up in the local supermarket until something starts attacking people and dragging them into the mist.

Essentially a classic 50s B-movie monster movie this has scares and effective special effects aplenty. To underline this fact it was even released on DVD in America with the option of you watching it in black and white, which it works in fantastically well.

Many of the towns folk are as terrifying as the creatures themselves and it has a real post 9/11 feel about it in places, as ever King showing us that people can be just as monstrous as actual monsters themselves. It could also be viewed in many ways as the anti-War of the Worlds and has a truly dystopian ending that will leave you reeling. An effective piece of film making that never loses your attention.

7. The Green Mile (1999)
After The Shawshank Redemption this is Frank Darabont’s second stab at a King adaptation and for me is the better, more absorbing of the two. I know for many they find it overlong and over sentimental but you cannot deny its power to grab you, to fall in love with a mouse, to hate that guy who played Tooms on The X Files, swear at the television as you release his actions and fall in love with the gentle giant of Michael Clarke Duncan.

Once again Tom Hanks proves why he is this generation’s James Stewart and is therefore rather fitting that although it deals with death row inmates and supernatural undertones it has a distinct Capra-esque feel to it. I defy you not to cry.

6. Misery (1990)
Kathy Bates even outshines Jack Nicholson here and is the only actor to pick up an Oscar for a role in a Stephen King film as the ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly as nice as pie’ Annie Wilkes. Dirty bird. Simple, terrifying and almost primeval in its horror.

James Caan’s character is ‘rescued’ from a car crash by his number one fan, just turns out she is a tad loopy and none too pleased he has killed off his lead character. Features one of the most wince-inducing moments in cinema, a tour de force, essential viewing and far more horrific than all of King’s possessed cars, vampires and children with strange powers put together.

5. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King has never had much time for this adaptation but this is the ultimate haunted house (well, hotel) movie. It’s not so much scary per se but with its astounding visuals, it being one of the first films to fully utilise the steadicam, symbolism and uneasy foreboding it certainly leaves you breathless. Added to that Kubrick really makes you feel the coldness and isolation.

Nicholson defines bonkers with his splendid turn, whilst his son, played by Danny Lloyd, criminally in his only film role, manages to make his finger one of cinema’s scariest things ever. Redrum, redrum, redrum. Lifts and indeed triple Grand National winners were never the same again.

4. IT (1990)
Another made for TV adaptation, this time directed by John Carpenter alumnus, Tommy Lee Wallace. Tim Curry is electric as Pennywise the Clown.

The first part is brilliant stuff, part Stand By Me, part your worst nightmares. It’s just a shame about the really lame giant spider in the (anti) climax. 

Soon to get the remake treatment. Keep Curry and the storm drain; squish the  spider in a giant tissue.

3.    Stand By Me (1986)

King isn’t just all about horror. Stand By Me is an adaptation from one of his novellas, The Body, and it’s a life-changing film that is right up there with It’s A Wonderful Life in the timeless classic stakes.

Semi-autobiographical, it recounts the tale of four young friends as they spend a summer holiday searching for a dead body. They set out eager to get a peek at the corpse but each of them grows and changes along the way.

The ending is now all the more poignant since the death of River Phoenix and those dullest tones of Richard Dreyfuss scattered throughout add gravitas. With dialogue like, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

2. Salem’s Lot (1979)

Made for TV in two parts but released theatrically in a shorter form in the UK, it’s the two-part version that is getting the thumbs up here. Directed by none other than Tobe Hooper this has to be one of the most jump inducing things to have ever graced TV screens.

Vampires taking over a small town are the order of the day as a best-selling author (David Soul) returns home but all is not as it seems. James Mason is kooky and his business partner, Mr Barlow, is clearly Nosferatu inspired and frankly disturbing. The scene where a floating vampire child appears at a window scratching and beckoning its next victim, with smoke and shot backwards to complete the eerie effect, still holds up as a classic scene to this day. You’ll never leave your curtains open again.

1.    The Dead Zone (1983)   

This sterling adaptation is one of Director David Cronenberg’s more mainstream, accessible films. Christopher Walken excels with a haunting performance as school teacher Johnny Smith who is involved in a car accident and awakes from a coma several years later to discover he is ‘blessed’ with the ability to see a person’s secret or future by touching them. 

It’s got an uneasy, claustrophobic feel throughout in everything from camera shots to lighting and especially Walken’s off-kilter turn. A fantastic psychological thriller with more than the odd jumpy moment which also sees fine support from Herbert Lom, Brooke Adams and Martin Sheen. A great ending.

The Appointment

Edward Woodward, who passed away late last year aged 79, shall forever be associated with The Wicker Man, and quite rightly so. But the Croydon-born classically trained actor, who at 16 was the youngest ever person to gain a place at RADA, also featured in another, lesser known British horror film that deserves to be discovered by an audience anew, The Appointment (1981).

It’s a film full of striking visuals that perhaps best evokes ‘Don’t Look Now’ and fantastic camera work that reminds one of the steadicam shots in ‘The Shining’. The film leans more to the arty side of horror and teases out each plot point, which might be regarded as too slow for some people.

It might take its time but it is certainly intriguing and by its very slow nature feels oddly unnerving. What the film does have from the outset though is a scene that hooks you straight away, a schoolgirl snatched sideways into the woods by an unseen force, which is immensely unnerving and stays with you for a long time.

Like many British horror films it is based more around the horror that you don’t see than the one that you do and with that in mind echoes the Hammer House of Horror or The Twilight Zone and perhaps would have benefitted from being slightly shorter than its 90 minute running time. Oddly, with the parallel of a man driving his car across an unpopulated area it did remind me a little of a quasi-quaint British version of Duel, albeit with supernatural undertones.

Like Dennis Weaver in the Spielberg classic Woodward’s character, Ian Fowler, is in pretty much every shot of the film. After the nerve-jangling opening Fowler breaks the news to his fourteen year-old daughter that he cannot attend the concert she is playing in the next day because he must drive to a conference in London, much to her chagrin. That night he has a dream of dogs leaping onto the hood of his car on the road and causing him to crash – and as he sleeps dogs gather outside the house. The next day as he sets out on the journey, all the elements of the dream start to come true.

It’s a shame that this was Director Lindsay Vickers only foray behind the camera as there really are some wonderful shots and sequences. None is more impressive than the actual car crash which is shot, inside and out, from every conceivable angle. The crash occurs on the winding, desolate roads of Snowdonia when a lorry, with familiar dogs painted on the side follows Woodward and causes him to crash – the attacking dogs of his dream coming true.

We are then met with the extraordinary image of the car teetering up in the air balanced on its front tip, on the very edge of the cliff for a long moment before falling over. It’s certainly not something you’d find in your usual episode of Casualty and on paper I know sounds closer to Wile Coyote, but it really does have to be seen to be believed. All of this is accompanied by an unworldly atonal score. It is a remarkably well sustained piece of atmosphere that hovers uneasily between dream and waking and leaves one never sure where they are.

Does it all make sense? of course it doesn’t but it is all so beautifully done that it doesn’t really matter. The visual/audio effects are incredible with some very Hitchcockian touches throughout that even Brian DePalma would be proud of with the aforementioned car crash scene a masterpiece of surrealism.

The film still has that wonderful cache about it as did The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist did before it, both of which did the rounds on chunky pirate videos, as The Appointment is not available on DVD and has to be sought out in dark and musty corners on good old VHS, which I think adds a certain something to it and is the way horror should be seen.

Of course I’ve managed to snag myself a copy, after years of searching, breathing a sigh of relief when the tape did not snap in the video recorder and those images once seen on late night TV some 20 years earlier were brought once again to life. Once seen it is never forgotten, often for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on, but this really is one appointment that shouldn’t be missed.

Pat’s Labyrinth: Horror auteur ‘exorcises’ his horror demons in Essex

Hollywood had Universal and London had Hammer, and now Essex is having a ‘stab’ at horror thanks to Jinx Media, founded by husband and wife team, Pat and Pippa Higgins.

Higgins in horror mode

With an output of five movies, TrashHouse (2005), HellBride (2007), KillerKiller (2007), The Devil’s Music (2008) and Bordello Death Tales (2009), in as many years Jinx Media is proving to be anything but jinxed, with it being as productive as the likes of those studios that unleashed Lon Chaney and Christopher Lee into our nightmares. Dean Newman caught up with Director, Producer, Writer and Editor, Pat Higgins, and found out what influenced his frankly warped and deprived mind.

Pat’s most recent release, The Devil’s Music, has just premiered on DVD in America, but us lucky folk in the UK, however can catch the horror mockumentary, described as ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ meets The Omen’, for free on http://www.indiemoviesonline.com/watch-movies/the-devils-music, uncut, no adverts, no horrible software to install. It is something which Pat sees as a really pioneering website and a great outlet for film fans and filmmakers alike.

DN: Who are your influences?

PH: It’s mainly filmmakers that went out and just did it regardless of any obstacles that may have been in their path, so very much people like Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriquez, and Kevin Smith. People who had no money and little professional experience but just decided right I’m going to put together a screenplay, put together the best package that I can and just go out and actually make it.

In terms of tone I’d definitely also add Joe Dante to that list, if there is anyone I owe a huge debt to with comedy horror hybrids then it his him in particular. I vividly remember seeing Gremlins when I was about 11 and it just had this huge impact on me. And not forgetting Fred Dekker as well, with Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, again very 80s but it’s just a nice fusion of comedy and horror. 

DN: What horror movies do you hold in high regard?

PH: I’ve got a lot of love for The Shining, which I think is perhaps the greatest horror movie ever made, the original Robert Wise version of The Haunting and The Exorcist. I think The Shining is pretty much the perfect horror movie as its just got images that drill into your head and just stay there.

Stephen King was not a huge fan and called it a beautiful car without an engine, but I don’t actually think he is right, there is an engine there and is revving really fast but it is so beautifully made that you can’t hear the engine, it doesn’t leave the traces you might usually get.

The Exorcist is smart, is not afraid of its subject matter in a way that a lot of movies dealing with that sort of thing might be and is willing to credit its audience with some intelligence. And The Haunting is just a beautiful, crisp, perfect movie. I love it, a lot, but do have a huge amount of hatred for the remake. Although I think the greatest scare shot of all time for me has to be in the much butchered The Exorcist III.

DN: The likes of The Exorcist have become an established horror franchise, have you ever been tempted to do a sequel to one of your own films?

PH: I’d love to, I’ve got ideas for all of them but I get side-tracked by new ideas that bubble up. I’m a bit like a dog chasing a car as I’ve just got to go after stuff, but I’ve certainly got treatments and in some cases whole screenplays for follow ups to what we’ve already produced.

 
 

 

Cranks the fear up to 11

DN: Getting the right mix of horror and humour is notoriously hard to get right, what do you see as the secret to success in balancing those two areas in film?

 

PH: I think you have to love your characters and love your script. If it’s not breaking your heart to kill one of your characters, which is someone you’ve lived with for months and years in the back of your head, on the page and finally in front of the camera, you can’t expect anyone else to remotely give a shit about them.

I think that particularly with horror comedies people think they can back away from the script and think we can set this up and then this up, the wacky best friend dies at this point, so on and so forth and I think that people can get very dispassionate about it and more often than not it really shows. You end up with characters as just cannon-fodder that nobody cares about, including the people who have written and made the movie.

In terms of the gags I think it is a matter of approaching it in a smart way and ensuring that the script is as tight and as entertaining as it can possibly be, because the writing process is the only one where low budget directors can get a leap on Hollywood.

If you are going crossbreed horror and comedy then you have to do it with loving care.

DN: A lot of horror comedy is played straight as well, such as An American Werewolf in London and Shaun of the Dead, isn’t it?

PH: Absolutely, Shaun of the Dead is a movie that really loves its characters, the way that the mother’s death (Penelope Wilton) is handled is just heartbreaking. And I think that is what marks that film out over less successful scripts as it is written by someone that cares.

Pat is clearly someone who cares a great deal about horror and next time, in Pat’s Labyrinth II: The pitfalls and the pendulums of producing low budget horror in the UK, Dean will be catching up with him to talk about the trials and tribulations of making low budget horror.