Directed by: Mick Garris
Starring: Ron Pearlman, Tom Skerritt
Buy it from the Creature Co.!
Review by RJ Sevin
think it was Harlan Ellison who once described Stephen King’s body of
work as a series of peaks and valleys. That’s an accurate assessment,
applicable to any artist. Happily, King has given us far more peaks
Desperation is one of the valleys.
It’s not quite as low as Dreamcastcher, but it’s down there, shoulder to shoulder with The Tommyknockers and Cell, gazing up at The Stand, IT, Bag of Bones, and The Dark Tower, to name a few.
Inspired by a cross-country motorcycle trek King undertook while promoting INSOMNIA (another Valley Book), Desperation
tells the story of a disparate (and desperate) group of travelers
culled together by a towering and maniacal police officer, tossed into
jail in the now dead mining town of Desperation, Nevada. Something has
been awakened within the massive mine that once served as the town’s
lifeblood, something that is driving officer Collie Entragian to
kidnapping and murder.
has he kidnapped them? Why has he apparently murdered everyone in town?
Why does he keep saying “Tak!”? And why is his skin falling off? The
answers lie with young David Carver, a boy who, along with his entire
family, has been kidnapped by Entragian. Years ago, David made a deal
with God. God kept His end of the bargain. Now it’s time for David to
Hey – I should write cover copy, don’t you think?
is a change of pace for King, geographically speaking. And that’s about
all. Fast-paced and highly entertaining, the massive novel is
ultimately tired and flat, engaging during the act of reading,
forgettable after you’ve turned the last page. Reading at times like a
Greatest Hits Remix, Desperation is
little more than self-imitation, a mix-and-match mingling of themes,
events, and character types from previous, vastly superior, novels.
The movie isn’t much better.
Directed by Mick Garris from a teleplay by King, Desperation isn’t
worth a second look. It’s not even worth discussing at length. Like the
book upon which it is based, it’s entertaining yet forgettable. This
isn’t great horror cinema, television or otherwise. It’s mediocre, at
are some good performances, chief among them Ron Perlman’s
scene-stealing turn as Officer Entragian, who was the best thing about
the novel. So it is with the film adaptation. Desperation – book and movie alike—loses something when it loses Collie.
Haboucha, the boy portraying David Carver, gives a standout
performance, as well. He doesn’t always hot the mark, but when he does,
it’s well hit.
far as adaptations go, King managed to fit a lot of his hefty novel
into a 131 minute running time. A book of this size could easily have
generated a 2-part mini-series. Someone, Ka and Gan be praised,
are one or two laugh-out-loud moments. And I’m not talking about the
intentional ones. Those go to Perlman’s expert delivery of some truly
demented dialogue. No, the laughs I’m talking about come from, well…
watch for the Cougar Arm on a Stick.
attempt is made to ponder life’s Big Questions, and Mick Garris earns
the distinction of having directed movie versions of the two King
novels that could arguably be considered Christian fiction. (If not for
all the sex and dismemberments, I should note — something one doesn’t
find much of in Peretti or Dekker). There are some interesting ideas at
play here, but, in the end, Desperation’s theological ponderings fall as flat as the rest of the film.
The DVD looks nice. I didn’t get to watch during its initial run on ABC, and that’s a good thing. On DVD,Desperation – like The Stand
before it – doesn’t look like TV and it doesn’t look like cinema. It’s
got its own look, a bastard hybrid, sometimes terribly cheap looking,
sometimes quite striking. The extras are minimal, the menu surprisingly
creative and well-executed.
In summation: Desperation is a mediocre adaptation of a mediocre King novel.