Once upon a time I was a Stephen King apologist. If he
ran over someone’s cat, I’d drive to their house and say “I’m sorry Stephen
King flattened your furry little Obnoxio”. Nowadays, people are running Mr.
King down like it’s going out of style [once] and his last few books have left
me colder than the Overlook in February. I have the audiobook for Cell and every time I try to give it a
chance it leaves me reaching for the latest Lee Child despite reader Campbell
Scott’s best efforts. That’s without
taking his horrendous EW column into consideration. It’s an affront to all that
kept me warm in my youth, be it blankets, the furnace, or Uncle Pat’s dick.
But, I’m at an impasse here you see. I love Nightmares & Dreamscapes, his third
[after Night Shift & Skeleton Crew] collection of bunches of
short stories lumped together. I want the television versions of those stories
to be as good as they were in my head when I read them. Now that TNT is airing
eight adaptations of those stories it’s time to see if they are. As an aside, a
couple of these are from the later collection Everything’s Eventual, but who’s counting? Bottom line: even more
so than the recent Salem’s Lot and Desperation attempts, these suckers are
built for speed and therefore built for episodic television.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on all but one of
these episodes [Autopsy Room Four,
one I really wanted to see was missing in the package with a promise to be sent
later but this was three weeks ago and nothing has arrived so thanks for lying
to me, marketing gentleman], so what will follow will be my advance and
somewhat satisfied take on a pretty promising bit of material from an old
master who’s let me down of late. I’m not going to release these by airdate
because my goal isn’t to create some kind of preview for the upcoming night’s
installment but rather keep it free-form and fun. Whether it is fun is up to
you, but by golly I’m in charge of the free-form part…
Installment: They Got a Hell of a Band
I liked this story when it was printed, partially
because a part of me wishes it were true that the rock stars who died too young
had a second chance, zombie side effects notwithstanding, but also because
King’s work has always flirted with other avenues of pop culture but he’d never
embraced it quite like this. Plus, the idea was so disrespectful and respectful
towards the dead at the same time that the whole thing was just fun to watch
Sadly, the screen version is nothing less that
Steven Weber and Kim Delaney star as a husband and wife
prone to bickering who become prose to being trapped in a town off the map
populated by the undead rock stars of yore, and the first thing that comes to mind
is how third rate this whole thing feels. Written and directed by TV vet Mike
Robe, the episode feels like something we may have seen on an old Tales from the Darkside episode
[remember Word Processor of the Gods? That was tight!] right down to the less than
acceptable production values and corner cutting in the shock and awe
department. There was a time when a horror show could be slightly less than
stellar and still be worth the effort but there’s simply too much classy stuff
being done on the tube to allow for this to slink by on credentials alone.
Also, while I like Steven Weber and appreciate his attempts to make the Shining miniseries adequate, he just
doesn’t have the wattage to carry something like this and Kim Delaney, well,
it’s been quite a few years since she was a major presence on television.
Neither seems to be having any fun here and it doesn’t help when the whole
production feels rushed and small. The celebrity lookalikes are sometimes
moderate and often atrocious and there’s no real fear factor to be enjoyed. It
just happens, almost as if they assumed everyone knew the story and were just
content to see it acted out.
Rock stars gain a certain immortality when they die. Unless you’re the Milli Vanilli guy who took the loss. I lose track. I think it was the black one. The immortality of being a rock and roll star is what makes this concept so cool. You couple that with the tested and true premise of people who get really lost and pay the ultimate price for it and the results should be at least interesting if not terrifying. Shit, we have had a few #1 box office weekends over the past few years filled with horror films that fit that bill. It just doesn’t work here, and it’s made even more unwatchable by how unconvincing the two leads are as husband and wife as well as horror story protagonists. There’s no allure to the place even in its early moments. It seems like a really bad theme restaurant in Texas that the duo waltzes into. It’s not creepy, it’s just… clean. It’s like someone filmed on the Back to the Future 1955 set when no one was looking and didn’t do anything to add shadow to the cheese.
It’s just benign, and that’s a shame because this is probably the most well known of all the stories they selected.
I wasn’t content, and this was the second of these I
watched because I watched them in order of how familiar I was with the stories. It did not bode well, this being the second one I wanted to see and being so harmed by it. The first was The Road Virus
Heads North, which is tomorrow’s article and quite possibly the one that’ll really piss King fans off. More on that then, but let it
suffice to say that I was a little worried about how my beloved short stories
were being treated by TNT in the early moments of my eight [if that last disc ever shows up] adventure.
Until then, please accept my rating for this installment in the series: