[Same intro as last time]

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: The Road Virus Heads North

I saw Shattered four times in the theater. I stayed up in the 80’s to tape Someone to Watch Over Me on HBO so I could, at any time, watch it again. I endured the Cheers episodes where the man belched his larcenous cries of "Rebeccerrr! Rebeccerrr!" so let it be said that I am a fan of Tom Berenger. The guy has more grit than a bicycle salesman in the 70’s. He was Jack Clark before Tom Clancy had the sense to write the books. He was Brad Johnson before Brad Johnson failed at being ‘The Next Tom Berenger’ but with presence and moxie. I love me some Tom Berenger.

Tom Berenger is an acting tsunami in The Road Virus Heads North and I don’t mean that in the "his power is palpable and capable of bringing an audience their knees". I mean he covers his audience in wetness and wind and waits for them to all be dead. Asian, preferably, but he doesn’t discern as long as they are all dead. His accent is something I can only equate to how Laurence Olivier would attempt it if he were Jake Busey prancing around in a Don Post Olivier mask. Sometimes it’s Bangor, Maine. Sometimes it’s the Bang Bus. It ain’t a consistent accent, that’s for sure. It’s a shame too, because I looked to this as a chance to see how a more distinguished and slightly bloated 2006 model of Tom Berenger might inspire hope for one of those nice second careers where a leading man eases into character actor turf seamlessly.

Like Lance Kerwin or Brian Benben!

The Road Virus Heads North was a totally lean and mean short story. As soon as I read it I handed the book over to my buddy Steve who in turn bought Everything’s Eventual on the spot, and Steve pitches nickels around like they’re manhole covers so it was no small feat. It’s as high concept as King stories get: A man buys a painting at a yard sale and as he travels, the picture changes, following him on a path of destruction to an inevitable confrontation.

Something gets lost in the translation because what was truly creepy on the page is now way too literal and telegraphed on the tube. First of all, there’s Berenger, who should have been the strong point. He doesn’t really seem to be all that game for the task and is much better in the trivial scenes than in the tense ones and the whole concept of the killer who died in a bizarre pagan blaze returning from beyond shows all its cards. The book told the story from the author’s perspective, so as he discovered the wake of killing in his wake, the audience discovered it. Here, we see it happen and the whole device falls apart.

As a result there’s no tension and a really memorable short story comes across as a lame slasher story with a nice hook. And poor Tom.

Screw that. Poor me.

Next: The End of the Whole Mess

Until then, please accept my rating for this installment in the series:

Previously: They Got a Hell of a Band.