Creepshow Cup

In full disclosure -- David Marancik‎ shared this on Mark Pavia's timeline.  Mark Pavia is the director of Night Flier.

As for the cup. . . that's totally cool!  Why?  Because it's unique.

Mick Garris’s The Stand: The Black and White version.

by Chris Calderon

I just hope he’s not a figure of controversy.  That’s one way I thought of starting all this.  The other was to start off with the question: Does anyone think The Stand is kind of, well, weird (I'll explain what I mean in just a minute)?

Either way, one things is certain.  For most fans of Stephen King, the adaptations done by constant collaborator Mick Garris will always be divisive.  Some will fall on the side of support and others on the downgrade side.  Those who aren’t impressed with Garris’s King work may have number of reasons for their dislike.  For some, it may be that his cinematography is dull and uninspired, others may say that he chooses poor actors for the roles.  Then of course, there’s always the question of the writing itself.  Or it could just be that Garris’s take on King never seem to raise whatever highs or lows the viewer may desire, the film’s success in this case being determined by its emotional content (this always seemed to be Roger Ebert’s ultimate rule of thumb).

For my part, as someone who, after all these years, still falls on the Pro-Garris side of the fence, all I’d prefer to do right now is simply ask yet another question: ever try watching Garris’s version of The Stand with the color off?  No seriously, all TVs, most of them anyway, have a color setting on their screen, and you can adjust it all the way off if you want.  What follows is simply some observations on what happens when some moron with too much time on his hands decides to turn the color off and watch a black and white version of Garris’s Stand, just because it sounded like a cool idea to found out (in other words: lame!).

First Impressions
A word of warning, from here on in, things get pretty impressionistic, as I was always trying to balance paying attention to the story while at the same time trying to pay attention to the images on screen (something I’m not sure if I’ve really done before, however that may sound).  So if it sounds like things are wandering off point or I’m losing a thread somewhere, blame trying to juggle two things at once unsuccessfully.  Oh yeah, and the author’s to blame of course (rimshot!).

Viewing the miniseries on a purely visual aspect (bearing in mind it’s not my strong point), what strikes me first most of all is how quickly the visual style, minus color, easily jumps from one style to another depending on what the scene calls for.  For instance, it starts out with the breakout of Captain Trips, and the visual style is on par with those old 50s nuclear fallout movies from back when the Cold War was at its height, mixed with a little bit of the original George Romero NOTLD vibe.  Cut to Arnette, TX (“about 110 miles from Houston”) and now the style resembles something you might see in a Steinbeck film if it were crossed with something out of the Universal horror flicks of the 30s.  Cut back to another army sequence and the 50s fallout style is back, only this time reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove.  After a brief return to Steinbeck country, the visuals shift again into another mode as the army takes over the town, featuring footage that is similar to Vietnam documentary footage to a certain extent.  Next, we meet Larry Underwood, in footage of New York that recalls, of all things, Martin Scorsese.  The scenes in Ogunquit have a Frank Capra pastoral quality to them without any color to get in the way, and yet the overall gray tone gives the proceedings an ominous vibe.

Mother Abigail’s homestead is clearly revealed as an onstage set, and if you’re looking for more convincing Nebraska farm fields then the great irony is, yes, the Children of the Corn series probably looks more realistic (not real sure how to feel about that).  However, the set also conjures up memories of the kind of live action MGM or RKO fantasies spun out in the 40s by Robert Wise and Jacques Tourneur.  As for Stu’s escape from the medical facility, I can only I’m not kidding when I say the shot of him emerging from his cell reminded me of certain scenes from Ridely Scott’s original Alien, only in a dull clinical, unsettling monotone.  In fact, the lack of saturation gave the whole scene a genuinely creepy edge.

Things get Weird.
It was in watching part two that things sort of kicked into overdrive.  Starting with the introduction of Tom Cullen, I don’t if many realize just how fundamentally weird the character really is.  Our first sight of Tom is really a tableau of department store mannequins all arranged in a row of sorts in the middle of a small town main street.  I think in color the immediate reaction is that it’s either charmingly quirky or something like that.  Let me tell, in stark black and white it’s downright unnerving.  Maybe others will react differently, but I’ll swear nothing is saw suggested a mind that was in any way normal.  I know the character is supposed to have a mild mental handicap, yet I’ve also read him in comparison with the Trashcan Man, and what that suggests to me is that the two are in fact similar polar opposites.  There is something fundamentally wrong or off-kilter about the both of them, and yet one is good, while the other is an out of control train looking for a place to wreck.  What I saw made me think of what might happen if Tim Burton and David Lynch collaborated on a project.  Everything about the scene was just off kilter, and really I think it colored (pardon the pun) everything that came after.

For instance, there’s the Meeting Hall scene in Boulder.  Many fans may take this scene to task as one of King’s moment of unfortunate sentimentality.  Stripped of color, the scene is a cross between a Capra film and The Manchurian Candidate.  Instead of being bored by syrupy sentiment, I found myself slightly on edge with the uncertainty on display, and found myself thinking, “Well yeah, that’s all well and good, but what do you really want out of the American Experiment?”  Don’t how that must sound (I told you it would get weird).

There is another scene with Tom after this, and once more the weirdness of the character is more noticeable without color to get in the way.  Instead of being bright and cheerful, his house is drab and somewhat dark, decorated with several surreal brick-a-brack.  For instance, there are decorations of miniature nuns hanging from a light fixture over the middle of the table the characters are gathered round (no, I did not make that detail up, look closely and you’ll see them hanging there).  In fact, surreal is the word that pretty much sums up every scene that comes after.  The scenes with Harold and Nadine, in particular, now really have a sordid, sleazy noir feel about them.  The cumulative weirding out effect comes from the stark setting of Americana slowly being invaded by the fantastic, at least to all appearances.

As the final part of the show closes in, the barren Nevada landscapes take on the hallucinatory feel of an acid western, and there’s the scene in the washed out pit of a highway next to some old cars where Stu separates from the rest of the Stand Group.  I’ll swear it has the peculiar look and feel of both Bergman and Kurusowa, maybe even a little Samuel Beckett.  Yeah, it was all pretty surreal experience.  I wasn’t expecting any of that.

 Final Thoughts.
So, what effect does viewing Garris’s Stand in black and white have on the miniseries as a whole?  The answer, my answer anyway, is: not bad, really. 

To go into a bit more detail, I think watching the film sans color can at least highlight the surreal qualities of the work, or maybe it just makes things seem more surreal than they are.  For me, the whole experience of the story in black and white had a strangely hypnotic effect, and yet I remember wondering whether or not that was because viewing from a different angle just naturally lowered my defenses (whatever they are) and allowed me to take in more of the story than I normally would, or whether I was just letting the oddness of the bleached cinematography get to me at the expense of the story. 

In the end, I’ve come to the conclusion that even though the experience was worthwhile, it ultimately was more a stylistic exercise than anything else.  What tipped me into this realization was reaching the same stumbling block other fans have tripped over a million times before.  While the overall story of The Stand is more or less solid, the ending (in both the edited and restored versions of the novel, as well as the miniseries) still needs a bit of retooling after all these years.  When I felt the same sense of letdown at the literal deus ex machina denouement just like so many times before, I knew that black and white couldn’t save the ending, and that hence there was a big difference between style and substance.

This is something I’ve believed in for a long time, yet this de-Turner-ized viewing of the Garris miniseries just helped solidify it.  I’ve always felt that the writing of a story, even for film, is more important than whatever style it’s told in.  This may have been driven home to me when I first viewed two films by the same director, An American Tail and The Secret of Nimh, by Don Bluth.  Both films are pretty much gorgeous to look at, yet I was only drawn into the drama of Tail while to this day I find the story of Nimh lacking.  The reason why, I think, helps explain why I think The Stand ought to be appreciated on a story level, regardless of visuals.  The problem with both Nimh and King’s book is that they have a creditable buildup, yet the pay-off is sorely lacking, and all the little flourish of images never seemed enough to me to salvage things.

The funny thing is, no matter what its format, I can’t really say The Stand is a bad story.  It may be imperfect, yet in spite of this it holds up really well, even with a bit of a botched end.  I think the reason why is very simple.  In spite of its flaws, the rest of the story is very well written, and I think it is this more than the flaws which keep old readers (and viewers) coming back, while still managing to bring in new ones over the years.

While watching The Stand in black and white may be just a stylistic exercise, it might nonetheless be a profitable one for those interested in making the experiment.  In particular, it may help skeptics and naysayers by forcing them to look at the series in a different way.  In particular, it’s helpful to note that while the experiment manipulates the image, it doesn’t fundamentally change it in any great way.  Even more important, the story remains the same, in either book of film.  The trick here, as I see, is to realize the manipulated, therefore plastic, therefore treacherous, therefore less importance of the images, which take second place to the quality of the writing.  I think it’s an experiment well worth making, even aside from the novelties and interesting questions about entertainment it may raise.  Either way, the story still remains, and while it’s not perfect, I’d say it’s entertaining enough.

Valentine’s Day and Misery

by Brandon Engel

Valentine’s Day and Misery

While Stephen King is most widely known for his horror stories, in his 1987 novel Misery, themes of romance prevail. Not romance in any conventional sense, however – it concerns the "romantic" nature of the relationship between an author and his writing. And beyond merely that, it also explores the ties that bind avid readers to works of pulp literature. King has often written about writers, and Misery, much like The Shining, offers readers an intimate glimpse behind the tortuous exercise of converting inspiration into a meaningful end product. Utilizing familiar elements of horror, he reveals the pain inherent to the writing process.

Misery was inspired by a dream King had on a plane flight to England, concerning a popular writer who fell victim to a psychotic fan. Waking up, he wrote down a description of the character that would later become "Annie" on a napkin. King centers the primary focus of the novel on Paul Sheldon, the author of a best-selling Victorian romance series about a character named Misery Chastain. When Sheldon is rescued by Annie Wilkes from a car crash, he slowly finds that she is sickly obsessed with his work and will do anything to have the recently killed-off protagonist revived. Even if it means sacrificing Paul himself.

The novel was adapted into a film in 1990 by Rob Reiner and starred James Caan and American Horror Story star Kathy Bates (who would later star in another King adaptation: Dolores Claiborne). We follow Paul (Caan) as he rewrites this story while being tortured by the seemingly-harmless Annie. King shows us the literal blood, sweat, and tears that had been put into Paul’s writing – making it the most meaningful piece in his career as an author. The relationship between the author and the writer is one that is carefully portrayed in Misery. King shows us that this pain is almost necessary to succeed, and sometimes, that pain itself provokes a twisted and perverse sense of pleasure.

Extreme fandom is personified in Annie (Bates), showing us just how obsessive certain individuals can be. Her crazed eyes and apparent insanity is enough to have Paul terrified for his life. Although Annie was just one single fictional woman, she had paranoid viewers rethinking their safety and security. The threat of other "Annie" types was enough to provoke some viewers to take dramatic action, turning to Charlotte ADT Security or Chicago Security Doctors to protect themselves. As we see Annie torture Paul for the fun of it, we recognize characteristics in her that we've seen in other people (or even ourselves). She isn't that nuts. She just loves the characters in her favorite stories as though they were her own flesh and blood. She is dependent on these novels as a way to escape her own lonely life, and like any fan out of touch with reality, she reacts in devastation when she learns that a beloved character has died. To her, these are real people - and she wants her protagonist back. Though perhaps not to this level, Though perhaps not to this level,

She is dependent on these novels as a way to escape her own lonely life and like any crazed fan, Annie reacts in devastation when she finds out that a beloved character dies. To her, these are real people and she wants her protagonist back. Though perhaps not to this level, we have seen this before in crazed fans, who believe they know what’s best for their particular franchise.

The Annie-Paul duo takes our breath away in this dynamic relationship of abuser and abused. Bates skillfully portrays a sweet and caring individual who has the capacity to turn into a woman scorned, once she has the proper reason to enact revenge. Paul is a departure from Caan’s previous performances, but he was definitely able to portray the controlled, terrified victim who seemed to have no chance at being saved. The film received mostly positive reviews and was seen as one of King’s best film adaptations to date. Perhaps this is because Misery exceeds generic horror. It isn't about in-your-face scares or supernatural beings- the real horror is within everyday people.

James Franco to Star in 11/22/63 reports that James Franco will star in the Hulu mini-series 11.22.63.  Elizabeth Wagmeister notes that not only will Franco star in the series, but he is also set serve as a producer on the miniseries.  The program is set to be nine hours.  Franco will play the lead role of Jake Epping.

Kindle Edition Of A FACE AMONG THE MASTERS Free This Weekend

Good news for Kindle readers -- My book, Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters, is FREE this weekend on Kindle through

February 6, 2015 -- February 8, 2015 

Here's a link to the book:

" Gardner makes what could have been an ordinary book about a writer a true pleasure to read."
--Sandra Scholes, SF Site Reviews
"In short, readers both familiar and unfamiliar with Stephen King's novels will find a motherlode of interesting information inside the pages of Brighton David Gardner's insightful and illuminating treatise. I can't recommend it enough"
--Shawn Lawton

Why do authors give books away?
1. Because we believe that if you like the content, you'll give the book a positive review.
2. It gives us exposure to a wider audience through the Amazon publicity machine.
3. It's fun to give stuff away.  Really -- authors just want to be read.  (Though that check from Amazon is nice.)

"Gardner's book makes a persuasive case for why I should want a similar knowledge level about the rest, though.  That is not a minor achievement; I tend toward grumpiness when somebody is trying to convince me to be interested in something that I'm not already interested in.  Gardner pulls it off effortlessly.

Elsewhere, A Face Among the Masters also makes a case for reading King as a "dark theologian," and this section confirms what I already suspected: that a weighty book dealing with King's themes of Christianity (and religion/spirituality in general) is way overdue.  Gardner here catapults himself to the upper echelons of the list of people who seem well-suited to the writing of just such a book."

--Bryant Burnette