NEEDFUL THINGS (1993)
I was less than smitten with this one when I watched it upon its video release way back in the olden days. I found it sorta lame, tired and dull. Now that I’m sorta lame tired and dull myself, I totally get it! Thanks for being patient NEEDFUL THINGS! Young folk don’t like to hear it but there really are some things that you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve got some miles on you. A few broken dreams under your belt might be required to empathize with the desperate actions of the townsfolk of Castle Rock. Scares are scarce but there’s plenty of pitch-black social commentary in this Faustian consumer nightmare and what a perfect cast. You couldn’t possibly do better than MAX VAN SYDOW as the devilish Leland Gaunt and if you’re not of fan of ED HARRIS our friendship is over. Who among us can resist the fascinatingly unhinged savoir-faire of AMANDA PLUMMER? Who?
Observant viewers will catch a creepy glimpse of LISA BLOUNT (R.I.P.) of PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987). It seems her role was severely cut from the theatrical version of the film (She makes a bigger dent in the three hour long TV edit apparently) but she still makes a brief, strangely haunting appearance in a crowd scene toward the end. I have to bow down to the BLOUNT, she etched a permanent scar on my brain with her memorable role in DEAD AND BURIED (1981). Truth told this particular KING tale would have been better served as a miniseries in the first place, where each character might have gotten a fairer shake but it’s still a nice if short visit and if you’re in the right state of mind, it’s funny as hell.
DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1995)
KATHY BATES was soooo good in MISERY that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had to give her an Oscar or else they’d look like total jackasses. But then a couple years later when BATES did DOLORES CLAIBORNE they were all like “Back for seconds so soon, are we Kathy? You might want to slow it down on the STEPHEN KING material, if you want another one of these gold dudes.” Here’s the thing though, the truth that nobody can bear to hear without losing their mind to madness…BATES’s performance in DOLORES CLAIBORNE is ten times better than her performance in MISERY. Sorry, it’s just so true and somebody had to say it. I apologize if I just made you spit coffee on your laptop screen. It’s a much more complicated and challenging role and she’s so seamless and smooth in it. I guess the difference is DOLORES makes you feel sad and guilty and real empathy for those who struggle silently in this world and that’s no competition for the crowd-pleasing condescension that MISERY allows. (I love me some MISERY but let’s be real.).
And what the hell Academy? You didn’t think maybe you should nominate JUDY PARFITT for best supporting actress for her role as Vera Donavan? Are you insane? She only travels from steely witch to sympathetic confidant to heartbreaking crone throughout the course of the film. Oh, I see, you had to give that award to MIRA SORVINO. That makes a lot of sense. What a joke. I don’t know how Academy voters are able to look themselves in the mirror without ripping their own eyes out in a shame rage induced by the realization of what unscrupulous frauds they are. That’s right, I call shenanigans!
Oh and TAYLOR HACKFORD’s direction! Holy crap! It’s so beautifully expressive and so painterly and emotionally vivid. And the way he orchestrates the different time periods with opposing film stocks and visualizes the character’s mental states with finely tempered doses of MAGRITTE-inspired surrealism. I mean, c’mon people! O.K. I admit the inquest scene is a total wet noodle that robs the conclusion of the bite it deserves but too late- I already love the movie.
SALEM’S LOT (2004)
This one isn’t so much underrated, as it is vehemently hated. People who don’t dig it REALLY don’t dig it. I don’t get the furor. It’s certainly not as scary as TOBE HOOPER’s original stab and it pales to the experience of reading the mesmerizing novel but it’s hardly the worst adaptation. Maybe I’m just a sucker for getting lost in a miniseries. I love the town, the ominous Marsten house and the coldness of it all. Plus RUTGER HAUER! Maybe I’m wrong. That’s fine by me. I can be wrong and happily watch this again.
THE NIGHT FLIER (1997)
I know we were just talking about this one but it’s worth repeating, THE NIGHT FLIER is one under the radar gem of a flick. It’s like this great mysterious adventure and then when it gets down to business and (literally) opens its jaws, it’s some kind of wonderfully scary. I know it doesn’t look good. It is.
MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)
It’s KING’s directorial debut! It can’t possibly be as terrible as its reputation would have us believe? Right? As someone who just recently watched it, I can tell you- yeah, it is pretty crummy…but therein lies the fun. It’s a trash-tastic B-movie salute to ‘50s drive-in flicks and maybe even a mechanical parody of THE BIRDS. Let’s just call it a mess with a middle section that makes even me yawn but what a hilarious hoot in places too. So much of what made it a dud when it came out in the ‘80s makes it a gloriously delicious time capsule stuffed with abysmal head scratchy dialogue today. For all of its faults, I can’t resist the AC/DC score and the hilarious performance by THE SIMPSONS‘ YEARDLEY SMITH. Isn’t that enough? Would folks rag on this so much if somebody else directed it? I doubt it. All you need to enjoy this is a sense of humor and maybe more alcohol than your doctor would approve of. In any case, this flick represents one of my favorite things about the author. No matter his success, he never gets so highfaluting that he forgets the low brow sparks that got his imagination roaring in the first place. When we talk of STEPHEN KING and horror movies, “Who made who?” is a valid question.