I love watching winter-set horror films in the summer for a little mental relief from the heat but I also love to watch wintry horror flicks in the heart of the season when they are the most relatable. Come to think of it, I also dig them in fall and spring so I just took a long time to say I enjoy them all year round. Recently I popped in an old double VHS tape of Stephen King’s STORM OF THE CENTURY, which I enjoyed when it first aired and I found myself surprised at just how well it has aged. It’s truly chilling, has atmosphere you can cut with a knife and is filled with so many interesting characters performed by a cast of truly talented actors. There’s also a phenomenal central villain, a runtime that provides full immersion and a rather nasty moral dilemma that could leave you with frostbite. King himself has called it his personal favorite of all the television productions based on his work and I’d totally agree if not for the fact that SALEM’S LOT (‘79) exists.
A small town is presented in full frenzy as they prepare for an oncoming winter storm. I can tell you from experience that New England storms are especially fierce when you reside by the ocean, as is clearly the case with fictional Little Tall Island (which we’ve visited before to meet DOLORES CLAIBORNE). Enter Andre Linoge (a perfectly unnerving Colm Feore) who begins offing oldsters with his wolf-faced cane, causing suicides, revealing everyone’s darkest secrets and leaving graffiti everywhere that says, “Give me what I want and I’ll go away.” I don’t want to reveal what tree this dog is barking up but I will say that I have a psychic hunch that Shirley Jackson would give his wicked proposal a big thumbs up.
Helping to make the horrific circumstances all the more harrowing is the fact that those caught in Linoge’s crossfire are played by cream of the crop character actors like Jeffrey DeMunn (THE BLOB ‘88, THE GREEN MILE ’99), Julianne Nicholson (personal fave THE OTHERS (2000) & Emmy award winner for MARE OF EASTOWN in 2021), Becky Anne Baker (the mom from FREAKS AND GEEKS! She’s excellent) and even good old ‘80s staple Casey Siemaszko (THREE O’CLOCK HIGH, STAND BY ME). Some may be surprised that Tim Daly, best known for the sitcom WINGS is wonderfully nuanced, earthy and relatable as the troubled, narrating lead, but anyone who has seen 1988’s fatal witch attraction flick SPELLBINDER knows the score (plus, who doesn’t amongst us want to support Tyne’s bro?).
Director (and former stuntman), Craig R. Baxley would go on to bring other Stephen King teleplays to the small screen (ROSE RED (2003), KINGDOM HOSPITAL (2004)) but he’s best at his game here juggling compelling performances, creating a believable town to get lost in and throwing out striking imagery (with the help of cinematographer David Connell).
I’d even say you could take this in as a precursor to the type of work Mike Flanagan (MIDNIGHT MASS) has been excelling at delivering to Netflix recently. Like Flanagan’s output, STORM OF THE CENTURY helps to erase the delusion that the big screen is superior to the small, especially when weaving such expansive tales. Though a hit with ratings and critics alike, STORM OF THE CENTURY has seemed to fall toward the bottom of Santa Stevie’s bag of horror toys but I’m of the thinking it deserves to be much more appreciated. Personally, I think it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s top-tier Stephen King in my book.