Desperation: adapted by Stephen King from his novel of the same name; directed by Mick Garris; starring Tom Skerrit (John Edward Marinville), Steven Weber (Steve Ames), Annabeth Gish (Mary Jackson), Charles Durning (Tom Billingsley), Matt Frewer (Ralph Carver), Henry Thomas (Peter Jackson), Shane Haboucha (David Carver) and Ron Perlman (Collie Entragian) (2006): Surprisingly enjoyable television adaptation of King’s novel about supernatural shenanigans in the Nevada desert. Another 40 minutes or so would have helped make things run smoother, but overall this is one of the better King TV movies, and better than a lot of theatrical horror movies King-derived or otherwise.

A crazy cop (cast and played perfectly by Ron Perlman) abducts people on the highway running by the small Nevada town of Desperation, killing most of them but imprisoning some in the lock-up at the police station. But the imprisoned soon band together to try to escape. However, the cop isn’t just some nut-job: he’s possessed by something unearthed from the giant pit-mine outside town. As are most of the domestic and wild animals around town.

King has noted in interviews that he wanted to have a horror novel in which the forces of Good are explicitly working for the Judeo-Christian God (as per, say, The Stand) and not the more nebulous forces of Good found in most of his novels. So be ready for some praying and some occasionally ham-handed theological discussions. Also a somewhat anomalous silent movie that seems to suggest that the Judeo-Christian God has an awfully strange sense of humour when it comes to explaining issues of cosmic importance.

Overall, the cast is solid, though Steven Weber seems awfully miscast as a former roadie. Tom Skerritt’s haunted writer character really needs more development (as he had in the novel) — it really does seem as Skerritt probably figured in the majority of scenes cut from this movie to wedge four hours of air-time into three (originally planned as a two-night, four-hour affair, Desperation instead aired in one three-hour block, which translates to 131 minutes of movie instead of around 160 minutes). Recommended.


Silent Hill: written by Roger Avary; based on the Konami videogame series; directed by Christophe Gans: starring Radha Mitchell (Rose), Sean Bean (Christopher), Laurie Holden (Cybil), and Alice Krige (Christabella) (2006): If you ignore the basic things that make a movie traditionally good such as plot, dialogue, and characterization, Silent Hill can be pretty enjoyable though somewhat killingly long for a movie of its type (over two hours, with half-an-hour of Sean Bean wandering around in a sub-plot that really needed to be cut except that it was added at the request of studio executives who wanted more male characters in the movie).

However, the set design, character design, and visual effects really do work marvelously, albeit in service to a movie that makes less and less sense the more characters explain what’s going on. The filmmakers lifted elements from pretty much every Silent Hill game while also adding their own lunacies to the proceedings, most notably placing the abandoned town of Silent Hill, West Virginia above a burning subterranean coal field.

But Silent Hill is also in another dimension where the remaining residents are besieged by assorted demons and monsters, most of them quite inventive and unnerving in their design. This all has something to do with a cult of witch-hunters who basically ran Silent Hill until the coal fire forced its evacuation in 1974. Which seems awfully late for a witch-hunting cult to have run a town, especially a bustling coal town with the world’s largest hotel at its center. And a bus route! And portions of the town are played by Brantford, Ontario!

But anyway, for a bustling mining town, or perhaps city, Silent Hill only had one dinky little two-lane road running into it. I’d have hated to be on that road during rush hour. But now there are things running around, at least when you jump dimensions or whatever, including a giant monster with a pyramid for a head and a giant sword for a hand. And a lot of jittery, burned bipedal creatures. Also what seems to be a permanent snowfall of ash. And a really unpleasant sub-plot featuring pedophiliac rape. Hoo ha! The fun never stops! Lightly recommended, but you might want to turn the sound off, and also be liberal with the fast-forward.

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