We caught the beginning of this about a year or so ago. Seeing that it was a horror movie written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero, we went in with the thought that it can’t not be awesome. We were less than impressed. About 15 minutes in, we said “eh” and changed the channel.
I saw that it was available to rent through Xbox Live. I decided to download it and give it another shot. I really had nothing to lose, if it was good, great; if it sucked, I would have a chance to go into nerd rage. Sitting through a bad movie isn’t such a big deal for me, I made it through Turkish Star Wars.
This movie isn’t so much a film as a collection of short vignettes. Narratively speaking, it’s similar to The Twilight Zone movie in that there is a short narrative that bookends the stories being told. A young boy is accosted by his father after he is found reading a horror comic. The father yells at him, and even hits him before sending him to bed. He throws the comic in the trash and it is opened by the wind. From there, we zoom into the first story.
A family gets together for father’s day. As it turns out, their mother killed her father after he went on ad nauseum about cake. Flashbacks show him acting like a petulant five year old before he has his brains bashed in by a marble ashtray. Years later he breaks out his grave as a zombie-esque skeleton. Rather than brains, he wants cake, which doesn’t really sound as threatening.
The second story follows a farmer (played by Stephen King himself) who finds a meteor has crashed in his backyard. After he touches it, he finds himself gradually being turned into a plant. This story mostly works because of King’s oddball performance.
The third story is my personal favorite of the bunch. Leslie Nielson turns in a surprisingly menacing performance here. I know he started off as a serious actor before becoming known for screwball comedies, but he was downright chilling here. When the story does take a supernatural turn, he follows his own advice and keeps his cool. He even goes right for the headshot, so points for genre savviness. Also, he throws the gun after he runs out of bullets, classic.
The fourth story involves a mysterious crate that is discovered by a janitor. Inside, a bizarre murderous creature is reawakened. Romero nicknamed the beast “fluffy”, but I think it’s a Yeti, mostly on the fact that the box came from the Arctic.
The fifth and final story involves a germophobe (technically it’s called mysophobia, but I like germophobe better) business tycoon whose high end, sterile apartment is invaded by cockroaches. I hate cockroaches; I hate bugs in general so this story definitely hits a nerve on that front. A kitchen sink filled to the brim with those things…ick.
The movie then takes us back to the “real” world. Like the Twilight Zone movie, it takes a supernatural turn of it’s own.
The whole movie is a throwback to the old E.C horror comics that King grew up reading. It even incorporates that into the film, using yellow box captions and framing shots with different panels. It’s similar to what Ang Lee did with Hulk, only it’s done much more effectively and isn’t as pretentious or overdone.
Horror anthologies like this are always entertaining and it’s nice when they live up to the potential of the format. I was disappointed that NBC’s Fear Itself did so poorly. I liked the idea. The Halloween series was also supposed to be a sort of anthology, featuring a new story every movie, hence Halloween III having no Michael Myers. When that bombed, they returned to the well. I kind of liked the idea of each movie being it’s own thing. Given where the franchise went, it probably would’ve been better off.
The first, third, and fifth stories were all written expressly for the film, but the second and fourth stories were adapted from stories King had written previously, so it provides an almost even balance of adaptation and new material.
This is one worth checking out, especially if you liked Tales from the Crypt and other shows and movies like that. The second half of the movie delivers what you would expect from a collaboration of two legends like King and Romero.