King’s Halloween: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Tonight: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

If I were a man with better planning, it would be entirely intentional that I am watching two Frank Darabont films back to back. Thing is, I would have likely gone through this review without even considering who made the movie. I just happened to watch a video today about the Mist and it mentioned that the director also made The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption.

The reason this movie made the list tonight was two-fold. 1. We were watching at my parent’s house and it had to be safe for my mother to watch. 2. It is due back at the library soon.

So this movie received the same “Stephen King taint” that prevented me from watching it for ages. I assumed it was going to be scary somehow. Some horror lurking in the story that would leave me with nightmares. By the time I had grown past that, it just became one movie amongst a thousand that I should see, but haven’t.

It was actually available for streaming this past year and I was sorely tempted, but I had a plan and was going to stick to it.

So this is a movie that has also been referenced several times. Two of note: Family Guy and Robot Chicken. Peter Griffin makes an escape, and the Joker tricks Batman into going into the sewer on Taco Night.

Honestly, this movie has been referenced so many times, the actual movie begins to seem like parody.

I read the short story that this movie is based on. Being a short story they both stretch and condense the story. Instead of different wardens, they just have the one. So the same Warden that is threatening to take away all of Andy’s privileges is the same one that gave them to him in the first place.

But to back up to the beginning, Andy Dufresne is accused of killing his wife and her lover. Due to Andy being very robotic and logical, the Judge and jury see him as cold and remorseless, and give him two life sentences.

Andy ends up in Shawshank where Morgan Freeman narrates his life for the rest of the movie.

The movie deals partly with prison rape, corruption, and how inmates in the early prison system were largely free labor. Andy ends up showing himself to be extremely useful as a free accountant. He ends up doing all the guards taxes and money laundering.

As a result, Andy is allowed to build up a pet project of expanding the prison library and educational programs.

Seems to be just a slice of life, but then comes along Tommy Williams. Andy is helping Tommy earn his high school diploma, and it is revealed that Tommy knows the guy who ACTUALLY killed Andy’s wife and lover.

When Andy brings this to the Warden and the Warden refuses to do anything with it. In fact he ends up throwing Andy in solitary for a month.

Tommy earns his diploma and then the Warden has him killed when Tommy says he’ll tell the truth about Andy.

This is actually a MAJOR change from the short story. Tommy actually ends up getting transferred to a prison closer to his wife and child with a cushy work detail and instructions to shut up.

The Warden wants to keep Andy on a leash and doing his books. Andy seems to be broken, but starts talking about a life on the outside. Finding a life on the beach in Mexico.

And he says the iconic line, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Is this where that line originates from? A quick search seems to only list this as the source. Which is interesting.

So one of the other inmates gave Andy 6 feet of rope. Everyone is tensing up thinking that Andy is about to end it all.

The next morning, Andy doesn’t step out for morning counts. And the warden suddenly finds a big hole behind the poster in Andy’s cell. We then flash back to Andy planning his great escape for 20 years. He then starts pulling all of the Warden’s money out of all the banks and mails in evidence of the corruption in Shawshank.

The Warden ends up killing himself.

I can’t remember whether or not that happened in the novel or not. Like I said, there were several Wardens in the book.

Morgan Freeman then finally gets paroled, and is struggling to re-enter society. However, remembering his conversation with Andy, he goes to stone wall and under a few lightly piled rocks, finds a letter from Andy. Morgan Freeman packs up his stuff, vandalizes the halfway house, and hops a bus to Mexico.

There he finds Andy on a beach scraping paint off a boat. The end.

I don’t have to tell anybody that this is a good movie. I do like that although this movie shows guards as corrupt, Frank Darabont and Stephen King make a point to correct this in The Green Mile. Yes there is Percy who is an abusive asshat, but the rest of them are good guys.

Tomorrow: So lets go from one of Morgan Freeman’s more iconic roles and switch to one of his more s****y ones.

King’s Halloween: The Mist (2007)

Tonight: The Mist (2007)

 This movie is one I NEVER expected to be good. When I first heard about it, I immediately thought it was going to be terrible and a shitty rip off of John Carpenter’s The Fog.

Instead of the ghosts of a wronged leper colony, it was tentacle monsters. Nothing about this sounded good.

However, people kept saying how good it was. I largely took this as the brainwashed masses. I continued to ignore the movie.

I later read how the movie ended and how it was more depressing than the book. At the time I saw it as unnecessary and glad I didn’t watch it.

I don’t know if my tastes have changed or I became more accepting or what. I have read the book for this one. I enjoyed it, and for the most part the movie follows the book.

Immediately as the movie opens, I kind of forgive it. It starts with the main character, David, drawing a painting of the Roland Deschain from the Dark Tower and in the background a painting from John Carpenter’s The Thing.

So not only are they referencing the Tower, they are acknowledging the originator of the idea.

After that, it kind of gets ruined by the terrible acting done by David’s wife and child. Fortunately, the wife doesn’t appear past the first 5 minutes and the child spends most of the time not doing much.

A storm knocks out the trees and power in most of David’s hometown. David’s neighbor, Captain Holt, who also appeared in Salem’s Lot, goes to the local grocery store with David and his son. That’s when the Mist rolls in and people start dying.

One guy rushes in saying there is stuff in the Mist, then a bunch of people rush out, scream, and disappear.

David goes back to the loading dock to find a blanket when he hears loud noise grinding against the back door. When he tells a few of the guys, they call bullshit and decide to send the bag boy out to unclog the generator. Well, they open the back dock and tentacles come in and kill the bag boy.

The special effects at play here range from fantastic to absurdly cartoonish. However, they do remain very faithful to the book descriptions.

After a brief argument following the bag-boy’s gruesome death, the store patrons break into 3 camps. David’s group of people who are trying to survive the mist, Captain Holt’s people who deny there is anything in the Mist, and Mrs. Carmody’s people who believe this is God’s judgement and demand sacrifice. Miguel and Tulio disagree because the Stars are not in position.

Captain Holt finally has enough and his people leave and go back to the 99. And by that I mean they die. Seriously, Captain Holt in Salem’s Lot was the first to shout Vampire, but monsters in the mist is too far?

So now we have David’s group VS Mrs. Carmody. She gains more of a following when she correctly predicts that someone else will die after dozens of people have died already.

David’s group goes to the pharmacy next door to find medicine after several people were injured during an attack in the night. They instead find a horde of Spiders and Jim rightly freaks the F*** OUT!

After losing several of their number, most people are now willing to join the church of Headism.

It turns out that the military base nearby were experimenting with gateways to other realms of the Tower and picked the wrong door. Two of the Soldiers hung themselves. The third was too busy being helpful in building barricades and getting medicine. So they stabbed him and threw him out as sacrifice.

David’s group decides it is time to get out of dodge and plan an escape. However, Mrs. Carmody figures out their plan and decides she wants to sacrifice David’s son. However, Dr. Zola takes umbrage with this and ends up shooting Mrs. Carmody in a VERY satisfying ending. David’s group runs out to the car and only half the group dies!

Once in the car David drives off and in a change from the book actually makes it home. Only to find his wife has been strung up outside by the spiders so we get confirmation of her death, unlike the book where it is left uncertain. Pretty damn likely, but never known for sure.

After he runs out of gas, he spends about 5 minutes deciding to kill everyone else in the car after they all wordlessly agree and has no more bullets for himself. 2 minutes later, the Army shows up, dispelling the mist and hauling truckloads of rescued survivors, one of which is the mother that ran from the store earlier.

David just needlessly killed 4 people, including his son, minutes before rescue arrived.

People really need to stop one upping Stephen King on his depressing endings. It’s not good for people’s therapy bills.

Tomorrow: Well, I’m depressed. Can I get a movie that has some happiness at the end? Maybe a little . . .Redemption?

King’s Halloween: Apt Pupil (1998)

Tonight: Apt Pupil (1998)


Although I love movies and consider myself pretty well versed in pop culture, it always amazes me how few movies I have seen and how oblivious I am to many references.

Many times I end up seeing more of the classic movies in parody before I ever see the original source. The first time I saw the Godfather, I had already seen most of it parodied in The Simpsons, Family Guy, How I met Your Mother, and Everybody Loves Raymond. Once I finally saw Star Trek The Motion Picture, I realized I had already seen it in Futurama.

Well, for Apt Pupil, I already saw a good portion of it in Family Guy.

Now I’ve known about the reference for the past couple years as I started looking more into Stephen King. I was just assuming it was a short story with some padding. Movie is nearly two hours, so if it was a short story, that is a LOT of padding. Turns out they left quite a bit on the cutting floor.

The movie stars Ian McKellen as Nazi war criminal Dussander alias Decker. That’s right, he played a Nazi 2 years before playing a Holocaust Survivor in X-Men. What do we call that fellow X Men actor, Patrick Stewart?

The other prot-. . . the other main character of this movie is a high school kid named Todd. Todd becomes obsessed with the Holocaust and notices that the old man who rides the same bus as him looks a lot like a missing Nazi War Criminal. After going full CSI on him, he assembles a blackmail kit and talks to Decker. Yeah I know that’s his fake name, but it will be easier to type Decker a dozen times than Dusendorf. See, I’ve already forgotten his name and I’m too lazy to scroll up and fact check.

After Todd details to what lengths he went to discover Decker’s real identity, Decker offers him a drink.  Todd then drinks it before revealing that he has it set up that Decker’s identity will be revealed if anything happens to Todd.  Well thank god for all parties involved that Decker didn’t poison Todd’s drink.  Lesson from TK, kids, when you accuse someone of being a Nazi, make sure they know fail safes are in place before accepting any food or drink from them.  You’ll live longer. . .maybe.

So apparently Todd just wants to hear gruesome Holocaust stories.  Then Todd has Decker put on a Nazi costume(yes costume, it does not serve to keep your Nazi uniform when trying to disappear) and march in place.

Todd and Decker then participate in different forms of animal cruelty.  Decker finds a cat and decides to try putting it in the oven.  Fortunately, the cat just burns its toebeans a little before scratching the s*** out of Decker and running for dear life.  Todd comes across one of Franz’s Nazi pigeons from The Producers.
And crushes it with a Basketball.  We think.  The bird could not fly due to too much saluting, and then Todd makes a smashing motion with the Basketball, but he then immediately shoots the ball at a basket and misses the basket so maybe he missed the bird?

Yeah, probably not.  We’ll go with Nazi Pigeon so we all feel better.

Todd is starting to fail fail his classes when he was previously on the way to being Valedictorian.  Decker then intervenes, pretending to be Todd’s grandfather, and manages to come up with a story of Todd’s parents causing a bad environment at home due to alcohol or something.  Ross from Friends is Todd’s guidance counselor and buys the sob story and sets it up that if Todd can get his grades back to A’s, then they can waive the failing grades.

Todd is pissed that he now has to study, but after he gets his grades back up, he decides to kill the old man.  The old man on the other hand details out how he is reverse blackmailing Todd with a written statement in a safe deposit box to be opened upon his death.

Then Decker has a heart attack and nearly dies while attempting to kill a homeless man in his kitchen.  He calls Todd to come over and asks him to help clean up the mess so they can call an ambulance. Decker tricks Todd into going into the basement where the homeless man is slightly more sturdy than a knife to the back and a fall down the stairs.  Not sturdy enough to withstand several shovel blows to the head, though.

Todd does a once over to clean up most of the obvious blood and calls the ambulance.  After Decker is in the hospital, Todd does a more thorough clean up, even hitting the spot on the other side of the phone that his dad would have noticed if he had decided to enter the kitchen and investigate the phone for no reason.  Oh and Todd buries the body in the basement.

At the hospital, Decker is sharing a hospital room with a Holocaust survivor.  Don’t even know that the odds are on that, but sadly we are not given the old man battle we saw in Family Guy.  He just calls the police and they work out who Decker is.

The FBI questions Todd and Todd manages to lie his pants off.  That is until Ross figures out that Decker is not Todd’s grandfather.  Todd has already graduated Valedictorian by this point, but Ross is mad and won’t let it go.  So he shows up on Todd’s doorstop to talk to Todd’s parents.  Todd on the other hand threatens to accuse Ross of being a child molester and Ross backs down.

Decker commits suicide via air bubble in the IV.  Todd is a monster. The end.

In the short story(that I haven’t read yet), apparently Todd and Decker both went on killing sprees of the homeless.  Neither knowing what the other was doing.  Ross again found out about Todd’s activities, but instead of bowing out at false accusations, Todd kills him and then goes on a shooting spree before getting killed by the police.

So I guess I can’t really fault Stephen King for the depressing endings, the people who make his movies tend to change the ending for the depressing and hopeless.

Tomorrow: Speaking of ending changes for the more depressing. . .

King’s Halloween: Secret Window (2004)

Tonight: Secret Window (2004)

 So my sister bought me the book for this movie about two years ago for Christmas when I started REALLY getting into Stephen King.

I did not read it. I was busy with The Stand and IT and the Tower. Although the Tower likely has several Secret Windows and Secret Gardens, it is not on one of the levels I concerned myself with at the time.

So I selected this movie because it was continuing the theme of Author Insert stories. Interestingly enough, Timothy Hutton from the Dark Half also plays a part in this movie.

He. . . uh, loses this time around.

Johnny Depp plays a writer named Mort who catches his wife cheating on him and now he takes long naps in his cabin on the lake while trying to write his next great novel.

Mort is roused from his nap by the Rat King himself, John Turturro. He skips the song and dance, both literally and figuratively, and accuses Mort of stealing his story, “Sowing Season.”

Mort wrote a story called “Secret Window.” Interesting note is that in the book, the titles are slightly swapped. Which makes sense that Mort would get the better title. Sowing Season was probably being held onto for a Children of the Corn sequel.

John Turturro gets more threatening as the movie goes on. He implies violence might come due if proof or reparations are not brought forth, and then he kills the dog.

Yeah, the dog dies. Sorry. In the book it was a cat.

Mort decides to hire a body guard. Which results in his wife’s house getting burned down. Then the body guard gets killed along with a local guy who happened to see Mort and John Turturro together.

Mort finds the bodies and freaks out. He turns and sees a squirrel in a tree staring him down. Did the squirrel do it? Is the squirrel working for John Turturro?


As things continue to spiral and Mort has to start covering up murders he didn’t commit, he begins to talk to himself.

And we learn he has been doing this the whole movie.

Yes, Mort is the RAT KING!- no I mean, John Turturro, by which I mean Shooter.

Once Mort comes to grips with this, he decides to steer into the curve, murder his wife and her lover(Tim Hutton) and bury them in the backyard. He then plants corn which . . . covers up murder?

Was this established? The only reason I know this is because I looked up the differences between the book and the movie and this is how the ending is described.

It is an interesting movie, basically taking “The Dark Half” and instead of making it a supernatural event, it’s just the writer going crazy and killing people. Revealing that the only person the author was plagiarizing was himself!

Tomorrow: So continuing the theme of King putting himself in his own stories, now we explore Stephen King’s fear of befriending a NAZI! . . . okay, Secret Window and Apt Pupil are on the same disc and I’m just too lazy to swap out the disc.

King’s Halloween: The Dark Half (1993)

Tonight: The Dark Half (1993)

So this is an interesting one for me. I’ve seen the ending for this movie a few times. Never really had a context for it, just noted how similar it was to another movie ending.

I saw a scene with the Thad Beaumont and George Stark having their final showdown and George Stark getting torn apart by birds. Reminded me a LOT of the ending of The Crow: City of Angels where the Crow sends a storm of crows against the Judah Earl and he gets torn apart. The difference being in The Crow, they just used cgi to sort of warp him out of existence. This being a George C. Romero film, you actually see the birds tear off bits of flesh and bone until he is gone.

Now that you know the end, lets recap how we get there. It will be like one of those classy art films told in reverse order.

So Thad Beaumont apparently had a tumor when he was a kid that got cut out and buried. It got better. 23 years later. Thad Beaumont is a successful writer of crime novels, written under the pseudonym of George Stark. He builds the persona of George Stark as a writer who was in gangs and spent time in jail for murder, etc.

Thad gets tired of murder writing and decides to “kill off” George Stark(specifically after someone figures out his true identity and tries to blackmail him). Well, after taking pictures of Stark’s “burial,” George Stark pulls a Lady Stoneheart and pops out of the grave.

George Stark then goes on a murder spree wearing Thad’s face. Because he looks like Thad and has his fingerprints and DNA and such. So it brings Sheriff Yondu around to Thad’s doorstep accusing him of murder and offering Chocolate Covered Pretzels.

What follows is everyone trying to come to terms with the supernatural as the body count racks up.

Finally we get to the epic showdown between George and Thad making heavy use of sunglasses and hats to avoid too much use of crappy split screen. I mean they don’t have the HIGH CLASS technology that we have now with Gemini Man.

So apparently it ends with them having sort of a . . . write off? Thad starts writing the novel and then tries to out man George Stark by forcing him to come to grips with his inability to write. But George actually starts writing and stealing the lifeforce from Thad.

I really wonder if this is sort of how Richard Bachman was finally killed off.

Realizing his plan is about to fail, Thad decides to beat the crap out of George. But of course, George is a murderer. Sadly Thad doesn’t keep any pig statues around, so he has to stab George with a pencil and George falls down “dead.”

Then the bird scene I alluded to earlier arrives just in time to take George away after he does the “killer pops up for one last try.” We even get Sheriff E.Z. Ponder (look it up) to arrive and see the final demise of George Stark so Thad isn’t stuck with all the murders.

All in all, a pretty good movie. I recommend it, especially since this seems to be on of King’s lesser talked about movies.

Tomorrow: Well, we’ve explored King’s fear of getting killed by his fans, we’ve explored King’s fear of getting killed by Richard Bachman, now lets explore King’s fear of getting killed by the guy he plagiarized.

King’s Halloween: Children of the Corn (2009)

Tonight: Children of the Corn (2009)


So I’ve never read the short story, never seen the original and for the longest time, I had Children of the Corn mixed up with Village of the Damned. Dunno, just assumed the children had creepy eyes and hair and assumed it’s what the Simpsons was referencing.


Needless to say I was wrong. So I had to do a little research and it turns out this is closer to the original short story than the original movie.

When I learned this was a SyFy movie, I figured this would be a really toned down movie life the other made for tv movies.

Nope, this is the Uncut and Uncensored version. We get BRUTAL death scenes and a full on sex scene IN FRONT OF CHILDREN!

So the story opens with the children of Gatlin deciding to kill everyone over 19. An odd cutoff date, but whatever. They sign this agreement by killing a pig.

We then cut to 12 years later. Burt and his wife, Vicky, are driving to California to try their hand at a second honeymoon. Burt is TRYING to be cheerful, but Vicky apparently has no room for cheer and keeps yelling at him for everything.

Honestly, most of this movie is pretty good, but DAMN I am sick of Vicky. Every chance she gets she rails on Burt about being a soldier in Vietnam.

When a bloody child runs into the road, Burt is too busy arguing with Vicky and ends up running the kid over. And it is a GOOD hit, complete with multiple shots and good sound effects.

Apparently somebody didn’t tell the director this was going to air on SyFy.

Vicky will NOT stop yelling at Burt about how he ran the kid down and how he’s going to jail. Burt gives her the most satisfying slap to shut her up for a second. I don’t promote violence against women, but damn. Haven’t been so happy about a slap since Game of Thrones.

So Burt finds out the boy’s throat had been cut long before he ran him down, so they take the body into Gatlin to try and report the murder. They find no one, and apparently keep conveniently missing the dead bodies lying everywhere.

Burt investigates the one place that appears to have updated its sign in the past 12 years. While in there, the Children surround the car Vicky is in and wreck it with farm tools.

When she is finally killed, I am right there with the Children praising God/He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

Burt runs out just in time to see Malachi blow his car up. Supposedly with Vicky still in it.

Burt then gets to answer the question: how many 5 year olds could you take in a fight? Well, the answer is about 2. The rest of the children he beats up are mostly in their teens.

Burt manages to run around in the corn field most of the day and slips into Vietnam flashbacks and kills more kids in the process. As night falls, all the children abandon the corn. They go back to their tent and have dinner, and have a show of two of the older children having sex. With full nudity.

1. SyFy Channel movie, 2. IN FRONT OF CHILDREN!

I just hope they are the ones over 18 and under 19.

Burt on the otherhand finds Vicky’s dead body splayed out on a cross in the middle of the corn and then some unknown force kills him

The next day, Isaac tells the children that the age of favor has been lowered to 18 and ends up sending everyone who is now over 18 to their death in the corn. Kinda sucks, can’t grandfather the older ones in due to change in law? Oh well. Malachi ends up walking in and his wife Ruth briefly imagines burning down the corn, but that’s the end.

The movie is actually pretty good. All the child actors give pretty decent performances, but they DESPERATELY needed to rewrite or recast Vicky. She was just unbearable. I’ve enjoyed the actress in other things, but she is just garbage here.

So I recommend it, save for Vicky. I actually expected a lot worse considering people say it is terrible and is very difficult to find. But honestly it works.

Tomorrow: Well, the remakes are over, now I guess I can get into a movie that will likely never be remade. Simply because the original is too good. Although it might love the company. . .

King’s Halloween: ‘Salem’s Lot (2004)

Tonight: ‘Salem’s Lot (2004)

This TV miniseries inspired my first attempt at entering the realm of Stephen King.  I saw trailers for an upcoming miniseries on TNT called “Salem’s Lot.”  I knew absolutely nothing about it, but it looked neat and had a cool name.  For some reason I never watched it.  Just one of those things that came and went without me actually seeing it.

I was still intrigued by the title, so when I saw a book at my local grocery store that was a three in one hardcover of Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, and The Shining.  Due to my need to do things in order, I decided to read Carrie first.  I thought it was okay, and then I moved on to the reason I ACTUALLY bought the book.

I got about 30-40 pages in and BOOM find several pages missing.  How crappy is that?!?  Then, the final nail in the coffin was that I found out the book was about VAMPIRES!  At this point, I was very much against vampires.  I was actually not aware that Stephen King did normal monsters at the time.  I later became equally surprised he did a werewolf story.  But that is for another time.

So I put ‘Salem’s Lot out of my mind for almost a decade and a half.  Then the Tower. . .

I ended up reading ‘Salem’s Lot last year in my effort to read the Dark Tower series.  I absolutely loved it.  Never judge a book by its cover, but I think a title might be well worth investigating.  Probably why I am in no hurry to read Tommyknockers.

So on to the actual mini-series.  The casting director’s budget had to be EXTERMELY lopsided.  You have PHENOMENAL actors Like Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, and James Cromwell, and even some lower level, but still very enjoyable actors like Rob Lowe and Captain Holt.  Then you have a bunch of actors there just to stand on the right spot and say the line.

Honestly, I like this series. . .until they made one crucial change, and I hated them for it.  James Cromwell is an AMAZING choice for Father Callahan.  For anyone who has read the Dark Tower series, you know that Father Callahan is a badass, yes in the book he has a fall from grace due to his alcoholism and loss of faith, but his road to redemption is full on vampire hunter.

Instead, they turn Father Callahan into an outright villain.  Loss of faith is one thing, but he murders people.  He works for Barlow.  He leads the vampire horde after Barlow is killed.  Then to top it off he gives a crappy “DAMN YOU TO HELL!” speech at the end.  Before getting snuffed out with a pillow.  Screw you movie.  I will concede that Wolves of the Calla was released only about half a year before the mini series came out, but I really really don’t care for it.

The only change that I actually really enjoyed was the death of the Doctor.  In the book, he goes down a set of weakened stairs and falls onto a bed of spikes.  In this he falls onto a running buzzsaw.  Which is just brutal and at the same time awesome!

The Vampires were okay in this movie.  Really, all they did was give them pale makeup and ghostly white eyes.  It works for the most part, but I have seen some clips of the original ‘Salem’s Lot and the effects there look more otherworldly.

I would say it isn’t bad, definitely worth a watch.

Tomorrow: Lets go from one mini series that came out when I was a kid to another, with The Shining.