STEPHEN KING’S ‘PET SEMATARY.’ (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

stephen-king-in-a-cameo-in-the-movie-version-of-pet-cemetery

PET SEMATARY. (1989) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. SCREENPLAY BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MARY LAMBERT. STARRING DALE MIDKIFF, DENISE CROSBY, MIKO HUGHES, BLAZE BERDAHL AND FRED GWYNNE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Sometimes dead is better…

With a re-make of this film in cinemas fairly soon, I thought it might be a good time to re-visit it. It’s based on one of horror maestro Stephen King’s best books, and I hope I’m not alone in thinking this. It’d be right up there with THE SHINING, a tale of madness and ghostly visitations set in an isolated hotel that’s closed to the public in the winter, and SALEM’S LOT, possibly the best vampire novel of modern times. (Yes, yes, I’m aware of the works of Pablo Neruda, by which I mean Anne Rice…!)

CARRIE, the maestro’s first book, was also a terrific read and made a great film, starring Sissy Spacek as the telekinetic high school outsider who wreaks a terrible revenge on the teenagers who’ve made her life a misery, and who could blame her? They were proper little bitches to her, lol. They had it coming.

There are loads of other brilliant Stephen King books, short stories and novellas that were made into films too, like MISERY, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, THE LANGOLIERS, BAG OF BONES (a personal favourite starring the swoonsome pairing of Pierce 007 Brosnan and Melissa George from Antipodean soap opera HOME AND AWAY), THE DARK HALF, THINNER, CUJO, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, IT, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, STAND BY ME, SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN, THE STAND (which I adored), THE MIST (with the saddest ending of any horror film ever, bar none) and probably a few more which I’ve forgotten. You can remind me if you like!

He’s had a career to be super-proud of, anyway, the King, probably the most commercially successful career of any writer who ever lived, God bless him. If anything ever happens to him, and we hope nothing will (I’m personally hoping he might be immortal!), he’ll be leaving behind millions of devastated fans, that’s for sure. Yes, we have plenty of talented horror scribes writing away today, and that’s great, but there can never be another Stephen King.

Anyway, PET SEMATARY is the story of a small family from Chicago who move to a lovely big house in a small American town in Maine. The Dad, Louis Creed, is going to work as the town’s doctor. His wife Rachel is strangely uptight, but then she had a really rough childhood.

She still keeps in touch with her parents, whom she seems to love, but her childhood experiences with her sick sister Zelda were truly the stuff of nightmares. It’s jolly decent of her to still maintain a relationship with her parents after the way they left her alone, at her age, with the dying girl. It was irresponsible of them at best, and cruel beyond belief at worst.

Louis and Rachel have two children, Ellie and Gage. Ellie is a little girl who’s got a bit of a ‘shining’ thing going on, or even a ‘shinning,’ if you’re a fan of THE SIMPSONS. She has disturbing, distressing dreams that accurately predict the future, although her parents don’t take her seriously at first. There’s also the aforementioned Gage, their adorable little baby son, and a cat rather coolly called Winston Churchill. That’s the Creed family, anyway.

Now, they don’t seem to realise that they’ve purchased a property that has no fencing around it and that gives on to the most dangerous road in the whole of the Western hemisphere. Trucks and lorries tear up and down this road day and night, and nearly the whole of the town’s population of cats and dogs has ended up as roadkill beneath the wheels of these diesel-guzzling monsters.

The Creeds’ new neighbour, the lovely old widower Judd Crandall, leads them down a worn woodland path on their property to a clearing known as the ‘Pet Sematary.’ It’s a place of burial for all the beloved pets of the town’s children.

I presume they were all killed prematurely trying to cross that damned road, lol. Anyway, it’s at least handy to know that there’s a place to bury old Church the kitty if he ever decides to get to the root of the old joke, why did the chicken cross the road…? It’s meant to be a place of peace and rest but it’s a wee bit creepy too.

Things get much creepier when Church in fact does get run over while Rachel, Ellie and Gage are away at Rachel’s parents for Thanksgiving, leaving Louis in charge of the house. Well, that’s what you get for leaving a man to hold the fort. Remember that auld fella from FATHER TED who tried to make a cup of tea and he ended up breaking his leg? That’s the kind of thing you’re up against.

Old Judd Crandall decides that this is the time to let a stunned Louis into a secret he’s known about for years, a secret about the strange little place in the woods the kids call the ‘Pet Sematary.’ It’s the original ‘Indian burial ground’ horror story. 

What happens after Louis becomes privy to the secret of Pet Sematary is so nightmarish, I won’t ruin it for you by dropping spoilers. Suffice it to say that Louis actually feels he’s in a nightmare from this point onwards, a nightmare from which he can’t wake up.

Stephen King makes his usual cameo appearance as the minister who presides over the funeral of the poor miserable Missy, and very handsome he looks too, with a full healthy head of thick black hair. What’s your favourite Stephen King cameo? The one in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE where he says to his wife of the cash machine that’s behaving erratically: ‘Honey, the machine just called me an asshole…!’ Yeah, mine too!

The ghastly supernatural appearances of the decidedly dead Victor Pascow seem to make little sense at first but gradually his true purpose becomes all too clear. I love the bit where Louis wakes up in his bed after having a nightmare where he’s following a mutilated Victor through the woods and, when he wakes up, his legs and feet are covered in muck and debris. I love Victor’s dire warnings about how ‘the barrier’ shouldn’t be ‘crossed’ because ‘the ground is sour.’ It’s blood-chilling stuff.

The terrible story of poor old Timmy Baterman is a great addition to the movie also. The film as a whole, like the old cautionary story of ‘The Monkey’s Paw,’ proves without a doubt the truth of the adage: ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ And Judd Crandall (played by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster from THE MUNSTERS) is right too, dead right, when he intones to Louis in sombre tones that ‘Sometimes dead is better.’

The thing is, will Louis take his wise old neighbour’s advice? Louis Creed is young and hot-headed and he still thinks he knows what’s best for his family. He doesn’t respect the old adages, which are there for a reason, to guard us against the urges of our less-than-better natures. He’ll have to learn the hard way so, and learn he must.

Oh and, by the way, before I watched this movie I didn’t realise that the word ‘Sematary’ was a deliberate childish mis-spelling on the part of Stephen King, I thought it was how the Yanks spelled the word. D’oh…!

Do try to watch or re-watch this old gem before you catch the re-make in the cinema next month, just to give you something to compare the newbie to. And always remember to be careful what you wish for, just like poor Louis Creed isn’t careful. And why be careful? Because you just might get it, that’s why…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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STEPHEN KING’S THE STAND. (1994) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

stand nadine stephen king

STEPHEN KING’S THE STAND. (1994) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MICK GARRIS.

STARRING GARY SINISE, MOLLY RINGWALD, JAMEY SHERIDAN, LAURA SAN GIACOMO, RUBY DEE, OSSIE DAVIS, MIGUEL FERRER, CORIN NEMEC, MATT FREWER, ADAM STORKE, RAY WALSTON, BILL FAGERBAKKE, PETER VAN NORDEN, KATHY BATES, ED HARRIS, ROB LOWE, SHAWNEE SMITH, SAM RAIMI AND STEPHEN KING IN HIS TRADITIONAL CAMEO ROLE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘We are dead and this is hell.’

Nadine Cross, on the occasion of her ‘honeymoon’ with Randall Flagg.

I love a nice long Stephen King mini-series watched in film-format, ie, all at once, and this is probably his longest ever mini-series. It’s a whopping six hours long, making it twice as long as SALEM’S LOT or THE LANGOLIERS, so I felt like I was getting terrific value for money with it.

My viewing of it happily coincided with my cable TV’s deciding to go on the blink for the weekend, so that I had a working telly but no TV programmes. THE STAND kept my mind somewhat off missing STRICTLY COME DANCING and THE X FACTOR live Saturday night show. I said somewhat, lol. Nothing could keep my mind off that sad, sad loss entirely…!

We’ve got to synopsise an epic six hours into a few short sentences, so here goes. We’ll try to keep it as succinct as possible. There are four ninety-minute sections, entitled THE PLAGUE, THE DREAMS, THE BETRAYAL and finally THE STAND, so if you don’t have six hours to spare all at once you can just watch a section at a time.

First of all, we’re dealing with an American Apocalypse here, people. A terrible plague, ironically known as ‘the superflu’ because you start off by coughing and sniffling, is accidentally released from a top-security government containment facility in a little town called Arnette in East Texas.

The plague decimates everyone in America who comes in contact with it. Well, not quite everyone. A small number of people are, for some reason, immune to it. These are the lucky people who’ll eventually be called upon to re-populate the Earth, heh-heh-heh.

The United States gummint tries to isolate them and study them, but it’s not long before the doctors and the gummint officials in the white spacesuits are dead of the plague too, leaving the survivors free to go wherever they damn well please.

The survivors, of whom more exact details in a bit, are all having the same dream, a dream that tells them to go to Nebraska and find an elderly black woman called Mother Abagail Freemantle, who sits on the porch of her little country house playing her guitar and waiting for the ‘chosen ones,’ ie, the survivors, to come to her.

The survivors all make their way to Mother Abagail, who tells them that their real pilgrimage is only just beginning. Can you imagine the groan that Homer Simpson would let out to hear that his hard work was not ending but merely starting? Lol.

Yep, now the survivors have got to travel to Boulder, Colorado, from where they’ll presumably put down roots and from which they’ll make the titular ‘stand’ against the real evil, the Devil’s emissary on Earth, a chap called Randall Flagg.

Flagg’s base is Las Vegas, ironically the Mecca for those who want to spend their filthy lucre on fancy whores and roulette, and any survivors not called by Mother Abagail have made their way to Flagg to join his unholy army of the night .

Randall Flagg is an hilariously brilliant villain. With his long greying locks and his undoubtedly impressive supernatural powers, he looks like how Scottish comedian Billy Connolly might look if he were a country-and-western singer in cowboy boots and a denim jacket.

He has the ability to shapeshift into a crow or a demon at will (the demon make-up is great, by the way), and his real strength lies in knowing the weaknesses and secret desires of his enemies, even better than they know them themselves.

If Flagg and his minions (former convict Lloyd Henreid, escaped mental patient Trashcan; madcap and immensely volatile slut Julie Lawry, it’s a good group!) ever get to rule the world, it’ll end up being one big crap-table and a monument to the unholy Mammon. Four of Mother Abagail’s disciples set out from Boulder, Colorado to make their final ‘stand’ against the evil of Randall Flagg.

They are Stuart Redman, the only surviving occupant of the town of Arnette in East Texas; Larry Underwood, a singer with huge gambling debts whose career was just about to take off when the plague took hold (that is some bitchin’ luck, isn’t it? On the one hand, his singing career is dead in the water but, on the plus side, his debts are all automatically wiped out because his creditors are all dead of the plague!); a sweet and deeply patriotic retired college professor called Glen Bateman (and his mutt, Kojak!) and a lovely cuddly fella in a checked shirt and jeans called Ralph Brentner.

Stuart is a regular Joe Soap who finds his inner ‘leader’ when the plague hits town. The survivors look to Stuart to lead them out of the mess they’re in and, by golly, he gives it his best shot, when he’s not knocking up Molly Ringwald’s wide-mouthed Frannie, another survivor, that is, and stealing her away from the man who’s loved her his whole life, one Harold Lauder.

Harold is a touchy character, very sensitive, a poet-nerd suffering from unrequited love of the big-toothed Frannie. Frannie’s defection to Camp Stuart and her subsequent pregnancy wounds Harold deeply and makes him an ideal target for Randall Flagg, who sends his own fancy whore-wife Nadine Cross to seduce Harold and bring him over to the Dark Side.

Nadine, who’s also had relations with Larry Underwood but fails to convert him to Flagg’s evil cause because Larry’s now married to and in love with fellow survivor Lucy, is possibly the most interesting character in the movie next to Flagg himself.

She’s played by Laura San Giacomo (PRETTY WOMAN, SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE), an extraordinarily beautiful woman whom I personally could look at and listen to all day, she’s so striking-looking.

When she’s brutally raped by a demonic Flagg on their so-called ‘wedding night,’ a travesty of a genuinely lovely and happy wedding night, she loses her mind altogether, proving that she’s not entirely evil and not wholly on board with Flagg’s evil plans for world domination.

The rape scene and its disturbing aftermath, when we see how traumatised Nadine is and how white her hair has become as a result of it, is really quite shocking. On the plus side, however, Nadine’s lovely boobies stand straight up in their Wonderbra when she’s in a lying-down position and they look absolutely marvellous. If they’re fake, which I’m not entirely sure of, then the plastic surgeon has done a most commendable job.

Rob Lowe, an actor I’ve never really cared for, plays a deaf-mute survivor called Nick Andros. Nick Andros is only really interesting from the point of view that he discovers poor ‘retarded’ Tom Cullen, who later turns out to be quite the hero of the piece, living alone in his small town as the sole survivor of the plague.

Nick finds Tom re-arranging the local store mannequins into little tableaux on the village square, through which no traffic ever runs any more. Everyone who used to drive through the now-deserted town is long-dead. It’s really quite creepy, what he’s done with them there mannequins…!

Anyway, I loved THE STAND. It’s six good hours of pure enjoyable entertainment, and Stephen King himself makes his trademark cameo as one of the ‘chosen ones.’ He looks really well in jeans and a jacket and he has quite a few lines and appearances in this one as well.

There’s a good soundtrack that includes songs from ZZ TOP (Sharp-Dressed Man), Crowded House (Don’t Dream It’s Over) and Blue Oyster Cult (Don’t Fear The Reaper, what else?). 

The make-up for the plague victims is positively top-notch and it’s really freaky when the survivors go into the church to clean up the bodies and they see all these hideous corpses sitting silently there. Traditionally, people turn to God when an Apocalyptic event such as the plague occurs, we’re told, and we can well believe it, too.

Kathy Bates has a cameo role as a radio talk-show host whom the Marines have to shut down and Ed Harris (STEPMOM) as an Army Major who can’t stand the heat when the ‘superflu’ looks to be cutting an unstoppable swathe through the rapidly dwindling American populace.

Some of the scenes are really emotional, too. When the survivors are in the town hall of their new home singing the American National Anthem with such pathos, I actually really wanted to stand up and sing right along with them, with my hand on my heart and the tears streaming down my face. I’ve never in my life felt so American, despite the fact that I’m one million per cent Irish, lol. ‘Oh, say can you see…?’ 

I must say that the survivors have a nice cushy number in some ways. Was your pre-plague house a rubbishy crap-shack, or maybe you were paying through the nose to rent some dump that wasn’t big enough to swing a cat in? No problemo. Just take your pick of the fabulous now-empty houses whose owners have all died of the plague, no questions asked. And no pesky mortgages either…!

Tired of your old pre-plague husband or wife? Just get yourself a brand-new one from amongst the survivors and you’re right as rain. This new post-Apocalyptic America has its advantages. Larry Underwood rid himself of his debts and Harold Lauder of his disfiguring acne in this Brave New World of theirs. Every plague-cloud has a silver lining…

I have yet to read the really big long book that inspired this cracking mini-series, believe it or not. I might go and look it out now while I’m still on this major Stephen King buzz. The size of it is so impressive, I have a vague notion that, God and Stephen King forgive my terrible blasphemy, I might have been using it as a doorstop in one of the rooms…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor