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Umney's Last Case: I'm not a big fan of Stephen King: that would be my
wife. But I've read enough of his shorter fiction to have a feel for
his work, and I really enjoyed this segment; it worked very well.
William H. Macy was perfectly cast and Jacqueline McKenzie was very
good, as well. Yeah, it's a silly premise, but once you suspend
disbelief, it was very well-crafted. The ending was exactly right: no
real conclusion, just the realization by both principles that the
tables had turned. If only they had done The Stand, or Firestarter as
well as this. If I have a quibble, it would be with some of Mrs.
Landry's actions, which seemed a bit weird even for a King story.
Overall, this is a 9 out of 10.
The End of the Whole Mess: As for the second story of the second evening, this was not as engaging, but it still worked fairly well. I liked the idea of doing it as a documentary, but this also meant that some time that could have been used in developing the ideas in it was wasted on showing Ron Livingston's character, Howie, telling the story. I'm sure that this is how King wrote it (I've not read the story), but I think they could have just set it up and run with it, cutting back to seeing Howie talking maybe half as much as they did. But this is a small complaint. The story isn't as creative as the first one of the evening, but it worked well, as far as it went. There are some internal inconsistencies as well, which made it harder to like it. Perhaps the fact that it was grimmer than the first one made it easier to be critical of it. I'll give this a 7 out of 10.
Of all people not to have a horror anthology series, why did it take so long to give one to Stephen King ? Through the last few years there have been good series ie, Outer Limits or Poltergeist and bad anthologies ie, Masters of Horror, and a few others that I can't remember the names to. Nightmares and Dreamscapes is a refreshing new attack on the genre. We all know Stephen King has had a lot of ups and downs but so far this one has plenty of steam! William Hurt did a fantastic job with almost no dialogue showing true talent as an actor! The vengeful army of toy soldiers was handled beautifully with a mix of CGI and actors in costume. The second story also grabbed you and didn't let go with its Gothic charm. Although it would have been much more suspenseful without the commercials. If you didn't catch it on the first run, catch it on a rerun. This makes me forgive Stephen King for his last TV creation Desperation. I look forward to the others!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With its companion piece MASTERS OF HORROR, NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES
can only be seen as the absolute nadir of the genre that began so
auspiciously with THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE OUTER LIMITS.
Of course, part of the problem is that it does nothing to be of any interest to a comparatively adult audience, instead aiming at TEN-YEAR-OLDS, who are only able to count body-bags, and scarcely that. And so grossness is king, and King is grossness.
Stephen King is simply illiterate in general he has the aptitude for storytelling of Bart Simpson. Since he cannot read his sole inspiration is the movies.
True, the cinema is not such a bad place to start, since it has generally escaped the onslaught of "Realism". But these films are only the rumor, not the thing, and if you want to WRITE, you have to dig deeper.
Of course, only PICKMAN had monsters as close acquaintances. But even so, it should be clear to any undergraduate that vampires are not Dracula and Lugosi.
At least AUTOPSY ROOM FOUR is a clear indication of what is wrong. One can almost imagine this pathetic dolt sitting as his desk trying to come up with something SCARY.
Not, mind you, trying to describe accurately the horror of the system of which he is an integral part, making the stupid stupider, but trying to come up with a scary story for his little nephew. Suppose, you were paralyzed, and people thought you were dead and started to cut you open like they do at those autopsy things! Wouldn't that be gross? And that, boys and girls, is the story.
What about characterization? Oh yes, he's one of these suits, who never really appreciated life, you know, and now it's too late, right? And he's shouting well, they can't actually hear him, you know he's saying that he's going to sue the hospital, but he's not such a big shot anymore, you see, lying there (or is it laying, I can never remember) and all. And he's thinking: Oh no please, please don't cut me and this is terrible, lying (or laying) like that now, wouldn't that be a great story? You know I read somewhere that a snake bite can do that, I think it was that great medical authority Agatha Christie. What was the name of that snake again, oh yeah, a BOOMSLANG has quite a ring to it, doesn't it.
Let's make it a PERUVIAN BOOMSLANG! Sure, Steve, that's great except that BOOMSLANG is Afrikaans, you moron! But how can you really tell that the target audience is children, and not simply mental defects? It's easy: There's no sex.
Well, there is, but it's the kind glimpsed through a crack in the door to our parent's bedroom. Modern filmmakers are really big on the erotic aspects of the genre, the monster, the female victim, the chase.
But unlike UNIVERSAL and LEWTON they have no idea what's going on. All that's really left is the giggling outside the SM club and the Fascist credo that people with sexual preferences are intrinsically evil.
In spite of a certain discrepancy in size, King Kong knew exactly what to do with Fay Wray. Freddy Krueger can only kill her.
And since there's no real titillation in that, he has to torture her first not in any way that might excite her, you understand, since that would upset our puritan sentiments. And so, horror and romanticism become simply unpleasantness and the grooming of psychopaths.
Our hero, you see, is a rubber fetishist, and can only get a boner if someone touches him you know down there with you know rubber gloves (giggle). And that's what they use in autopsies, and that's how they discover that he is, in fact, you know.
Obviously, this is the author at the height of his inspirational powers. Too bad, they cut it out, since it might have upset the FIVE-YEAR-OLDS watching the show!
So far Nightmares and Dreamscapes has been erratic and disappointing.
The first segment, directed by Brian Henson, may have offered little in
the way of groundbreaking storytelling or real scares, but at least it
was well-directed, suspenseful, and visually interesting, with solid
acting by William Hurt and very impressive special effects for a
However, the second story in the series was just dreadful, and not in the good way. The screenplay is bad, requiring the shallow, unlikable protagonists to act illogically in order to move the plot, and having characters ramble on endlessly for the purposes of clunky, unnecessary exposition. The acting is overdone and unconvincing, and I felt far more empathy for a cold-blooded killer in the first story than for the newlywed couple in the second. The director used a million tricks to try to make the narrative spooky, but with the amateurish acting and writing, the end result looks like a freshman-year film school project, with camera moves for their own sake, and little in the way of plot or tension.
If the rest of the series continues like this, I'll be sorely let down. I look forward to William H. Macy's installment, and hope he gets a decent director and screenwriter for his segment. So far the quality is far too inconsistent to predict either way.
Stephen King is a prolific and excellent writer but quite frequently he
tends to use far more words than are really necessary. I found TNT's
first two "Nightmares and Dreamscapes" episodes to accurately reflect
Mr. King, at least in the too many words area. OK, there certainly
weren't too many words in Combat, but I found myself falling into an
"enough already stupor" around minute 35. I certainly hope Karen Black
did not watch this episode or she will spend another twenty years
avoiding her bathroom.
"Crouch End" put us into a quaint village, then a ratty warehouse district, then a largish downtown. I will admit to not having read Mr. King's story, but the shooting locations and the script (and frankly the acting)left me generally uninterested in this "little bit of everything" production.
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