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The Quiet Earth (1985)
Had Potential, But Failed
THIS DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS!!! This story is about a man who wakes up and finds himself all alone on the Earth, at least for a few days until he meets a young woman.
The first part of the film was very interesting and kept my attention held just to see what new adventures Zac (the main character) would get into each day and night. This character study allowed me to compare what I may do in such a hypothetical situation.
Later, Zac discovers the female (Joanne) and realizes he is not the only person left on Earth. This had the potential to be quite an "Adam & Eve"-type beginning much like the old Twilight Zone episode "Probe 7, Over & Out." In a way it was, if you consider the third character introduced as a sort of Serpent figure. I did not.
Api (the third character)is portrayed at first as a violent, murderer and then later as a sacrificial, loyal friend who'd never betray his friends. I was happy when Zac discovered Joanne. Not so much after Api came into the fold.
The unique, existential "love story" that could've unfolded between Zac and Joanne is interrupted and instead we get sort of a low budget cuckold-type flick. Joanne seemed to have issues with Zac sexually, but no problem hopping in the sack with the much less likable character, Api. The character is so unlikable, that I hoped for Api's demise. Yet, it is Zac who met his demise and right after Joanne (potential Eve, who became Lilith) quickly consummated what should've been her love for Zac with Api.
I found the film could've been a great existential, love story, but it took a quick turn for the worst. Taking a page out of Sartre's "No Exit" and the Twilight Zone, this one fell flat. One redeeming quality was the final scene where Zac ends up on a beautiful earth? (or some planet) alone again, without the interference of his female friend and her bull.
Nausea? Yes, but not necessarily the existential kind.
Four stars, and I'm being generous for the good first part and ending scene.
Salem's Lot (1979)
There is something that makes a great horror film other than special effects and gore. It's called atmosphere. Many of the legendary horror films had this element. Salem's Lot is definitely one of them! Music build-up, subtlety, and the great acting of David Soul and James Mason make this mini-series one of the greatest horror flicks of the 70s (and beyond).
Scenes that gave me nightmares as a child such as the Glick boys floating up to the windows and scratching on it; Mike Ryerson in the graveyard and sitting in the rocking chair; Ben Mears describing his childhood memory of the Marsten House to the "teacher"; the delivery of Barlow's crate ... etc..etc. All these scenes were built on atmosphere.
Anyone can make a film to shocks and grosses people out, but only the great ones know how to create memorable scenes and give millions of kids nightmares just on suspense and atmosphere all.
Salem's Lot has what it takes. Tobe Hooper did a fantastic job on this film and it is one of my favorites of all-time.
The Shining (1997)
Kubrick topples King
First things first. Stephen King wrote "The Shining" in a novel and it was very good. We know that King also wrote the screenplay for this miniseries so it is more "faithful" to the book. So what?
That doesn't automatically mean that a film that uses almost all elements of the book is going to be just as good. And in this case,it isn't.
I must, right off the bat, assure you that I am a Kubrick fan. I am also a King fan and I love some of his book adapted to film--"Salem's Lot", "Christine", and "Pet Semetary"--so I consider myself fair across the board.
Although the Kubrick adaption is not "true" to the book, it is a Kubrick film and it is a superior translation of the novel in true Kubrickean form. Kubrick's "The Shining" is epic horror, this version is a TV miniseries and you can tell it. The TV miniseries adaption of a "Salem's Lot" was a lot more effective.
LET US BREAK IT DOWN:
THE OVERLOOK HOTEL- The film version exteriors were sharp, angled and creepy. The interiors were perfect for the isolated atmosphere of the film. The new hotel looked more period-piece (closer to the book) and wasn't as sinister. It was elegant, no doubt, but the movie version was a lot more frightening.
Verdict: The movie version Overlook (Timberline Lodge)
JACK TORRENCE- Jack Nicholson's portrayal of a family man isn't convincing, but his rendition of a psychopath is. The intensity and terror of his performance makes up for his lack of empathy.
The new Jack was more convincing as a "family man"--as one critic put it--a "sitcom Dad". And that's what he portrayed in this series--a sitcom horror. Hey, is that a new genre?
Verdict: Nicholson-- hands down.
WENDY- This is like comparing apples to oranges. I have to admit that Shelley Duvall's whimpering, over-protective, completely weak character was annoying. But, then again, with all the things she went through added to her nutcase husband (even before the Overlook) and her weirdo kid, it is no wonder she was a complete basket case. Duvall's performance was good, but she was too much of a wimp. She could've been a little stronger.
DeMornay is a lot sexier than Duvall which counts for something.
However, after watching Duvall's sappy over-protectiveness and shaking my head, DeMornay's over-protective character made me nauseous to the point that, if she wasn't so hot, I'd have rooted on for the ghosts. She was stronger than Duvall, but too much in the role of her complete smothering of that spoiled brat. DeMornay (as much as I admire her) falls short in this role.
Verdict: Duvall's sappy Wendy -- by default.
DANNY- I never thought I could dislike a kid in a film more than Danny Lloyd's character in the movie, but I was wrong. Since then there have been numerous children characters I have disdained, but Courtland Mead's sniveling, pouting squealer role takes the cake. Compared to Mead, I actually LOVE Danny Lloyd. This little suck-up made me want to vomit. I found myself wishing that little fish-faced, buck-toothed slobber-knocker would fall while running away and accidently slip into a deep hole somewhere never to be seen again--or maybe one of those silly hedge animals would eat him.
Verdict: Danny Lloyd--now I am relieved everytime I watch the movie and see his little gap-toothed face.
"TONY"- Ok. I hated the wagging finger and the groveling child voice in the movie. Hated it! I thought to myself "this is silly and nothing could be worse!" I was wrong...again. In this version (again closer to the film) Tony is an apparition which favors a floating nerd resembling Harry Potter. Utter crap! It supposed to an older version of Danny. Um...no.
Verdict: Wagging finger (unfortunately).
THE "GHOSTS"- Man, those formal, sophisticated spirits of the original film were Satanically creepy and detached from any sort of humanity. This version's spirits are like Snidley Whiplash and a cartoony Herrmann Goering. Whereas the ghosts of the original were viciously creepy these spirits look weird and gay. Also, the twins of the film were absent in this series.
Verdict: The movie spirits by a landslide.
THE WEAPON- Ok...Nicholson with an axe vs. A tv comedy actor with a croquet mallet. Hmmm...Ok I wouldn't want to be hit with a mallet of course, but a friggin' AXE? With Nicholson behind it?
Verdict: Guess? "Heeere's Johnny!"
HEDGES- The maze in the film was mysterious and rather intimidating. It played a major part in the film's ending and is still a part of a great cinematographic usage of camera work. The hedge animals were cheesy and cartoony.
Verdict: The intimidating hedge maze by a mile.
LADY IN THE BATH- This is one category where I thought the miniseries did out do the film. The decomposed woman, her little nursery rhyme and her grabbing of Danny was the best part of the miniseries and was much scarier than the original's old laughing hag.
Verdict: The miniseries dead lady--"Here a boy...there a boy"... Jesus creepers!
MUSIC- The miniseries music was awesome no doubt, but Kubrick's usage of the scores of Ligeti, Bartok and Penderecki are bar-none superior.
Verdict: The atmospheric avant-garde of Kubrick's film.
DIALOGUE- Jack's extended conversations. The one-liners. The execution of delivery were all superb. The dialogue of the miniseries went from good to completely cheesy and redundant.
Verdict: Landslide-- the film.
THE ENDING- I was disappointed at the ending of the film until I saw Jack's face in the photo and it lifted my curiousity even at the finale. The ending of the miniseries was an overblown, emotional attempt at reconciliation and the boiler room contest was pure tripe. Silly, cheesy, completely unrealistic--shall I continue?
Verdict: A pretty good ending in the film resorts to complete garbage in the miniseries.
OVERALL-- The Shining movie outscores the miniseries in 11 of the 12 above named categories-- this is a whitewash. Kubrick defeats King at his own story/movie. Although, King's book would probably be better than a Kubrick novel. Heh.