Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014) Review

agm1Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014)

Director: Peter Askin

Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang, Cara Buono.

Based on a short story by Stephen King.

UK DVD Release 20th April 2015 from Spirit Entertainment

“She knew nothing.”

Darcy Anderson (Allen) discovers her husband Bob (LaPaglia) has a dark secret that shakes her to the core, bringing into question twenty five years of marriage that from the outside looks blissful. This is the most synopsis that can be given without getting into spoilers. Most of which can be guessed at by the movie poster. However it’s not the “what” that is important, but the “what next”. A Good Marriage begins with what would normally be the climax and builds the tension off the character’s emotions.

A Good Marriage is also a closer relation to King’s more literary and dramatic works, like Dolores Claiborne. In fact it’s almost a sister film to that movie, giving the characters impossible choices and delving into their psyches.

Joan Allen, is, as always, impeccable. Her performance is nuanced, her character Darcy sympathetic and fraying as her life and marriage crumble around her. Anthony LaPaglia’s perky Bob runs counterpoint to his wife, creating a perverse satire of happy domesticity.

agm2Despite all the high points, and they are many and high, A Good Marriage misses the mark by mere inches. It’s very much a domestic drama a la Stephen King, but it’s territory that has been covered many a time before. Gore hounds are also advised to look elsewhere, this simply isn’t that kind of film. Stephen Lang’s character Holt is completely wasted, coming in at the very end for no real reason other than to enact one final scene with Joan Allen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great scene. But had Holt been IN the movie that last scene would have had amazing emotional resonance.

After getting off to a bang A Good Marriage slows during a long middle, the best portion of which is Darcy trying to decide what to do without losing her mind. But It’s still a long slow burn to the ending of which there are three. Just when it should be over, it keeps going. Then just as the penultimate scene ends there is yet more. And each of the three are oddly rushed. The movie also feels small. It feels like a really good movie-of-the-week and it’s no wonder it didn’t really get wide release.

This is also a good thriller that you can recommend to your parents without shame. Whether that’s good or bad depends on you and your parents. As a character study though there is a lot to love and King completionists should enjoy it.

agm3Kudos for: Joan Allen, because Joan Allen.

Final lesson: Don’t leave passive aggressive notes in your wife’s candy stash.

7/10

Children of The Corn 2: The Final Sacrifice. (1993 USA) DVD Review

CotCChildren of The Corn 2: The Final Sacrifice. (1993 USA)

Director: David Price
Starring: Terrance Knox, Paul, Scherrer,
Ryan Bollman, Christie Clark, Ned Romero.

Back in Gatlin Sheriff Blaine (Wallace Merck – Friday 13th 6, Brainstorm) discovers the adults murdered by Isaac Chroner, Malachai and the towns children some three years earlier in the basements of homes and out in the corn fields where ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’ dwells. The townsfolk of neighboring Hemmingford agree to take in the surviving children unaware that ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’ will be rejuvenated and once again command the children to rid the land of adults and those who defile the corn. Mrs. Burke (Marty Terry – Black Rainbow, Cry Wolf) tries to warn the Hemmingford folk that evil is still working through the children, however, she is ignored and the time has come for The Final Sacrifice…

Driving the back roads of Gatlin, Nebraska, assaying reporter John ‘The Ragman’ Garrett (Terence Knox – An Ordinary Killer, Forever) along with his son Danny (Paul Scherrer – Standoff, JAG), go to Gatlin for the story. Their relationship is somewhat tarred and they use a battle of wills which, in turn, provides us with some light hearted banter from the moment we meet them. After nearly having an accident with two other reporters, Wayde McKenzie (Robert C. Treveiler – Carrie 2, Hellraiser 3) and Bobby Knite (Leon Pridgen – Nightmare in Columbia County, Assault at West Point) John tries to find out some information about the Gatlin murders but to no avail. John and Danny continue to Gatlin.

Meanwhile, Wayde and Bobby take a short cut through the corn fields to get some footage for their story when they become lost in the maze of corn. Shortly after, the wind gets up, the sky blackens, something’s not right… Getting out of the van, Wayde proclaims to Bobby, “How the Hell did we get out here..?”.

cotc2Panic soon takes over, Bobby is drawn into the corn fields where he gets his throat slashed by the leaves of the corn. Wayde gets back in the van, a spear of corn drives itself straight through the windshield and is thrust straight into Wayde’s neck. As sudden as the sky blackened….all becomes tranquil again, just like nothing happened.

Interim, we cut to John and Danny, arriving late for the story, they meet Ruth Gordon (Kristy Wagner), the lady who agrees to take in one of the children, Micah (Ryan Bollman – Neverending Story, No Vacancy). Reading Ruth’s T-Shirt promotion, ‘Come Sleep with Me – Bed & Breakfast’ John asks if he and Danny could stay, to which she agrees. After an argument during dinner, Danny goes to wait for the next bus out of town. Whilst waiting, Danny meets Lacey Hellerstat (Christie Clark – Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Days of Our Lives) who informs him the next bus isn’t until next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Micah is out in the cornfield trying to find the other children. ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’ chases Micah and ‘possesses’ him. Mordechai (Ted Travelstead – Rock n’ Roll Frankenstein) and Jedediah (Sean Bridgers – Sweet Home Alabama, Nell) are in the corn waiting for “He Who Walks Behind the Rows to show us the way”. Jedediah is somewhat skeptical. Mordachai recites Isaacs word “A leader shall come from the corn and make us as one”…It’s time…Micah arrives through the corn. He instructs the children to return home and wait for a sign.

John goes to Mrs. Burke’s home to find answers. She tells John “Have you ever seen evil..? It works through the children”, she continues, “Nobody would listen, I showed ’em in Gatlin”. “Showed them what?” John replies. “The drawing’s….by the little children, they knew”. Looking distressed, she remarks “My husband walked out in to a cornfield fifteen years ago….he never came back!” They soon discover a crudely daubed cross on the front of her home. Micah takes the cross as the sign – “It is like the light from the corn”, He tells the children, “Not from the hand of man but the mark from ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’.”

cotc2nDuring a sermon with Rev. Hollings (John Bennes – I Know What You Did Last Summer, King’s The Night Flier) a brilliantly constructed scene starts to unfold with Micah and David Simpson (Joe Inscoe – Night of the Hunter, The Stepford Husbands) involving a wooden voodoo doll and a knife…. Priceless footage and incredibly bloody (for this type of film).

Searching for more information, John goes to the old abandoned elementary school in Gatlin. The corridors are full of corn and children’s voices can be heard echoing around the school. This is where he bumps in to Frank Redbear (Ned Romero – Expiration Date, Fabulous Shiksa in Distress). Frank, works for the State University’s Department of Anthropology, he’s returning John’s wallet that he left in his unlocked car.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Burke has been slowly crushed to death under her home. Her sister, Mrs. West, also played by Marty Terry, knows the truth about the children. Sheriff Blaine dismisses her, claiming it was ‘an accident’. Upon leaving, she warns, “You blind fools!….You fools!….You let the wolf in your door!”. Mrs. Burke’s body is taken to Dr. Appleby (Ed Grady – Wolfman). The ultimate adult nightmare begins…

I must say, I’m glad to see Children of the Corn 2 puts on more ‘on screen’ violence than the original. It works well enough to make up for ‘the lack of..’ in Children of the Corn (1984). I’m usually a little skeptical about sequels but Children of the Corn 2 has a set of decent characters who carry the meaning of the original film through this entire film in a believable manner. Marty Terry, as Mrs Burke and Mrs West has a great presence in the film. Her ‘terror’ toward the children is actually quite un-nerving to say the least. Great stuff Marty! The only tiny draw back, for me, is the CGI clouds. I much prefer a time lapse camera to do this kind of work. It doesn’t spoil the film but it would have been nice to see time lapse instead. Budgets and time restraints, i guess, forced CG.

This first sequel also failed to impress at the US box office opening weekend  managing under $3 million, but again, proving popular on home video. King fans must have thought there’s no place for this sequel after the initial ‘flop’ of the original, but time has proved that the ‘Corn’ series has become some of King’s most popular work.

cotc3I’ve read many reviews about Children of the Corn, and its sequels. Many seem to look for the negative side of filming. Continuity errors, poor production values, bad acting, cheap FX. That sort of thing. This is upsetting. As we all know, it’s very hard to even raise funds for a film, let alone actually releasing one. People should remember that and not bitch about certain aspects purely because its not a massive blockbuster hit. There are 1000’s of indie/b-Movies out there, and most were made on a shoe-string budget. Many also have cult status now and have found a place in many horror fans hearts. As a reminder, the ‘Corn’ series is born from a thirty page short story/novella by King.

Overall, Anchor Bay’s special edition box set inc. COTCII: The Final Sacrifice deserves a cool 6.7 out of 10.

A slightly lower score than the original but still works very well as sequels go.

You Can’t Kill Stephen King (2012) DVD Review

KING-001YOU CAN’T KILL STEPHEN KING (2012)
Dir. Ronnie Khalil, Monroe Mann, Jorge Valdes-Iga         92 mins
Anchor Bay
UK Release: 14th October 2013

You Can’t Kill Stephen King! Even the most hardened cynical horror nerds amongst us will give a wry smile at that title. Despite the legendary author not making an appearance, it’s still a perverted humorous ode to the master from Maine.

Our guides are Lamont (Justin Brown), Ronnie (co-director Ronnie Khalil), Nicole (Kayle Blogna), Hilary (Crystal Arnette), Lori (Kate Costello) and Monroe (co-director Monroe Mann). Their mission quite simply is to hunt down the home of one Stephen King, but alas such a simple idea is rarely as easy as it looks. On stopping off at a diner on the way into town, they soon discover that visitors are frowned upon in this small community, and the diner owner (who acts very much like Annie Wilkes) makes no secret of that fact.

They’re told that Stephen King no longer lives in the town, but thinking that this may be a ruse just to keep them moving along, they decide to hang around as they have accommodation booked. First up though, they decide a boat trip is in order as rumour has it the King residence is viewable from the lake (they take a boat called Christine), whilst Lamont drives off in search of gas reminding us he’s “the only black guy in Maine”.

KING-002Later that day the group check in to their abode but with Lamont not back they have no choice but to go and look for him. The creepy boat trip guy Verrill (yes, that’s the character King played in Creepshow) points them to the gas station a quarter of a mile north, but when they arrive the sight of blue flashing lights spell disaster. With Lamont dead, it’s not long before others follow the same fate – but curiously they’re all being murdered in a similar fashion to characters from Stephen King novels.

With two characters sharing the surname Bachman, endless references to Misery, The Stand, It and Night Shift as well as a dream sequence that’s an absolute hoot, You Can’t Kill Stephen King makes for fun viewing indeed. With all the King-isms in it though, would that make it a drag for the un-King-nitiated? The answer to that would likely be yes. Critically speaking too, I think it’d be easy to throw some negatives in, and perhaps they would be justified, but sometimes a film simply has to be judged on how much fun you had watching it.

KING-003For me as a King obsessive it was a blast with a really funny script, ingenious plot and some fine gore. Sure, many of the King references seem shoehorned in, but many are also very subtle and quite obscure. Coincidentally the filmmakers encountered Stephen while shooting the movie and offered him a cameo. He declined sadly, which is a shame as it might have made this breezy and clever comedy-horror just perfect.

7 out of 10

Creepshow (1982) BluRay Review

creep1CREEPSHOW – 1982

BLU – RAY RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 28TH 2013 UK

SECOND SIGHT FILMS

DIR: GEORGE A ROMERO

SCR: STEPHEN KING

STARRING: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielson, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, Carrie Nye, Stephen King, Viveca Lindfors, Elizabeth Reagn, E.G Marshall, Ed Harris, Tom Atkins.

 

Possibly the most beloved of all the anthology horrors, Creepshow makes its debut on Blu- Ray later this month courtesy of the folks at Second sight. Inspired by the E.C. Comics of the 40’s and 50’s King and Romero come together to spin five crazy yarns about angry zombie fathers who need their cake, poisonous meteorites, vengeful husbands, crate monsters, and bug infestations. It’s all done with a wry smile, and a tongue in its cheek and exploits its love for comic books to grand effect.

Being horror fans it’s probably safe to assume that most of you reading this have seen Creepshow before and know the five stories here pretty well. Father’s Day, is a simple tale of a vengeful Zombie father rising from the grave to avenge his death, and claim his cake! The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is the story of a lonely hick who finds a meteorite in his yard that turns him into a giant plant. Something To Tide You Over is probably the strongest story; an angry husband finds his wife has had an affair, buries the offending couple in the sand and gleefully watches as the tide comes in and slowly drowns them.

creep2But soon enough, their watery zombies have risen from the grave and come for a revenge of their own. The Crate is another tale of revenge as a put upon husband fantasizes about murdering his nagging wife, then finds himself in possession of a crate containing a ravenous monster. The final tale: They’re Creeping Up On You tells of an evil man living alone in a supposedly bug proof apartment, only for the cockroaches to get in and give him his just desserts.

If the truth be told, Creepshow has become a rather nostalgic experience. It looks a little dated, is gleefully cartoonish, and more than a bit odd. I can’t imagine modern audiences buying into it anymore, but frankly that’s their loss. As we head into Halloween it’s a great movie to return to as it captures that spirit of fun and fear that encapsulates October and the Halloween spirit. The key word here is fun; in recent times horror has become almost entirely focussed on its nastier side, and Creepshow harks back to a time when it was okay to be fun as well as scary .

The stories sometimes feel a little under developed, and by Stephen King’s standards the screenplay feels a little slight. But it contains enough of the writer’s flourishes and knowing affection to lift it, and it has some wonderful character quirks. Romero is firing on all cylinders here, and Creepshow is a reminder of what he was once capable of, using split screen and comic book style framing to create a wonderful demented effect. There is real love for the genre present all the way through Creepshow, and it’s not often it is treated with such honest fondness.

Blu- Ray is a great home for Creepshow. Shot to resemble a living comic book, it’s full of bright blues, reds, and greens and the HD format really brings this to life. It looks vibrant and alive and Second Sight have presented a really good 1080p transfer. As a huge fan of Blu- Ray, it is always good to see older movies like this scrub up so well. It isn’t perfect, as these things never are, but whenever the frame is filled with colour, or becomes animated the format really elevates it and it looks dazzling. Tom Savini’s great practical effects look wonderfully garish here too.

The special features are much the same as the previous DVD release. The audio commentary with George Romero and Tom Savini is present, it’s affable and fun and the two make endearing hosts. There is also the great ‘Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow’ documentary. A feature length look at the making of the film with lots of interviews and anecdotes about how the film came together. Romero is a wonderfully laid back man, and it’s great to see people like Ed Harris show up to reminisce about his early days. The only glaring omission is any contribution from Stephen King, which is a shame because his involvement was integral to the whole thing working. For completests the Blu-Ray includes a second commentary featuring a host of others involved from the Director of Photography to the Property Master!

creep 3Second sight have put together a great package here, but it’s questionable as to whether it is worth buying again if you already have the DVD. The transfer is great, and if you are a die- hard fan then the Blu-Ray is definitely worth your money. However, it carries over much of the same stuff as the DVD package, so there is little new to discover here if you already own that.

FILM 8/10

FEATURES 7/10

 

The Girl Next Door (2007) Review

Girl1

The Girl Next Door (2007) Review

Dir. Gregory Wilson – 91 mins

Starring- Blanche Baker, Blythe Auffarth, Daniel Manche, William Atherton
In the summer of 1958, a young boy named David Moran befriends adolescent Meg (Blythe Auffarth) who is living with her sister in their aunt’s house after the loss of their parents. Aunt Ruth Chandler (Blanche Baker) and her sons are David’s next door neighbours and she welcomes all children with open arms with a lax attitude to giving them beer and how they should behave.

Gradually, Ruth begins to torment Meg and her sister to the point of which she and her sons sadistically start to torture her in their basement.
Arguably the greatest tagline in all of cinema history is attached to Wes Craven’s ‘The Last House on the Left’. The immortal words of , ‘To avoid fainting, keep repeating: It’s Only A Movie!’ have never been surpassed in conveying the notion that what you are actually about to see will physically assault you. The tagline for ‘The Girl Next Door’ is simply ‘A True Story’ and believe me, this is about a thousand times more frightening.

Based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, concerning the horrific case of Sylvia Likens and her real life torture at the hands of Gertrude Baniszewski, the film is regularly featured in lists of the most distressing films ever made. Being the controversy-led moth to flame that I am, I was able to procure a copy in the most surprising of shops where everything is at the value of 100p. The most distressing part of ‘TGND’? There is no safety net, there is no ‘only a movie’, this actually happened and the film does its damndest to make you never forget it.

The only thing that lets the film down is the frankly unnecessary framing device of having an elderly David (William Atherton) reflecting on his troubled past at the start and end of the film. Despite the fact that it was based on real events, the complete blind-siding dark turn the film takes is undermined by establishing in the prologue that clearly something bad happened in David’s childhood and we as an audience are set up to expect something bad.
‘Something bad’ is putting it incredibly mildly, but do not be deceived into thinking that this is one drawn out piece of ‘torture porn’. Director Gregory Wilson plays a brilliantly unsettling hand in establishing an eerily accurate 50s setting, kids actually playing outside, comically square tins of beer, the ice-cream man regarded as king and of course sleepovers.

Girl2

To the naked and blissfully unaware eye, it looks to be a Happy Days spin-off in all but name, however, the Fonz isn’t going jet-skiing over some sharks to save the day. ‘Harsh Reality’ is the film’s edit and despite the cute opening of David and Meg’s bonding by the lake, the idyllic 50s setting is slowly stripped back like a particularly menacing-looking onion, to reveal the horrible truth that mankind as a species is still just as capable of barbaric attacks to each other as it has ever been.

The ingenious way in which the film slowly builds up to its watch through your fingers set pieces is by the painfully drawn out, but in a good way, gradual progression of the children and consequently Aunt Ruth’s cruelty. We see the tough kids on the street and their very cruel variation of hide and seek and just as quickly as we are welcomed in by Ruth’s lax attitude to parenting than no sooner are we frantically breaking out in a sweat as to what cruel method of punishment she will administer next for the most minor of transgressions.
The acting is of the highest possible quality, the neighbourhood rough kids and Aunt Ruth’s sons are skin-crawlingly repellent, remorseless and all seem to have a permanently-fixed scowl that makes you want to slap it right off their face. As nasty pieces of work that they are, Blanche Baker’s simply yet terrifyingly intense matriarch is a performance worthy of legend. With a completely warped ideology and horrifying dominion over seemingly all the children in the neighbourhood, this ultimate ice-queen could seriously give Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched a run for her money in the fight for most terrifying human spirit destroying character in all of cinematic history.

It is clear that the film’s more incendiary elements prevent Baker’s performance from being recognised en masse but here the plaudits are endless, although I can’t say I could ever actually feel comfortable in her presence. Whilst essays could be written on Aunt Ruth’s evil machinations and speculations made about just what lead her to be like this, the real talking point is arguably the ‘protagonist’ of David. We see all this cruelty through his eyes and whilst he appears to be a sweet kid who is repulsed by what he sees, is he in a way culpable for not saying something sooner and not trying to get help?

Girl3
Blythe Auffarth is given quite literally the rough end of the stick as Meg, the victim of the brutal torture who has to elevate her character above being no more than an abused ragdoll who is often gagged and obviously unable to have any dialogue. However, despite her very limited time to develop character, your heart instantly goes out to Meg, a sweet innocent young girl who stands up to her fierce Aunt in defence of her sister and is made to suffer the consequences. In the same way, you really feel every blow and the humiliation that she suffers with even more intensity and like all great films that create a strong bond with characters, her performance makes you want to jump through the screen to her defence.

There is one moment, one blood curdling moment that literally made me clap my hand to my mouth and violently shake my head in utter disbelief, muttering “No!” as many times as my throat could manage. I shall not spoil it here, but when the film reaches THIS point, you realise that no other film has ever properly gone this far down the torture route and that the classic rule of ‘what you don’t see is more frightening’ can still be put to devastating use.
One of the most harrowing yet immaculately crafted film experiences of my life. This is an unbelievably bold piece of cinema, certainly not for the faint of heart and far from ‘enjoyable’ but an experience that will rock you to your very core.

The ultimate experience in total psychological water-boarding for your nerves remains with Sean Derkin’s ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’, the only film to have me on the verge of throwing up in the aisle, which I consider to be the highest of compliments!
Verdict: 9/10