Posted on September 26, 2018
When I heard this new series wasn’t written by Stephen King or based on one of his stories but was rather a tribute to his work, I was really worried. Remember when they turned Lawnmower Man into an homage instead of using the source material? But I needn’t have been concerned. Castle Rock feels like something King would write.
TL;DR: If you haven’t watched this series already, you’re probably on the verge of murdering all the people who keep telling you to watch it.
Spoilers for Castle Rock follow
In the pre-Blockbuster days we had to take our horror movies as we found them. They really weren’t putting horror films into wide release so our options were limited to TV, usually on that fourth channel, the UHF one that you could never get a clear picture on, and second run/drive-in theaters. And since there was no selection process on our part, we just watched everything and sorted it into four categories:
Classic B&W A-Grade (Frankenstein, Dracula)
Classic B&W B-Grade (The Invisible Ray)
Garish Color B-Grade (Dr. Phibes, Anything from Hammer)
Cheap Color C-Grade (Don’t Look In The Basement, Anything from AMI)
Without a filter for quality, the single demand we had of these movies was that they be entertaining. Now, that could mean different things at different ages, but mostly they were either gross, scary, funny good, or funny bad. The only sin a horror movie could commit was to be boring.
Stephen King made the point in The Danse Macabre that horror seems to flourish during horrible times. Universal’s monsters exploded onto the screen during the Great Depression and big bug movies made a splash during the offing of the Cold War. Cronenberg’s body horror flooded theaters during the post-Nixon cum Reagan nightmare. And now, with the country shaking itself to pieces in the worst division since hardhats beat hippies with brick bats in support of the “silent majority” Stephen King is making a strong comeback.
It’s interesting that the series Castle Rock is not a King property, but a story based on the way King’s work makes us feel. And, as far as I’m concerned, it makes me feel like it’s 1979 and I’m reading The Shining for the first time. All that’s missing is stagflation and an ineffective president who seems out of touch with reality… oh, wait.
I’m in a horror mood lately, probably because of Castle Rock, so I’m going to make a list of my favorite horror movies ranked by how scary they were to me at the time I saw them (in the theater where possible).
- Dracula (the original, seen on TV as a child)
- The Omen
- The Shining
- The Haunting (1963)
- It Follows
- Let The Right One In & Let Me In
- The Ring
- The Grudge
- The Exorcist
- The Thing
- The Descent
- Dawn of the Dead (2004)
- The Fly (1986)
- Shaun of the Dead
- House on Haunted Hill (remake)
- IT (2017)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
- Cabin in the Woods
- The Birds (9yo, special Halloween screening)
- Peeping Tom (on video but alone in the dark)
- Night of the Living Dead
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
- Psycho (8yo, special Halloween screening)
- Get Out
- American Werewolf in London
Notes about these choices follow after the jump.
I once lost half a day arguing Astronauts vs. Roman Centurions, an argument that descended into friendship-ending shouts, and then lost another four hours the next day when someone asked what we had been arguing about the day before.
It is a particular joy of living in the genre world that we can take things seriously that don’t actually matter to any degree at all. And before you jump to any conclusions about “what nerds do,” I’ve had even more violent arguments about things like Outlaws vs. Nashville in Austin bars that have lots of glass bottles handy in case a discussion breaks out.
If you watch Ken Burns’ baseball documentary, you’ll hear someone from way back when say, “Baseball matters because Americans need something to kick about without actually meaning it.” Yep. I quit my lifelong fandom of the Houston Astros when they switched from National to American League in a fit of much throwing of things. But does baseball really matter? No. Sports don’t matter. That’s why we love them so much. They feel important when we’re watching them, but when we turn off the TV or leave the stadium nothing has actually changed.
Marvel vs DC is another such hill on which we choose to die, a death no less important than many others, but one that seems to me to be particularly pointless. You like what you like. That’s how life works. Why get into a fistfight over arugula or cilantro?
Trust me, I wouldn’t waste your time with a discussion so trivial. This post is about Marvel vs DC movies.
So the last eight months has been too confusing to do much on this site. Between selling our house, moving into temporary quarters and then moving half way across the country to San Diego, I could just barely spare the brain cycles to finish up the final edit on Dark Adapted.
Speaking of which, hire an editor. Not a grammar editor, you can do that yourself with one small book (The Elements of Style), but a STORY editor. I’ve done two passes with my story editor, Jessica de Bruyn email@example.com, and my story problems are gone. Trust me, you think you don’t have plot holes or cardboard characters, but you do. You just can’t see them.
So, anyway, Dark Adapted is now trickling out to agents and that is the last I will say about it until something positive happens.
Meanwhile, I’ll be back on my genre stuff again just like before.
I listened to the audio book of Ready Player One so much that even while watching the movie I kept hearing Wil Wheaton’s voice whenever Wade Watts spoke. The 80s was my favorite decade while it was happening and now that I’m older its image has been buffed and shined by that glorious polish known as nostalgia. Which is just my way of saying I am the exact target audience for the book and, maybe, the movie.
But here’s the odd thing about going in to see the movie: I could tell from the trailers that they had changed a lot of stuff… and I was fine with that.
I read The Shining just as many times as I read RPO, but I went into the theater expecting to see the book transliterated to the screen without changes. The result wasn’t pretty even though I grew to love the movie for itself over time. That wasn’t me going into see RPO. I had read the book often enough that I was ready to see other stuff happen as long as they told the same general story.
So the question of whether Spielberg’s Ready Player One is a success in my eyes falls heavily on whether I feel they managed to tell the story while at the same time making all kinds of crazy changes to energize a movie audience.
Spoilers for the book and movie Ready Player One follow.