Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Graveyard Zone (not an MTG article)

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Only I can turn a review post into a goal achievement post.

I’ve recently been diligently working toward my goal of reading all of Stephen King’s books. Stephen King is easily my favourite author. The guy is a fantastic storyteller, and creates realistic characters.

I started earlier this year by reading “Carrie,” which I had read half of before. King technically has earlier books in print (as Richard Bachman) but Carrie was his first published book, and it was honestly very good. Laid out as part case study, part committee hearing, part memoir, and part straight story. You get a very simple, albeit tragic and disastrous, event told from multiple, compelling perspectives.

This may be the issue with the movie, aside from John Travolta not having a scene to dance in, which is that it is simply the simple, albeit tragic and disastrous, story without all the psychology injected. I did watch it after I finished reading, though I had seen it before. The movie was good. I’m not so sure about the “picking out the tuxes” comic relief scene, but what can you do?

I continued my reading by reading “Salem’s Lot.” I’m really not a vampire fan, but at least the vampires in this story were actually evil. I enjoyed “Salem’s Lot,” but let me go on record that I believe King to be a better writer when he’s dealing with supernatural situations, and horror manifested by normal, albeit insane and sometimes psychotic, people. I think that when he tackles monsters it doesn’t work as well. I say that, but the first book of King’s that I read was “Cycle of the Werewolf, and I remember liking it. I have not seen the movie version of “Salem’s Lot” yet.

I read some of the short stories from “Night Shift.” I’m still working through it:

“Jerusalem’s Lot” – was really good. It’s set in the 1800s, and is told through letters and journals written by the two protagonists. King uses the style of Stevenson, Doyle, and I’m sure many of the authors of the era in the writing, and it is very effective. There is no direct correlation between this Jerusalem’s Lot and the Jerusalem’s Lot in “Salem’s Lot,” unless I missed the correlation.

“Graveyard Shift” – I will come back to in a moment.

“Night Surf” – is a story that I’d like Miguel to read, because it’s strangely King’s “kill the boy and then go to bed” story. I know that makes no sense to anybody, but if I ever finish the ATW novel, it is explained a little. The fact is that the story is less than ten pages long, and sets up this world in which most everyone is dead from a disease known as “Captain Trips.” And it doesn’t do a whole lot. And while this world was expanded into an 1,100 page novel, “Night Surf” is just a short story… Miguel. It’s only an ok story.

“I Am the Doorway” – Again, ok. A little sci-fi tinge to it. Not among my faves.

“The Mangler” – The Mangler I had read before. It’s ok. Possessed machine. Ritual exorcism involved. King did this kind of thing a few times in the early days.

“The Boogeyman” – Not that good of a story. The protagonist isn’t even really a protagonist in the strictest sense. He’s a misguided man, with a misguided love for those he has lost over the years, but he’s a prick. The end of the story is very gimmicky, and would have been disappointing if the rest of the story had been good enough to set up expectation.

Ok, back to “Graveyard Shift.” The reason I held off on this one is because I just watched the movie. I’ve heard nothing but bad about the movie, and it’s an accurate assessment. The fact is that the source material isn’t really that great of a story, and the movie was unable to be made much better. There was a guy who looked a little like Emilio Estevez in the movie. There was a guy who looked a little like Jack Black in the movie as well. There was a woman who looked a little like Marisa Tomei. There was a guy who looked a little like Dwight Shultz. And there was a guy who looked a little like Tim Curry and Alan Rickman’s love child, provided you removed any features that scream British.) But there was nobody that was just a recognizable actor to me. Each of the actors was good. The characters sucked. The editing was pretty atrocious. I wonder how rushed the project was.

I loved “The Dead Zone.” The book was fantastic. King managed to touch upon almost every element of a story that compels the reader to keep reading. The story is not rushed. The characters are great, and act believably. The situation is fascinating, and the ending is somewhat unexpected. There were two or three parts that I felt were bordering on contrived, but somehow he even made those ok. The movie version was good. It’s very hard to capture the depth of the characters in a King novel in a movie. The first twenty minutes or so felt horribly rushed. Then the pacing smoothed out a little. I watched one of the special features, and they were talking about Christopher Walken doing three takes of each scene trying out different emotional ranges. I guess that’s his way. It works for him though.

Miguel would appreciate something that David Cronenberg said. It was something like, “You eventually realize that in order to stay faithful to the book, you have to betray the book.” I’ve eased up a bit, but I used to be so irritated by major, and even minor to big, changes made between book to movie.

Some of you may be wondering why I skipped “The Shining” and “The Stand.” I read those before. I intend to read “The Stand” again because I read the 800 page version, so I need to read the extra 300 pages. “The Shining” I will probably get on audio book for purposes of review. I can already tell you the Kubrick version is one of my all time favourite movies, but I’ll have to watch the version made later. So there will be other parts to my Stephen King examination sometime.

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