“Mind” Games: Review for “Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Mind of Stephen King”

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As versatile of a writer that Stephen King is, he tends to write in the horror genre. Most of the films that have been adapted from his novels and short stories have also been in that genre (with the exception of The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, Hearts in Atlantis, etc.). Not to mention the television movies that has premiered. There is no need to name those. In 2006, however, TNT broadcasted a television series based upon the short stories of Stephen King. Thankfully, though in the horror genre, they tended to be adaptations of King’s more versatile works (i.e. Umney’s Last Case). Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King has quite a few good mini-movies and one dreadful one. Here are capsule reviews of the episodes:

 

Battleground: From King’s collection Night Shift, Battleground tells the story of a professional hit man (William Hurt) who kills a toy store owner. When a box containing army men toys arrives at his apartment door, he simply is puzzled and leaves the box on the kitchen table. What he doesn’t know is that the army men in the box are alive and well, ready to avenge their master. The episode is entirely dialogue less, which may seem a little strange (the original short story has dialogue), but the way the script was written makes it believable. The special effects are extraordinary, every little green man running for cover, or firing a canon into the bathroom, or a Rambo-like figure stabbing Hurt with a machete.  B+

 

Crouch End: A newlywed couple is in England and invited to the husband’s (Eion Bailey) boss’s house for dinner. The house is on Crouch End, a supposed Druid burial place. Claire Forlani’s wife is a bumbling and whiny person which makes you feel almost totally disgusted at how she acts. Very superstitious, she is, and yet she makes the most trivial observations that end up not making a difference in the story during the attack. The special effects are dreadful, as is the storyline. Claire Forlani’s American accent is one of the worst I have ever heard, closely tying it with Anthony Hopkins in All the King’s Men and Bobby. The interpretation of this classic Stephen King story is very, very bad.  D

 

The End of the Whole Mess: In this episode, documentarian Howard Fornoy (Ron Livingston) tells the story of his late brother, a prodigy at birth. His brother, Bobby, began wondering why people are “so mean to each other” when he was in college. He spent most of his life researching ways to find the “nice” in people. When he discovered a certain chemical in bees, he went to his brother to help Bobby fund the brand new idea. After Bobby manages to spread his chemical world wide by way of dropping it on a volcano, the world becomes an Indian summer for three years. Bobby then discovers that this chemical gives Alzheimer’s to those who come in contact with it. Howard has little time to tell this to the audience, but he does an excellent job. A very accurate adaptation and at the same time very original (in the short story, Howard is a writer).  A-

 

The Road Virus Heads North: Famed horror novelist and Maine resident Richard Kinell (Tom Berenger) likes creepy stuff. Hmmm….it sounds an awful like that man who wrote ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shining. When he stops at a yard sale on his way to his aunt’s.\, he finds this eerie painting of a black car with a mad driver entitled The Road Virus Heads North. Earlier that day, he had his first prostate exam. His doctor was worried and has asked him back the following week.  The picture begins to change, as if stalking Mr. Kinell back to his own house. This is a very interesting story, where the painting could be interpreted in several different ways. I suppose the man in the painting could be the “virus” that is killing Kinell. Very well done and very suspenseful. A-

 

Autopsy Room Four: A man is bitten by a snake and paralyzed, but when the doctors come, they believe he is dead. The man has to watch the doctors come very close to cutting him open. Very suspenseful adaptation, but the self narration can sometimes get a little tiring. Kudos to Richard Thomas for lying on a table for hours on end!  B+

 

You Know They Got a Hell of a Band: A husband (Steven Weber) and wife (Kim Delaney) are on vacation when the husband (of course) gets lost. When he decides to take a shortcut through the woods of Oregon, they end up in a peculiar little town called Rock and Roll Heaven. It seems to be a nice little town, but when the couple begins to realize that the inhabitants of the little town are mostly rock and rollers who died terrible deaths, like Janice Joplin, Elvis Presley, and Ricky Nelson. A very well done piece; the story maintains the original suspense of the story.  B+

 

Umney’s Last Case: Stephen King called this story a “pastiche”, its style very similar to that of Raymond Chandler. He also mentioned that it was his favorite in the collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes. The story follows Clyde Umney, a private investigator straight out of a noir novel, who goes on through a “normal” morning in 1930s Los Angeles. He then discovers that he isn’t real, that he was created by a present day author. The author writes himself into the story and many ingenious plot twists follow along. William H. Macy, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Fargo, does a brilliant job at the hardboiled detective and the broken down writer. This is a very good episode.  A-

 

The Fifth Quarter: A released convict (Jeremy Sisto) goes on a hunt for “treasure” promised to him by a map that has been ripped into four pieces. When he finds the other people trying to find the same trove, he does whatever he can to get that money; even if it means violence. Risking his family and friends, he goes on an adventure that keeps your heart beating till the last second. Very well done and well acted, but the plot line sometimes goes off on unnecessary tangents.  B+

 

The Series: It is very nice to see a television series that delves into our deepest fears without any gross out gags. It is a question on how close they creators worked with Mr. King, but they have been made accurately and passionately, with the exception of Crouch End. A very enjoyable series with fine actors in fine roles. A very nice choice of stories, as well, although I kind of wished they had adapted either The Man in the Black Suit or Lunch at the Gotham Café, both collected in Everything’s Eventual.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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