Sunday, November 8, 2020

What I Watched During the Pandemic, Part 17

That's right, I'm resuming the series.  Why?  Because this pandemic ain't gone, y'all.  I was optimistic about it for a little while there, but that was damned-fool talk, is what that was.
I wrestled with the notion of calling this Part 20, and retroactively saying that the three "What I Watched This October"s were 17, 18, and 19, but nah, why bother?
Let's kick it off with a couple of things that were technically Halloween-night views, but struck me as a good way to reinaugurate the pandemia.
Donnie Darko (2001)

Is this one of my favorite movies?  I think it just might be.  It never fails to work on me, that's for sure.  I saw it for the first time in 2002, when it was released on DVD.  I watched it with a friend; she'd read about it, or had seen a trailer, or something.  I had no idea what it was, but couldn't possibly have cared less; I'd have been happy to watch pretty much anything if it meant I got to spend some time with her.  It was one of those times when -- this is my memory of it, at least -- we both just fell into the movie we were watching and did not emerge again until it ended, after which there was a brief period of slack-jawed amazement followed by a lengthier period of effusive gushing about what we'd just seen.  I'll never not think of that when I see this movie.
With that comes a generous helping of melancholy.  The version of me who sat on that couch, mind wide open because I was seeing an incredible new movie and heart wide open because it always was with her, is gone forever.  He may as well never have existed, in some ways.  It'd be nice if, in his vanishing, he'd been able to give the world an incredibly heroic shot of love the way Donnie does in this movie when he makes his exit, but hey, I'll take what I got over what Donnie got every single time.  
Watching it this year, I was with a couple of friends, one of whom I've known since even before the movie came out.  He told me as we settled down to watch it that every time he sees it, he thinks he might find some key to make the plot make sense to him, but never does.  This time was no different.  Lest you misunderstand, let me say that he doesn't care.
Neither do I.  For one thing, I'm not sure it doesn't make sense; I'm not sure it does, either, but the uncertainty draws me in, and never alienates me even for a moment.  The movie makes emotional sense to me, and if that's true, then I'll forgive a lot.  Here, I'm not even sure it's necessary to forgive anything.
Donnie is a kid who is getting by the best he is able, what with the emotional problems and all.  His parents, loving but a bit on the detached side, are giving him some professional help with that in the form of therapy, but are otherwise hanging back a bit and letting him find his own way.  This leads to a fair amount of unruly behavior from him, but mostly of a harmless variety.  Donnie, like any number of other disaffected cinematic youth, feels alienated from the world around him; he especially feels alienated from the systems he is forced to belong to, such as his school and (though this is not touched upon as heavily) the religion that provides its backbone.  He feels trapped within these systems, and when he encounters others who seem to also feel trapped, his knee-jerk reaction is to reach out to them empathetically.  He tries to help Gretchen; he tries to help Cherita; he tries to help Roberta Sparrow; he gives advice to the kids during the Jim Cunningham lecture when he feels that the man's "fear/love" approach is failing; and the actions he takes at Frank's behest are easy sells for him because his "imaginary" bunny friend tells him that his classmates need saving.  It's an open question as to what, exactly, Donnie sees when his liquid spear becomes entangled with Gretchen's; it might be her death, it might be that of his mother and sister, or it be both (as well as his own potentially).  The movie does not give us that information, but we've got every reason to assume that he feels he is saving the life of his girlfriend, or the lives of his mother and sister, if not all of the above.  
Gretchen playfully says that "Donnie Darko" sounds like a superhero's name early on, and Donnie's response is to playfully ask who says he isn't.  If I'm not mistaken, writer/director Richard Kelly indicates during one of his commentary tracks (probably for the director's cut of the film) that that is not a throwaway interaction; we're supposed to more or less see Donnie as a superhero of sorts.  Works for me!
Dipping into a more metaphorical read, I was struck this time by how much animus the film has toward the educational system in general, and the educational system of a Catholic school specifically.  The film, perhaps feeling it was better to keep its head down a bit, doesn't do much in the way of directly attacking the notion of religion-led learning, but it's there if you want to see it that way.  We spend time with only four of the school's faculty.  One is an idealistic English teacher who clearly wants to develop these kids emotionally as well as intellectually, perhaps believing it is the same process; another (revealed later to be her boyfriend) is excited by the prospect of discussing theoretical/philosophical science with Donnie, but disengages himself from the process quickly when it veers into territory that could threaten his employment.  A third is the principal, who seems to exist primarily to preserve the status quo.  The final one is a gym teacher who has somehow transitioned into teaching her class material from a local self-help guru, whose empty platitudes -- and cheesy videos -- rub Donnie the wrong way.  These platitudes represent an ordered world, one in which all of human experience can be expressed in terms of how individual actions reflect an individual's response to fear.  Don't act out of fear; act only out of love.  Donnie recognizes this as bullshit of a not-even-especially-high order.  Why wouldn't he?  It's basically the same worthless philosophy he's already been getting from school.  Donnie, with his emotional problems, knows that the world isn't simple enough to be able to be graphed like that; he rejects Cunningham's ideas out of hand, and in so doing symbolically rejects the type of philosophy that will not allow the gym teacher (Mrs. Farmer) to permit for analysis of troubling literary works.  The Mrs. Farmers of the world believe too much thinking to be a bad thing; but Donnie knows that it is a necessary thing, regardless of whether it fits neatly into a worldview designed to provide comfort rather than actual guidance.
Mrs. Farmer's philosophy also, perversely, permits for the existence of Sparkle Motion, a dance troupe consisting of preteen girls gyrating in not-entirely-unsexual manner to not-entirely-unsexual music.  Her simplistic view of the world could just as easily see this dancing as the work of the devil, but in this case, it has gotten past her.  She is incapable of deciphering cultural cues, and as such she is inadvertently sexualizing these girls well before they are ready for it.  I'm sure it'll work out just fine.  (In fact, though not directly related, it will get them all killed.)
This time, it was all that material that struck me as what the movie is really about.  It's dressed up in a surrealistic sci-fi/horror costume, but it's really about one misfit's raging against an educational system -- and maybe even a society at large -- which simply cannot take someone like him properly into account.
I'd love to talk about those sci-fi/horror elements in depth and try to figure that aspect of the movie out.  I think it's within my reach, at least to some degree.  But the truth is, I'm content to let the mystery be.  I don't need everything to have a sensible explanation; some things don't, and that's just a fact.  Anyone claiming that their answers fit every situation is probably best avoided, anyways.
Either way, I hope I'll someday make the time to take on this movie in more fulsome fashion.  I think it's well deserving of it, that's for sure.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

What I Watched This October (2020 Edition), Part 3

We begin with a lengthy documentary which was initially crowdfunded and eventually appeared on Shudder.
In Search of Darkness (2019)

The runtime on this thing is in excess of four hours.  I hadn't heard particularly good things about it, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It's admittedly a bit on the shallow side, and even at four hours it's too short to be anything but cursory in terms of what it covers and what it doesn't, but if you've got anything resembling love for this combination of era and genre, I think you'll probably enjoy yourself.
The roster of interviewees is pretty strong, and ranges from top-flight filmmakers to actors to musicians to podcasters to horror hosts.  Here's a partial list:
  • John Carpenter
  • Mick Garris (who, as he usually does in these things, comes off as seeming like one of the most knowledgeable person on the subject)
  • Kane Hodder
  • Caroline Williams
  • Heather Langenkamp
  • Doug Bradley
  • Joe Dante
  • Greg Nicotero
  • Joe Bob Briggs
  • Kelli Maroney
  • Keith David (one of the very few black people to be interviewed; this doc's whiteness is one of its problems, probably more for others than for me, but still)
  • Jeffrey Combs
  • Barbara Crampton
  • Alex Winter
  • Stuart Gordon
  • Tom Atkins
  • Nick Castle
  • Larry Cohen
  • Cassandra Peterson
  • Lloyd Kaufman
  • and many more
Hearing their thoughts is probably the best reason to watch In Search of Darkness.  You've likely heard some of what they say before if you follow the genre, but even so, they have occasional terrific insights.  For example, at one point during a conversation about gender in the genre, Caroline Williams talks rather movingly about how proud she is to get the occasional role that allows her to express things about what being a woman means to her.  She's not looking for roles where she is playing someone who gets to be just like a man; no, she wants her own experiences reflected.  She also sees horror as being a mode of story that takes humans into their most primal essence, which boils down, as she says, to fucking and killing.  With that in mind, how can sexuality in horror inherently be a bad thing?  It can't; well, except for all the real-life exploitation, but that's another matter, isn't it?  Caroline Williams comes off quite well here.  
So does most everyone, actually.  We do not, unsurprisingly, hear from our boy Stephen King, but his movies from the decade are represented pretty well, and he's definitely one of the figures who looms over the decade by virtue of how frequently his name comes up.
I actually took notes, so here's a comprehensive list of the films which are singled out for discussion:
  • The Fog  (1980)
  • The Changeling (1980)
  • Friday the 13th (1980)
  • The Shining (1980)
  • Dressed to Kill (1980)
  • Fade to Black (1980)
  • Motel Hell (1980)
  • Maniac (1980)
  • Scanners (1981)
  • My Bloody Valentine (1981)
  • The Howling (1981)
  • The Burning (1981)
  • An American Werewolf in London (1981)
  • Full Moon High (1981)
  • The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Halloween II (1981)
  • Ghost Story (1981)
  • Cat People (1982)
  • Basket Case (1982)
  • Poltergeist (1982)
  • The Thing (1982)
  • Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
  • Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
  • Creepshow (1982)
  • Videodrome (1983)
  • The Hunger (1983)
  • Psycho II (1983)
  • Cujo (1983)
  • Sleepaway Camp (1983)
  • Christine (1983)
  • Children of the Corn (1984)
  • Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
  • Firestarter (1984) (and they even talk to John Carpenter about it!)
  • Gremlins (1984)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  • Night of the Comet (1984)
  • The Company of Wolves (1985)
  • The Stuff (1985)
  • Day of the Dead (1985)
  • Fright Night (1985)
  • The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
  • Howling II: Your Sister's a Werewolf (1985)
  • Silver Bullet (1985)
  • Re-Animator (1985)
  • Chopping Mall (1986)
  • The Toxic Avenger (1986)
  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
  • Maximum Overdrive (1986)
  • Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)
  • The Fly (1986)
  • Night of the Creeps (1986)
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
  • From Beyond (1986)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
  • Dolls (1987)
  • Evil Dead 2 (1987)
  • Island of the Alive (1987)
  • The Lost Boys (1987)
  • The Monster Squad (1987)
  • Hellraiser (1987)
  • Near Dark (1987)
  • Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)
  • Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
  • Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
  • Phantasm II (1988)
  • The Blob (1988)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
  • The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
  • Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
  • Pumpkinhead (1988)
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
  • They Live (1988)
  • Child's Play (1988)
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
  • The 'Burbs (1989)
  • 976-EVIL (1989)
  • Pet Sematary (1989)
  • Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
  • Stepfather 2 (1989)
  • Society (1989)
Cue the carping about why some things were excluded whereas some things were included.  I mean, how are you going to talk about eighties horror and not delve into Ghostbusters?  Do the filmmakers know horror films were made outside of North America?  Etc.  Valid questions, and since nobody seems to have liked Howling 2, including the interviewees, the admittedly-scant time spent of that one is especially baffling.  But hey, thus was it always to be.  Oh, and by the way, plenty of other movies are mentioned in passing; so it's not like it's ONLY those titles which are mentioned.
Regardless, I count eighty titles there which are given primary consideration.  Of those, I've seen 52.  That's a barely-passing grade, even factoring into the equation some of the odd choices.  (The second Stepfather is included, but not the first?  Weird.)  That's fine, though; I already had my sights on some of the titles I've never seen (Elvira, Evil Dead 2, The Stuff, Maniac, The Burning, and both Scanners and Videodrome, among others).  But it also made me want to see a number that had never much interested me, or, in some cases, I'd never even heard of: Critters 2 looks like more fun than I'd have thought, for example, and I'm more interested in the second in the series for both Phantasm and Hellraiser, as well, than I'd ever been before.  Society looks kind of amazing; so does Basket Case, and both The Hunger and Cat People looked pretty damn cool.  Luckily, the conversations are illustrated with copious amounts of footage from the movies under discussion; that's no guarantee with things like this, and without the clips, it might have been a real slog.
So while there's not a huge amount of hard-hitting incisiveness here -- Ken Burns, this is not (boy, that'd be DOPE) -- I found it to be effortlessly enjoyable.  I sat there for four and a half hours and never got bored once, and came away with a list of things to check out.  Probably can't ask for a better result than that.
A sequel is evidently in the works, as well, so that's cool.  My only complaint is that there isn't a wide-release Blu-ray available to buy.  That apparently came with backer kits, but I'm not sure there's a persuasive reason why a guy like me ought not be able to buy a copy now.  That's a missed opportunity, especially for a doc that takes a brief time out to lament how some modern fans are into physical media anymore.  Mixed messages, anyone?
Mixed messages indeed.  I wouldn't want you to get any from me, though; I did quite enjoy this documentary, and will happily check out part two whenever it is available.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

What I Watched This October (2020 Edition), Part 2

We're already halfway through the doggone month and I've only put out a single Halloween-season-viewing post.  This means it's time to step it up.  Let's gooooooooooooo
The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
We're in Clive Barker territory again, and I have to say, this movie did nothing for me whatsoever.  It's based on a Barker short story from The Books of Blood.  Maybe the story is better, I haven't read it; but the movie was a bore, in my opinion.
It's about a photographer who wanders the city -- New York City, that is -- looking for subjects for his photos.  One night, he interrupts a rape that is about to occur, and this leads to his discovery of a series of murders that are taking place on the subway.  We'll eventually find out that...
Hey, you know what?  Spoilers lie ahead, so if you're determined not to know how this movies end, now's the time to skip to the next film on the list.
So what we learn is that this is a train which brings fresh human carcasses to a race of chuds living beneath the Big Apple.  I think there might be more to the idea than that, but to be honest, I stopped paying attention at a certain point.  It's a preposterous idea, which is to say that nobody tries at any point to make it believable.  And hey, maybe it works on a nightmare-logic level; if somebody told me they loved this movie because it freaked them out or something, I'd just shrug and be all like, well, okay then.  These things are awfully damn subjective, and it's not like I'm saying it's a terrible movie.  It isn't.  It just didn't do anything to or for me, and I doubt I will ever watch it again.
More complaints: it looks terrible.  Not sure if that's a flaw in the film itself or if it's a Blu-ray issue, but it's got a very '00s digital-film feel to it, with all sorts of artifacts in the image.  Is it film grain?  I don't think so; I think it's digital "noise" of some kind, but I'm not really sure.  I'm not an expert on such things.  However, I found the look of the film to be off-putting, so whatever the explanation is, I'm opposed to it.
The film is very gory, but most of it is poorly-executed CGI blood.  CGI blood is also a thing to which I am opposed.
The star is Bradley Cooper, and he's alright.  The main villain is played by Vinnie Jones, who is meme-ably terrible in a few places, but is mainly called upon only to glower and to wield a big meat tenderizer.  Speaking of meat, I shall now become the 1,983,205th person to make a "the title sounds like a porn" joke.  However, I'm referring to the "train" part being the pun, not "meat," so that's my spin on it.
Anyways, from one shite NYC-set film to another, here comes

Monday, October 12, 2020

What I Watched This October (2020 edition), Part 1

Yes, kiddies, it's that time again: Halloween season.  Normally I'd try to find something snappy to say up front so as to start us off on the right foot, but I got nothing, so we'll just get right into it, beginning with:
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Hey, I thought of what I could have said at the beginning!  I guess I'll go ahead and just say it now.  I'd imagine this series of posts is going to substantially briefer than 2019's, for a simple reason: I'm not going to have two weeks off this month like I did last year during October.  Well, at least I don't think I will.  Anything can happen, so we'll see; but I expect to have to work all the way through.  Hey, so be it; I was furloughed for nearly five months this spring and summer, so no complaints from my ass.
Anyways, here we are, and if it's a briefer set of Halloween-season conquests than in years past, let's hope we'll make up for the lack in quantity with a strong showing in quality.
If so, it'll have to start with the movie after this one.  I have enjoyed the films in this series up to this point, but this one?  Big-time crapola.  Which is, admittedly, not a complete disqualifier toward enjoyment.
It's a deeply weird movie, which is a point in its favor.  This seems like a good time to remind people of my assertion about the Friday the 13th films: namely, that from the second movie onward, none of the movies actually happen, but are all bizarre dreams being experienced by the incredibly-traumatized Alice, the survivor of the first film.  Well, she's dreamed up a doozy this time.  When her oneiric flights of fancy last occurred (Jason Lives), she stranded Michael at the bottom of Crystal Lake, just a wee bit away from the shore of the former Camp Blood.  This time, she's mixed all her fuckin' details up, and Michael is somehow now residing at the bottom of Crystal Lake, but near a couple of lakehouses.  Or maybe the camp has been demolished by private developers who built those houses and sold them.  Sure, that's it.  Of course.  Anyways, turns out a psychokinetic kid lives in one of those houses, and one night after her daddy beats her mommy, she runs away and gets in a boat and goes onto the lake, and daddy comes out and hollers at her, pleadingly, to come back, but she says she wishes he was dead, and then collapses the dock with her mind, thereby getting her wish.
This is not a thing I'm making up.  This is what actually happens.  Alice has clearly gone 100% insane, or is maybe doing ayahuasca before bed nowadays.  It gets crazier.  The little girl, Tina, grows older and returns to the lake with her mother; the two of them are meeting Tina's psychologist, who wants to conduct some therapy in the field.  Tina gets upset during this, runs onto the dock, and starts going on about her father coming back.  This wakes up Jason, who is still chained to a rock in the lake and moldering away.  Her mind snaps the chain holding him in place -- and let's talk about that for a second, because it's doofy as shit on account of all Jason would have to do is take the goddamn chain off his neck, but whatever, Alice is heavy into hallucinogens these days, so there's no sense in shaming her for it -- and he comes to the surface, just in time to start killing all the kids next door, who are there so as to throw a surprise birthday party for someone.  
In real-world news, the project apparently grew out of a desire on Paramount's part to talk New Line into making a Jason vs. Freddy crossover film.  New Line declined, and continued to do so until years later, when they acquired the rights to the Friday series and suddenly discovered that it actually DID make financial sense for them to do a monster-mashup movie.  Anyways, since Paramount circa Part VII did not have this option, they decided to do a bunk-ass Jason vs. "Carrie" movie, and this was the result.
It's the kind of movie which ends on a one-two punch of insanity that I cackled at so loudly that I might well have woken my poor, long-suffering downstairs neighbors.  Sorry, y'all, I try not to.  Not hard, but I do try.  Punch the first: Tina has fought it out with Jason in a basement, and has used her Carrie White powers to douse him in gasoline, and to then send gouts of flame shooting at him from the furnace.  This, in the time-honored way of cause and effect, causes Jason to catch on fire.  Tina and her hunky new friend Nick (who looks like the Archer Farms version of Christopher Reeve) run away from the house, which then explodes like it is one of Blofeld's lairs and James Bond has just destroyed it.  What?!?!?!?!  Was the house made of nitroglycerine?
Punch the second: this explosion, of course, is not sufficient to kill Jason.  So he shows up again and menaces Tina, who then telekinetically causes her dead father -- looking basically the same as he looked years ago when he died in the lake -- to rise from the water and grab Jason, taking him below once again.  If this is not a what-the-fuck moment, I don't know what is.  It couldn't be more so if one (or even both) of the parts had been played by Nicolas Cage.
Tina and Nick survive, and the next morning are being tended to by paramedics while firemen put out the fires.  And my favorite thing in the movie happens during the shot of the firemen doing their thing.  There are two of them, whom we will refer to as Spotter (the one without the hose) and Sprayer (the one with the hose).  A handful of small fires are still burning.  Sprayer is spraying one of the smallest, and Spotter points at a larger one, and Sprayer then turns the water on it.  Let's check the instant replay.
What I love about this is that it implies the fireman with the hose has no working idea of how to fight fires, up to and including not being aware of what fire actually is or whether water is how you combat it.  So the other fireman just follows him around and makes sure to let him know which parts -- i.e., the actively burning ones -- his partner needs to spray the water at.  This is how these two get shit done.
To really clinch the whole thing, if you listen close, you can hear Sprayer make a little "uh-huh" sound in response to Spotter redirecting his attentions!
What a delightful little part of Alice's latest dream! 
Anyways, this is a terrible movie, handily the worst of the series thus far, with dreadful direction by monster-effects legend John Carl Buechler (pronounced "Beekler"), who would go on to direct Ghoulies III and the sequel to Watchers.  Those are Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest-level credits, and The New Blood is scarcely any better.  
The acting is generally terrible, too.  I kind of like Lar Park Lincoln as Tina; I think she thought she was in a better movie than she actually is.  The guy who plays Nick is also decent.  Many of the rest of the cast members -- including Terry Kaiser, Bernie from Weekend at Bernie's, as the doctor -- seem to not be playing human beings.
This was the debut of the most famous Jason, Kane Hodder.  So if you care about that sort of thing, now you know.  Jason kills a bunch of people in this one, and the camera always cuts away without showing much of the carnage.  You could show practically all of this movie on cable television nowadays, although I don't know why you'd want to. 
Bottom line: terrible, terrible movie.  But I already feel myself becoming fond of it, so I can't be entirely cross with the damned thing.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

"Rose Red" Revisited, Part 7: The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (tv movie)

Well, here it comes, folks: the seventh and final post in my revisitation of Rose Red and its companion pieces.  Today, we're looking at the tv-movie adaptation of The Diary of Ellen Raimbauer, for all the good that will do us.
The previous entries in the series can be found here:
Does it feel as if that tagline leaves you hanging?  Like, you hear it and want to respond with, "Yes, and...?"  Or maybe even with, "But did they, though?"  I also have a question as to why the tagline ends in a period.  Tagline are not generally punctuated.  And why is the "d" in Diary not capitalized?  Weirdness is afoot.

Before we get going, I'd like to draw your attention to one of my occasional podcast appearances, this time as a guest on Chat Sematary, a pod wherein host Deanna Chapman is heroically marching her way through the entirety of King's books (and the many, man movies and tv shows based upon them) in chronological order.  She began with Carrie in 2018, and as of the time of this writing, she's up to -- you guessed it -- the movie version of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.  There was seemingly nobody else in the entire world willing to talk about this televisual masterpiece with her, so I offered my services and then, as you might now be figuring out, scheduled my own revisit with Rose Red (and Diary) to coincide with recording the podcast.  I'm wily like that, y'all.

It was a lot of fun appearing on the show, and Chat Sematary definitely receives the official seal of approval of The Truth Inside The Lie.  So if you're looking for a new King podcast to check out and haven't sampled Chapman's, give it a shot, eh?

Spoiler alert: neither of us thought too highly of this particular movie.  Even so, it exists and therefore must be dealt with.  Let's get to it!
Rose Red was a sufficiently big hit that ABC wanted to keep that momentum going, so their natural decision was to turn the #1-bestselling companion novel by Ridley Pearson into its own television event.
Good idea.  Unfortunately, while ABC was willing to do such a thing, they clearly had no interest in doing it unless it was on a substantially reduced budget.  The novel isn't super long -- a bit shy of three hundred pages -- but it spans some fifty years in its chronology, so there was plenty of material there to turn it into its own miniseries.  If not three nights, surely two.
Nope.  This sucker got a paltry one night, roughly the length of your average Children of the Corn.  Add to that some iffy casting and production decisions, and the end result was not particularly felicitous.  I'd probably rank at least a few of those Children of the Corns above this, in fact.
Can I be honest?  I'm feeling pretty lazy with this post.  I think we're probably going to just march through a bunch of screencaps; I think my word-well has run dry on the subject of the Rose Red expanded universe.  By no means is this the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's not very good, either, and is therefore not particularly worthy of an extended contemplation.

Monday, October 5, 2020

"Rose Red" Revisited, Part 6: The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (by Ridley Pearson)

Previously on The Truth Inside The Lie...

I was somewhat conflicted about where I should review this novel in relation to the miniseries itself.  Pearson (writing under the pseudonym "Joyce Reardon") wrote it after reading King's screenplay for Rose Red, which means that in compositional terms, the miniseries comes first.  In fact, I initially decided to go with the order in which the components were available to the public, and actually wrote the posts that way.  I eventually decided that it just didn't make sense not to put the miniseries out front, lest it seem as if I were arguing Rose Red was a subset of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer rather than the other way around.
Do considerations like that matter?  For most people, likely not.  I think it's important to remember, though, that Rose Red IS indeed the origin point.  It would not be correct to think of the miniseries as a followup to the novel, which taking them in publication/broadcast order might make some people do.  I mean, it'd be natural, right?  If you were a reader who got invested in all of this during January of 2002, and bought The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer and read it prior to the first night of Rose Red, it'd be kind of natural to look at the miniseries through the prism of the novel.  
Luckily, the novel mostly does a good job of aligning with the miniseries in a way to prevent people from criticizing the miniseries for failing to line up with it.  I don't think the two are 100% in alignment, but they seem fairly close, and while you'd think that would be a given, it's still worth commending.
I was surprised during my revisit of Rose Red to find that there's actually a good amount of the history of the house and of the Rimbauers in the miniseries itself.  For whatever reason, I've been remembering it otherwise, as though King mostly just hints at it and then it's Pearson who swoops in and provides all the details.  Not entirely so.  Pearson did add quite a bit, but a good amount of it comes from King's screenplay; I tried to keep track of that as I worked my way through each night of the miniseries, so for those of you who are interested, you can find some lists of the elements which King created in those posts.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"Rose Red" Revisited, Part 5: Unlocking Rose Red (tv special)

We've finished our entirely-too-lengthy look back at Rose Red, which can be found here:
Ah, but we're not finished with Casa de Rimbauer just yet!  We've got three -- count 'em, three! -- posts yet to go, all of which will be devoted to the tie-in prequel, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.  We begin with a look at:

Friday, September 25, 2020

We're in the Belly of the Beast: "Rose Red" Revisited, Part 4 (The Screenplay)

Welcome back one and probably-not-all to my series on Rose Red.  This time, I'll be powering my way through the screenplay and taking notes on what I find.
In case you missed 'em (and not the way most people manage to, i.e., on purpose):

Caveat: when I say "the" screenplay, I must confess that placing a singular article on it is an iffy decision.  Not because it's a series of three screenplays, one for each night (although yes, that is the case), but because very often in film and television, projects go through so many screenplay drafts that determining what even counts as the final version can be nigh on impossible.

For example:

Count 'em: that's eleven revisions to what we assume to have been King's original draft.  So bare minimum, there are twelve different drafts of the screenplay.  This isn't even taking into account any potential changes that were made in post-production.

I mention all of this so as to make a point: this sort of thing can drive a person crazy.  We're not going to let it drive US crazy, though.  We're simply going to treat the version I have as if it is the only version.  Without more resources at hand, there's really no choice.  So anytime I speak about something as being definitive, if you find yourself wondering whether a different draft might actually contain something else ... it's entirely possible.  How would I know?  I only have this one.  
When I say "the screenplay," I'm referring to this draft, the one that includes the double-blue revision (the colors refer to the color of the paper on which the pages are printed) of 10/16/2000.  If the individual pages have a date on them, or if their date is clear from the color, I might mention it if it seems pertinent.  But mostly I'm not going to, and that's just how it is.  It's not that I'm not interested; I just don't have the resources to do anything other than that.

What I'm going to do is just read my way through the screenplay and offer my observations as a running commentary.  I'm aware that very, very few of you are in a position to be able to read along with me, since this screenplay has never been published.  Don't worry, I'll keep that in mind; my interest here is mainly to point out places where the screenplay deviates somewhat from the as-aired miniseries itself.  My aim is to offer a peek at what King's on-the-page intent was versus what came out in the final edit.  I expect a large part of this will involve transcribing some of King's more interesting stage directions; and about that: when I did something similar in a recentish post about Kingdom Hospital, I replicated all of the instances of King placing names/etc. in ALL CAPS FOR EMPHASIS.  This was not a stylistic quirk of his; he was following industry standards for how screenplays should be formatted.  However, I despise the way that looks, so for the purposes of this post, I'm going to take mild editorial liberties and use traditional capitalization.

In some cases, I might hunt up some additional screencaps to supplement those which can be found in the previous three posts.  We'll see.  Let's get to it!

The screenplay opens more or less the same way the miniseries does, with young Annie drawing with Crayons after being bitten by the Stantons' dog.  The offscreen argument between her sister and father -- named Sister and Father in the screenplay, presumably to emphasize that to Annie, that's who they (and Mother) are -- is dialed down in volume in the miniseries, to the point where one has to struggle to get the sense of it.  It is presented plainly on the page, and is essentially an argument in which Father asserts that Annie can't talk and can't think, and Sister insists that she can.

"Annie looks up, and we see her strange, empty face for the first time--Annie is autistic.  Yet that face isn't entirely empty.  Certainly she hears the argument downstairs, and she doesn't like it."

Saturday, September 19, 2020

We Were Wrong to Come: "Rose Red" Revisited, Part 3

Previous posts in this series:
And now, Rose Red night three.  (How's THAT for a transition?  [Yes, I know: shitty.])
You know what?  I don't really have any sort of unifying theme for this third night. 
So instead, let's just look at a mess of screencaps, which shall be interspersed with whatever comments spring to mind.  Apologies if you were expecting my A-game; I think it'll be back for the next post in this series (where we'll be discussing King's screenplay at length), but it's AWOL at the moment.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

She Responds to Love with Love: "Rose Red" Revisited, Part 2

Previous entries in this series:

part one (Rose Red night one)

The first thing I'd like to talk about in relation to part two of Rose Red is the way it serves as a lure to get us to believe in -- and therefore be afraid of -- the setting and the concepts which are being brought to us.  In large part, this is accomplished by building up the house itself.  Night two begins with a voiceover by Joyce, which is set against a montage of rooms within the house.  "Houses are alive," Joyce tells us; I assume, but cannot prove, that this is something she has written in her diary.  "This is something we know, news from our nerve endings.  If we're quiet -- if we listen -- we can hear houses breathe.  Sometimes in the depth of the night we hear them groan; it's as if they're having bad dreams.  A good house cradles and comforts; a bad one fills us with instinctive unease.  Bad houses hate our warmth, our humanness; and that blind hate of our humanity is what we mean when we use the word haunted."