Monday, October 15, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 5: Rob Zombie's Director's Cuts

The bad news: I've got yet more to say about the Halloween movies.

The good news: this one is going to be pretty quick.  Relatively speaking, I mean.  It's still me, so it won't be that quick.

Today, I want to cover the two director's-cut versions of Rob Zombie's movies.  With the first of his remakes, there isn't a huge amount to be said (one scene excepted), because many of the differences between this and the theatrical cut consist merely of scenes that have been extended slightly at one end or the other for the director's cut.

For example, there is some extended dialogue in the breakfast scene.  Judith says she doesn't want any eggs because they're chicken abortions, which Deborah says isn't true.  "Like you know what an abortion is," snipes Judith, which makes Ronnie laugh.  To be honest, it kind of makes me laugh, too.

A brief shot of Loomis arriving at the principal's office appears in this cut.  I kind of like hip young Loomis, who is neither as hip (nor as young) as he likely imagines himself to be.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 3

Welcome back for another dash through the various things I watched this month as part of my yearly Halloween-season binge.  No further preamble seems required, so next up is
In 2014, there was a movie called Ouija that was based on the board game -- they'll make movies about goddamn anything these days, eh? -- and was a bigger hit at the box-office than anyone expected.  Not huge; we're not talking Get Out or A Quiet Place or nothin' like that, but it was profitable.
Thing is, nobody liked it.  I mean, fucking nobody.  Did I see it?  Sure didn't, and I probably never will.  Which begs a question: why did I see the prequel that was made and released two years later?
Two words: Mike Flanagan.  
After seeing and loving his adaptation of Gerald's Game last year, I decided to see a few more of his movies, and after seeing and loving both Oculus and Hush, I decided to see all of his movies.  Which brings us to now; I've still not seen everything, but with Origin of Evil I'm one step closer, and I can definitively say this: I've got a new least-favorite Mike Flanagan movie.
Aha, BUT, y'all, don't let that fool you into thinking I disliked Origin of Evil.  I liked it just fine.  I can't honestly say I loved it, but if this is what Flanagan doing director-for-hire work looks like, then that dude is in good shape.
Anyways, having not seen the first movie, I can't speak to how much of this prequel is beholden to plot points established there.  What I can say is that this movie is set in the sixties, and is about a widow and her two daughters making a living by holding seances for paying customers.  It's all bogus, of course, right up until the point it isn't.
Flanagan knows how to construct a scene for suspenseful purposes, and while there's a little too much of the modern-day creepy-face style of jump scares, a few of them work pretty well and the rest of the movie is strong enough to survive the impositions.
Part of the fun I had was due to being outright pandered to by Flanagan's amusing use of reel-change cigarette burns in the editing.  See, I used to be a 35mm projectionist; I was one for about a decade, so this sort of thing is like catnip to me.
Allow me to explain.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 2

We'll begin with a movie that may or may not count as horror; not that it matters much either way, as I very much enjoyed:
I didn't see this when it played in theatres, and boy, do I wish I had.  I'd have loved to be there when...
...well, we've got to get spoilery as blue blazes in order to discuss this movie in the way I wish to discuss it, so I'll give you a buffer to move along to the next film on the list.

Friday, October 5, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 4: Rob Zombie's Halloween(s)

After 2002's Halloween Resurrection killed off both Laurie Strode and the public's interest in the franchise, there was seemingly only thing to do.  
Start over from scratch.
Rob Zombie was the guy who was hired to accomplish this task.  Zombie had started his career as the leader of the metal band White Zombie; he later went solo, and eventually began directing the music videos for his songs.  The videos, and his concerts, and indeed the songs themselves, had a very horror-movie sort of aesthetic, a style that culminated in Zombie's first movie, 2003's House of 1000 Corpses.  It got some good reviews; it got some bad reviews.  Some horror fans loved it; some found it to be a loud and unpleasant exercise in style with no weight to it.

The sequel, 2005's The Devil's Rejects, was less garish, more realistic, and better-reviewed.  It was hailed by some as being a new horror classic; others found it to be more of the same, a needlessly brutal and preposterously vulgar bunch of scary-redneck sound and fury.

Clearly, not everyone was onboard with Zombie's aesthetic.  But whether one liked it or disliked it, I think one had to admit that it was a clear and specific aesthetic.  He'd been building it going back at least as far as his White Zombie days; he'd been consistent in pursuing it, and had developed his ability to express it over time.

And so when Zombie was hired to direct the remake of Halloween, there was never any chance that he wasn't going to bring that aesthetic to bear on the story of Michael Myers.

You probably know this already, but I'm a fan.  At the time his Halloween was released in 2007, I'd have said I was a bigger fan of Rob Zombie by far than I was of the Halloween series overall.  Not, perhaps, a bigger Zombie fan than I was a John Carpenter fan; but Carpenter had been involved in fewer than half of the Halloween movies, so that was no contradiction.

I may as well tell you now: I'm still a bigger Rob Zombie fan than I am a Halloween fan, if we're talking about the entire series.  He hasn't made anything I like as much as I like Carpenter's Halloween, but that's no sin; and with the exception of Season of the Witch, I'll take his movies over anything made from The Return of Michael Myers straight through to Resurrection.  That's not even a choice.

In other words, I am bringing a bias of sorts to this post, and I don't want to shy away from it or inhibit it or try to trick anyone into thinking that's not the case.  I adore John Carpenter's Halloween, and always will, but I also adore Rob Zombie's aesthetic.  Because of that, I was -- and am -- willing to put the Carpenter film to one side and forget about it while I'm watching Zombie's remake.  There are deep transgressions against the Carpenter movie in Zombie's.  For me, that's okay, because the Zombie film is mostly its own thing; and Carpenter's film remains unassailable, and is undamaged by any of what Zombie is doing.

That's how I myself see it.

If you see it differently, I totally get it.  If I were not a fan of Zombie's music and filmmaking, I think I would be enraged by these movies.  I've certainly got the potential to despise a movie or series if I perceive it as being too far removed from the franchise of which it is a part.  Ask for my feelings on Spectre or Star Trek: Discovery sometime if you want examples of me in that mode.  (Better yet, don't.)  They are deep and, so far, ungovernable.  Zombie's Halloween films provoke the same partisan rage in many horror fans, and I totally get it.  I just don't share it, and I don't think it makes them bad movies.

My goal with this post is simple: I'm going to give you my take on these two films.  It's admittedly biased, but my hope is to at least be able to back it up.  If you're not willing to go there with me, I totally understand; like I said, I've been on the opposite side of the equation with several things in the past few years.  (Some of them King-related atrocities like The Dark Tower and Castle Rock.)

But if you are willing to go there with me, maybe we'll have a good time.

We're about to hit the road, but first, I need to talk about what format this post is going to take.  See, there's a decision to be made in covering Zombie's Halloween films: theatrical cuts or director's cuts.  There are substantial differences for both movies, and pros and cons for all versions.  It's the director's cuts that are most commonly available to viewers, so in some ways, that seems like the most natural place to begin.

However, I decided against that.  This review (or set of reviews) is an expression of my own viewpoint, and therefore I think it ought to reflect my own experiences.  My own experiences with these movies is that I saw the theatrical cuts first, and only years later saw the director's cuts.  Therefore, even if the director's cuts eventually supplant the theatrical cuts, they are forever the second way I experienced these movies.  So I figure I may as well keep viewing them in that way; it doesn't prevent them from being superior in some ways, but I think it's more accurate to my viewpoint to consider them as secondary versions.

With that in mind, we're going to first look at the theatrical cuts of both Halloween and Halloween II, and then follow that with a look at some of what makes the director's cuts different.

We begin, of course, with:

Let's kick things off with a discussion of one of the most controversial elements of Zombie's remake: the decision to have Michael Myers in this film be just a psychopath, and not a supernatural being of some sort.

This was probably the best decision Zombie made, in my decision.  Don't get me wrong; I love the fact that the first film's Michael Myers is some sort of literal boogeyman.  That's an iconic depiction which gave us one of the best ending scenes in cinema history; what's not to love?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 1

As I write this, it is September 21.  Kingmas: the birth of our Uncle Steve, this year being his 71st.  With that, we begin the marking of the Halloween season, and this year, as last, my intentions for the season are plain: watch as many horror films as I can squeeze in.
And this year, boy do we needs it.  Yes, precious, we needs it something fierce.  And we shall have it, yes!  Haha, indeed we shall, beginning with:

By the time this post appears online, the one-week IMAX 3D engagement for Michael Jackson's Thriller music video will have come and gone.  It played in front of showings of The House With a Clock in Its Walls (more on which momentarily), and looked and sounded marvelous.
The video was directed by John Landis.  I'd not seen it in probably about a decade, and I'd forgotten how effective a short horror film it is.  Rick Baker's makeup is terrific; they did not skimp on the werewolf action or the zombie action.  
More than anything, though, I was struck by the not-so-simply sight of seeing a young and impossibly talented Michael Jackson doing his thing on an IMAX screen.  He was a good film actor, and watching this, I found myself wishing that I could somehow go back in time and warn Michael to take a slightly different path than the one he ended up taking.  Would it have made any difference in the end?  Impossible to say.
But it's also impossible for me not to wish that somewhere around the beginning of 1984 -- before the accident while he was filming the Pepsi commercial -- Jackson had decided to focus on acting for a while.  I'm not saying leave the music biz, necessarily; I think there was probably a scenario in which Jackson could have been the man to bring the big Hollywood musical back into serious popularity.  Seeing him here, and remembering how good he is in The Wiz, it seems like a logical thing to have had happen.
Alas, it didn't happen.
Seeing Thriller in all its glory (and then some) again, all I can think is: what a shame.

Monday, October 1, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 3: The Return of Laurie Strode

Previous posts in this series can be found at:
Today, however, we'll be closely -- how closely remains to be seen (depends on how long my tolerance holds out) -- examining my two least favorite Halloween films of them all.
About that: just because they're my two least favorite doesn't mean they aren't somebody else's top two.  So to any of you who love (or even like) H20 and Resurrection, let me say that I apologize for my attitude toward these films and in no way want you feel like I'm attempting to discourage YOU from liking them.  If anything, I'd encourage you to use the comments section below to give me your thoughts on the movies; maybe seeing them through your eyes might change my mind.
Stranger things have happened, that's for sure.
For now, though, it's probably going to be a rather negative look I'm about to take.  Let's try to get through it quickly.
First up -- Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, which I refuse to type out in full again.
We open with a fakeout: this Michael-style butcher's knife, which murders the fuck out of

Saturday, September 29, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 2: The Jamie Lloyd Trilogy

You must remember this: a kiss is just a kiss.
You must also remember this: in 1988, when Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers was released, the Halloween series was dead.  It had given rise to an entire decade's worth of imitators, and imitations of those imitators.  And other characters had sprung up to fill the void left by by the departure of Michael Myers into the void.  Jason and Freddy, to name a couple.
Eventually, the producers who owned the rights to the Halloween movies and the Michael Myers character decided enough was enough.  Why were they leaving all that money on the table?  There were people out there who loved Michael Myers, who'd been disappointed by the Season of the Witch debacle (so-called); they were practically standing in front of the producers' houses holding fistfuls of cash, begging somebody to come outside and take it.
You must remember this.
That's the only reason the rest of the movies happened.  There was no artistic impulse at play here; there was no yearning for the soul's expression.  None a that shit.  Just moneymoneymoney.  As I've said before, I don't blame them.  Not one little bit.  
But I do think it's incumbent upon fans to remember that.  And it's especially incumbent upon non-fans to remember that.  Until at least H20, there was nothing happening in this franchise but pure commercialism.
This does not inherently mean that what happened next was destined to be bad.  You must also remember that.  
Before we proceed, let me state definitively: the first time I saw IV and V, I thought they more or less sucked.  I liked VI, more or less, but only mildly.  So if you've come here expecting the sort of enthusiasm I showed for the first three films in this series, you're apt to be disappointed.  Probably.  There's no guarantee of it; sometimes when I go on these deep dives, I end up bobbing to the surface again with a much greater appreciation of the movie/book/whatever than I had before submerging.  It's part of the reason why I enjoy doing these so much; they tend to reward me.
So who knows what we might discover?  I'm just saying, maybe ramp those expectations down a bit if you're a big fan of these films.
We won't know until we get there, I guess, so let's get to gettin':

So here's what happened.  John Carpenter and Debra Hill got out of the Halloween business for good following Season of the Witch, and producer Moustapha Akkad was left without a brain trust.  There was nobody around to decide what direction the franchise should go in except Akkad, and Akkad correctly determined that what the public wanted was for Michael Myers to come back.  Michael Myers WAS Halloween, so far as the public was concerned.

That, then, was the mandate for the fourth film: bring back Michael Myers.

The writers assembled to do so were as follows:

  • Dhani Lipsius, whose sole screenwriting credit is The Return of Michael Myers;
  • Larry Rattner, who had zero produced screenplays prior to this and had a mere two after it;
  • Benjamin Ruffner, whose sole filmmaking credit of any kind is for this film; and
  • Alan B. McElroy, whose first filmmaking credit was -- you guessed it -- this film.
In other words, a bunch of nobodies got hired to write this film.  McElroy ended up writing the screenplay based on the story contributions of the others, and he at least has gone on to work consistently.  Not well, particularly; his credits include things like Left Behind: The Movie, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Wrong Turn, The Marine (as bad a movie as I've ever seen in a theatre), and so forth.  He did also create the animated Spawn series, which has some stature ... but then he also wrote the screenplay for the live-action movie, which is dookie.

So is The Return of Michael Myers.  Spoiler alert!  It's doo-doo.  I do admittedly kind of like it for various reasons, but ... yeah ... it's not good.

And if you want to know why, that murderer's-row of no-talent screenwriters is probably a big chunk of it.  Their big idea for how to bring Michael Myers back was this: hey, what if we just say he never really died in the first place?  And then we can say Loomis never really died, either?  Cue everyone slapping each other on the back and popping corks on champagne bottles.

To shepherd the production of this new chapter, director Dwight H. Little was hired.


He'd directed three films before this, all grade-z action films starring people like Michael Billington, Edward Albert, and Christopher Neame.

To be fair, everyone has to start somewhere, and Little did go on to bigger and moderately better things like Marked For Death and Murder at 1600.  And he's directed extensively in television, including Millennium, The X-Files, The Practice, 24 (two episodes of the best season, the fifth), Prison Break, Castle, Dollhouse, Nikita, Bones, Sleepy Hollow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Scorpion.  So compared to those writers, this guy is Federico Fellini.

Put those writers together with that director, and what you've got is pretty clear: you've got a movie being made almost exclusively to bring in a little bit of money with as little as possible being spent in order to facilitate it.

That's what The Revenge of Michael Myers is: a low-budget, low-imagination propping up of a corpse.

Amazingly, the corpse realized that somebody had sat it up, and it jolted back to a diminished form of life; the movie was an actual hit.  Not a huge one or anything, but an actual hit.

Let's have a look at it and see if we can figure out why.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 1: The Carpenter Years

As promised/threatened in my previous post (ranking the Halloween films), I have returned to Haddonfield to wreak more vengeance, this time by offering up a prose commentary on the films themselves.  
This first post will tackle the three movies produced by John Carpenter, beginning with:
I wonder: how much of the first film's success (and subsequent -- and ongoing! -- mystique) can be attributed to the opening credits?  I'd wager a fair portion.  It's a very simple credits sequence, consisting only of a slow pushin on a jack-o'-lantern with a flickering candle flame dancing inside it, accompanied by one of the all-time great movie-music themes.
There are probably about 182 billion people in the world who'd be better suited to explain why Carpenter's music is great than I am.  But they're not writing this blog post, so I guess it's me or it's nobody.  And what I'd say about the theme is that it is perfect.  Why is it perfect?  No idea; get one of those other people to explain that one.  Something to do with the combination of rhythm and intensity; something to do with the spareness of the arrangement combined with the precision of the performance.
Whatever it is, it perfectly evokes both the allure and the dread of being in a scenario filled with mock dread.  And that's part of the key, too, I think; there is a playfulness here that summons up childhood make-believe.  I don't think this movie or this music is about actually being afraid; I think it's about pretending to be afraid, and having a good time doing it, but maybe doing juuuuuust a little too good of a job.
Anyways, that's what this music says to me.  And the jack-o'-lantern photography fits it like a glove; or vice versa, depending on how you see it.  It's a "simple" sequence, sure; but it's astonishingly effective, and hey, if it actually WAS that simple, wouldn't every movie have a credits sequence this great?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Worst To Best: "Halloween" Movies

This October is bringing us the eleventh film in the Halloween series: Halloween.  No, not Halloween, or even Halloween; this is Halloween.
Why you'd be okay with having three out of the eleven films in your franchise bear precisely the same title is a mystery to me, and it's one we're unlikely to unravel over the course of this post.  However, it will be an adequate backdrop for a post about a rather eccentric and -- it must be said -- nonsensical series of films.  These are weird movies, guys, filled with weird plot points designed to stretch the franchise for just one . . . more . . . movie . . .!!!  And to be fair, it mostly worked; and yet, deep weirdness was frequently the result.  So sure, why NOT name three of the movies the same thing?
If you will allow me a brief indulgence, I'd like to set the scene by offering a brief chronology of my initial exposure to the films.
1997 -- I saw the original John Carpenter movie for the first time this year and loved it
2001 -- I (reluctantly) watched the sequel and hated it
2002 -- I (at the behest of a friend who loved it) watched The Curse of Michael Myers and liked it
2007 -- I watched the Rob Zombie Halloween and loved it
2009 -- I watched the Rob Zombie Halloween II and hated it
2012 -- I watched the entire series in order, seeing 3-5 plus 7-8 for the first time
2014 -- I bought the limited edition Complete Collection Blu-ray set and did not watch it
2018 -- prompted by the podcast Halloweenies, I worked my way through the entire box set
And here we are.
I mention all that to establish a couple of facts: one, that I am in no way precious about these films; and, two, that despite that fact, I am definitely invested in the series (if only for the original and the rare moments when the followups rise to something approximating its level).  I am a fan, but no a slavish one.  I think and hope that this makes me qualified to give these films a fair assessment.  You be the judge on that score.
By the way, Halloween will not be covered.  I haven't seen it yet, and to be honest, I just don't much get into the idea of immediately trying to figure out where to rank a new movie in a series.  Will I rank it someplace mentally?  Well, yeah, probably so; but I'll get it dead wrong, if my past experiences are any indication, so I figure let's let it settle for a while.  If I ever do a 2.0 version of this list, I'll rank it then.
Hey, I just had an idea.  Here is how I will refer to the three identically-titled films in any context that does not make it clear which I am referring to:
Halloween = the original John Carpenter movie
Hall2ween = the Rob Zombie movie
Hallowe3n = the David Gordon Green movie
I think that manner of nuclear option may be called for; lack of clarity has come to your little town, sheriff.
And I should also mention before we proceed any farther: this list is going to piss you off.  Oh man, you're gonna fucking hate this list, I bet; and when you feel that hatred bubbling and about spill over the top of the kettle, remember this: it's only some dude's list.  It's filled with that dude's biases and quirks, and is his brand of bullshit, which may not be your own.
But I'm not about to let that stop me, because I am that dude.

So let's start slashing our way through these suckers beginning with the worst movie on the list, which is unquestionably:
#10 -- Halloween: H20
Tonight, on the two-part Halloween series finale...
What a pile of shit.  It's got its fans, but I find it almost impossible to drum up even a moderate amount of like for this movie.
H20 is a film for which I have no nostalgia whatsoever.  Why would I?  I didn't see it when it came out.  As mentioned above, I didn't see it until this decade, when embarking upon a mission to see every film in the series.  I got no nostalgia for this flick at all, man; zero.  And hence, no love, and very little like.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

There Are Dark Stars Near Arcturus: An Overview of Stephen King's Juvenilia, 1956-1966

When I undertook my series A Guided Tour Of The Kingdom, one of my primary motivations behind doing so was to establish for myself a sort of checklist to use for the many King-related works I'd like to blog about someday.  My hope was to begin putting checks in those boxes, by which I mean blogging about the things I've not blogged about.
I'm hoping to begin actually putting some checks in boxes on a regular basis, and I thought maybe the best way to get that ball rolling might be to begin at the beginning.  In this case what that means is looking at some of King's early amateur writings (a.k.a. juvenilia).  However, in no way do I feel like that work merits the same type of attention as, say, The Shining; so while I thought it made sense to cover it all, I thought it made a lot less sense to devote an entire post to each story.  This is especially true given how difficult most of these are for the average person to actually find and read.
So, a compromise: a roundup post.  We'll cover everything that I know of to be at least marginally available, which is by no means everything; for example, I won't be covering the fabled "novelization" of The Pit and the Pendulum that King wrote, because nobody has ever read it (or at least, nobody has ever reported on it).  Sames goes for a satirical piece he wrote in high school called "The Village Vomit."  If and when additional pieces make their way into the public view, I'll update this piece accordingly.
For now, though, we're stuck with what we're stuck with. 
Let's get cracking, beginning with:
"Jhonathan and the Witchs"
(written circa 1956; published in First Words, 1993)

I'd intended to use this post as an excuse to read the entirety of First Words, but when I picked the book up and actually contemplated doing it -- it's 502 pages (in hardback; the abridged trade paperback clocks in at a more-than-halved 241 pages) -- I realized that most of it would probably be something less than rewarding.  I kind of feel bad about that, but does 14-year-old John Updike really care what some fat bastard in Alabama reads and doesn't?  I'm guessing not.  And this fat Alabamian bastard kind of doesn't care what young John Updike wrote.
He cares about what young Steve King wrote, though, so we are going to skip straight to "Jhonathan and the Witchs." King wrote it at a mere nine years of age, and it's loads better than most nine-year-olds would manage.
Here's a plot summary I wrote:

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Clearing at the End of the Path; or, Why Stephen King?

A single word hangs like a pall over this post; over my entire life, maybe.  The word is "why," a short word with a very long meaning.
I've got a middle-aged man's half-lifetime's inventory of "why"s, stacked up like yellowed newspapers in an abandoned house.  In writing this post I am going to try not to stagger drunkenly into those stacks of whys, knocking them over and sending plumes of musty dust billowing into the air.  If I fail in that aim, I'd recommend not breathing that dust in; I'm not sure it's particularly healthy.
We're on the porch of that house now.  Hear the floorboards as they creak?  I don't know that you should follow me in.  It's safe enough, but it's honestly kind of gross and upsetting, and part of me wants to just go in all by my lonesome; see, I'd kind of like to just knock all those whys over and do away with the pretense of letting them stand.
But that defeats the purpose of this post.  We -- or so I'm claiming -- only want to go inside and grab a couple of the newspapers from those stacks; one of them is lamentably recent, so it'll be no challenge to get at.  The other is older; we've got to further in to get to it, but I know from previous visits that it's right on the top of a stack, easy to reach, easy to grab.
The temptation comes from everything around it, the whys at the bottom of stacks which are in the corners of rooms buried behind other stacks.  Only a nutso would even TRY to get to those, because there's no way to do so cleanly.  And yet, I'd like to get to them; yes indeed, I surely would.
What I'm saying is this: we're here to answer the question "Why Stephen King?" but I've brought us here on somewhat false pretenses, so we're also going to try to answer the unanswerable question of "Why Trey Sterling?" at the same time.  And what I'm really saying is this: I wonder if I'm strong enough to withstand a trip into this house that lasts long enough to visit two different rooms.  There's a danger of getting lost, and if I can drop my silly metaphor of houses and newspapers, what I'm REALLY saying is this: I hope I won't end up talking about too much bullshit nobody reading this blog would possibly give a damn about.  All those whys, they are not your concern; you've likely got your own house full of 'em, and hardly need a visit to see somebody else's.
So I'm going to try to not do that.  But I worry.
The worrying has ended for my friend Trey Sterling, who spent a year worrying about the lymphoma that had invaded his body, and then surrendered to it on June 22, just a few weeks shy of his 32nd birthday. 
Trey took that Logan's Run thing a little bit too seriously, if you ask me.  (And yes, I stole that joke from Trey himself!)


He spent his final weeks floating in and out of consciousness, and the extent to which he was able to actually understand and process the things happening around him is a bit of an unknown.  There were moments of lucidity; they were not entirely pleasant, I am led to believe.  I only saw him on a few occasions during this time, and from my perspective, "Trey" (meaning the qualities that made Trey himself) was almost entirely absent.  There were flashes of him there; he was not entirely gone.  But to the extent he was present, he was diminished; not gone, no (the sense of devil-may-care humor shone through at times), but absolutely diminished.
Why would a thing like this be possible?  An inane question to ask, and not one that I actually expect to be answered.  This "why" is less a question than it is an accusation; it is a gob of spit hocked onto the ground at the feet of an indifferent universe, a "fuck you" in a question's clothing.  The universe that would do a thing like this to a Trey Sterling is a universe that needs to be told to get bent.

Of course, the joke will be on me for that act of defiance; the universe's response will be to rise out of the ocean someday (perhaps tomorrow!) and run amok, prompting hysterical madness in all who glimpse it.  I mean, fuck that universe in the nose all the same; but it's gonna get me one of these days, and it's gonna get you one of these days, too, and whether our fates are more benign than Trey's or shockingly less benign is utterly beyond our control.
We're going to walk on from that, and as we do, allow me to mention that Trey's death put me in mind of The Dark Tower.
That might seem like a trifling thing to be reminded of.  It's not.  That series of books is how Trey and I became friends in the first place; it's baked right into the DNA of our friendship, and so while it might seem to some trivial and even crass for me to use that as a way into memorializing him, it doesn't strike me as the least bit odd.  Wouldn't have struck Trey that way, either.
But it's worth asking: why?

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Look at "The Search For Castle Rock"

Last week, Hulu released a brief (23ish minutes) documentary called The Search For Castle Rock.  I decided to write a little summary of it as part of Part 16 of my Guided Tour Of The Kingdom series of posts (which you'll see at some in the future).  I ended up writing a little bit more about it than I'd planned, and thought that it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and just toss it up here, if only so as to provoke some Castle Rock conversation.
Confession: while I will absolutely be watching that series on Hulu when it starts later this week, I have no plans whatsoever of writing about it here.  Also, I'm not as sold on the idea as many King fans seem to be.  I'll get into some of my reasons for that below.
Though I'll not be writing anything about the show on a weekly basis, I'd be more than happy to discuss it in the comments section for this post; so there's another reason for the post's existence, potentially.
This twenty-three-minute documentary short is essentially just a promotional piece for Castle Rock, the Hulu original series from producer J.J. Abrams.  I wouldn't normally cover that sort of thing here, but this is an interesting and very professionally-produced documentary, plus, hey, I got no real reason not to.
"Haunted places have long been a staple in Stephen King's writing," says a narrator at the beginning.  "That's because the locations that inspired his writing have dark histories themselves."
Right here, you get a sense of what this documentary -- and perhaps the broader scope of Castle Rock itself -- may be trying to accomplish: this is myth-building, in which Stephen King is being turned from a man into a myth.  What we are glimpsing is a bit of what seems likely to happen once King has reached the clearing at the end of the path and is no longer among the living: the shadow's ability to persist once the body itself has vanished.
I suppose this was always inevitable.  And it's probably preferable, right?  I mean, it's happened before.  Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, H.P. Lovecraft, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickens, so forth and so on; all exist in our minds at least as much on a mythical realm as on a literal one.  This happens with rock stars, too, and probably with anyone famous whose fame has any reason to outlive their bodies.
And yet, I have to confess to feeling a little grumpy about it.  I mean, can't this wait until King is dead?  Dude is still building his own myth; two books a year, most years.  There's no reason on Earth he can't live and write and publish well into his nineties, so there may be entire chapters of that life yet to be written; maybe the myth-making can slow its roll.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie Review: "Gerald's Game" (2017)

Believing is feeling.
Tonight, I watched Gerald's Game for only the second time, and I am pleased to report that I enjoyed it just as much on revisit as I did when it first began streaming last September.
Having recently reread (and blogged about) the novel, I was a little worried that King's version might be too much in my brain for me to let go and enjoy Mike Flanagan's adaptation.  I needn't have worried; this is top-notch stuff, an instant classic that has, I think, already joined the ranks of agreed-upon King classics.
If such a thing even exists anymore.  I think it still does, but our culture, popular and otherwise, seems to be in the midst of a series of profound shifts in how we view it and ourselves, and in the face of that only a fool speaks of things being commonly agreed upon.  Granted, I kind of am a fool; so there's that.  Still, I've retained enough self-awareness to know that whereas one probably could speak about "agreed-upon" things in 1988, or 1998, or maybe even 2008, the ability to do so in 2018 is increasingly meaningless.  We agree on virtually nothing these days.  We don't even agree upon what we disagree about.
That's not lost on me, is what I'm saying.
Still, to the extent such a thing as consensus exists, the consensus among people who care about movies based on the work of Stephen King seems to be that Mike Flanagan's Gerald's Game is a big-time winner.
How did this happen?  For decades, that novel was considered to be damn near unfilmable.  Flanagan's movie works so well, though, that one wonders what all the fuss was ever about.  "Oh," one might say watching it; "fuck, that was simple."  I'm sure it was anything but, but it does play somewhat effortlessly, and that's a bit of a marvel.
Let's see if we can celebrate it a bit.
The key initial decisions Flanagan seems to have made are these: (1) deciding that the novel itself fundamentally works from beginning to end; and (2) deciding that despite that, not every aspect of it was a slam-dunk for adaptation into an audiovisual format.  From there, along with co-screenwriter Jeff Howard (to whom I apologize in advance for the many times I'm going to simply refer to Flanagan as the auteur of this adaptation -- I do know it's not the case, and regret the shorthand), he seems to have decided to keep as much of the novel as possible without losing sight of the fact that in order for it to work as a cohesive whole, things would have to be sacrificed.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Books I Read in 2018, Part 2

Part Two beginneth now, with:
Sleepwalkers by Stephen King

Not technically a book, but I'm counting it, because it's book-length and I did, in fact, read it during 2018.
I wrote about it at considerable length here.  The short version: it's a readable screenplay that is kind of cheesy and nonsensical, but is nevertheless worth the time of any serious King fan.  It's mostly the same thing as what you seen if you've seen Sleepwalkers, but there are a few significant differences, including a very different ending.
Date of completion: March 6
Grade:  B-
The Listener by Robert McCammon

I wrote about Robert McCammon's new novel The Listener here, and not in any spoilery detail.
It's about a kidnapping, a telepath, and my determination never to go to a swamp.  It's quite possibly one of the best books McCammon has ever written, and that's high praise.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Film Score Review: Danny Elfman's "Dolores Claiborne" (1995)

Here is a partial list of the films Danny Elfman had scored by the time he accepted the job on Dolores Claiborne:
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
  • Beetlejuice (1988)
  • Midnight Run (1988)
  • Scrooged (1988)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Nightbreed (1990)
  • Dick Tracy (1990)
  • Darkman (1990)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • Batman Returns (1992)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What you've mostly got there is a list of colorful/moody fantasy films of one type or another.  Most of what's left is comedy; some are both.  I would argue that a minimum of five are stone-cold classics of film scoring. 

I'm not sure you'd be able to argue that a filmography like what Elfman had at the time would make one an inherently good choice for a film like Dolores Claiborne, which is neither a comedy (and how) nor a colorful fantasy film.  It's a psychological drama with expressive elements; and that's not true of, say, Dick Tracy.

However, Elfman had been working up to make a transition of this nature.  He'd scored the underrated Jodie Foster / Richard Gere drama Sommersby in 1993, and had done a good job of putting himself in supporting mode; many of his previous scores had (and this is in no way a sleight of his phenomenal work) been much more front-and-center.  That sort of approach can work for dramas -- Taxi Driver, anyone? (I'd answer "yes" if I were you) -- but most directors opt not to go quite that expressive with the music.

Case in point: Dolores Claiborne, which has virtually nothing in the way of hummable themes.  One thing you could NOT accuse Elfman of is being deficient in the hummable-themes department in the course of scoring those films listed above.

Of course, this in no way implies that Dolores Claiborne lacks impact or is deficient.  It's impactful and really rather terrific; just not in the way Beetlejuice is, you know?  And I think it's worth going on a bit of a deep dive here, and closely examining the role the music plays in the movie.  So what I'm going to do is this: I'm going to rewatch the movie, and take notes on each and every scene in which Elfman's score appears, and then pass my thoughts about it along to you.  After I'm finished, I'd then like to compare that to the soundtrack album (which, like most score albums, contains only some of the music Elfman wrote and recorded).

But first...

I might be about to test the patience of some of my readers, but I think it might be a useful experience for me personally to go on a brief tour of Elfman's career as I understood it around the time of Dolores Claiborne's release.  There's no better way of doing that than going track by track through the contents of this album:

This is Music For A Darkened Theatre: Film & Television Music Volume One, which for my money is one of the great film-composer compilations of all.  It might well also be one of the most-played CDs in my library; I got this sucker when it came out in 1990, and it got featured heavily in my rotation.  (Technically, my first copy was on cassette, but let's not be pedantic, shall we?)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The "Dolores Claiborne" opera (2013): reviewing the reviews

As you may know, I am a Stephen King fan.
This surprises you?  Feign surprise all you want, but it is merest truth.  The truth inside the lie, one might say.
Or one might not say such a lame thing as that, but evidently that was how my brain wanted to begin this post.  Fuck it, let's regroup.
Point is, AS a Stephen King fan, I'm kind of used to being able to indulge my fandom.  King puts out a new book or story, I buy it and read it.  A new movie comes out?  I go see it.  A new television series comes on?  I watch it.  A new comic book comes out?  I get one.
Generally speaking, I am able to keep up with all but the most ephemeral such bits of King-dom.  And that suits me just fine.
But every once in a while, something comes along that scoots right past my defenses and escapes from me.  One such instance came in 2013, when the San Francisco Opera staged Dolores Claiborne, an opera by composer Tobias Picker based on the novel (and movie) of the same name(s).
Dolora Zajick as Dolores Claiborne, a performance that would never be

I'd happily have attended a performance if I could have done so, but it was not vaguely feasible.
To date, there has been no commercial video or audio release of any kind.  No bootlegs exist that I am aware of; no performances (apart from a highlight reel, more on which in a bit) exist on YouTube.  For all practical purposes, the opera just plain doesn't exist for this King fan and blogger.
And this vexes me.  Yes, it vexes me mightily.
That said, I thought it made sense to go ahead and pound out a post on the subject while I was in Dolores Claiborne mode (having recently covered both the novel and the movie).  I can't review what I can't see/hear, but I can compile all the interesting information about it I can find, and if nothing else serve as a sort of repository for information about the opera.
If you're game, follow along, and let's see if we turn up anything interesting. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Movie Review: "Dolores Claiborne" (1995)

Today, it's movie-review time, and we're threading the 1995 Warner Bros. adaptation of Dolores Claiborne through the handy-dandy Truth Inside The Lie projector.
Confession: the foregoing sentence is an example of the kind of bullshit you write when you can't quiiiiiiite figure out how to begin a blog post but are determined to begin it nevertheless.  Vamping ain't just for podcasts!

One thing I always struggle with when writing these reviews is a question: should I primarily think of them as a thing separate from the novels/stories upon which they are based, or should I instead think of them as a reflection of that source material and judge them accordingly?
It's a difficult question to answer in some cases, but I'm being somewhat disingenuous in having even posed it, because I've got my answer all lined up, and have had it for many a year now: I do whatever I feel like doing at the time I'm doing it.  So do I sometimes feel perfectly content to consider the movies as their own thing?  You bet I do.  Do I at other times feel like either praising or (this is more common) cursing the movie for the degree to which it hews to its source material?  Oh, for sure.
And there are still other times where I seem to take a hybrid approach, feeling both things simultaneously.
It's a case-by-case thing with me, and if that strikes you as being wishy-washy or flip-floppy or just plain old hypocritical, well, you don't need my permission to be thus struck, so go on ahead.  I'd only point out that this adaptation game is a tricky one; there are no rules, only a shifting maze of approaches that may or may not lead you to the end goal that is "success."
On the whole, I think I'm pretty consistent in my own approach to appraising this stuff: I just want to see something good.  Great would be even better, and okay'll do in a pinch; but give me something good, and I'll not only roll with you, but I'll ride shotgun and keep an eye out for bandits.
No point in burying the lede any further: I think this is an awfully good movie.  It might even get close to being a great one; I said I thought more or less that the last time I ranked all the King movies (this one came in at #10). 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Brief Review of "The Outsider"

Well, in the words of Rustin Parr, I'm finally finished.

I'm going to give you as bare-bones and spoiler-free of a review as I can possibly manage.  I'll be able to manage it pretty well, too, although there is one major plot point that, frankly, it's kind of nuts for me NOT to talk about.  But since it's been absent from the book's marketing, I'll leave it for you to find out on your own; seems like the right thing to do.
I ingested The Outsider -- which spans 561 pages -- in a mere two days, and that right there ought to tell you something about the novel.  That's a big chunk of reading and not a long span of time in which it was accomplished.  So was it compulsively readable?  You better believe it.
Unfortunately, that's not enough for me to give the novel anything more than a weak recommendation.  Allow me to explain.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A look at recent King-family short stories

I have a real brief one for you tonight: just wanted to give you a brief set of reactions to four recently-published King-family short stories that I read this week.
We'll proceed in the order in which they were published, which gives us the added benefit of saving Big Steve's story for last.
Up first:
"All I Care About Is You"
(by Joe Hill)
published in The Weight of Words, December 21, 2017
When he's at his best, Joe Hill makes you want to fuck someone, or punch someone, or donate a bunch of money to charity, or run outside and tump a car over.  Do something passionate, at any rate.  I had none of those options available to me after reading this story, which finds Hill either at his best or real damn near it; so I just ate some Moon Pies.  Story of my fuckin' life, that.
I don't really know why it took me this long to read the story.  Well ... I do know, it's just for a fundamentally silly reason.  
See, a few years ago, I made a sort of vow to myself: that going forward, when I buy anthologies -- I do not extend this courtesy to magazines (for reasons that don't even make sense to me, much less to any hypothetical people with whom I share them) -- so as to have copies of stories by authors such as Hill, King, etc. whose work I enjoy, I will not allow myself to merely read their contributions and then toss them aside.  I used to do that all the time; and when I say "used to," I mean from, like, 1990-2015.  It's insulting to all those other authors!  Plus, I have a tendency these days to ONLY read the Kings and Hills of the world, i.e., people who are already on my approved list.  Reading anthologies is a good way to pick up at least a modicum of familiarity with other authors.
Understand, it is like an ice-pick in my heart to realize I can't find the time to read more or less every genre author there is (and I'd love also to read copious amounts of non-genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, you name it).  But I can't, so I kind of don't worry about it much.
Insisting on making myself read the entirety of these anthologies is my way of not throwing in 100% of the towel; if I can keep 0.05% of it, well, better than none, right?
So basically, I was waiting to find the time -- which I apparently needed to be just right -- to settle down with The Weight of Words.  I got the book in late 2017, and here, halfway through 2018, the time had just not been quite right.
But when -- and apologies for this full-tilt detour into crazy-town, but hey, this IS a blog, so you asked for at least a little bit of crazy -- I read new, published-online stories by both Owen and Stephen King last week, and (spoiler alert!) loved them both, it got me to thinking that there was a major new story by Joe Hill just sitting there on my shelf, waiting forlornly to be read.  And so, I've broken my rule, and dove right into The Weight of Words, flipped to very near the end, and consumed "All I Care About Is You."  All I cared about for the moment was that story.
That said, I will read the entirety of the anthology before the summer is out; I may well make it the next thing I read once The Outsider has been vanquished in fact.  We'll see as to that, but before the summer is out, for sure.
And when I do read it, I will 100% reread "All I Care About Is You," which immediately became a lock for a spot in my top three Hill short stories.  "Pop Art" and "20th Century Ghost" are the current #1 and #2; I'm not sure I had any kind of formal pick for #3, but I feel like if I'd had to choose one, it would have been either "In the Tall Grass" or "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead."
Well, no more; "All I Care About Is You" vaults immediately into at least the #3 position.  I think "Pop Art" is safe at #1, but a reread might find the #2 spot up for grabs.  Regardless of where they get slotted in, this story is sheer dynamite.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Ocean She Was Adrift On Was Time: "Dolores Claiborne" Revisited, Part 3

I'd been working my way up to these posts about Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne all year, and my primary goal for them was to get them finished before May 22.  May 22, you Constant Readers may know, is the day King's new novel, The Outsider, hits shelves.  As is typically the case, my plan for that day involves not working, dragging myself out of bed at some point after noon, going to a place where the book would be apt to be sold, purchasing a couple of copies (one of which will be for some future me's reread-note-taking pleasure), and then spending as much of the next few days as possible reading it.

Better by far if I've got no in-the-works blog posts waiting to be finished.
And hey, whattaya know!  I managed to get across the finish line before the deadline arrived.  Not with a whole heck of a lot of time to spare, but that don't confront me none; it got done, and it got done reasonably well, and so I'm gonna pat myself on the back for just a second.

After which, I will point out that I didn't quite finish: deep-dives into the movie adaptations of both Dolores Claiborne (1995) and Gerald's Game (2017) were intended to be part of this series, and those, alas, I am not going to be able to get done pre-Outsider.  This, I think, is okay; I'll be all to happy to let those sit for a week or two, because after all, I'd kind of like to deal with them as their own thing, and not merely as reflections of the books.  So putting a mild amount of distance between the books and the movies by slotting in a different book altogether...?  Not the worst idea in the world.  So I'm claiming, anyways, and you can't prove I don't mean it!

Heck, I may even wedge a post about recently King-family short stories in there for good measure.  On the score, we shall see.

Regardless, let's now conclude our revisit of Dolores Claiborne the novel with a roundup edition of stray thoughts I failed to work into the first few posts.

Don't look too closely at the join in those two pages; this was not my most graceful ripping-and-taping job.  It's another lovely Bill Russell illustration, though.
We're gonna just sorta work our way through in chronological order, mostly, and hit whatever seem worth hitting. Let's begin with what is, for me, one of the most memorable sections of the novel: Dolores's description of dealing with Vera's bedsheets, particularly during the winter.

"That was one thing you didn't ever want to get wrong," says Dolores (19).  "They had to be hung perfectly even over the lines -- so the hems matched, you know -- and you had to use six clothespins on each one.  Never four; always six."

Fair enough, right?  I mean, they're Vera's sheets; and those hanging them are being paid Vera's money to hang them.  If I were the kind of person who was particular about such things, and was paying somebody to do this work for me, I'd be particular about this thing, and no mistake about it.

Monday, May 21, 2018

She Had Three Ways of Bein a Bitch: "Dolores Claiborne" Revisited, Part 2

Depicted above: the Hodder & Stoughton edition of the novel's hardback.  Ain't it a beaut?  I probably still prefer the American edition from Viking, but our British cousins did well with this one, and if I can find a reasonably inexpensive used copy, I'mma have me one.

That acquisitorial note made, let's now crack on with part two of our Dolores Claiborne revisit.

Today, I want to look at the novel's two most prominent supporting players, Joe St. George and Vera Donovan, beginning with the latter.  (We already talked about here some here, but there's plenty more left to be said.)

Dolores's relationship with Vera is probably the most important of the novel, and it's one of the most compelling relationships in all of King's work.  It's difficult to put a label on exactly what kind of relationship it is.  It's not romantic or sexual (a thing which is likely not in doubt, but may nevertheless need to be stated); it's an employer/employee relationship, but one which morphs into caregiver/patient; it can't quite be considered a friendship, except in the numerous ways which it behaves as one.  What are these two women to each other?

We don't quite know, and since Dolores is the narrator, this can mean only that she herself doesn't know.  And since she isn't exactly the kind of person who is prone to waste a great deal of mental energy figuring such things out, it remains somewhat ill-defined throughout.

As such, I think it manages to be incredibly compelling.  It is infuriating at times, it is thrilling at other times, it is moving at still others.

This is life, isn't it?

Friday, May 18, 2018

The World's A Sorry Schoolroom Sometimes: "Dolores Claiborne" Revisited, Part 1

Having traipsed our way through Gerald's Game, we now turn our attentions to Dolores Claiborne, and I immediately sense -- perhaps to the relief of some of you! -- that I'm not going to have anywhere near as much to say about this novel.  In no way should this be taken as a reflection on its quality.  Its quality is substantial, and in fact I'd say that of the two, I prefer Dolores Claiborne pretty handily ... and that despite being unreservedly impressed by Gerald's Game on this revisit.  Both are grade-A stuff; but in my opinion, Dolores Claiborne is an A+.

That doesn't mean I've got nothing to say, though.  Let's find out what it amounts to!


We're going to begin with some business.  You sometimes see Dolores Claiborne listed as a 1993 publication, and that's quite reasonable given the fact that the copyright date in the book -- and it's listed this way in all three editions I own -- is, in fact, 1993.

Despite this, it was published in 1992.  I have no clue why the book itself says 1993; my best guess is that it was an error of some sort that became legally binding and has therefore been permitted to stand.  But who can say?  Not this blogger.  This blogger CAN say that he is almost positive he read the book during the Christmas break after his first semester of college; specifically, I read it while visiting my grandparents in Creola.  This would have been in the waning days of 1992, so let's say probably December 26 or 27.

I say "almost positive" because I cannot rule out the technical possibility that we visited Creola later that year than usual, and that it might have been in the first days of 1993 that I actually read the novel.  But I put the odds of this as being very slim indeed.

Regardless, let's look at a few hard facts:

  • in an interview with W.C. Stroby in the July 1992 issue of Fangoria, Dolores Claiborne is said to be earmarked for publication in December 
  • Kirkus evidently reviewed the novel in the September 1, 1992 issue, and they list the publication date as December 7
  • the New York Times reviewed the novel in its November 16, 1992 issue
  • an interview with King in the Times on November 18 said that the novel "is being released this week" 
  • Kevin Quigley's Chart of Darkness lists the publication date as December 6, and says that the book went straight to the #1 position on the Times list of bestsellers, remaining there for the remainder of the year
  • a second Times review (this one in brief) seemingly followed on December 27

Add all that up, and I feel pretty good about saying that this book definitively WAS published in 1992, regardless of what it says inside the book itself.  (And I feel similarly good about continuing to claim -- for the one people in the entire world [me!] who care about this -- that I read the book shortly after Christmas.)

So there you have it; done and dusted.  All you suckers out there who keep saying 1993, you've been misled, but adjust your lists accordingly because it's 19 and 92 and that's just all there is to it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

An Unlikely Wellspring For Myth: "Gerald's Game" Revisited, Part 3

Well, we've reached the third and final part (excluding a look at the movie adaptation) of our revisit with Gerald's Game, and has been the case a few times in the past when I've tackled King's novels, this final part is going to be less a cohesive thing than it is me pointing at a bunch of stuff and saying, "Hey, lookit __________!  Isn't that cool!"  Like I'm hosting the Chris Farley Show or something.
 I'm cool with that, and anyways, Gerald's Game has lots of stuff to point at and get enthusiastic over.  So let's get to enthusing, beginning with this:
This frontispiece illustration by Bill Russell is a beaut.  I love the three frontispieces Russell did for King novels; he did three in a row, back-to-back-to-back (Needful Things in 1991, Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne in 1992).  I don't know much about him, but I think his style was well-suited to King's books, and I wish their collaboration had been more extensive.
We'll see more of Russell's art in this post; he also created smaller illustrations that appeared at the beginnings of chapters.  I'm going to use them to separate topics, because bulletpoints get old and don't allow for paragraph breaks.  And anyways, we will in fact have some bulletpoints when we get to the end.  Do you care about this?  I doubt it, and if you do, I don't know why.  Why'm I even bringing it up?  What a weirdo I am sometimes.
Speaking of weirdos, let's talk a bit about Gerald Burlingame.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

You're Only Made of Moonlight: "Gerald's Game" Revisited, Part 2

Welcome back for the second part -- third, if'n you count this one -- of our revisit of Gerald's Game.  Today we're going to focus on the space cowboy himself, Raymond Andrew Joubert.

Joubert is a somewhat controversial figure among King fans, thanks to the question of whether King does right by his own concept for the character.  He is initially presented as a figure who might not exist at all: a figment of Jessie's taxed and overactive imagination, quite possibly.  And even once Jessie accepts that he IS real, she goes through rather an ordeal trying to reconcile that he is with the possibility of what he is.  The reader, obviously, goes along with her on that journey, and then along comes Stephen King at the end to upset everyone's apple cart.
So say some, at least.
We'll get to my feelings on the subject in due course, but let's first take an abbreviated stroll through the ways in which King depicts this monstrous figure during the bulk of the novel.
And where is there to begin except at the beginning?