If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a fan of Stephen King. However, his film adaptation are, shall we say, hit and miss. I have quite a bit of King tonight, plus the most ambitious attempt at bringing the novel Dracula to life.
1990, 2017, 2019
Okay, I am really torn about this. All three of these belong together somehow. However, if I were to split them up, the 2017 film, IT: Chapter One, would be much higher on the list. I recently read the book, finally. The goal was to read it before IT: Chapter Two was released in September. I accomplished this goal and the story affected me. It was a tale we were all familiar with, either through Stephen King’s novel or the 1990 mini-series.
The 1990 mini-series stars some of the top TV drama sitcom actors of its day – Harry Anderson of Night Court, Tim Reid of WKRP in Cincinnati, Richard Thomas of The Waltons, John Ritter (Three’s Company), Richard Masur, plus the great Tim Curry as Pennywise, Annette O’Toole and child actors Seth Green (does he ever age?) and Emily Perkins (Ginger Snaps franchise). The titular Loser’s Club battles the demonic clown Pennywise in a watered down version of the novel. It is fairly faithful to the book, however. Since it was made for TV it had to go light on the gore. It’s enjoyable and it’s better and scarier than you remember.
The 2017 film focuses on the Loser’s Club as kids, whereas the novel and the mini-series shift back and forth from kids to adults. The time frame is shifted forward so the 2019 film could take place basically today. Sophia Lillis (Sharp Objects) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) headline a wonderful cast of child actors. Bill Skarsgard takes up the mantle as Pennywise and does a wonderful job. The aesthetic and casting are pitch perfect. The movie captures the tone and the themes of King’s novel very well. It’s scary, funny, well-written and well-acted. There are some subtle changes from the book, and some things left out, but it doesn’t hurt the movie at all.
The 2019 movie was a disappointment and that’s why IT isn’t further up the list. Instead of focusing on the adults’ backstories, the film spent way too much time on flashbacks to the Loser’s Club as kids in order to further that narrative or fill in blanks from Chapter One. The casting, on the surface, looked to be spot-on. Then the movie started. James McAvoy is miscast as stuttering Bill, Jessica Chastain does not capture the spirit of Beverly, Isaiah Mustafa portray’s Mike as a raving lunatic, Jay Ryan is just misplaced as the adult Ben Hanscom. Bill Hader and James Ransone are wonderful as Richie and Eddie respectively. My biggest problem with this movie was the portrayal of Pennywise as a big-headed spider monster. Skarsgard is wasted. The movie is at its best when Pennywise is human-sized and Skarsgard is in full make-up and costume luring and eventually murdering his victims.
Quite a few people enjoyed the latest movie. I expected something more. If you watch the 2017 movie, you probably should see the latest to see how the story ends. Or you could just read the damn book.
51. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Oh, how I crave of a faithful adaptation of my favorite horror novel. I’ve never gotten one. A couple have come close. Francis Ford Coppola helmed this ambitious picture that tries to stay very true to the novel with a few major differences. I do not know why so many screenwriters and directors want to inject a love story into Dracula. There is no love story in the book. There is no reincarnated princess from Dracula’s days as the Prince of Wallachia.
I have done a fair bit of research into Bram Stoker’s process for writing the book and I can say with confidence that he did not “base” the Dracula character on Vlad the Impaler. He borrowed some elements, most notably the name, but the creature itself owes more the Countess Elizabeth Bathory and the Irish vampire legend of the Dearg Due that it does the once time prince known for his sadistic methods for dealing with enemies.
An all-star cast featuring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes and Tom Waits bring Stoker’s story to life in ways never seen before. Too bad Reeves is not far enough removed from Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan. Hopkins seems to be in a different movie from everyone else. I love the film for it’s music, costumes, effects and most of the acting. It is the truest adaptation of the book and that’s probably why I like it so much.
Another Stephen King adaptation, and this is a really good one. John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson star in this haunted hotel room thriller. Again, I find haunted anything movies difficult to do well and this one is done extremely well. I watched it again not that long ago and it scared the crap out of me – again.
Cusack plays a writer who debunks haunted phenomenon. He checks into the Dolphin Hotel’s famed room 1408 thinking he would expose the accounts as fraud. He couldn’t be more mistaken.
Stylish and stylized, Cusack is fantastic in this movie and the ending is, well, chilling. The story appeared in the 2002 short story collection Everything’s Eventual.