Quick Hit: Johnny Depp gives an amazing turn as a writer who may or may not be mad.
Hello everyone and welcome to our celebration of Stephen King movies here at DoubleFeaturePreachers.com. The celebrated author is by far my favorite, and his magnum opus The Dark Tower is being adapted (finally, after so many false starts) and will be released on Friday August 4th. I will warn you in advance, despite the fact that the run time for that movie is 95 minutes or so, my post on it will probably take 95 minutes to read. It’s my favorite book series, by my favorite author, so what could you reasonably expect? I'll say this first in regards to all the movies - Go enjoy the book first prior to watching the film.
However, prior to our post on The Dark Tower, we’re going to feature some of King’s other movie adaptations. We’re going to start today with Secret Window, which was adapted from King’s story “Secret Window, Secret Garden” from his Four Past Midnight short story collection. It stars Johnny Depp as writer Mort Rainey, and John Turturro as John Shooter. Essentially the story boils down to this: John Shooter claims that he wrote one of Rainey’s stories, and wants his due. Rainey claims he did not plagiarize.
While that main sound boring, there is a lot going for this movie. First, as alluded to, Depp gives a typically amazing performance. Not hidden under makeup this time, he frequently presents the image of a man who is used to being alone, and is a bit unstable. He talks to himself, eats only potato chips and Mountain Dew, and can’t seem to get a story written. There are lots of references to some past problems that he has had, but no clear answers. Depp sells the role instantly, with a dripping sarcasm to his lines that singes upon impact, and delights the ears as well.
Turturro, for his part, does a good job at portraying a stalker that can’t be shaken. It’s a testament to his acting that a character whose only real development is to be murderous, creepy, and southern can actually feel real. The first hour of the film is incredibly tense, because you never quite know when something is going to pop up, or when Shooter will appear once more. It’s almost similar to Fatal Attraction in that vein.
However, I will say this – having read the story, I think King’s ending is much better. However, because movies sometimes stray away from the supernatural, we are left with an ending that is only slightly serviceable. The eventual violence that has been building does not serve as an outlet, but instead as a conclusion that was foregone long before it. It wastes a lot of the good will that has been built up throughout the film.
If you want a tense film with a short run time, you could do worse than Secret Window. It gets a “B” from me.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Effectively scary, but ultimately empty film that continues the strong showing from the Conjuring universe.
When Annabelle made her first appearance in 2013’s The Conjuring, she served no purpose besides to be a creepy prop. Now that we are onto our fourth movie in the series, with Annabelle: Creation, the doll has gotten two movies all to herself. The first was an ineffective movie filled only with jump scares and poor dialogue. While the poor dialogue has continued, Annabelle: Creation, a prequel in the series, serves to buoy the franchise back to the heights that James Wan originated.
We open with a creepy bit of filming that includes the actual creation of Annabelle. After the death of his daughter, we transport years into the future, and the home of Annabelle is being used as a make-shift orphanage for girls with no home. It’s a lame excuse to get people together, but it does its job, and before long the girls are exploring (as you do in horror films) rooms that are locked. This leads to the release of Annabelle, to disastrous effect.
Annabelle Creation is rated R, and the few deaths in the film scream of some heavy gore effects that show that director David F. Sandberg (of Lights Out) wasn’t going to pull his punches just for a PG-13 rating. That actually pays off towards the end of the film, because you actually worry that characters can get seriously hurt. But the gore isn’t what truly makes this an effective horror film. Instead, the film relies on some of the same tricks that Sandberg did in his Lights Out film – tricks of shadows and light.
Whereas that film had an even more bare bones script, Annabelle Creation fleshes out the story of the doll a bit more. It’s a bit inconsistent with the powers of what the doll can do – it seems she (and the spirit that possesses her) are both invulnerable and all powerful. It’s a bit hard to figure out what the horror movie “rules” are here, but that doesn’t detract from a simple fact: this movie is often very scary. Recently it seems that Hollywood remembered that when bad things happen to children, it’s a really scary thing – so when we see a girl be attacked by a demon in the middle of the night, it’s something that sticks with you a bit longer than a homicidal maniac hunting teens engaged in less than moral acts.
The atmosphere in the film is also a point worth making. Set out in the country and in the 50s, the movie rarely gives more characters for you to focus on. Instead it focuses on the young relationships that form between girls that must live and grow up together. The setting inside an older country house (something that has been done to death in horror films) feels newer here and a bit fresher. The addition of a slow tension building wheelchair lift is an excellent idea, and the crawl spaces and lift scenes give me chills just remembering.
As I stated previously, the script is lazy, and frequently will have you asking “Why would a person do that?” “Who could be that stupid?” and “I wonder if they could do a Husk/Annabelle crossover”. But the excellent direction by Sandberg brings this well into the realm of watchability, and I’m going to give it a “B”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: The terror hits my house on a warm summer night in July.
Back in 2013, the craze that was Sharknado hit. It took the U.S. by storm, and everyone was talking about Asylum’s movie. It was an exercise in media excitement, because who could believe that people would actually watch such a crazy movie. This quickly garnered a sequel, and another sequel, and now we are about to release the fifth in the series – if there is anything that horror movies are the best at, it’s garnering unnecessary sequels.
I, to this point in my life, had abstained from subjecting myself to the madness that is Sharknado. But, because I love you, my dear, dear readers, I willingly allowed myself to fall into the twister of horror that is a tornado full of sharks. And you know what? It’s just as bad as you would expect.
I’m a fan of bad horror movies – that much is obvious. When I see terrible effects that get me to laugh, or acting that is just off-the-wall bad (see Troll 2 for a great example), it’s hard to at least sort of enjoy it. But I didn’t get any of that from Sharknado. Instead I got a movie that seemed like it was trying to be bad, and that’s where the enjoyment falls away for me. If you’re trying to be bad, and you are, are you a success as a movie? I don’t know – but I can’t grade this one highly even if it accomplishes its goal. It would hurt too much.
There’s not much in the way of plot. People somehow know each other, and they have to fight sharks with shotguns, grenades, and at one point, a chain saw. It’s ridiculous and rides the edge of being funny. Tara Reid is in this, because, why not? The acting is all over the place, as you would expect. But, hey, we do have a wicked scene where a guy cuts out of a shark’s stomach with a chain saw.
If you want to remove some brain cells, I highly recommend this movie. Otherwise, avoid if possible. I’m giving it an “F”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"