Stephen King’s The Shining

Year: 1997
Directed By: Mick Garris
Written By: Stephen King


I had never seen this movie before sitting down to review Stanley Kubrick’s version of the film. Stephen King was so disappointed with the famous rendition that he bashed the film for years before signing himself to silence for the opportunity to make his own version. In this incredibly long version of the story you can easily see why he disliked Kubrick’s version. However, while operating on a TV budget and with a much less skilled man behind camera this movie still manages to be exciting while staying very true to the source material.

Stephen King’s problem with Stanley Kubrick’s version was that Jack seemed kind of crazy the whole time and there was no build up to it. He also really disliked Shelley Duvall in the role of Wendy. With both of those things he made right with his own version. He made a six hour television special that could focus more on Jack’s alcoholism and his slow descent into madness. With Wendy he cast an actress,  Rebecca De Mornay, that fit the part more truthfully to the source material. Shelley Duvall was the exact opposite of Wendy as she was written to be curvy and blonde. Kubrick wanted a more vulnerable and on edge Wendy, which is exactly what he got with Duvall but all King saw was a character robbed of all the strength he wrote her with.

Jack’s struggle with alcoholism was a big part of the book as King was writing it during his own trouble coming to grips with the problem. In this movie we see much more of it while Jack slowly gets influenced to madness by the hotel. King didn’t like Jack Nicholson’s performance because he seemed to have always been crazy. Stephen Weber brought a different personality to the role and you can actually believe in him as a loving and caring father. You never had that with Nicholson and that was a big part of the character. He was supposed to be an unlikely man to lose his mind and that is clearly conveyed with this movie.

I really like this version of the film but I really don’t like Courtland Mead in the role of Danny Torrence. It’s not his fault he’s just a kid but he was a poor substitute for Danny Lloyd. Mead just doesn’t convey the strength of character we saw from Lloyd in Kubrick’s version. I’m also a big fan of that finger thing he did, which was his own and absent from this rendition of the character. It may not have been something done in the book but it was quite creepy and brought something to the Kubrick version.

I have read The Shining and while it was never a book I was in love with I do appreciate a more truthful adaptation. It’s typically hailed as one of King’s greatest books and I have always disagreed. I’d take The Dark TowerThe Stand, Under the Dome, or 11/22/63 over it any day of the week. This book was too much about alcoholism if you ask me and I’ve always found it to be a bummer.  I will vouch for the sequel to the book, Doctor Sleep. I actually liked that book a bit better than the first although it too was a bit too much about alcoholism.

This will never be the version of The Shining you turn to when you’re looking for scares during the Halloween season, but if you are a fan of Stephen King and his book you should definitely see this one. So, while I think this movie is pretty cool I am by no means recommending it for Halloween. It was a three night TV special back in 1997 so it runs about six hours long. It’s a very thorough version but it simply takes too long to watch.



The Serpent and the Rainbow

Year: 1988
Directed By: Wes Craven
Written By: Wade Davis (novel) Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman (screenplay)



This is a movie that was suggested to me years ago and in lieu of renting it I simply bought a copy and added it to the collection. In hindsight I probably should have just rented it because this movie is very near unwatchable. I should have known when I had never heard of it before. A Wes Craven film featuring zombies made from Voodoo sounded like something that would be awesome but sadly that is not how it worked out.

Adding to the intrigue of this story is the fact that it was based on a non fiction book by the same title. Of course as most movies do this one embellishes a lot and exaggerates even more. The author, Wade Davis, did make many trips to Haiti to research the drugs associated with Voodoo and zombies but never really found anything of note. More importantly he was never harassed, or tortured by the Haitian government for his efforts. He sold the rights to his book on the condition Peter Weir would direct and Mel Gibson would star but neither of those things happened and it would have made for a very different movie.

Voodoo is a fascinating religion with ideals that spark lots of curiosity and misconceptions. The lore that goes along with it is more fantasy than reality. While it’s awesome to think of the magic that comes with voodoo dolls and the creation of zombies these are not really part of the religion and simply part of other ideals that are just associated with Voodoo. For example, the ancient African practice of Hoodoo is often confused and lumped together with what people think of Voodoo but they are not the same. It’s movies like this that lead to the confusion, and as fun as it is to fantasize these things they ultimately mislead people.

I’m calling this movie nearly unwatchable, even at only an hour and a half running time. The narration, the poor camera quality, and the lack of good story telling all bring this movie down. I tried to sit down with it in the middle of the afternoon to give it my best effort but somehow during the wide eyed post coffee hours of the day it literally put me to sleep. I think a movie with this type of story has no business not being any good but it just isn’t. Wes Craven usually brings it with these types of films but he simply missed the mark on this one.

This is a forgettable movie and it isn’t worth your time. I made a mistake getting caught up with the possibilities a movie like this could offer and I have been disappointed every time I try to watch it. This movie qualifies as a horror film with Craven behind camera but it isn’t going to scare you like some of his best films will. For something better check out Nightmare on Elm Street or The Hills Have EyesBoth are really good horror films from Wes Craven. Don’t waste your time with this one though, it’s not worth the hour and a half it would steal from you.


Halloween Season 2016

Image result for halloween 2016

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are beginning to fall and the nights are getting darker. As we wind down to All Hallow’s Eve we will only be reviewing horror movies throughout the month. This year we have some great and some OK horror movies to go through. Starting off we will drop the perfectly themed albeit OK version of Sleepy Hollow by Tim Burton. To follow we have two different versions of The Shining, Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow, David Cronenberg’s Scanners, and possibly more as we try to fit in as much as time will allow.

As I always say this is my favorite holiday of the year because it’s the only one that is all about fun. Nobody has family drama on Halloween, nobody breaks the bank, no pressured obligations beyond showing off the kids on the night of.  Just fun and exciting days before the crazy holiday season. I love this time of year and I love the movies that set the tone for the season.


Year: 1981
Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: David Cronenberg


I’ve owned this movie since college and it’s only now I realize I’ve never seen it all the way through. I saw it for the first time in a college film class when we screened the famous head exploding scene. I was so impressed with the scene I sought out this movie to add to the collection. It seems now I never actually got around to seeing the whole thing.

This is not an easy movie to watch, and barring some interesting parts it really falls short overall. It’s not by any fault of Director David Cronenberg who had his back against the wall. Pressured by deadlines Cronenberg had to start shooting without a finished script and had to manage two feuding stars. For whatever the reason Patrick McGoohan and Jennifer O’Neil did not get along. I can’t recall the two of them sharing any scenes but I’m sure the problem was prevalent on set during shooting.

The hero in this film, Vale played by Steven Lack, is lacking in acting skills. As the hero of the film he simply doesn’t deliver and the part could have been better cast. On the other hand Michael Ironside in the part of Revok is awesome. I have always been a big fan of Michael Ironside, especially as a villain. He’s been acting for almost 40 years and this is the youngest I have seen him in anything. Even in his youth he had a sinister edge that makes him great for playing bad guys.

This movie is all over the place, and that’s part of what makes it hard to watch. The Scanners at times can’t deal with the thoughts of all those around them, at other times they are fully in control. The sudden expansion of their capabilities from human mind control to computer control was an odd change that didn’t work for me. I also thought the weird voice over in Dr. Ruth’s final moments to be a bit odd and confusing. Is he a scanner or are these simply crazy thoughts of a mad man? He suddenly turning out to be the father of both Vale and Revok is a twist I think was produced out of writing the script while shooting. It’s a weak plot twist and all too typical.

This movie is listed as a horror film but more for the shocks and content than any scary element. This one isn’t going to scare you at all or get you in the mood for the season but it’s not without some excitement. There have been talks of a remake for years but it has never materialized. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen though, Hollywood loves refurbishing old horror movies with a more modern twist. This movie probably could be improved with a remake though. The idea is sound and interesting enough albeit a bit of a bore to watch and too anticlimactic.

I don’t recommend this movie as a Halloween season film and I would avoid it if you are looking for a horror feature to watch this season. Despite its few merits it simply isn’t a scary movie and will do nothing to set the tone you are looking for. There are other horror films from David Cronenberg that are undoubtedly better and eventually we may check them out and review something he will be better remembered for. For the most this movie is remembered for check out the video below for the entire scene and you’ve seen all you need to see.



Year: 2002
Directed By: Dewey Hicks
Written By: David H. Steinberg


This is one of my favorite comedies of all time going back to the first time I saw it in the theater back in 2002. I don’t know why this is such an unknown and unappreciated movie. I have never even met another person who has seen it and I can’t believe that because I sincerely think this is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Need I say more than “Cool Ethan???” Jason Schwartzman is flawlessly funny in this movie and makes it a film that deserves more notoriety than it receives.

I was 18 when this movie came out and it was one of the films I built and screened in my part time job at the movie theater. Had it not been part of my job I never would have seen it on my own and may have missed it entirely. It didn’t have a wide release and didn’t even open in the largest auditorium but as I sat in the theater verifying my work I laughed harder than I ever expected. Sometimes a movie can hit you just right and it gives you a feeling that lasts a life time. So far anyway, as every time I watch this movie I find myself loving it as much as I did almost 15 years ago.

I like the trio of Devon Sawa, Jason Segal, and the ginger from The Adventure of Pete and Pete. They are funny and cunning in such an interesting way. They all bring something unique to the table which makes them a well rounded cheating team. I love Devon Sawa’s “seed of doubt” method but it barely comes close to this:

Jason Segal has grown into a well known star but when this came out he was still a relative nobody but you could see he was heading to bigger things. The same can’t be said for Devon Sawa or Michael C Maronna but they both bring something funny to the group. As a taste of their cheating methods I found this little nugget:

Their scheming is fun and humorous but it’s the awkward Cool Ethan played by Jason Schwarztman that really steals the show and takes this movie to another level. He is so weird and confident in unusual ways. Ethan is a stalker of the queerest sort. He likes one particular girl and is so obsessed with her he collects her hair. He is weird in the way that makes you cringe but when he interacts with other characters it is the funniest thing you will ever see. When he catches one of the guys cheating he has all three of them by the balls unless they help him get what he wants. He wants these cool guy schemers to help him get the girl he has been obsessing over, Angela, or he will have them expelled for cheating. I like everything about this weirdo from his mannerisms to his chest hair shaved in the shape of an A. Schwarztman is a really talented actor but this is and always will be my favorite of his roles.

The female that Cool Ethan has his eye on is Angela, played by Jamie King who in this movie is billed as James King. I don’t know why but have always found that to be interesting. She is backed up by Laurie Prepon who was hot at the time for her role in the popular “That 70’s Show” sitcom. Prepon plays the polar opposite to the innocent and angelic Angela and it’s quite funny. They go a bit too far with Prepon in this movie when she has a gimp with her at one point but it still manages to be funny.

This film is criticized as being nothing more than another raunchy teen comedy but I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t even see this as a teen comedy because it is set in college. However, it was released during an era of non stop teen comedies so I think it gets unjustly lumped together with them. It is raunchy but no more than you would expect out of college kids. This movie is more than just some other teen comedy and I have to think that all the haters out there are just not giving it a chance because of preconceived notions. If you sit down expecting the same old same old from an already exhausted genre then that is what you will probably see. I didn’t know what this was when I first sat down to watch it for the first time and it thoroughly surprised me. Knowing it as I do now I still don’t see it as another teen comedy. This is a movie about adults in college and the content reflects that.

I love this movie so much I do not care that nobody else gets my Cool Ethan references. It’s a largely forgotten film, like everything Devon Sawa did, but it is remembered fondly in my household and has a special place in my DVD collection. If I were to rate my favorite movies of all time by genre then this one would easily be in my top 5 for comedies. As far as I am concerned it is right up there with Dr. Strangelove,  and The BirdcageAccording to it’s ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes there are plenty of people out there that would tell you that this movie isn’t worth your time but they are wrong. This is such a fun and quotable movie. If for no other reason you should sit down to this one simply to laugh at Cool Ethan. This movie is worth your time regardless but Cool Ethan especially makes it worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: Sleepy Hollow(1999)


Sleepy Hollow

Year: 1999
Directed By: Tim Burton
Written By: Washington Irving (original story), Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker


Our next movie lines up perfectly with the season and it will be where we kick off our month of horror movies for Halloween this year. This is a beautifully gloomy if not fantastic movie. It can set the tone for the season but it will never match up against the classics. It’s a spooky movie that looks great, but it doesn’t have that fear factor that the great horror classics utilize.

This is a fantastic Burton movie but I don’t think it’ll even stand up against others such as Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands. He got the look right but I find this to be Johnny Depp’s weakest performance among their collaborations. It’s not all Depps fault, the character of Ichabod is far from cool and hardly the type of character to carry a film.

I get that Ichabod Crane is supposed to be this way but the cowardly character does nothing to enhance the film, even with Johnny Depp in the part. He is so pathetically fearful, at one point even leaping away from a spider. He does nothing to evoke love or admiration and that’s a major flaw. You could argue Depp played the part well but it’s the character that is the problem. There’s no level of awesome or badass within him.

I really like Christina Ricci, but I grew up with a crush on her. I’m predisposed to like her whether she is any good or not. She’s not bad in this movie, but she’s no Winona Ryder.

The rest of this cast is full of regular Burton collaborators and they all help to make this movie really feel like Tim Burton. Depp, Christopher Lee, Jeffrey Jones, Burton’s then wife Lisa Marie, and Christopher Walken. With those guys in tow this movie looks awesome on paper. Burton gets to go wild with his spooky crap. Somehow he managed to miss the mark but at least it all looks good. The pumpkins, scarecrows, fog, and headless horseman give it a perfect Halloween vibe.

The headless horseman is awesome, played by Christopher Walken. He looks sadistic with no head and somehow more fierce with one. Even without his iconic voice Walken manages to be awesome. He has no speaking lines in the movie and that is a good thing. I love Walken’s voice but it would have been all wrong for the character he was playing.

I don’t love this movie by any means but I enjoy it. It is really aesthetically pleasing and it feels so perfect for the season. It’s a fun take on an old classic and they don’t pull any punches when it comes to chopping off heads. I remember when this movie was coming out it was a big deal how many people were losing their heads in this one. It’s not the best movie you can watch during this Halloween season but it’s not a bad one either. If you want something that feels right but isn’t going to scare or gore you then this is a perfect movie to watch.


The Sixth Sense

Year: 1999
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Written By: M. Night Shyamalan


This is where it all started for M. Night Shyamalan and as far as I am concerned it was where everything went wrong for him. He burst onto the scene with this fantastic thriller that had a twist that really shocked everyone. That shock was his undoing though as it spawned certain expectations the director would never fulfill in the future. This was an incredibly successful movie but each succeeding film has been less profitable and less of a success with the audience. I don’t think it is Shyamalan’s fault and in fact like him quite a lot as a director.

I think that the shocker at the end of this movie gave people the idea that every film he made would feature something on par, and the studios tend to market Shyamalan movies like that. More often than not this is not what Shyamalan movies are meant to be like. His movies are more about human nature than anything else but people expect something much different. The expectations generated from this first film coupled with how the films are marketed make people really grow to hate Shyamalan. For more on why people hate M. Night Shyamalan see these reviews of his other works: The Happening, Lady in the Wateror Devil.

I have often written about how occasionally two movies of similar premise come out at the exact same time. To name a couple of examples: Dante’s Peak and Volcano, Armageddon and Deep Impact, A Bug’s Life and Antzthis list can go on and on. Point being, when this anomaly happens I only ever watch one of the films. It just so happens that The Sixth Sense came out at the same time as another movie that was very similar, Stir of Echoes.  While I was aware of The Sixth Sense I had no interest in seeing it after watching Stir of Echoes with Kevin Bacon. Knowing I didn’t intend to see it one of my friends who was, like everybody, awed by the film excitedly told me the big shocker at the end. I will discuss more about the similarities between these two movies when we get to the one I liked more.

So this movie never got to knock my socks off with the big surprise. I had known what would happen long before ever actually sitting down to see it and the movie was never one I really cared for. That being said, I think it has everything to do with why I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan. By the time his next film Unbreakable came out I had not had my expectations raised to unreasonable levels. I really enjoyed the movie that many found disappointing and continued to enjoy his movies as everyone else finds them flawed. I think it’s because I don’t expect the big shocker, I sit back and enjoy his movies for what they are.

This movie is actually one of my least favorite Shyamalan movies. I think Bruce Willis is great and Haley Joel Osment was outstanding but the movie just never really interested me much. There was the one scene with the kid who had committed suicide and that bothered me as a teen. I had a friend once who had ended his own life in much the same fashion seen in the film and it was just too soon for me. Put that together with the fact that I knew what the big shocker was and this whole film was lost on me. The thing about a big shocker is it only really gets you once and afterwards the lack of surprise equals a lack of excitement. I have found so many Shyamalan movies to be the type I love to watch multiple times, specifically The Village, which is my favorite of his films.

Haley Joel Osment was such a renowned child actor when I was young but he really grew up to be an unfortunate looking adult. All the youthful cuteness that he has in this movie faded away with puberty and today he is doing things like Tusk. There are plenty who would suggest that isn’t pathetic but I found that movie to be so ridiculous. As great as Osment was in this movie he was arguably even better in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Under the direction of the child whisperer Steven Speilberg, Osment gave such an eerie performance you might believe the kid actually was a robot. It’s a shame he couldn’t carry that talent into adulthood.

Despite the lack of positive reviews M. Night Shyamalan continues to make films and in fact his newest one Split looks really cool. Although to be fair, all his movie look really cool. I hope that this movie turns out to be as devious as it looks and is not simply the trick of misguided marketing. Check out the trailer below to see what he has coming up. Otherwise I have never vouched for this movie and won’t start now. If you haven’t seen it you are in the minority because it was that big of a film. However, I do not personally think it is worth your time if you have seen it. If you haven’t and somehow manage to not know the big shocker at the end then by all means seek this out and let it blow your mind.

NEXT MOVIE: Slackers (2002)