Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

7 Movies That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Book

Posted 08 Dec 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece of stylistic economy, so faithfully adapted by director John Huston that reading the novel is almost like reading an exceptionally detailed treatment for the film.This is one of the most persistent clichés of film criticism: that the book is always better than its film adaptation. More often than not, it’s true, as the novel is generally able to provide a richer, more nuanced character study, not limited to only two senses the way films are. However, in some cases, less is more. Here are seven films that I would argue are even better than the books on which they are based.

7 Movies That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Book1. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) – Dashiell Hammet’s original 1930 detective novel is a masterpiece of stylistic economy, so faithfully adapted by director John Huston that reading the novel is almost like reading an exceptionally detailed treatment for the film. However, eight simple words improvised by Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade make all the difference. When asked what the titular bird sculpture is at the end of the film, Spade says, “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.” This classic, oft-quoted line of dialogue has become the most memorable moment of the film, a subtle commentary on filmmaking itself, especially of the Hollywood “Dream Factory” variety, of which The Maltese Falcon was itself a part. The line is nowhere to be found in the book, and that alone is enough to warrant the film’s inclusion on this list. Read More

Carrie – A Bloody Unnecessary Remake

Posted 04 Nov 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Carrie, USA, 2013

Directed by Kimberly Peirce

Carrie is a reasonably entertaining but ultimately forgettable teen horror movie.To justify its own existence, a remake of a classic film doesn’t necessarily have to be better than the original, but it is crucial that it be different in some substantial way. For example, though I prefer the original French film Love Crime in many ways, Brian De Palma’s Passion more than justifies its existence by adding a third-act fever dream to the original source material, as well as being strikingly unique in several other ways. Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear is another good example of a filmmaker taking a markedly different approach to an already great film, in this case by adding psychological and moral complexity to what was originally a very cut-and-dried good versus evil story. In the horror genre, John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly update classic B-movies to horrifying effect, to my mind managing to surpass the original films in quality and memorability.

CarrieThough I would like to evaluate Kimberly Peirce’s new film version of Carrie on its own merits, without comparing it to De Palm’s 1976 adaptation, it is just too similar, and everything good the new Carrie does with the material, De Palma’s film already did better. This is evident from the very beginning, in the famous shower scene in which Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) gets her first menstrual period and, not knowing what is happening and believing that she is bleeding to death, is mercilessly taunted and humiliated by her classmates. In De Palma’s film, the horror of this moment is forefronted, with the performances and shooting style heightened to a surreal, nightmarish pitch. The vulnerability of Sissy Spacek’s performance in particular sells the moment, and it is a truly disturbing scene to watch. Peirce, conversely, shoots the sequence in a relatively flat, ordinary way, and though the content is still rather shocking, it lacks the emotional power of the original.  Read More

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms

Posted 21 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, USA, 1998

Directed by Joe Chappelle

Phantoms is a by-the-numbers bad horror movie with a compelling performance by Liev Schreiber. At the suggestion of a couple of fictional gentlemen by the names of Jay and Robert, as well as one close, non-fictional friend (hint: we co-wrote this movie together, but he did not act in this one) who recently reminded me of their recommendation, I decided to finally check out “Affleck [being] the bomb in Phantoms.” I can only assume all three parties were being highly sarcastic; after all, one of them was played by Kevin Smith, a longtime friend of Mr. Affleck, but not necessarily someone known for his unadulterated sincerity, Jersey Girl (2004) and the jail cell speech in the third act of Clerks II (2006) excluded.

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms is awful, in that special way in which films like Lawrence Kasdan’s 2003 Stephen King adaptation Dreamcatcher are awful. Author and screenwriter Dean Koontz is often considered the poor man’s King (Koontz fans, please note: I have not actually read any of his books, I am merely recording the popular consensus as I understand it), so it is fitting that Phantoms should have so much in common with that unintentionally hilarious travesty of cinema. Unfortunately, Phantoms lacks the over-the-top craziness of Kasdan’s film, and is therefore substantially less entertaining, albeit mercifully shorter. This is not to say there is no unintentional comedy to be found, as there certainly is, but overall the film is more of a by-the-numbers bad horror movie that lacks the overreaching ambition of the amazingly insane Dreamcatcher. It also borrows heavily from far better films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which only serves to remind the viewer how truly low-rent this already mediocre film is in comparison to those classics. Read More

Gorgeous Camp, Campy Gore – Three Films By Dario Argento

Posted 14 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Phantom of the Opera is a film Dario Argento was born to make. The Phantom of the Opera, Italy, 1998

Jenifer, USA, 2005

Pelts, Canada / USA, 2006

Directed by Dario Argento

Italian filmmaker Dario Argento is widely known among horror fans as a distinctive, sadistic auteur, a director who has found beauty in terror and mutilation with films such as Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and Opera (1987). It is often forgotten that he also helped write one of the greatest Westerns of all time, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), but that makes sense, as he has devoted his career as a director to the creepily atmospheric and macabre, delighting in tales of the supernatural and visions of brutal but creative murder. Suspiria is generally considered to be his masterpiece (and it is certainly one of the prettiest horror films I’ve ever seen) and I actually like Opera even more in many ways, but this entry in my ongoing Halloween Movie Month (HMM … yeah, I like that acronym better) series will focus on three newer films with which I recently caught up, including his two contributions to Mick Garris’s always intriguing Masters of Horror series. Read More

The Rite

Posted 19 May 2011 — by Nicole P
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

The Rite, USA, 2011The Rite movie

Directed by Mikael Håfström

The Rite is a curious film. We get a film in the exorcism genre once a year, it seems, but we don’t usually get films that take consideration of what they’re  studying. In 1973, The Exorcist debuted to stellar box office and reviews, and in 2005, The Exorcism of Emily Rose came to theaters and was much maligned. Emily Rose, based on the factual exorcism of a young German girl called Annalise Michel, has been called more authentic than The Exorcist; however, it isn’t the famous one. The more serious and accurate the film, it seems, the less popular it becomes. The Rite falls in the middle of these two: a serious film, that still comes with all the frills. No spinning heads, no constant vomiting, but still loads of flopping around and other traits of “cinematic possession”. It’s a film that ponders several questions, most  importantly, “What happens when a priest gets a demon?”

We all have our demons. Matt Balgio’s book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, upon which the film is based, examines the demons of Father Gary Thomas, a California priest sent to study exorcisms in the Vatican. I haven’t read the book, but it is safe to assume the film takes liberties simply because it is a film; what was a journalist’s exploration became a Hollywood chiller. That seems to be the case, more often than not, doesn’t it? Where The Rite gets it right, though, is in its atmosphere. It’s a studied version of a studied tale, and while the liberties are taken, the effect is still the same. The film presupposes, as it has to, that exorcism is real, and very much something to be dealt with seriously. Read More