Movie Review ~ King On Screen

The Facts:

Synopsis: In 1976, Brian de Palma directed Carrie, the first novel by Stephen King. Since then, more than 50 directors have adapted the master of horror’s books in more than 80 films and series, making him the most adapted author alive. What’s so fascinating about him that filmmakers cannot stop adapting his works?
Stars: Frank Darabont, Mick Garris, Mike Flanagan, Tom Holland, Vincenzo Natali, Greg Nicotero, Mark L. Lester
Director: Daphné Baiwir
Rated: NR
Running Length: 105 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: Though the first movie adapted from a novel by Stephen King came out four years before I was born, I was thankfully alive, awake, and alert for the heyday of the author’s books being turned into movies and television series. One of the most recognized names in literature and film, King has been scaring the pants off consumers for over five decades and is still going strong. His reach and influence in pop culture are well known. While his repertoire has been touched on as part of documentaries covering the overall horror genre or specific films, there hasn’t been a significant examination that gathers all of his movies into one ghoulish delight.

Enter Belgian documentarist Daphné Baiwir, who has taken on this task and delivered King on Screen, a solid, if unspectacular, look into the various projects that have sprung from King’s novels back to the original Carrie from 1976. Through interviews with several dozen filmmakers (all male) that have been behind the camera, viewers are taken through an abbreviated timeline that leans heavily on the expected titles (Christine, Misery, IT, The Shining), barely mentions some (Firestarter, Needful Things, Salem’s Lot, Silver Bullet) and skips over others (The Lawnmower Man, Graveyard Shift, Apt Pupil, Dreamcatcher) altogether.

There’s no doubt that the content of King’s works could have filled two or three documentaries, and maybe this would have been an ideal project for a multi-episode arc on a streaming service instead, where time is of little issue. I mean, if you are going to cover King, cover King. Leaving out movies, even the lesser known/regarded ones, puts them in some naughty corner that can make fans of those entries feel somewhat alienated. Of course, we all love Stand by Me, Pet Sematary, and Dolores Claiborne, but do we have to leave out discussions of The Tommyknockers and The Langoliers as a trade-off? 

If Baiwir loses some points for content by the end of King on Screen, she’d already earned a hefty bonus off the bat with a positively delightful opening that is filled with so many King Easter Eggs that you’ll want to have your remote handy to pause/rewind to catch them all. Casting herself as a traveler bringing back a unique antique to a recognizable shop in a familiar (to King readers) town…scour every detail you see for callbacks to previous movies/books and pay attention to each of the townspeople you run into. They’re all linked to the King universe somehow. It’s an ingenious way to get the ball rolling, and while it has absolutely nothing to do with the interviews, playing more like a short fan-made King tribute, it’s a lot of fun.

Any King fan worth their salt will want to check out King on Screen. However, if you’re like me, who appreciates King’s full oeuvre, even the deep cuts, you’ll likely miss the titles that aren’t mentioned. Even so, hearing the various directors discuss their influences and how other filmmakers (some interviewed here) informed their approach to making a King adaptation is insightful. None of it is likely to be new information, but it makes for an easy watch that knows its target audience well.

In Theaters on August 11th
and available
On Demand and Blu-Ray on September 8th.

31 Days to Scare ~ Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th

The Facts:

Synopsis: A chronicle of the history of the Friday the 13th franchise.

Stars: Kane Hodder, Monica Keena, Greg Nicotero, Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Betsy Palmer, Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Warrington Gillette, Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Kelly Hu, Todd Caldecott, Tiffany Paulsen, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Melanie Kinnaman, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Lar Park-Lincoln, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Kevin Spirtas, Elizabeth Kaitan, Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Vincent Guastaferro, Renée Jones, Kerry Noonan, Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Lawrence Monoson, Lisa Freeman, Kimberly Beck, Peter Barton, Kane Hodder, John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Dana Kimmell, Richard Brooker, Catherine Parks, Paul Kratka, Jeffrey Rogers, Larry Zerner, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby

Director: Daniel Farrands

Rated: NR

Running Length: 400 minutes

TMMM Score: (10/10)

Review: There are documentaries on the making of films and then there’s Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th. Based off the excellent coffee table book published in 2005, this documentary from 2009 is the Holy Grail for fans of the Friday the 13th series and all its many, many…many sequels. Though I had already pored over the book several times and knew many of the behind-the-scenes info about the making of the films, the documentary brings these and so much more to life in a watchable format that you’ll be hard-pressed not to devour in one sitting. The first time I watched it I actually had to stop myself from taking in all 6 hours and 40 minutes at once, opting to break it into three segments and extend the fun.

Each movie gets its own chapter and so does the short-lived TV series, all put in chronological order. Often the discussions of the individual films are supported by events going on in the world at the time they were made and released so it’s helpful to watch this in order without skipping around too much. What surprised me was while the first film obviously gets a little more time spent on its genesis and production, the subsequent sequels are exceedingly well-represented by cast members and the different filmmakers that were involved. Often these specific types of genre documentaries are padded with nerds (ahem, fans) that fill in many of the gaps but here there are enough of the key players involved that the fan representation is blessedly kept to a minimum.

Another positive is that there’s little to no sugarcoating the discussion of the films and the logic gaps each new entry brought. Bad acting, tepid scripts, and production difficulties are put out there for public consumption and everyone seems to own their part of the good and the bad. It’s all largely kept light and airy; so while there are some instances where you can tell there’s more to the story, the point is not to do a deep dive into the wrongs of the series but instead to keep the focus on how the franchise was a miracle money monster of its own.

Usually around this time of year I get the urge to throw this one in again and revisit some of the segments that may not be as fresh in my mind or to follow-up after watching one of the sequels to get more insider info. For horror fans, this a must watch, if not an outright must own. Filled with great extras and deleted scenes that didn’t make the final cut, it’s a whopper of a documentary and worth having in your collection.

Check out my reviews of Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and Jason Lives: Friday the 13h Part VI!