There’s been so much news lately, I hardly know where to begin. What merits top billing? Let’s start with that trailer for It. First we had a teaser for the trailer, that stirred up interest. And then we got the 2-½ minute trailer itself, and boy what a beauty that was. In its first 24 hours, it racked up an astonishing 197 million views around the world, smashing all previous records. That speaks a lot to anticipation for this movie.
A little town in the lakes region of Maine, just south and west of Lewiston-Auburn, population somewhat less than two thousand. Not much to make it stand out from all of the other little places in the state. The founders made full use of the Castle name. Castle View is right next door. Nearby bodies of water are the Castle Stream, Castle River and Castle Lake, and the town is the county seat of Castle County. The more affluent people live on Castle Hill.
Hearts in Suspension-—the new Stephen King book that contains his long essay “Five to One, One in Five,” the novella “Hearts in Atlantis,” four of his “King’s Garbage Truck” essays from the University of Maine newspaper, and essays by a dozen fellow students—will be out from the University of Maine Press in a few weeks. The book also contains a photograph and document gallery that chronicles his university years. UMaine will host the book launch on November 7 at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono.
We’ve been spoiled in recent years by getting two novels from Stephen King. 2016 will see the end of that streak. The recently published End of Watch is the only book from King we’ll see this year. Later this fall, though, we’ll get Hearts in Suspension, edited by Jim Bishop, a collection of essays by King and others about his time as a student at the University of Maine. The publisher says that King’s essay is quite long (the longest of the set of about ten essays by various authors), and that the essay is “funny, truthful, and an involved work about Steve’s experiences during the 60’s, 70’s and the anti-war work of the Vietnam era, and so much more.”
Not long now until End of Watch comes out, the final installment in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. King is doing a major tour for this book, with twelve stops between June 7 and June 18. The June 16 event in Albuquerque is of particular interest because George R.R. Martin will be interviewing King. Most of the events have already sold out (some in almost record time), but you can find the list of venues here.
After years of saying “no news yet” with reference to the Dark Tower movie, things are finally moving forward. The current release date is set at February 17, 2017, and the following people have been cast: Idris Elba (Roland), Matthew McConaughey (Man in Black), Jackie Earle Haley (Richard Sayre), Fran Kranz (Pimli Prentiss), Tom Taylor (Jake), Abby Lee (Tirana) and Katheryn Winnick (unknown). Some early photos from the set appeared a few days ago, and some of them disappeared soon after!
The Obdurate Past: 11.22.63
The day has come for those of you who have been holding back: All episodes of 11.22.63 are now available on Hulu and ready for you to binge. You can even see it all for free if you sign up for the month-long trial the service offers. There are two options: one with commercials and one without. The latter is more expensive on a monthly basis if you stay on after the trial ends, but it’s worth the few extra dollars in my opinion to eliminate the ad breaks.
I know I promised you a mid-series update, but I didn’t get around to that. Sorry!
My feelings about the series as a whole haven’t changed since I first wrote about it a couple of months ago. I think it is one of the best miniseries adaptations of Stephen King’s work. There have been a lot of complaints about the changes to the story, but on the whole I think they worked without doing the novel a disservice.
Next week will be busy for Stephen King. On September 9, he will be appearing in Cambridge, MA in conversation with Lee Child to promote the new Jack Reacher novel, Make Me. The next day, he will be among the eleven individuals receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in the East Wing of the White House. The citation says, “One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, Mr. King combines his remarkable storytelling with his sharp analysis of human nature. ” Then, on the following day, September 11, he will be a guest on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show during its inaugural week.
It’s not every day that you get a brand new short story from Stephen King for free, right? Well, today is just one of those days. “A Death” will appear in print in the March 9 issue of The New Yorker, but the story is online right now. There’s also a brief Q&A with King on the New Yorker website.
“A Death” will be included in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, King’s next collection, due out in November. Among the stories we expect to see in that collection are “Ur” and “Bad Little Kid,” which will be appearing in English for the first time anywhere. (I reviewed it for Fearnet last year.)
The forthcoming story “Drunken Fireworks,” which will be released in audio on June 30th, will also be in Bazaar. Here’s the publisher’s description: “In this new tour-de-force from Stephen King—unavailable in print or any other format—a salt-of-the-earth Maine native recounts how a friendly annual summer fireworks show rivalry with his neighbor across the lake gradually spirals out of control…with explosive results!”
Before that collection, though, we’ll get Finders Keepers on June 2, the follow-up to Mr. Mercedes. The audio version will once again be read by Will Patton. Here is the publisher’s copy for the novel:
“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, a Salinger-like icon who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.
Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Sauberg finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.
Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.
The Marvel graphic novel adaptation of The Drawing of the Three continues with the release of House of Cards #1 on March 24.
- Under the Dome kicks off its third season with a two-hour premiere June 25. Marg Helgenberger has joined the cast for an extended story arc.
- Sonar Entertainment will develop Mr. Mercedes as a limited series for television. David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, The Practice) is attached to write the script and Jack Bender (Lost) will direct.
- James Franco has been cast as Jake Epping for 11/22/63, which will be a 9-hour series on Hulu.
- Clarius Entertainment has acquired US rights to Cell, which was produced by Benaroya Pictures and The Genre Company. The plan is to release it theatrically later this year.
- True Detective director Cary Fukunaga is on board for a new adaptation of It. At Sundance in February, he was a little vague, saying, “If that movie happens, it will be my first movie made in America.” He says he’s only thought about casting for Pennywise (without revealing who). The kids will mostly be unknowns, he says. He confirmed that the first movie will focus on the kids and a later film will do the adult story. He does not yet have a script for the second film.
Here is King’s review of Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, by Rick Bragg from the NY Times.
Recent interviews and public appearances:
- Stephen King live at Politics & Prose, discussing Revival and answering audience questions
- Stephen King allows Bradenton crowd a peek at genius
- King talk nets $100,000 for his lifeline – libraries
- An Evening with Stephen King (video) and a batch of photos from the event
In case you haven’t heard the news yet, Cemetery Dance recently announced a deal to create Deluxe Special Editions of the six books King published with Doubleday. The series launches this summer with Carrie. Check the link for specifics, including the artist, cover art, and the extra material that will appear in the book.
We’re less than two months away from the publication date of Mr. Mercedes, and the first reviews have started to show up. Publishers Weekly’s review came first, calling it a “suspenseful crime thriller” and lauding King for his disturbing portrait of the book’s villain, Brady, “a genuine monster in ordinary human form who gives new meaning to the phrase ‘the banality of evil.'” Then came the Booklist review, which concludes: “No need to rev the engine here; this baby will rocket itself out of libraries with a loud squeal of the tires.” My review will appear in the next issue of Cemetery Dance magazine, but I loved it. I’ve been waiting for King to write a non-supernatural crime novel for ages and at last my wish is granted. And PW is right: Brady is one twisted guy. He’s not at all sympathetic, but he’s fascinating. And Bill Hodges is a comfortable narrator / protagonist to spend five hundred pages with. The audiobook will be narrated by Will Patton.
King’ second book of the year is Revival, which will be out on November 11. Here is the synopsis:
In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.
This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.
To thank all his German and French fans for their warm welcome during his Doctor Sleep book tour last fall, King wrote a novella, “Bad Little Kid”, which is available in e-book format in German (Böser kleiner Junge) and French (Sale Gosse). You can’t buy it in the US at the moment, but it is available in Canada and the UK (but not in English). I wrote an article / review for FEARnet, probably my last piece for that market, which was gobbled up by Comcast last week.
And, no, he isn’t writing a sequel to Christine called Christine Lives as was announced on April 1.
King will appear in a cameo role in the first episode of the second season of Under the Dome, which launches on June 30. According to an article in USA Today, he wrote the episode, titled “Heads Will Roll,” and will show up in the town’s diner as “just a citizen of Chester’s Mill for at least the moment.” Check out the article for a photo of King being served coffee at Sweet Briar Rose. Several new characters will be introduced this season, including barbershop owner Lyle Chumley (Dwight Yoakam), Big Jim’s late wife Pauline (Sherry Stringfield), his brother-in-law, Sam Verdreaux (Eddie Cahill), teacher Rebecca Pine (Karla Crome), Greg (Dwayne Boyd), and Melanie (Grace Victoria Cox), a character pulled from the lake by Julia at the end of the first season. If you haven’t seen it already, be sure to check out this promotional video of King “tweeting from the set.”
During his Emerald City Comicon Secret Origins panel, Peter David revealed that Marvel will resume adapting the Dark Tower series with The Drawing of the Three, without providing any timeline. He told the story of how he pitched the idea when King came to visit him while he was convalescing after suffering a stroke.
In other comic news, Walter Simonson’s 22-page Lawnmower Man Artist’s Edition portfolio, collecting the entire story into a deluxe portfolio from IDW, is set to arrive in time for San Diego’s Comic-Con International in July.
King has a short non-fiction piece called “The Ring” in Tin House, Issue, 59, Volume 15, Number 3. The theme for the issue is Memory and King’s 2-page essay is about their wedding rings and the day they got married.
He and Karen Russell talk about their books Doctor Sleep and Sleep Donation in this interview posted at Goodreads.
Joyland, which is now available as an e-book for the first time, was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar in the Best Paperback Original category. Doctor Sleep was nominated for a Thriller Award in the Best Hardcover Novel category by the International Thriller Writers.
The latest movie adaptation, A Good Marriage, premieres in New York on Thursday, April 24.
Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) is in early talks to take over as director of The Stand for Warner Bros. and CBS Films. He will be at least the fourth potential director for this project. Boone is also currently attached to direct a movie version of Lisey’s Story.
Cary Fukunaga, fresh off his recent success directing HBO’s True Detective, is working on a script for the two-part remake of It. It appears that the first part will be about the kids and the second part about the adults. Fukunaga said, “There will be no spider at the end of our movie. We’re definitely honoring the spirit of Stephen King, but the horror has to be modernized to make it relevant. That’s my job, right now, on this pass. I’m working on making the horror more about suspense than visualization of any creatures. I just don’t think that’s scary. What could be there, and the sounds and how it interacts with things, is scarier than actual monsters.”
The SyFy series Haven was renewed for 26 more episodes, 13 to air this year and 13 for 2015, although they are all supposedly part of a single season. In a related concept, Universal TV is adapting the short story “Ayana” into a TV drama set in a world of miracles. The series has not been picked up by a network yet, though.
King has been interviewed for the PBS series Finding Your Roots, where “we trace people’s habitypes, which tell where your ancestors came from.” Dr. Henry Louis Gates’ interview with King will air later this year.
Scribner has released their description of Mr. Mercedes, King’s next novel, which will be out on June 3, 2014.
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.
This is just one of two novels we’ll see next year, the other being Revival. There’s a new King short story, “Summer Thunder,” in the CD anthology Turn Down the Lights. Editor Rich Chizmar says it “might be one of the most heartbreaking post-apocalyptic tales we’ve ever read.”
King joined Twitter late last week. Within minutes he had 30,000 followers and the number has since climbed to nearly 200,000. You don’t need to join Twitter to see his feed, though. Just click here.
Samuel L. Jackson will play Tom McCourt in the movie adaptation of Cell, joining John Cusack for the second time (1408). There were some amusing follow-up articles in which Jackson confessed that he didn’t know that his character was gay in the novel. The film will be directed by Tod “Kip” Williams (Paranormal Activity 2). Production is scheduled to begin in January.
Long-time King fan Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) plans to adapt Lisey’s Story. King had a cameo in Boone’s debut, Stuck in Love. Boone talks about how King responded when he sent some books to be autographed when he was 12 in this article.
Add another title to the list of remakes or reworkings. Bob Weinstein is developing a proposed 10-part series with Frank Darabont, based on Dimension’s film version of The Mist. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) is in talks to direct Pet Sematary. The day after it was announced that Scott Cooper was considering Christian Bale for the theatrical version of The Stand, the director left the project. Paul Greengrass is now being courted to help the film. Cary Fukunaga is currently attached to the remake of It.
Doctor Sleep link roll:
- Robin Furth discusses the book on Bloomberg TV
- King’s playlist for Doctor Sleep (via Powell’s bookstore)
- Spooky Digital Campaign Lets You ‘Shine’
- Stephen King and son Owen King on fiction and family (CBC)
- Interview: Stephen King and Owen King in Studio Q
- The Shining boy never left my mind
- Paris press conference
- At Le Grand Rex in Paris
- Stars and Stripes Q&A at Ramstein Air Base, Germany (Plus here are some photos from the event)
- King on German TV (his segment starts at about 36 minutes)
- King’s Munich appearance (Part 1, Part 2)
In closing, here is my review of the campy horror film You Can’t Kill Stephen King, which should get US distribution in 2014.
My 150th post was so memorable, so legen—wait for it—dary that I was hesitant to follow it up. Nah, I’ve just been busy with other stuff (a likely story). So, here it is, #151. All the news that’s fit to print, and even some that isn’t.
The hottest news is the pending publication of “A Face in the Crowd,” an e-book and audiobook short story co-written with Stewart O’Nan, release slated for August 21. You can read the plot synopsis at King’s website. If you find yourself saying, “Hey, that sort of sounds familiar,” there’s a good reason. King talked about this story idea in Faithful, also co-written with O’Nan, while discussing the Face Game, something he’d do to amuse himself while watching baseball games. “What if a guy watches a lot of baseball games on TV because he’s a shut-in or invalid…and one night he sees his best friend from childhood, who was killed in a car crash, sitting in one of the seats behind the backstop…After that the protagonist sees him every night at every game.” You can read the full passage from Faithful here. The idea stuck around. King mentioned it again at the end of his appearance at the Savannah Book Festival, where Stewart O’Nan was in attendance. You can hear King talking about it at the 1 hr 5 min mark of this video.
The next book to be published will probably be Joyland, which will be out from Hard Case Crime next June. Neil Gaiman spilled the beans about this crime novel in an interview with King published in the Sunday Times in April. The book will only be available in paperback at first because King wants people to experience it as a physical book. Presumably there will eventually be an eBook, too. Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. Publisher Charles Ardai calls the it “a breathtaking, beautiful, heartbreaking book. It’s a whodunit, it’s a carny novel, it’s a story about growing up and growing old, and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time. Even the most hardboiled readers will find themselves moved.”
Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, originally slated for a January 2013 release, has been pushed back to give King more time to work on revisions. A new release date has not yet been announced, but you can hear King read the opening section on the audiobook version of The Wind through the Keyhole.
Part 1 of “In the Tall Grass,” a novella co-written with Joe Hill, was published in the June/July issue of Esquire, with the conclusion following in the August issue. It’s a nasty little story about what happens to people who unwisely choose to listen to the Canadian rock group Rush while traveling cross-country.
Movie update: The remake of Carrie is currently in production, with Chloë Grace Moretz in the starring role. Julianne Moore, Judy Greer and Portia Doubleday are also in the movie, which is directed by Kimberly Peirce. Justin Long is starring in a feature film adaptation of “The Ten o’Clock People,” directed by Tom Holland (The Langoliers, Thinner). Both are slated for 2013 releases. At Cannes, there were reports that “The Reach” and “A Good Marriage” would be turned into films, too, but there’s been no further news since then, nor has there been anything else about SyFy’s plans to turn The Eyes of the Dragon into a 4-hour TV movie. There are still rumblings about a 2-movie remake of It, too, but who knows if that project will take off or not.
King played with the Rock Bottom Remainders at their last-ever gigs in California recently. Before the shows, King said, “A few years ago, Bruce Springsteen told us we weren’t bad, but not to try to get any better otherwise we’d just be another lousy band. After 20 years, we still meet his stringent requirements. For instance, while we all know what ‘stringent’ means, none of us have yet mastered an F chord.” Kathy Kamen Goldmark, who came up with the idea for the band, passed away shortly before these shows. You can find some clips of their performances on YouTube. Here’s an article about the band in the L.A. Times.
King will take to the stage at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, offering fans the chance to hear him read his work, ask him questions and listen to him discuss his passion for writing and his advice for aspiring authors on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. See more about the event here.
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County may make the move to Broadway. Director Susan V. Booth plans to workshop the play in New York in September to try to arrange financial backing. In case you missed it in the awesomeness that was NFtDZ #150, here is my review of the Premiere at FEARnet.
James Smythe, a writer for the UK newspaper The Guardian, has read every King book and is now reading them again and reviewing them along the way. If you’re interested in following along, his first post on Carrie can be found here.
Season 3 of Haven is currently filming in Nova Scotia. The SyFy original series, based on The Colorado Kid (loosely based, that is), returns with thirteen new episodes on September 21. Hmmm. There’s something special about that date. Now, what could it be?
The schedule for the graphic novel adaptation of N. has finally been announced. Issue 1 (of 4) goes on sale in March. The creative team of Marc Guggenheim and Alex Maleev, also responsible for the Motion Comic version, tell the story of something terrifying hidden in Ackerman’s Field. “It’s absolutely thrilling for Marvel to be working on ‘N.’ again and having the honor to publish it as a comic book miniseries,” said said Ruwan Jayatilleke, Marvel Senior Vice President, Development & Planning, Print, Animation and Digital Media. “Both as a fan of the story and a producer on the ‘N.’ motion comic, I am absolutely psyched for the terrifying ride that Marc, Alex, and the editors have planned for readers!”
John Mellencamp has virtually completed recording and “assembling” the Ghost Brothers of Darkland County musical theater collaboration with King. They have edited the initial three-hour program down to two hours and 10 minutes—with a bit more editing still to come before producer T-Bone Burnett completes the tracks. When finished, the recording will be available in a novel book package containing the full text, two discs featuring the entire production of the spoken word script and songs performed by the cast, and a third CD of the songs only. The cast is led by Kris Kristofferson, in the role of Joe, the father, and Elvis Costello, as the satanic character The Shape. Rosanne Cash plays Monique, the mother, with the sons enacted by Will Daily (Frank), Dave Alvin (Jack), Alvin’s real-life brother Phil Alvin (Andy) and John (Drake). Sheryl Crow stars as Jenna and Neko Case is Anna, with boxing legend Joe Frazier playing caretaker Dan Coker and King himself in the role of Uncle Steve. The narrator is “24” star Glenn Morshower. Mellencamp stressed that the three-disc package is not a traditional audio book, but offers an experience more akin to listening to an old radio show with music; he further emphasized the challenge inherent in making such a project work. See Mellencamp’s official web site for more.
Twitter update: From Peter Straub “In about a year SK and I will begin planning a new book.”
The jig is up — I was Scarecrow Joe in the ARG promotion for Under the Dome. Read more about my experience here.
The March issue of Playboy will contain King’s poem “Tommy,” an eerie yet touching reminiscence of childhood friendships and the ways innocence and experience intertwine.
According to Producer Dan Lin, writer Dave Kajganich is expected to turn in a draft of his script for the planned remake of It over Christmas.
Here is streaming audio of King’s appearance in Portsmouth, NH, featuring a reading from Under the Dome followed by a discussion. A couple of articles relating to his appearance in Manchester, VT here and here. And check out this great local news report on NECN about King’s visit to Bridgton and the connections between that town and Chester’s Mill. Finally, here is the episode of the Colbert Report on which King was a guest.
Gauntlet Press is releasing Stephen King’s Battleground in 2010. The volume contains King’s short story, Richard Christian Matheson’s script for the TNT adaptation, storyboards and other material.
Entertainment Weekly: King’s top 10 books of 2009.
Scribner has issued this plot synopsis of the upcoming 1120-page novel Under the Dome:
|On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mills, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens—town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing—even murder—to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.
It looks like It will be remade as a feature film. Warner Bros. has hired Dave Kajganich to adapt the novel, with Dan Lin and Vertigo’s Roy Lee and Doug Davison producing. Though it’s hard to take stories seriously at this point, when the script hasn’t even been written, the rumor is that it will focus on the adult Losers rather than flipping back and forth between the two eras. Kajganich is also attached to a remake of Pet Sematary.
Talk of an It remake are surfacing again. Peter Filardi, who scripted the ‘Salem’s Lot remake for TNT as well as The Road Virus Heads North for Nightmares and Dreamscapes, told attendees of Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors that he’s developing a new “televisualization” of It. The project has the attention of the Sci Fi channel and might end up as a four-hour broadcast event, perhaps told from the point of view of Beverly Marsh.
TNT has a new official web site for the Nightmares & Dreamscapes series with galleries, information and games. I’ve also posted the full broadcast schedule, production trivia and interviews on my message board.
TNT sent me screener DVDs of seven of the eight episodes (all except Autopsy Room Four), and I had the opportunity to watch them over the past several days. The first thing I noticed is the high production qualities, which was also true of their ‘Salem’s Lot remake. However, unlike that adaptation, these stories are incredibly faithful to the source material. Where they’ve had to change things (because of length, for deeper characterization or for context), everything seems loyal to the original story’s intent. The acting is top notch, too.
William Hurt is on screen for almost every second of Battleground and never utters a word. A few grunts of pain, but he acts with his face and his body to convey his character’s hard-as-nails pathology. When the impossible starts to happen, he doesn’t talk to himself or utter words of disbelief. He simply reacts as an assassin might. Slowly, though, his hard shell splinters. It’s a tour-de-force performance and sets the tone for the series. The animation and other effects are convincing—as might be expected since the episode is directed by Jim Henson’s son Brian. Screenplay by Richard Christian Matheson, son of the legendary Richard Matheson.
Crouch End is a daring adaptation, since it strays into the surreal world of Lovecraftian mythos. It represents the first time I’ve ever heard some of the bizarre names from Lovecraft pronounced. It also contains the first ever cinematic depiction of what can only be described as a “thinny.” Claire Forlani is the heart of this episode, the pretty, vivacious newlywed on honeymoon who tolerates her husband’s need to network while on vacation, only to find an innocent trip out to dinner turn into madness. The question in this kind of tale is: how much to show and how much to leave to viewer’s imagination. I think this adaptation strikes the right balance.
Umney’s Last Case is the episode I was looking forward to most, and it doesn’t disappoint. William H. Macy is stellar as both Clyde Umney and his creator, Sam Landry. He comes off as stiffly stereotypical in the opening moments, until you realize that’s exactly what he is. One of my favorite moments takes place when Sam steps into the detective’s shoes, starts hearing awkward dialog coming out of his mouth and checks himself. A few seconds later he lets loose some purple prose straight out of Chandler, and he stops to admire it. The ending is a little abrupt, which dilutes the episode’s impact, but these screeners aren’t 100% complete, so they may do something in the production version that softens this nebulous finale.
I saved The End of the Whole Mess until the end because it was the story I had the least interest in, but it turns out to be a strong episode. I really like the emotional arc of this one. It makes use of the dreaded voice-over technique, but in a clever way that makes sense, given what the main character does for a living.
Tom Berringer. Wow. What more can I say? In The Road Virus Heads North, he plays Richard Kinnell, a horror writer who has just received disturbing news. On the way home from a lecture—which is a horror show in its own right—he picks up a creepy painting and things start getting strange. Marsha Mason has a nice cameo as his Aunt Trudy. This is the other episode that has a less-than-satisfying conclusion, but everything up to that moment is pure terror. Unlike William Hurt’s character, Berringer does talk to himself, expressing shock, amazement and disbelief. Both approaches work because they reflect character.
The Fifth Quarter is probably the story readers will be least familiar with. It’s a straight crime drama, with no supernatural elements. It’s about dishonor among thieves, and their other associates, too. It’s a brutal episode, with lots of realistic violence. Samantha Mathis, though she isn’t the primary focus of the story, carries the show from beginning to end. Jeremy Sisto turns in a strong performance, too, as the guy who can never quite get it right, who has spent all but eighteen months of his seven-year marriage behind bars.
The series ends with You Know They Got A Hell of a Band, which is the lightest, most whimsical episode, and probably the weakest entry. It stars Steven Weber, who impresses me less each time I see him, and Kim Delaney. I didn’t buy into their relationship, which weakens the story. Delaney looked odd and Weber’s delivery isn’t convincing. The episode also has the most outright grue (maggots, empty eye sockets, etc.) but is tongue-in-cheek throughout. It’s sort of fun, but the tone feels completely different from the other episodes.
The series debuts a month from today. Check it out! I look forward to hearing viewer feedback about the individual episodes, and I especially want to discuss the last couple of minutes of Crouch End!