When it was announced that Lifetime would be behind a made-for-TV adaptation of “Big Driver,” the second novella from Full Dark, No Stars, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The novella is dark and brutal, whereas Lifetime is better known for the kinds of stories that the novella’s protagonist writes—cozy mysteries—or romances. The network’s material is targeted at women, primarily. So what did that mean for this revenge tale? You’ll be able to see for yourself this Saturday at 8/7C when the movie premieres.
I had the chance to screen the film a couple of weeks ago and I’m here to tell you that it pulls few punches, if any. Tess is played by Maria Bello (Amy Rainey in Secret Window). She gets a last name in this version, Thorne, whereas she was just Tess in the novella. The plot plays out much the same as it did in King’s story. Tess drives herself to a nearby community where she is the featured guest at a brown bag luncheon and regales her sizable audience with the kinds of stories authors tell about themselves and their characters, and has the kinds of encounters writers often do with the public. The woman who organized the event suggests a shortcut that will get Tess home faster and, on a lonely road miles from civilization, Tess has a fateful encounter with the Big Driver. What happens next is brutal and, frankly, hard to watch. If you have any triggers about male-on-female violence, you may wish to avert your eyes. And even when the assault is over, the worst isn’t done for Tess. She has to crawl to freedom. Whoa. It makes me cringe just thinking about it now.
Ann Dowd from The Leftovers plays Rebecca Norville, Olympia Dukakis plays the physical manifestation of one of Tess’s characters, and Joan Jett plays the bartender at the Stagger Inn. Eastern Canada plays the part of New England—in fact, the movie was filmed just down the road from where Haven is shot. I recognize some of the roads, and I’m pretty sure Tess’s reading takes place on my alma mater’s campus, Dalhousie University. At least the external shots look like the old science library and nearby buildings. Events in the final act are somewhat condensed and restructured, but Tess still talks to Tom, her GPS, her cat, and with the characters in her novels, and sometimes they talk back. This monologue with non-human objects seems a bit awkward at first, but it works in general, and Bello is unquestionably the star here. It’s almost a one-woman show, and she nails it. Joan Jett is more of a novelty. She’s done a little acting, but she’s not entirely comfortable here.
There are a few grace notes added by screenwriter Richard Christian Matheson that add to the story’s overall symmetry and should put a smile on viewers’ faces despite the brutality. You can watch the trailer here.
This has been the month of Full Dark, No Stars adaptations. A Good Marriage opened a couple of weekends back in a limited theatrical release concurrent with Video On Demand. You can rent or buy it on iTunes or Google Play (I chose the latter so I could cast it to my television), and on the OnDemand sections of cable services. I had a hard time finding it on UVerse until I discovered it was listed under “S”—for Stephen King’s A Good Marriage. This adaptation, too, is quite faithful to the source material—as well it should be since King wrote the screenplay. Some of the character interactions in the final 10-15 minutes are different, but there are no real surprises here if you’ve read the novella.
King was all over the place promoting A Good Marriage, as well as appearing on the PBS series In Search of Our Fathers. Here are some links.
Mercy, the adaptation of “Gramma” starring the kid from The Walking Dead that’s been in the can for a while, is now available for purchase on iTunes. It will be available for rent shortly. Speaking of The Walking Dead, did you pick up the Creepshow “easter egg” in the season premiere?
JJ Abram’s adaptation of 11/22/63 will be a nine-hour limited series on Hulu. It is being described as a limited “event series,” but there will be opportunities for future subsequent seasons based on the story.
In this interview King did with MTV while promoting A Good Marriage, he discusses his thoughts on the Dark Tower movie adaptation. “It took me 35, 36 years to write ‘The Dark Tower.’ I can wait [for the movie],” King said. “We’ve been close a couple of times. I’m content to see what happens. Sooner or later, it’ll show up.” He explained why he chose to write the screenplay for A Good Marriage and also teased that Josh Boone’s cinematic version of The Stand may be two movies.
CBS has renewed Under the Dome for a third season.
The audio version of Revival is being read by David Morse, who has a strong King pedigree. He appeared in The Green Mile, Hearts in Atlantis and The Langoliers.
And stay tuned for a special announcement from Rich Chizmar on Halloween!