Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Television Review: THE STAND (1994, Mick Garris)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 366 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Mick Garris (CRITTERS 2, THE SHINING TV remake, creator of Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR), Ed Harris, Kathy Bates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Stephen King, Gary Sinise, Jamey Sheridan (THE ICE STORM), Miguel Ferrer (Albert on TWIN PEAKS), Sam Anderson (Bernard on LOST), Corin Nemec, Molly Ringwald, Ossie Davis (interestingly enough, in a role for whom I always pictured Clu Gulager), Ruby Dee, Rob Lowe, Rick Aviles, Laura San Giacomo (JUST SHOOT ME), Bill Fagerbakke (QUIGLEY), Warren Frost (Dr. Hayward on TWIN PEAKS), John Landis, Sam Raimi.
Tag-lines: "The end of the world is just the beginning."
Best one-liner(s): "Don't screw with my disco, Nadine!"

Wow. This is truly a travesty. This is an unadulterated, horrid mess. I don't truly consider myself to be Stephen King fan, but I would rank his novel, THE STAND, among the best works of literature of the 20th Century's latter half. It's epic, poignant, funny, and REAL; it's both pulp entertainment and serious art. It builds a tapestry of well-developed characters and vivid locales, and when it's finished, you feel as if some new friends have just departed. Now this film, by Mick Garris, is another entity entirely. It has about as much to do with King's THE STAND as DUMB AND DUMBER has to do with Dostoevsky's THE IDIOT. I blame Garris and his handlers. Horror master George Romero was planning a feature film based on THE STAND, but, for whatever unfortunate reason, it never panned out. And we can't blame the casting director; Gary Sinise, Jamey Sheridan, Miguel Ferrer, Ossie Davis, Sam Anderson, Ray Walston, Ed Harris, and Kathy Bates (the latter two, unfortunately, in cameos) deliver absolutely brilliant performances amidst the carnage, and Rick Aviles chillingly shines as the "Rat Man." However, Molly Ringwald's long lost whatever she had in the 80's, Rob Lowe's slightly out of place, and Corin Nemec's fake pimples are not enough to make me believe he's the completely repulsive 'Harold Lauter.' In fact, he's probably one of the most handsome actors in the cast. The film stock is terrible, and is constantly changing resolutions, sometimes from film to video, and I know that this is inherent in the elements and not the fault of the DVD.

I shall sum up the majority of my problems with the film with the description of one brief, climactic element. I don't want to give anything away, but a key sequence involves, shall we say, a visualization of 'The Hand of God.' What Garris spews forth is FAR worse than:

A. Nothing at all
B. A title card that says 'Hand of God,
C. A hand waved in front of the camera lens.
D. This.

Yes, dear Readers, it's even worse than THIS.

Mick Garris has transformed a work of extreme power, emotion, and import into something not even worth a good laugh. Perhaps a whimper, or maybe a scoff. Two stars (for Ed Harris).

-Sean Gill

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