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Stephen King Tag

In which we look at once common curiosities of pop culture that don’t exist anymore, be it because of changing tastes, the fragmentation of culture, or merely the fickle nature of fads. [youtube width="602" height="350" video_id="YTWzI66jGOE"] “This week our regular programming will be pre-empted so that we

Horror movies derive most of their power and enjoyment (you sicko) from a combination of novelty and surprise.The novelty: how the filmmakers will have this particular bad guy stalk and kill the good guys. The surprise: OHMYGODLOOKOUTBEHINDYOUDREWBARRYMORE! Nevertheless, because horror movies are eternally popular, Hollywood remakes

Twenty-five years ago, on August 8, 1986, Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me opened in limited release (opening in wide release on August 22).

In 1982, one of my favorite Stephen King books Different Seasons was published, consisting of four novellas that each correspond to a season of the year. I love this book so much because three out of the four tales do not have anything whatsoever to do with the supernatural — a bit of a departure for King. One of his strengths as a writer is his ability to create real flesh and blood people who populate his stories, no matter how crazy things get. This ability especially shines in Different Seasons, and anyone who doubts the writing talent of Stephen King should read at least one of the stories from this book.

Three of the four stories, the same three that do not rely on anything supernatural, have been made into films — the first being Stand By Me which was adapted from The Body. The second film to come from this source was The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Frank Darabont’s flawless adaptation of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Unfortunately my favorite of these stories, Apt Pupil, failed as a film (released in 1998), mainly due to the fact that director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Brandon Boyce changed the ending so significantly that they pretty much rendered the rest of the story pointless.

The screenplay for Stand By Me, by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon (who also wrote 1984’s Starman) is remarkably faithful to its source, right down to the moment where Gordie encounters the deer — one of my favorite little incidents from King’s story that I couldn’t believe made it into the movie. Future adapters of Stephen King material take note: it’s the small character moments like this that make me an admirer of the author’s work, and leaving such moments out of the movie — even though they might not advance the plot — is utterly stupid.

In pop culture, lists are everything. They lend a sense of order to an otherwise orderless world. From film and literature to music, critics and readers alike love to put things in tidy rows. It is with this in mind that Popdose presents Listmania, a weekly series counting down the staff’s favorite things.

Be it zombies, vampires, ghosts, goblins or ghouls, everyone has specific fear triggers. For some of us it’s murderous dolls; others prefer the supernatural, either way most of us love a good scare. It was with this in mind that we asked the staff to list the twenty films that scared the living daylights out of them. We chopped, sliced and diced the results and came up with the twenty most terrifying moments in cinematic history, at least according to frightened masses at Popdose.

And if that isn’t scary enough, the good folks at Warner Bros. have a treat for one lucky reader: a free iTunes download of the Director’s Cut of The Exorcist, featuring never seen before behind the scenes footage and interviews with director William Friedkin, actress Linda Blair and author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatt. All you have to do to enter is send an e-mail to Jason with the subject “My Best Recipe for Pea Soup!” All entries must be received before midnight, October 29. The winner will be selected randomly and notified by e-mail.

If you missed the first half of the list, you can catch up here:
Popdose Listmania: Top 20 Scariest Films (20-11)

So go ahead, pop the no-doze, and whatever you do: don’t fall asleep…

In pop culture, lists are everything. They lend a sense of order to an otherwise orderless world. From film and literature to music, critics and readers alike love to put things in tidy rows. It is with this in mind that Popdose presents Listmania, a weekly series counting down the staff’s favorite things.

Be it zombies, vampires, ghosts, goblins or ghouls, everyone has specific fear triggers. For some of us it’s murderous dolls; others prefer the supernatural, either way most of us love a good scare. It was with this in mind that we asked the staff to list the twenty films that scared the living daylights out of them. We chopped, sliced and diced the results and came up with the twenty most terrifying moments in cinematic history, at least according to frightened masses at Popdose.

And if that isn’t scary enough, the good folks at Warner Bros. have a treat for one lucky reader: a free iTunes download of the Director’s Cut of The Exorcist, featuring never seen before behind the scenes footage and interviews with director William Friedkin, actress Linda Blair and author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatt. All you have to do to enter is send an e-mail to Jason with the subject “My Best Recipe for Pea Soup!” All entries must be received before midnight, October 29. The winner will be selected randomly and notified by e-mail.

So if you’ll just walk this way, because they’re coming to get you…

There has been a lot of discussion in the past few years about bullying and its repercussions. Since the advent of mobile phones and Internet gathering places such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, bullying has become more widespread and much less difficult to accomplish. It’s a lot easier for kids to taunt each other by posting nasty messages on a classmate’s Facebook page, texting an embarrassing picture to everyone in school or, worse, posting a humiliating video on YouTube that millions of people could possibly view.

In my day, all the way back in the the mid-to-late ’80s and early ’90s, bullies did their terrorizing the old-fashioned way — in person. That’s not to say kids aren’t still calling each other names, stuffing each other into lockers, or beating each other up after school. But I dare say that the Internet has made non-physical bullying far more attractive to the particular brand of fuckwit who thinks it’s cool to make a peer’s life a living hell. And because of how quickly the nasty comments or embarrassing videos can spread, the kids who are being bullied can easily feel that they have nowhere to go to escape the hell that is being wrought upon them — some to the extreme of taking their own lives, sadly.

I know this is some pretty heavy talk for a Soundtrack Saturday post — I’m supposed to be snarky and/or sentimental, right? But I think that it’s a fairly appropriate way to introduce this week’s film, Carrie (1976). Because, I mean, who knows more about being bullied than poor Carrie White (Sissy Spacek)? That girl was put through the wringer — constantly picked on by her high school classmates and physically and mentally abused by her crazy, religious-zealout mother (Piper Laurie). And just when she thinks things are getting better for her after she gets asked to the prom by number-one dreamboat, Tommy Ross (William Katt), the rug gets completely yanked out from under her — or, rather, the bucket of pig’s blood gets dumped upon her.

But, see, Carrie isn’t like other kids who get taunted and abused by her peers and family. See, Carrie has discovered that she has a special power — that of telekinesis. What the heck does that mean? Well, according to my handy dandy dictionary, telekinesis is the movement of a body caused by thought or willpower without the application of a physical force. So basically, Carrie can fuck you up just by looking at you. Of course, the dumb fucks who keep picking on her don’t realize this until it’s too late — and then all hell breaks loose.

“Some places are like people — some shine and some don’t.” Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) in The Shining (1980)

I first saw The Shining when I was 10 or 11 years old. It was a cold Saturday afternoon in the winter, and it was just me and my dad at home. I think he was in his basement office watching sports or something and I was in the living room doing what I normally did on a cold Saturday afternoon — watching television.

I had been flipping around the channels and stopped on one of the cable channels, probably Cinemax. The scene that caught my attention was that of a little boy standing on a stool in front of a bathroom sink, talking to himself in the mirror — well, talking to his finger, actually. I was intrigued, so I kept watching.

For the next couple of hours my mind was blown. The Shining was unlike any film I’d seen before. Everything about the movie scared the shit out of me, yet when it was over I wanted to watch it again. After that first viewing I looked for it on cable, wanting to see it from the beginning. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. (This is where I tell you that I’ve never gotten around to reading the book and I’m ashamed of that.)

When I was older — probably late high school or early college — I bought the movie on VHS and watched it every night for a week. I was obsessed with it. With every viewing, I saw something I hadn’t seen previously. And since I wanted to be a writer, watching what happened to Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) as he descened into madness fascinated me. And every time I sat down to write something after that, I thought of him.

Tuesday night, as I washed the dishes, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings played on the stereo. While I listened to the fantastic retro soul title track from their latest album, I Learned the Hard Way. Jacob stood at the kitchen table, leafing through one of his many Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic books. When the instrumental, “The Reason,” began, I happened to glance over at him. Oblivious to the fact that his father was watching, Jacob flipped pages while his feet and legs moved to the rhythm of the song. He was in his own world- a place of colorful super heroes and exciting words full of heightened drama. I wish “The Reason” was longer than two minutes and twenty seconds. I could have gone on watching him for another hour.

Comics and music. My son has gravitated to the same passions I had when I was a boy. Toss in his love of animated movies and juvenile humor (lately, there’s nothing funnier than a good kick to the tenders) and you might say that Jake is a carbon copy of me. I have faith that Jake will continue to embrace these art forms and that he’ll never feel embarrassed for his love of comic books. In my youth, I hid my comic obsession from my friends and family, as if there was something to be ashamed of in reading stories of heroism, love, loyalty and family. Granted, they also involved women drawn in incredibly tight costumes and an abundance of violence, but still, there was no reason why I felt I had to sneak my comics into the basement as if they were Playboy.

I found a kindred spirit in the 7th grade when I met a kid named Jeff Marsick. Besides ogling the same girls, sharing the same classes, and both being members of the school band, the two of us both loved reading and talking about comic books. Jeff and I remained friends all the way through high school. He once gave me the inside scoop on my high school crush; I once helped him pick up a girl at a Key Club convention by writing some romantic lines and signing his name to them. Despite the good times we shared and the many long talks we had about Wolverine and the Flash, once we received our high school diplomas we lost touch. Jeff went into the Coast Guard and I wound up in film school and eventually out west to pursue a Hollywood dream. That should have been the end of our friendship.

Then, one afternoon in the late 90’s, Jeff phoned me out of the blue. After tracking me down through our high school alumni association, he called to congratulate me, having seen my name in the credits of There’s Something About Mary. Jeff was out of the Coast Guard, living in Connecticut and starting up his own chiropractic practice. I was amazed to learn during our brief phone conversation that Jeff had a passion for writing, as well. Novels, screenplays, criticism, you name it; the guy had the talent, wit and the desire to have his voice heard. He promised to send me a copy of his unfinished novel and we exchanged email addresses. I never expected to hear from him again.

I was wrong.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of my friend Matt’s death. He was my brother in every sense except for blood, and like siblings, we fought, had misunderstandings, hurt each other and went through periods in which we didn’t speak. We weren’t on speaking terms when he died, so there wasn’t a chance to say goodbye. It was an incredible loss, having known this man since we were first graders and we would walk home from school together. I would often stop in his house for a snack, or to check out his room full of the hippest toys, like Maskatron — enemy of the Six Million Dollar Man — an action figure that came with three interchangeable faces, or leafing through his latest issue of Mad Magazine or Cracked.

Growing up, he was always forward thinking; he had the latest video games and a Commodore 64. You would have thought he’d embrace the digital age, with e-mail making it so easy for friends and family to reconnect and stay in touch. Yet as soon as he set off on his own to live in Seattle, Matt shed most of his earthly possessions and tried to live on just his wits and bare essentials, except for his books and music. He absorbed facts and lyrics like a magnet picking up tiny metal shavings. That’s why his aversion to the Internet always perplexed me: If anyone would have thrived in a world where information was a click away, it should have been Matt.

dayinyourlife

November 18, 1984, is a Sunday. By Congressional resolution, it’s the first day of National Family Week. The New York Times publishes several articles about Baby Fae, the anonymous child who died last Thursday after living 20 days with the transplanted heart of a baboon. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub tops the Times bestseller list for fiction; Iacocca: An Autobiography, by former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca ,leads the nonfiction list. Future Avenged Sevenfold bassist Johnny Christ is born, although his parents name him Jonathan Lewis Seward. The Chuck Norris film Missing in Action tops the weekend box office. The New York City Opera’s production of Sweeney Todd closes after 13 performances.

In the National Football League, the Miami Dolphins suffer their first loss of the season to San Diego, 34-28. The San Francisco 49ers are also 11-and-1 after a 24-17 win over Tampa Bay. Tim Lewis of the Green Bay Packers sets a team record with a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 31-6 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Geoff Bodine wins the final NASCAR race of the season, but Terry Labonte wins the Winston Cup championship.

I started reading Stephen King novels when I was about 11 years old. The first one I read was Carrie. I loved it. Soon after I finished it, I started grabbing his other books from the library. But the one that I wanted to read the most, Christine, was always checked out.

My mom told me she’d read it and loved it — which was surprising to me, because my mom was a Danielle Steele kind of reader — so I wanted to read it even more. But the bookmobile and my local library branch always failed me. In fact, I’m pretty sure they only had one copy and some douchebag had lost it long ago.

Eventually, I lost interest in reading Stephen King books and forgot about wanting to read Christine. In fact I’ve still never read it. I should probably rectify that.

But even though I’ve never read the book, I have seen the movie many times. (Both came out in 1983.) I’m sure the book is a hundred times better, but without having much of a comparison to make, I think the movie works pretty well on its own. Directed by horror veteran John Carpenter, the man behind Halloween (1978) and The Thing (1982), it stars Keith Gordon as Arnie Cunningham, a nerdy teenager who falls in love with a bright red 1958 Plymouth Fury known as Christine. Though she’s in bad shape when he first lays eyes on her — and despite the protests of his parents and his best friend, Dennis (John Stockwell) — he buys the car.

That’s right, folks — the most disturbing Halloween EVER! From now until Halloween, the Popdose staff are going to be thumbing through their record collections in search of the music that gives them the worst case of the heebie-jeebies. Up first is Dw. Dunphy, with Jupiter Society’s First Contact, Last Warning. —Anthony Hansen

Musical sound doesn’t frighten me anymore. It did once, when I was young. The sudden, jarring strangeness of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” once freaked me out to no end, a veritable boon to all who wanted to tease a chubby, overly sensitive child. Whenever she felt like being evil, my sister would turn to me and shout, “Mamma mia, mamma mia, let me go!” which would send me running out of the room in tears.

Wimp. Definition of a wimp. Today I recognize the utter campiness of the tune and have grown to love the better part of the Queen catalog. In fact music that once struck me as strange and dissonant has become more attractive, not more repulsive, in my adult years.

But lyrics still have the ability to get in my head and cause the spiders in there to revolt. I’m currently fascinated by — and a whole lotta disturbed by — a group called Jupiter Society. Their sound is prog metal, heavy on the synths, but the scenarios in their lyrics are all Stephen King in space.

The Stand: Captain TripsYou won’t hear it from the literary highbrow among us, but Stephen King’s novel The Stand has all of the elements necessary to qualify as a (if not the) Great American Novel. If you’ve read King’s 1978 novel, you recognized themes of, in the words of editor Bill Rosemann, “faith, fear, violence, hope, religion, justice, sex, destiny, and redemption.” And if you’ve read the novel, your dreams were haunted while you were reading it, and even now some of the images from King’s story of civilization brought low by an escaped biological weapon remain fresh in your mind. You’ve probably even watched the fairly hokey mini-series that was made from the book. I watch it every time it’s on, often in all day Sunday marathons on the SyFy network.

It seems somehow inevitable that a story that evokes such strong images would attract graphic novelists interested in putting their own spin on it, and artists looking to make those images leap from the page with brush and pen. Marvel has answered the call, and is in the process of releasing a comic series based on The Stand. They have collected the first five issues and released them as the graphic novel The Stand: Captain Trips. The book takes us from the initial accidental release of the pathogen from a military research facility to the murder of people trying to get the word out via the media by military personnel. Of course looming over the whole tale is the presence of Captain Trips himself, The Walking Man. Many of the book’s other prominent characters, including Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, and Larry Underwood are introduced along the way.