May 30th, 2006



I taped the Desperation TV movie when it aired last week and finally got a chance to watch it today. God, that was shit. I almost gave up after the first hour. Maybe I should have.

I honestly don't know what to point to as the most ludicrous ingredient in this latest Stephen King/Mick Garris surf-and-turf. The kajillion-year-old demon cracking pop culture jokes about "blue states" and "swingles," both things it would know (or care) nothing about? The mother yelling at her son to stop praying, in what had to be the stupidest character-defining moment ever put on film? Or maybe when the cougar (a fucking cougar!) appears out of nowhere and leaps through a window to attack someone?

I haven't read the novel, so I don't know how much of this is directly from the page and how much is original to Stephen King's script, but I'll take this opportunity to point out yet again that King does not know how to write an effective screenplay. What works on the page, in terms of both dialogue and action, is different from what works on the screen. The very same dialogue that works well in your head when reading a novel can sound ridiculous when spoken aloud by an actor. Scripts are a different beast, with their own special needs and ways of doing things. But King seems to write them as if they're still novels, with entire scenes that drag on forever, leaving you begging for them to come to either a conflict or a resolution, something. The sheriff asking the author for his autograph might have worked well in the novel, where scenes can play out in their own sweet time, but on the screen it was interminable. In fact, the whole first hour of the three-hour movie felt interminable.

It definitely picks up in the second hour, when our heroes escape from their cells and go on the run, but by then it was too little too late. The whole story felt inconsequential to me. What was really at stake, other than the main characters getting out of Desperation, Nevada alive? Did Tak, the kajillion-year-old demon, have any plan outside of messing up that one town? Who knows? He seemed pretty content just to hang out where he was. So the world outside didn't seem endangered at all. There was nothing upping the ante, nothing to make our heroes believe Tak had to be stopped at all costs or everything would go to hell in a handbasket.

And don't get me started on all the God stuff. By the second time the little boy was talking about how we were all put here to love and serve God, I was rolling my eyes. Not because it's necessarily a bad sentiment (though one does have to wonder what kind of God would create an entire world just to worship him - is he really that insecure?) but because it was all talk. It didn't come to anything. Faith played no part outside of empty speeches used to pad out airtime and define characters as either God-fearing or atheists.

As I mentioned, I didn't read the novel. I like most of the King novels I've read, and I'll probably like this one too, once the memory of the TV movie has faded away. I remember he also published a novel under the Bachman name at the same time, called The Regulators, that was sort of a different version of the same story. Maybe that one would have made a better movie.