Sunday, October 24, 2010

Steer clear of New England: The Witches of Eastwick and The Mist

The Witches of Eastwick, the novel, bears very little similarity to the film of the same name, just some FYI. It was written by the brilliant and wordy John Updike, and like most everything else he's written, deals with divorces, trysts, and Rabbit Mothers. I had a hard time with that for most of the book, thinking over and over, for Christ's sake, go home and tend to your children!

But clever, oh was it clever! To be clever and cut with words like Updike! ("her eyes had become piggy, with a vengeful, piggy glitter"). PIGGY EYES! And honestly, the book jacket really hyped up the sex a little too much, there really wasn't that much to speak of. Although the implications of sex and the way he was both subtle and blunt together in describing it was kind of cool:

"Other men, Sukie felt, minded when her thoughts and tongue gravitated to the coven and its coziness and mischief, but not Van Horne; it was his meat somehow, he was like a woman in his steady kindness, though of course terribly masculine in form: when he fucked you it hurt." or some bit about aching "at both ends of her perineum," I've not ever quite heard it phrased thusly, but you know, fine.

I know I should have felt some sort of bond with the witches, womankind, strength in their power, or at least some amount of intrigue, but really I couldn't stand any of them, they seemed mean and vapid at once, with no real reason for beef about anything. Read this book for the writing, it's the only nice thing about it.

"The witches are gone, vanished; we were just an interval in their lives, and they in ours. But as Sukie's blue-green ghost continues to haunt the sunstruck pavement, and Jane's black shape to flit past the moon, so the rumors of the days when they were solid among us, gorgeous and doing evil, have flavored the name of the town in the mouths of others, and for those of us who live here have left something oblong and invisible and exciting we do not understand. We meet it turning the corner where Hemlock meets Oak; it is there when we walk the beach in offseason and the Atlantic in its blackness mirrors the dense packed gray of the clouds: a scandal, life like smoke rising twisted into legend."

The Mist, 2007. Directed by Frank Darabont. Based on the short story by Stephen King. IMDB's synopsis: A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole-up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.

What I liked best about this film was how amazingly it matched the vision I had in my head of King's story. Everything looked exactly how I thought it would look. The actors were perfect, just as I had envisioned them to look and act, same with the monsters (although I do believe Ms. Amanda Dumfries was supposed to be wearing a cranberry-colored sweatsuit. And didn't she and David get it on in one of the store rooms?) The film itself was very beautiful-looking, Frank Darabont I think sees things very cinematically. The only criticisms I have are (again) the score toward the conclusion, a little too Eyes Wide Shut/chanty for me, and the redundancy of David Drayton screaming "They're dead, and for what?" We get that, it's obvious, you don't have to speak it aloud.

That said, I thought the film was scary. The creatures, the situation, the scape-goating, all of it. I didn't just get uncomfortable because it was a story of a father having to make difficult decisions in order to protect his son, but because this sort of danger is completely unknown and can't be reasoned with. There were no absolutes with what they were faced with, other than kill or be killed, it was pure frenzy! That unnerves me a little. With The Ring, you make the tape, with The Exorcist, you dial up Father Merrin. This? Run away and hope they don't get you. That's scary.

In classifying King stories made into films, I've come up with three categories:
1. Do not bother: (Thinner, Hearts in Atlantis)
2. Bother, but keep your sense of humor: (many titles fall into this one-- Pet Semetary, Children of the Corn, Cat's Eye, Creepshow, etc.)
and 3. Booyah!: The Shining, Christine, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption.

I wouldn't say this film was a bulls eye or a Booyah, but I think it's worth seeing, especially if you enjoyed the story.


Donald said...

I dunno. I think maybe Cat's Eye and Creepshow are under "booyah." Not as good as The Shining, of course, but better than Pet Semetary.

Oh, and I was an English major, so I had to read a *lot* of John Updike. More than that, I had to listen to a *lot* of professors wanking off as they talked about how brilliant he is. John Updike can go suck a dick. He's a fine writer, but I'd take the worst of Stephen King over the best of Updike.

Anna said...

wow. well said.

Anna said...

and i agree that Cat's Eye and Creepshow are both booyahs. they're both feature lengths made of shorts though, and i suppose i'm getting all CITY PAGES by not including them in cinematic masterpieces.

and i think my favorite utterance ever is JOHN UPDIKE CAN GO SUCK A DICK.

Jessica B. said...

The thing I loved about the Mist is the Darabont changed the ending of the story, but it was not a bad change. It was a darker, heavier ending, but it absolutely fit with the characters and tone of the movie. Love King, and Love Frank Darabont.

Anonymous said...

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