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DISSECTING THE DIRECTOR: Mick Garris

01.10.2012by: Marcey Papandrea

"MICK GARRIS"

One of my absolute favourite genre personalities is Mick Garris. The man is a fan and he knows his stuff. He is a well-known name within the genre, and he has been a real pioneer especially over the past few years for horror. He is probably best known for his countless Stephen King adaptations, which he has made while working hand in hand with King. He created the amazing series ‘Masters Of Horror’ and he hosted the FEARnet show Post Mortem where he played the interviewer. The man has done so much, and in my eyes he is a horror legend with everything he does. But how does Garris hold up as a director? Let’s find out …

BEST WORK


Get The Stand on DVD here

It wasn’t an easy call for me to name Garris’ best work, as he has quite a number of solid films and TV items under his belt. But when it comes down to it, I think Garris achieved something that no one else has really been able to – direct an excellent mini-series based on one of Stephen King’s books. There are many mini-series based on Stephen King’s works, and to be honest a lot of them are lacking. However, 1994’s six-hour epic THE STAND is quite outstanding.

I remember watching this back when it was on TV, and it was scary but at the same time there were some scenes that stuck with me. Going back now and watching it, yes it is dated but it still remains a solid piece with some truly fantastic moments and scenes. Stephen King wrote the teleplay, and working with Garris closely I think they just had the right ingredients to make this work. The cast was a great ensemble group, and while some didn’t work quite as well as others, I think they got it right where it counted.

The story is about a plague that wipes out most of the population, save for a select few who seem to be immune. The survivors slowly discover that they are all having the same dream featuring the same woman, and it is drawing them to the same place. However, a dark force is also in their dreams, and it becomes clear that they must all get together and take a stand.

Now this mini-series has 4 parts of 90 minutes each, and while it may seem long, the time actually flies by because it is so engaging, and for the most part it is well-paced. Each part concentrates on something different, but at its core it keeps the same mentality. It is filled with stunning visuals, none more memorable than its opening credit sequence. For the most part the script is solid, and certain actors do a better job than others. In particular I thought Gary Sinise, Jamey Sheridan, Rob Lowe and Bill Fagerbakke were all really good and stood out above everyone else. Overall, this is a well-made piece of television and Garris really did an outstanding job.

WORST WORK


Get Sleepwalkers on DVD here

For me this call was a no-brainer, and honestly this film is one of the biggest stinkers in horror of the 90’s. What am I talking about? SLEEPWALKERS! Yes this is another Stephen King vehicle, however it is the only stand-alone screenplay he ever wrote. It is not based on anything he had previously published, and there is no doubt in my mind that he was really at his peak with substance abuse when he wrote this garbage. The story isn’t anything complicated: a mother and son who are supernatural creatures who go to a new town to find a virgin to feed on. Oh, and did I mention the mother and son have a very disturbing incestuous relationship going on?

The story is paper thin, and really is kind of ridiculous, especially when it comes to how they have to feed. I find it hard to believe that this town only has one virgin, and their quest for this one girl is a little stupid. Plot holes are aplenty when you look at it, and those are things I can’t really look past them because they just ruin the experience even more. The whole thing about the film’s cast being their enemy is pretty hilarious, and while the make-up effects are solid, again they’re on the hilarious side.

The first 28 minutes of this film are okay. It’s a little engaging (if you ignore the incest) and it has some fantastic Garris visuals. Yet once it hits this certain point, the film loses itself and it becomes an absolute mess of epic proportions. It has no idea what it wants to be or where it wants to go. While it does border on being ‘so bad its good’, it mostly is just plain bad.

On a positive side though, Alice Krige is pretty good. She’s got this strange sexual energy about her and somehow she seems to know that this film is extremely silly and she plays to that. As I mentioned before, early on in the film there are some fantastic visuals and this part of the film is worth watching for those alone. Garris seems to have an understanding, but this film suffered from not really being able to change anything King had written, which is how Garris got the job and their partnership began.

TRADEMARKS


Get The Shining on DVD here

Mick Garris is a man of trademarks. The most obvious one being working with Stephen King. The duo have worked together for 20 years, and for the most part their work together has been solid, making them a good pair. Of course, the trademarks don’t stop there with King, as he has cameos in Garris’ adaptations. The cameos don’t just stop with King, as other directors often appear in Garris’ works, perhaps the most notable being John Landis, who has appeared in PSYCHO IV, SLEEPWALKERS, THE STAND and QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY. Garris’ wife Cynthia has also appears in all of his works, which is very sweet.

Mick Garris also often works with the same actors multiple times. I think the most obvious one is the great Matt Frewer. He tends to show up as a supporting character, but you’ll notice him right away, as he just has such a great presence. Garris also collaborates with composer Nicholas Pike. The pair have worked together on over 10 of Garris’ projects over the years, and like his work with King, Garris has another successful pairing with Pike. My other favourite trademark is Garris’ visual style. He has a very unique way of doing things, and it is evident when you are watching one of his films. He has such a talent for using music over scenes and making it affective. The man can craft so much from his visuals and he lets them tell the story, which is a great talent to have and I love him for it.

HIDDEN GEM


Get Desperation on DVD here

I am sure there is much to debate on what is Garris’ ultimate hidden gem. Everyone has their own opinions. My personal pick for that title is DESPERATION, which is surprise, yet another Stephen King adaptation. Now I haven’t read the book so I can’t compare the two, but since this TV film was written by King, I can only imagine that it was faithful to the book. Overall, I just had a great time with this film, I enjoyed it a lot and it really shows how tuned in Garris and King have become over the years.

The story is about a town’s Sheriff who arrests anyone who drives near the deserted town of Desperation. It’s apparent from the beginning that something isn’t quite right about the man, and when he takes in a writer the mystery goes even deeper. Those who have been arrested have essentially been kidnapped, and try to figure out what exactly is going on. The story is interesting and engaging, the characters are bizarre and are brought to life by some talented actors. The sets and locations are fantastic, and there is a sense of dread and fear throughout the film.

Originally, this was meant to be a two-part mini-series, however it first aired as one long film and was stupidly put up against ‘American Idol’. It wasn’t really seen upon its initial airing but now that it’s out on DVD, it’s more widely available and one that’s worth checking out. It is well-written and directed, and nicely acted by the cast. Tom Skerrit, Steven Weber, Matt Frewer, Charles During and the legend Ron Perlman are all fantastic. This might even be one of my favourite Ron Perlman performances, as the man is amazing and made for a great villain. I actually can’t wait to watch this again, as it’s such great fun.

NEXT PROJECT


Pre-order Bag Of Bones on DVD here

Mick Garris’ latest is yet another Stephen King mini-series which aired last month on A&E called BAG OF BONES. The two-parter received mixed reviews and will premiere on DVD in a few months. The mini-series adaptation was not written by King, but instead was written by Matt Venne. It features an all-star cast including Pierce Brosnan, Melissa George, Annabeth Gish, Matt Frewer, Anika Noni Rose, Caitlin Carmichael, William Schallert and Jason Priestley.

BAG OF BONES is the story of grief and lost love's enduring bonds, an innocent child caught in a terrible crossfire and a new love haunted by past secrets. Bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, played by Pierce Brosnan, is unable to stop grieving after the sudden death of his wife Jo. A dream inspires him to return to the couple's lakeside retreat in western Maine where he becomes involved in a custody battle between the daughter of an attractive young widow and the child's enormously wealthy grandfather, the mysterious ghostly visitations, the ever-escalating nightmares and the realization that his late wife still has something to tell him.

OVERALL


Get Psycho IV: The Beginning on DVD here

Mick Garris is a talented guy behind the camera, and is also talented as a writer with everything else he does. I could listen to the man talk for hours, since he knows his stuff and he has a lot of respect for the genre and those who work in it. His pairing with Stephen King is a staple in his work and a successful one at that. He’s given us many entertaining things to watch and continues to work on many different projects. You can catch him over at Joe Dante’s site Trailers From Hell on a regular basis, too! Mick Garris, I salute you!

Extra Tidbit: Mick Garris worked in 1977 at The Star Wars Corporation as a secretary.
Tags: dissecting

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