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Stephen King’s DESPERATION is “special” to me. Not only was it King back in top form but it was also a book I got to devour while lying in a hammock, by the ocean in Maine. No work, e-mails, phones or nagging broads…just me, the book and the ocean…that was a first for me in like 10 years. When I heard that Mick Garris was adapting the novel for TV, a smile graced my ugly mug! Now that I got my paws on it and saw it, I’m still happy!
A lot people bust Mick Garris’ balls for doing so many Stephen King adaptations. And although I see where that’s coming from on some level, I actually value the fact that King has found an ally in Garris and that they keep working together. By result Garris keeps getting better at the King game after each film. Desperation was strong proof of that. Now I read the book, so I can only talk from that point of view, but trust me when I say that the man nailed it. The film was MUCHO faithful to its source (King wrote the script so that helped) on all echelons. The desert landscape, the abandoned town, the dingy movie theater, the spooky mine from the book were all communicated splendidly here via choice locations and Garris’s keen eye. This baby looked as morbid-nice as a film called Desperation should!
Character wise, the ball was hit out of the park there too! The casting was ideal (Ron Pearlman and Tom Skerritt were my favs), the acting on the money, the endearing group chemistry there and most were developed enough within the 131 minutes clock time for me to give a hoot. That added to the tension filled bits and the sense of dread that was so constant within the flick. Which brings me to the horror at hand. Being that the book is fairly grisly and that this was a TV movie, I was a tad fearful that the drink would be watered down. How surprised was I to see that there was more Rum than Coke in this beverage. Although far from a gore fest, the film showed and implied enough to bring the horror of the situation home with gusto. I was taken aback as to how much they got away with for TV. NICE! Add to all that an engaging pace, a back-handing score, random moments of circumstantial humor that tickled my funny boner and a semi thought provoking "God theme" as to how he works and you get a keeper!
On the slide down the snake side of the Snakes and Ladder board game, a couple of things did nag at me with the use of CGI during some horror scenes being the first. It totally took me out of the film, looked silly and didn’t get the intended reaction out of me. The constant “god talk” from kiddy lead David (well played by Shane Haboucha) got grating after a while as well. To the film’s defense though, it was the same jive in the book, but sometimes what’s on the page doesn’t translate that swell on celluloid, this was one of those times. Finally, my worst peeve with the flick had to do with the rushing of some key moments, lessening their impact in the process (one death in particular was totally slap-dashed our way). Taking more time with some of the circumstances would’ve added to the fear factor and the whole’s impact if you ask me or that dead chick’s head taking an ice-cube nap in my freezer.
Overall though, Desperation was a satisfying watch. The likeable cast, the fine tuned script and the efficient direction all came through to bring one of my most cherished books (for personal reasons) to life! Props to all!