Tag Archives: Stephen King

Fall 2017 Movie Preview: Horror/Thriller

You’ve most likely already seen the decorations, costumes and candy littering the shelves of stores. While we are still weeks away from October, much less the end of October, Halloween is already right in our faces. Why? Because the overhead for these items is low and the profit margins are high. Not to mention that consumers buy it up by the truck load. The opportunity to pretend to be a celebrity, superhero, or ghoul is just too good to pass up and the lure of free candy keeps kids of all ages excited about the holiday.

In the same way, Horror films are usually pretty inexpensive and quick to make and there is always a desire for them. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie out with your friends to see who flinches last at all of the jump scares and blood-curdling screams or if you are a teenager looking for a dark room and a place to sneak your arm around that special someone as they hide themselves from the perceived danger.

I’m not a huge Horror fan, but I do appreciate the art of a good scare and the psychology that goes into it. When we find those films that defy the traditional plot devices and tropes to keep the audience riveted then I am fully on board. So what delicious horrors are in store in our coming attractions? We actually have a Friday the 13th during October this year so expect that to be the epicenter for horror flicks this fall.

September

IT – 9/8

When young children in the little town Derry of Maine starts to begin to be found dead a group of seven kids find out that the killer is not a man. The killer is the evil clown Pennywise who is actually a creature that can shapeshift into the thing you are most afraid of. The kids also known as the Losers Club decide to fight and kill It. But how can you fight something who knows all your biggest fears?

I hear that it is good to face your fears head on. That’s great. I have been stuck with this irrational fear of clowns ever since I read Stephen King’s IT back when I was 10-11 years old. At some point, I dug up a copy of the 1990 TV miniseries and I’ve never looked at Tim Curry the same way again. This one looks like it is going to be much more true to the source material and people that I trust have said that it is terrifying in all the right ways. So, lets band together my Loser’s Club and we’ll get rid of our coulrophobia once and for all.

Mother! – 9/15

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

Man it’s fun to just say the name of this film with that exclamation point, but we haven’t been given much to go on with this one and I for one am totally fine with that. The trailer is frenetic and creepy and with a cast featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer I have no doubt that the performances will be superb. Jennifer Lawrence said that she hyperventilated and dislocated a rib during filming so it’s going to be a wild ride. If you weren’t aware, this is coming from Darren Aronofsky, the same guy that gave us Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream. He is an amazing director and I’m ready to see what this is all about.

Flatliners – 9/29

Five medical students, obsessed by the mystery of what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring and dangerous experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods of time, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife. But as their experiments become increasingly dangerous, they are each haunted by the sins of their pasts, brought on by the paranormal consequences of trespassing to the other side.

I know what you’re thinking, “Another remake of a 90’s Horror property?” Yep, but don’t count this one out yet. That first movie with Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt, and Billy Baldwin is surprisingly good and I think this one has a chance as well. Ellen Page leads this cast with Diego Luna and Nina Dobrev, even Keifer Sutherland comes back for the fun. Hopefully the nostalgia gets people into the theaters and the story will take them the rest of the way. If it doesn’t, then maybe there are just some lines we’re not meant to cross.

October

Happy Death Day – 10/13

A college student (Jessica Rothe) relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

Imagine Groundhog Day with every day ending in your murder. It’s an interesting twist on this familiar plot device. It will be interesting to see it utilized for terrifying effects. There is no big name attached so it could either be a surprising hit or a big flop. I hope it’s good. The trailer looks solid.

The Snowman – 10/20

When an elite crime squad’s lead detective (Michael Fassbender) investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again. With the help of a brilliant recruit (Rebecca Ferguson), the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the next snowfall.

Based on the international best selling novel of the same name from Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, Michael Fassbender plays Harry Hole (what a horrible name for a character). I don’t know if they have struck the right tone in the trailer. It almost looks like a dark comedy with the childish drawings of snowmen. It has to be better than the only other snowman based horror film I can think of: Jack Frost. It’s rare to see the Fassbender in anything awful (except Assassin’s Creed).

November

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – 11/3

Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.

Yorgos Lanthimos is an enigmatic director who doesn’t like clean common sense plots. You might have heard of a couple of his previous films, Dogtooth and The Lobster. They are both very dark, very strange and full of a twisted masochistic humor. Lanthimos reunites with Colin Farrell who starred in The Lobster and adds Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone as well as a crop of young actors with few roles under their belts. It appears to be his most accessible film to date. That doesn’t mean that he is adopting a standard narrative style. That’s not what this Greek director does. This will be a crippling psychological thriller that will not give us any clear answers and will stick with us for days.

December

Polaroid – 12/1

High school loner Bird Fitcher has no idea what dark secrets are tied to the mysterious Polaroid vintage camera she stumbles upon, but it doesn’t take long to discover that those who have their picture taken meet a tragic end.

This doesn’t look very impressive to me, but it is the only horror movie coming in the traditionally quiet month of December. It looks like a knock off of the Ring and Final Destination films.  With no a list star to get people into the theater and such competition from other films this one probably won’t do anything, but even if it only makes 20 million it will still be profitable and we might even see a sequel in coming years. That is the way horror franchises get started.

Others to Watch:

Friend Request coming on September 22nd. When a college student unfriends a mysterious girl online, she finds herself fighting a demonic presence that wants to make her lonely by killing her closest friends.

Til Death Do Us Part coming on September 29th. Michael and Madison Roland had planned to spend the rest of their lives together, until one day Michael’s controlling ways turned their perfect marriage. With the help of her best friend, Madison decides to get away. After adopting a new identity, she meets Alex Stone (Taye Diggs) and learns to love again. All is well, until Michael discovers Madison’s whereabouts, and recreates the nightmare she once lived all over again.

Leatherface coming on October 20th. A teenage Leatherface escapes from a mental hospital with three other inmates, kidnapping a young nurse and taking her on a road trip from hell while being pursued by an equally deranged lawman out for revenge. It’s the Leatherface origin story we never knew we needed.

Jigsaw coming on October 27th. Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one man: John Kramer. But how can this be? The man known as Jigsaw has been dead for over a decade. The week after we get Leatherface’s origin story, we get a deeper dive into the Jigsaw killer from Saw. Two fictional serial killers that we don’t need to see any more.

Are you looking forward to any of these films? Which one would you go to if you were trying to sneak an arm around the girl you liked? Coming up next, we’ll take a look at the Comedy/Family movies coming this fall.

Click here for the other installments of the 2017 Fall Movie Preview:

Stranger Things – Must Stream TV

I don’t talk about TV a lot because I generally lose interest in a series after a good season because I struggle to make the leap to the new season the way the same way I struggle to enjoy most sequels. Now, this certainly isn’t always the case. Some shows are serials and their arcs are really just the length of one episode with larger overarching stories that carry through the entire season. I think about great comedies that I have loved like Boston Legal in which we were drawn into a legal case or two that have relevance to the current political or social climate then we get resolution, but during the episode we learned a detail about one of our main characters that gives us deeper insight into who they really are.

Overall, I’m one of those people that trusts the TV creators to know when to call it quits. However, I have been burned so many time by a 3rd or 4th season that wanders aimlessly because the creators wanted to make a dollar off the success of their creativity in the first two seasons but ran our of creative things to do narratively with their characters.

If you are reading this to find out more about the original Netflix series Stranger Things then you may be disappointed because I’m not going to tell you anything about the story or what it’s about. I want you to walk into it blind. I seriously hesitated in even putting the trailer here, but it is good to show you at least the basics of what you’re getting into with this 8 hour saga.

That’s right this is just 8 one-hour long episodes, so it is very binge-able. If you miss an episode, you will be lost, so watch it with your partner or else you will be answering questions half way through when they get sucked in too. I do want to make some comparisons. A lot of people are comparing Stranger Things to Spielberg films like E.T. and The Goonies, and a lot of Stephen King novels. I think the best comparison would be this: Stranger Things is what J.J. Abrams would have done with Super 8 if he had decided to make an 8 hour movie.

What Super 8 did was pay homage to Steven Spielberg’s brand of 1980s storytelling through the eyes of intelligent and adventurous children on the cusp of puberty. Stranger Things brings the same cast chemistry that I loved but with a lot more nostalgia and a fully fleshed out story. I kind of hope that the next season starts completely fresh with a new story and lets this season remain right where is ends, like a Stephen King anthology or Amazing Stories.

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The kids in Stranger Things are fantastic, I don’t want them to be known as “child actors.” They’re smart, fun, and they feel like they’re actual friends which we have captured in this story. Their performance is realistic. I’m sure the actors grew close while filming Stranger Things but it feels like they’ve really grown up together.

I highly recommend Stranger Things. The music, the acting, the story, and its ambition is fantastic. It is the best original show I’ve seen in years. If you’re a fan of Spielberg, Stephen King, or J.J. Abrams (or just a fan of good television), you should watch Stranger Things on Netflix before it gets spoiled for you.

If You Liked… Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Who doesn’t like Shawshank Redemption? This is always my go to answer when someone asks me for my favorite movie. I love it because it blends a gritty realism with an ethereal storytelling and a epic twist ending. If you have not seen it, shame on you. It used to be on TBS at least twice a week, but you need to buy it because once you watch it, you will have a new favorite as well. Just in case you haven’t seen it, I will try not to spoil the ending, but here is a quick summary. Click here if you’ve already seen the film and just want to see my recommendations.

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The Shawshank Redemption (directed by Frank Darabont of The Walking Dead fame) is one of those movies whose estimation has only grown with time. It wasn’t a box office hit in 1994, but it was a critical success and received 7 Academy Award nominations but LOST in every category, being beat out for best picture by Forrest Gump. However, in 2008 (14 years after its original release) it took over the #1 slot as greatest film on the IMDb’s Top 250 from The Godfather and it still holds that place to this day.

Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman) is our co-pilot and narrator for our long stay in Shawshank State Penitentiary. He admits that he belongs there for murder, calling himself the only guilty man in Shawshank. The year is 1947 and our central character is banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who has been convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. We see him entering Shawshank to begin serving his two consecutive life sentences. The movie is based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Through the story, we experience a 20 year friendship between these two men.

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You’d be hard pressed to find a more genuine ode to male bonding than this drama spanning two decades from 1946 to 1967. When Andy arrives, he is subject to beatings, humiliation and all manner of horrors within the prison system. He endures the harassment seemingly unfazed. Slowly he learns to adapt, utilizing his talents as an auditor to garner favor from the powers that be. In time he inspires his fellow inmates, making friends with them, in particular Red who originally bet that Andy would be the first new inmate to crack.

The film is highlighted by several amazing performances. Morgan Freeman embodies his character with reverence, heart, and warmth. Tim Robbins is every bit his equal in a role that is more difficult to warm up to. If the actor appears a bit of an enigma, that is only because the character is meant to be that way. There is a quiet way about him that makes the other inmates uneasy and tells us and them that he does not belong there. Actor Bob Gunton is a villain for the ages as Warden Samuel Norton. A stern man that exploits the prison for his own gain as low-cost labor. He presents himself as a god-fearing man, although his true nature is gradually disclosed. The depth of his evil seems to know no bounds.

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Like a flower growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, the narrative is uplifting even though we are presented with the most oppressive of surroundings. My personal favorite scene features Andy locking himself in the warden’s office and using the central microphone to blast an opera record through the grounds. As Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro echoes through the penitentiary, Roger Deakins cinematography captures the emotion as the inmates look upwards, embracing the audible gift. It is hard to describe the feeling, but the scene always brings me to tears. Shawshank is brimming with moments like this where the hope of the human soul triumphs over adversity in the most inspiring way.

So, assuming you love Shawshank like I do then you may be struggling to find movies that give you a similar sense of awe and inspiration. I hope to help with that by giving you a handful of recommendations based upon different aspects of Shawshank Redemption.

The Green Mile

Maybe you are looking for another film based on a Stephen King story, set in a prison, featuring a wrongly convicted protagonist, and directed by Frank Darabont. That is a lot of similarities. Add in the great acting of Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan and you have The Green Mile.
Maybe you are looking for another film based on a Stephen King story, set in a prison, featuring a wrongly convicted protagonist, and directed by Frank Darabont. That is a lot of similarities. Add in the great acting of Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan and you have The Green Mile.

Good Will Hunting

Perhaps you don't care about similar actors or settings. Maybe you just want to recreate some of those feelings of confliction and see a character make some amazing changes and eventually embrace hope. I think you will find few movies as uplifting and powerful as Good Will Hunting, the debut effort of now Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Throw in the humor and heart of Robin Williams and this is a movie you shouldn't miss.
Perhaps you don’t care about similar actors or settings. Maybe you just want to recreate some of those feelings of confliction and see a character make some amazing changes and eventually embrace hope. I think you will find few movies as uplifting and powerful as Good Will Hunting, the debut effort of now Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Throw in the humor and heart of Robin Williams and this is a movie you shouldn’t miss.

The Shining

Lets take that Stephen King influence and go even darker than the Shawshank penitentiary. The Shining catalogs the disturbing mental collapse of Jack Torrance as he works as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which holds onto some of the tragedies from its past. Directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick this is the kind of suspense/horror film that nightmares are made of.
Lets take that Stephen King influence and go even darker than the Shawshank penitentiary. The Shining catalogs the disturbing mental collapse of Jack Torrance as he works as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which holds onto some of the tragedies from its past. Directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick this is the kind of suspense/horror film that nightmares are made of.

Se7en

Shawshank is the best of Morgan Freeman's filmography. Which is saying a lot for a guy that has been nominated 8 times and won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby. But I would go to the gripping crime drama Se7en if I wanted to see a great Morgan Freeman performance along with a young Brad Pitt, a disturbing Kevin Spacey, and the deft directoral touch of David Fincher.
Shawshank is the best of Morgan Freeman’s filmography. Which is saying a lot for a guy that has been nominated 8 times and won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby. But I would go to the gripping crime drama Se7en if I wanted to see a great Morgan Freeman performance along with a young Brad Pitt, a disturbing Kevin Spacey, and the deft directorial touch of David Fincher.

I.Q.

Perhaps you are craving something of a lighter fare. A film that was also released in 1994 and stars our everyman Tim Robbins. I.Q. is an entertaining romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays legendary physicist Albert Einstein and helps a mechanic woo his niece played by Meg Ryan.
Perhaps you are craving something of a lighter fare. A film that was also released in 1994 and stars our everyman Tim Robbins. I.Q. is an entertaining romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays legendary physicist Albert Einstein and helps a mechanic woo his niece played by Meg Ryan.

I hope this gave you some ideas for your next movie night. Please let me know your thoughts below on Shawshank Redemption as well as any of my recommendations. This is a place for sharing.