The Stand (1994)
Reviewed on 2007 January 10
I enjoy Steven King’s books, though a lot of time they translate into some pretty rotten movies. To be fair in a lot of cases I think this is because of some his best scares would be hard to put on screen. Firestarter was a dumb movie but a creepy little book, and the eeriest bit was a premonition one of the main characters had — the words something’s wrong at home just flashing in his mind. It looked great on paper, but how can you film something like that? His books are full of subtle things that mess with your head like that. When I heard The Stand was going to be made into a mini-series, I envisioned lots of things being omitted and executed poorly, but since it’s my favorite book of his, I settled down to watch it. And loved it.
The thing hits the ground running — a panicked worker in a government lab violates the quarantine rules when a vicious bio weapon gets out of a test tube, and instead of going down with the ship hurries home to get his wife and kid and get out of the area. In the first half-hour of the movie he unleashes the flu from hell that decimates the vast majority of the population that’s not immune. The basically good survivors try to set up a new civilization and restore some sense of the lives they had. Unfortunately, many evil or amoral people were also immune, and set up a city under a shadowy being that calls himself Randall Flagg (among other things). It becomes clear that the people in Flagg's camp aren't content to just keep to their decadent selves, and that there’s going to be a big confrontation between the forces of good and evil. I think it works so well because King’s horror and warped sense of humor translate better to screen here than in almost any other adaption of his books — the Flu Buddy commercials are hilarious, and wait ’til you see where the Flagg acolytes set up camp. And only room 217 in Kubrick’s The Shining rivals that scene in the Lincoln Tunnel.
Too much discussion of the characters might give stuff away, so I’m just going to say it was pretty well-cast. Jamey Sheridan made a great Randall Flagg, kind of how I envisioned him, if not better-looking than the critter in the book. Nobody could’ve been a better Mother Abigail than Ruby Dee, and Ray Walston and Gary Sinise were wonderful as Glen Bateman and Stu Redman. Corin Nemic was a pretty good Harold Lauder, but the makeup department should’ve fattened him up, de-prettied him a bit more, and made him take classes in Nerd 101. Another character in the book is completely omitted and dovetailed with Nadine Cross (Laura San Giacomo). I also wanted to see what made Nadine tick, and Matt Frewer’s Trashcan Man would have been even more effective if we knew more about his background. I know that we’d be going beyond epic length to accomplish this, but it would be worth stockpiling some premium junk food and taking the phone off the hook for a day or two. For a doorstop-weight book being condensed into such a good six hour movie these are tiny flaws.
Three chocolate morsels.