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Corey Haim stars in 1985's "Silver Bullet"
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Best/Worst of Stephen King (cont'd)

And now, the worst:

5. "Silver Bullet" (1985)
Directed by Daniel Attias; written by Stephen King, from the novel by Stephen King.

Something is killing the residents of Tarker's Mill in brutal fashion. What could it be? Well, we know right away it's a werewolf, and the kids in the picture, Corey Haim as an invalid, and Megan Follows as his older sister, know fairly quickly it's a werewolf. But will anyone believe them? Yes, it's one of those movies. Oh no, the werewolf knows who I am, and I'm an invalid, and he's already tried to kill me twice, and I suspect he'll attack me during the next full moon (this werewolf can attack at any time, by the way, not just during full moons), but what can I do? I'm just a kid and no one will believe me. Even though half the town has sorta seen the werewolf. So I'll just hole up in this house with my sister and drunk uncle, who still doesn't believe me, and wait for the werewolf to come. But we've got one silver bullet in one gun, which my drunk uncle waves around. We'll be fine. Don't you worry.

Who helps:  Young Corey Haim is good, and Gary Busey is always our first choice for a drunk, good ol' boy-type uncle.
Who hurts: Mostly King's script, which makes no sense. The werewolf kills his second victim by climbing a trellis and jumping into her bedroom. The next thing you know there's a curfew: Don't leave your house after 5 p.m.! Um ... how is this supposed to make us safe?
Bullies: Guy at a bar who starts a vigilante committee.
Evil truck or incompetent sheriff?:  Sheriff Joe Haller can't do anything to stop the werewolf or the vigilante mob.
Quote: "I think he's going to come after me. But I think he's going to wait until the moon is full."

Graveyard Shift4. "Graveyard Shift" (1990)
Directed by Ralph S. Singleton; written by John Esposito, from the short story by Stephen King.

No great plot holes here. Just a stupid, unpleasant movie about stupid, unpleasant people saying stupid, cliché-ridden lines in a sweaty Maine textile mill overrun with rats. None of the actors are good or good-looking or well-known. There's no gratuitous nudity or sex or sensuality. And the creepiness factor (all those scuttling rats) is mitigated halfway through when the rats suddenly disappear in favor of one giant, shadowy (but less creepy) rat. The final insult? The "song" over the end credits just samples lines from the film, including a man screaming, "No more! No more! AAAAHHHH!" Exactly.

Who helps: Brad Dourif distracts us for a while, but then his overacting gets obnoxious.
Who hurts: Pretty much everyone.
Bullies: The textile mill foreman, Warwick, with the thick-as-molasses Maine accent ("Show's ovah!"). A couple of rubes in the town bar.
Evil truck or incompetent sheriff?: Neither.
Quote: "Wouldn't mind his boots restin' under mah bed."

Pet Cemetary3. "Pet Sematary" (1989)
Directed by Mary Lambert; written by Stephen King, from the novel by Stephen King.

Hi, I'm Jud Crandall. When a neighborhood cat is killed, I lead the cat's owner, Louis Creed, to an Indian burial ground and tell him to bury the cat there. Here's what I don't tell him: That as a result, the cat will come back to life, and this time it will be evil. Why do I do this? Am I evil? No. Am I befuddled? No, I'm fairly sharp for someone from Maine. I guess I'm just an idiot. But I get mine in the end.

Hi, I'm Louis Creed. What do I do after my daughter's cat comes back from the dead? Do I kill this evil abomination? No, I let my daughter play with it. And when my 2-year-old son is killed, and despite warnings from a nice ghost with a bleeding head wound, I decide to bring my boy back to life, too. But, whoops, he turns out evil (didn't see that coming), and he cuts up my neighbor and wife with a scalpel. Then he tries to kill me -- flying through the air and gnawing at my neck -- but I manage to kill him instead. Ah well. Lesson learned, right? Not really. I immediately carry my dead wife to the Indian burial ground to resurrect her. I guess I'm just an idiot. But I get mine in the end.

Who helps: Fred Gwynne does a fine job but winds up with a toddler feasting on his neck. "The Munsters" was Shakespeare in comparison.
Who hurts: Denise Crosby. Darling, you left "Star Trek" for this?
Bullies: None, really. Just the dead.
Evil truck or incompetent sheriff?: Trucks run over a teacher, a cat, and a toddler. They scare everyone. Changing the speed limit in town might help but it'd probably ruin the sequel.
King cameo: The minister during the toddler's funeral. It may be his best performance -- brief and understated.
Quote: "Daddy, now I want to play with yewwwwww."

2. "Sleepwalkers" (1992)
Directed by Mick Garris; written by Stephen King directly for the screen.

OK, so you're a sleepwalker, a shapeshifter who feeds off the energy of virginal human females while being vulnerable to the scratch of a cat, and you and your sexy Mom arrive in a sleepy Indiana town after narrowly escaping capture in Maine. Lying low makes sense. So what do you do? In school you write, and read aloud, a story about sleepwalkers: a mother and son, as a matter of fact, who flee from town to town. When a fat teacher searches into your background, you kill him. Immediately afterward you go joyriding around town, so now the cops are after you. And one of the cops just happens, just happens, to patrol with a kitty cat in his front seat. Whoops.

The epigraph at the beginning of "Sleepwalkers" attempts to play off the vampire legend, but there's a big reason vampires work on the big screen: Drinking blood, fear of daylight -- it's all cool. The reason sleepwalkers don't? A bunch of housecats attacking someone looks really, really stupid. Oh, and Madchen Amick is still a virgin? In your dreams.

Who helps: Brian Krause, Madchen Amick and Alice Krige don't stink.
Who hurts: King's original screenplay is riddled with as many holes as Beatty and Dunaway at the end of "Bonnie and Clyde." Also a gaggle of directors -- Joe Dante, John Landis, Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper -- decide to show up in bit parts. To lend support? To divert our attention? Because they're directors and they don't know a bad script when they read one?
Bullies: The sleepwalkers; a fat teacher.
Evil truck or incompetent sheriff?: The Indiana police department looks as dumb here as the Chicago police in "The Fugitive." Our favorite moment: two cops converge on the sleepwalkers' home, see no one, and immediately holster their guns. Umm ... upstairs, guys?
King cameo: The cemetery caretaker. Not good. But not as bad as Jordy Verrill in "Creepshow."
Quote: "He was ... (sob) ... He was very charming."

Maximum Overdrive1. "Maximum Overdrive" (1986)
Directed by Stephen King; written by Stephen King, from the short story, "Trucks," by Stephen King.

It's got it all: Bad acting, bad dialogue, unpleasant characters, plot holes you can drive Christine through, and a tone-deaf director who apparently learned scene-to-scene continuity from Ed Wood.  And has any leading man ever made so many wrong decisions? Emilio Estevez urges his boss not to shoot a rocket grenade at the evil machines, even though this would help their situation. He joyfully turns on the pumps when the trucks want gas, even though this hurts their situation. His plan is to sail to an island that has no machines. But ... speedboats? Airplanes? Apparently Emilio doesn't think of these. Apparently neither does anyone else because the plan works. Or so we're told in an afterword.

And how about that afterword? We spend 90 minutes watching a group of rubes battle trucks in a truckstop, and as they sail off into the sunset we're told that two days later a UFO is shot down and everything was fine. The End. UFO? Hello?

King has admitted he was addicted to alcohol and cocaine back then, so maybe "Maximum Overdrive" can still be put to use, as the greatest anti-drug message ever filmed. A fried egg? No, kids, this is your brain on drugs.
 
Who helps: Pat Hingle is a professional, as always, and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) provides Shelley Winters-like comic relief.
Who hurts: Emilio Estevez and Laura Harrington, our romantic leads. But it's King's movie, he does it all here, and he does it all badly.
Bullies: Pat Hingle.
Evil truck or incompetent sheriff?: All evil trucks all the time. One even grins.
King cameo: Man at Cashpoint. Says the first line in the film: "Honeybuns, this machine just called me an asshole!" Ninety-seven excruciating minutes later we agree with the machine.
Quote: "What gets me is the stupidity."

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2Comments
Nov 18, 2011 5:46PM
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 I have watched maximum over drive since i was like 3 and i think that its an awesome movie im still watching it this day. BECAUSE I LOVE IT.......
Jun 19, 2012 7:48PM
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Loved Pet Semetary...to each their own.
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