Monday, April 04, 2005

glen miller, shirley jackson and some nightmarish interior design {march 31, 2005 / april 01, 2005}

With Rose Red Stephen King got another shot at exercising his writing in the medium probably best suited for adapting his works -- the small screen. The mini-series has always afforded King's works a better chance at breathing and growing on viewers that the movies have. King's rich descriptions and characterisation are a strong hurdle for any screenplay adaptation. He manages to overcome the lack of the visual aspect of the written word so well that when it comes to adapting his stuff to the screen, screenplay writers are faced with the challenge of coming up with something even more visually striking. Add to that a rich pool of clichés in the genre, and we have an insurmountable problem of coming up with a new way to send a jolt up your spine.

This mini-series has King exploring a familiar icon in the horror genre -- the haunted house. Correction: the evil house. The strongest influence would be Shirley Jackson. The Haunting of Hill House, in fact, is an influence that King refers to in numerous interviews. (As an aside, I'd recommend The Haunting, a creepy experience that works on the Tournier-tested principle "that which we don't see scares us more"). But noting the Shirley Jackson influence won't get you any points, because the dialogue is peppered with explicit references (Shirley Jackson was right; some houses are born bad).

So we're treated to a bunch of rather unsavoury characters distinguished only by the focus of supernatural attentions -- the equivalent of Danny in The Shining, if you will. She loves listening to Glen Miller and so you're treated to a lot of big band jazz. The mansion's filled with several interesting rooms boasting interesting deceptive designs and miscellaneous evil vibes. However, everything else is strictly cheesy and headed downhill. Every character is a recognisable stereotype, there's a "People Proximity Counter" that keeps running through some integers of little to no consequence. The trade-offs in quality for filling out the length of a miniseries are evident: why else would Joyce Reardon choose to ignore the vastly more entertaining psychic demonstrations of Annie Wheaton and focus instead on a house that seems less inclined to provide demonstrations to guarantee her tenure. Imagine watching something like this in real-time with commercials on television. Now, that's horrifying.

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