Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Castle Rock Companion - Tales from the Darkside the Movie
As a cat owner, I'm always bothered by evil cats in stories, mostly because writers use their so called "aloof" nature as an excuse. So you could say I had my guard up on the story "The Cat from Hell" from the beginning. I think King manages to justify the trope somewhat by giving this cat a reason for its killing spree. It's getting revenge for the hundreds or thousands of cats that have been killed during testing for the drug developed by Drogan's company.
The hundreds or thousands is a difference between whether or not you're reading the story or watching the film Tales from the Darkside the Movie. The story was originally published in Cavalier magazine, which held a contest around it. The beginning of the story was included in their March issue, and they invited readers to finish it. The winning entry and King's complete version were then published in the June issue. The best way to find it now is in the collection Just After Sunset. The short is the second one featured in the film.
The chosen cast for the film is fantastic. Seeing William Hickey in a wheelchair immediately makes me think of Dr. Finkelstein from Nightmare before Christmas and then you have Alice Drummond of Ghostbusters librarian fame playing his sister. David Johansen made me do a double take at first, because I know him best as Buster Pointdexter. But his over the top personality is perfect for when he's one on one with the cat. That is the point where the film adaptation strays from the story, as the story has Halston drive the cat home and is killed en route. But I think keeping him in the house is a great choice, especially this huge mansion with its many shadows. The set really makes it work. The cat's eye view is a little silly, mostly because it's overdone, but overall this is a great cat and mouse game, if you'll pardon the pun.
The way the cat makes his kill is taken directly from the story, but I have a really hard time with this. I realize it's strongly suggested that this is a demon cat, not a normal one of this earth. But most people couldn't fit a normal sized cat's head inside their mouth, let alone its whole body. So when I was reading my suspension of disbelief was completely gone, because it was just too ridiculous to be possible. Watching it, I mostly find myself examining the special effects used and judging them on how unrealistic they are rather than being horrified in any way. I admire their attempts to adapt the story properly, it just doesn't work for me.
None of the other stories in the film have any ties to King, so I won't do a full review of them. But the cast of the wrap around story and the first tale make their scenes worth watching. The final act is a little weak in terms of pacing, but has some great feature effects and an interesting story. It's a pretty good horror anthology over all.
Two of Stephen King's stories were also adapted into episodes of the television show version of Tales from the Darkside, and I'll be looking at those next week.