Updated: Feb 13
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
(1) In Stephen King’s adaptation of the apocalyptic “The Stand,” Stu Redman (Gary Sinise) and a pregnant Frannie Goldsmith (Molly Ringwald) keep watch over the 108-year-old prophet Mother Abigail Freemantle (Ruby Dee) in the Boulder Free Zone in Colorado. (2) Jamey Sheridan plays Randall Flagg, a demonic sorcerer also known as The Dark Man, The Walkin’ Dude and other names. Flagg appears in seven King novels.
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“STEPHEN KING 5 MOVIE COLLECTION: THE STAND, PET SEMATARY 1989 & 2019, SILVER BULLET AND THE DEAD ZONE”
Blu-ray; 1994, 1989, 2019, 1985, 1983; “The Stand” Not Rated; “Pet Sematary” 1989 R; “Pet Sematary” 2019 R; “Silver Bullet” R; “The Dead Zone” R
TIS THE SEASON for scary movies and who better than Stephen King to deliver them?
The five-disc collection from Paramount gives us five of his best book to film adaptations: The 1994, four-episode miniseries “The Stand” directed by Mick Garris; both “Pet Sematary” movies, 1989 and 2019; werewolf delight “The Silver Bullet,” and the horrific vision of “The Dead Zone.” All are looking their best in 1080p, and have good sound delivery.
Pandemic restrictions mean stay-at-home celebrations. Pull out your costume, stock up on goodies, and prepare for hours and hours of fright.
Episode 1 - The Plague
(1) One of King’s most popular books, “The Stand” was published in 1978 and an unabridged edition updating the series from the 1980s to ‘90s in 1990. (2) A military family escapes the government compound where a chemical warfare agent has breached quarantine. (3) The family’s last stop is a gas station in Arnette, Texas, where Stu and his friends find them. (4) Government troops are called in to stop the “Captain Trips” plague from spreading.
1994; Not Rated
Best extra: Commentary with Stephen King and director Mick Garris, and some of the actors on the fourth episode.
ASK ANYONE and chances are good they’ve got a personal story about King’s end of the world plague monster, “The Stand.” Published October 3, 1978, it was a whopper of a book in which a government spawned, chemical warfare super flu, Captain Trips, is accidentally released. It wipes out an estimated 99.4 percent of the world’s population when a lone survivor and his family escape the system collapse. They head east from California, spreading infection and death as they go before finally succumbing themselves.
The early part of the book and series describes how the deadly epidemic affects its survivors, those who are naturally immune. Dream visions break them into two groups, one good and one evil, until they must finally “take a stand” as the new world develops. Good is led by Mother Abigail, a devout Christian played in the series by the late Ruby Dee of “Do the Right Thing” (1989). The satanic bad guy is Randall Flagg, played by Jamey Sheridan of “Spotlight” (2015), “Sully” (2016)” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (2001-2006).
King produced and wrote the script for the four-episode, Emmy winning miniseries. It premiered May 1994 with an outstanding cast including Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer as an unforgettable Trashcan Man, Rob Lowe in a complete change of pace, Bill Fagerbakke (now the voice of Patrick in “SpongeBob SquarePants”), Laura San Giacomo, and Ray Walston, with cameos from Kathy Bates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jeff Goldblum, Ed Harris, and directors John Landis, Sam Raimi and Mick Garris, and Stephen King. Over 125 actors took part; filming took five months in 95 locations including New York City, Utah, Pennsylvania, Las Vegas, and Boulder, Colorado. Location shoots drew crowds.
“They weren’t coming out to see Molly Ringwald or Gary Sinise or Rob Lowe. They were coming out to see Stephen King.” — Molly Ringwald, from “The Making Of” extra
(1) Stu is taken into isolation. He is one of the exposed who is naturally immune. (2) Musician Larry Underwood (Adam Storke) is also immune, although his mother is not. (3) It’s the same for Frannie, whose father succumbs. (4) Deaf-mute wanderer Nick Andros (Rob Lowe) meets Mother Abagail in a dream-vision.
“The Stand” looks better than ever in its latest 1080p transfer, 1.33:1 aspect ratio (TV format). Shot in 35mm, it looks as if it might have been remastered in 4K. Footage has been completely restored, with updated and enhanced visual effects. Color is rich and saturated, with bold reds, blues, greens and yellow. Complexions of the multi-ethnic cast are natural. Detail is excellent in long- and close-up shots. Fine dirt, fabric weave, fur and facial characteristics such as lines, stubble and freckles, are revealed. A fine wash of film grain completes the cinematic experience.
Audio is delivered in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, with excellent balance between dialogue, effects and score. Dialogue is clean and clear, with a variety of subtitles available, including SDH. W.G. Snuffy Walden composed the score. He won an Emmy for writing the main title theme for “The West Wing,” and has also composed for many other TV series.
The two extras are carried over from earlier sets. They feature a lively four-episode commentary with King, Garris and actors, and a PR-type “Making Of.”
“The Stand” will get a new update by King and creator/director Josh Boone, formerly of Virginia Beach, Va. and Benjamin Cavell in a nine-episode series for CBS All Access. Boone has been working on the project since 2014 after directing “The Fault in Our Stars.” Filming was completed before the pandemic shut-down. (Ironic, yes.) Debut is slated for late 2020. The cast includes James Marsden, Whoopi Goldberg, Greg Kinnear, Alexander Skarsgård, Jovan Adepo, Amber Heard, and Henry Zaga. They tell us there’s going to be a new ending.
Episode 2 - The Dreams
(1) Trashcan Man (Matt Frewer), a schizophrenic pyromaniac, escapes during a work detail carrying plague victims from a prison. He returns home to Indiana, where he sets oil tanks on fire. (2) Trash becomes an agent for Randall Flag, who confronts Mother Abagail in a dream. (3) Mother Abagail resists Flagg’s temptations. (4) Larry and the troubled Nadine Cross (Laura San Giacomo) attempt to leave New York City by way of a clogged Lincoln Tunnel.
(5) Guided by their dreams, Nick and his new friend, Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke), on the road to Mother Abagail’s Nebraska home. (6) Nick comforts Mother Abagail.
Episode 3 - The Betrayal
(1) Stu, Frannie, Judge Richard Farris (Ossie Davis), Glen Bateman (Ray Walston) and Dayna Jurgens (Kellie Overbey) mourn the passing of a friend. (2) Frannie and Stu reveal their feelings for each other. (3) Hundreds of survivors flock to Mother Abagail’s home. (4) Book and scriptwriter Stephen King and director Mick Garris have small roles as Teddy Weizak and Henry Dunbarton. (5) Nadine seduces Harold Lauder (Corin Nemec).
Episode 4 - The Stand
(1) Ralph Brentner (Peter van Norden) Glen Bateman, Stu and Larry head to Las Vegas to confront Flagg and his followers in a final showdown.
(2) Larry is captured. (3) Flagg addresses the Las Vegas crowd. 3) Frannie and Stu are reunited.
“THE DEAD ZONE”
1983; R for intense scenes, and mild profanity and gore; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
HERE’S ANOTHER film adaptation that applies to current events. “The Dead Zone” was directed by Canadian maestro David Cronenberg, aka Baron of Blood and King of Venereal Horror for “Scanners” (1981) and “Videodrome” (1983). Jeffrey Boam of “The Lost Boys” (1987), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), and “Lethal Weapon 2” (1989) and “Lethal Weapon 3” (1992) wrote the script. The late Deborah Hill produced. She worked with John Carpenter on “Halloween” (1978), “The Fog” (1980), and “Escape from New York” (1985), as well as “Flash Gordon,” “Silver Bullet” and “Army of Darkness,” produced.
Cronenberg brings out the tension and heartbreak of a man who awakens from a coma five years after he’s injured in a car accident. Johnny Smith now has psychic abilities that save others – like a little girl trapped in a house fire and a student from drowning. He also discovers the hometown serial killer. But his visions are as much a curse as blessing, isolating him from family and friends. Once the public becomes aware of his talent, they won’t leave him alone.
Christopher Walken of “The Deer Hunter” (1978), “The Prophecy” (1995), “Pulp Fiction” (1994) and many other films, plays Johnny Smith, a high school English teacher engaged to the love of his life, Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams). When he awakens, Sarah contacts him, but she’s married to another man and is now a mother. Their relationship can’t continue because of her new circumstances. Eventually, Johnny comes discovers charismatic good ol' boy Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) running for the U.S. Senate with presidential aspirations. A handshake reveals Stillson’s inner-evil and the knowledge he will one day set off a nuclear holocaust. Johnny makes plans to stop him.
The outstanding cast also features Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe and Colleen Dewhurst. “The Dead Zone” is one of the first of several King novels and short stories that takes place in the fictional town of Castle Rock including “Cujo” (1983), “Stand By Me” (1986) and “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994). The book was King’s first to hit No. 1 on the New York Times hardcover
(1) School teacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) and fiancé Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams) say “good night” just before the accident that leaves him in a coma for five years. (2) Johnny and the authorities search for a killer. (3&4) Johnny has a vision about politician Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) elected as president, who sets off a nuclear holocaust. Johnny knows he must stop Stillson if the world is to survive.
Shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Mark Irwin, “The Dead Zone” is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Color is desaturated throughout and blacks fluctuate. Heavy film grain gives the picture a dream-like quality, so detail is not as sharp – a deliberate choice. Paramount appears to be working from a previous 2K scan used in a 2015 release. A new 4K scan would give this film the upgrade it deserves.
Audio is delivered through a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Balance between dialogue, effects and music is very good. A rollercoaster ride, crashes, gun shots and the crack of ice and bubbling water sound authentic. According to IMDb, Cronenberg wanted his friend, composer Howard Shore of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies, to write the score. Studio politics had Michael Kamen of the “Lethal Weapon” and early “Die Hard” franchises, and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” was used instead. Kamen uses movements from Jean Sibelius’ Second Symphony throughout.
1985; R for intense scenes, violence and gore, and mild profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
WEREWOLVES – Stephen King shows they don’t have to wait for Halloween to appear, any full moon will do. Daniel Attias, who won a Director’s Guild award for an episode of “The Wire,” directs from a script by King. The monster in “Silver Bullet” goes hunting in the little town of Tarker’s Mills, where young Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows of the “Anne of Green Gables” films; “Reign”) is tasked with watching over her 11-year-old, paraplegic brother Marty, played by the late Corey Haim of “The Lost Boys.”
Marty gets all the flash including powerful motorized wheelchairs made by his alcoholic Uncle Red in a memorable performance by Gary Busey. But when gory, mutilated townsfolk begin turning up, it’s the heroic Jane who sticks with her little brother. Together they identify the local werewolf and persuade Uncle Red to have a silver bullet made to destroy it.
Outside of “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) and “Wolf” (1994) “Silver Bullet” is the best werewolf movie ever. The extreme carnage and over the top performance by the monster played by Everett McGill lends a Saturday matinee feel to the film that’s all to the good.
Paramount appears to be using the same 2K transfer from the Shout Collector’s Edition. This 1080p presentation in 2:36.1 aspect ratio features bold, saturated color, good detail and cinematic film grain. It reproduces the look of bright summer days found in King’s other films such as “Stand by Me” and the “It” miniseries starring Tim Curry. Contrast and detail found in external and interior scenes looks great.
Sound arrives through a good DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtrack. It’s well-balanced providing clear dialogue and good effects (howling, gruesome kill sounds, fireworks, gunshots) blending with the cheesy old-style score by Jay Chattaway known for “Star Trek: Voyager” (1995), “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993) and “Star Trek: Enterprise” (2001).
Frame shot from the 4K Ultra HD version - Rachel Creed (Denise Crosby) comforts her son while her husband, Louis (Dale Midkiff) looks on.
“PET SEMETARY” 1989
1989; R for intense scenes, violence and gore; streaming via Amazon Prime/Video (4K), Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Commentary by director Mary Lambert
STEPHEN KING initially shelved “Pet Semetary,” based on W.W. Jacob’s short story “The Monkey’s Paw,” because it was too scary and disturbing. Like “Carrie,” King’s wife Tabitha rescued it for publication in 1983.
“I feel like he’s the Charles Dickens of the 21st century. He has that kind of prolific outpouring of stories about people and the society that they live in and the traumas that they endure.” — Mary Lambert, director
Louis Creed, played by Dale Midkiff, moves his family to a large, rural home in Maine, to become director of the University of Maine’s campus health service. It’s a chance for his family – wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), and young children Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes) – to escape the stress of big city living. They soon meet their neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), who lives across the road where enormous commercial trucks speed every day. Jud rescues toddler Gage who wanders onto the road as the Creeds first arrive.
The trucks have killed numerous pets, which are buried in the Pet Sematary located in the woods behind the Creed’s new home. Jud reveals there’s another, secret graveyard behind it when he and Louis go to bury Ellie’s cat, hit by a passing truck. “The ground is sour,” a guardian angel warns, but Louis buries the cat only to have it return the next day. It’s quickly apparent this is no longer a lovable family pet. Despite this, when little Gage is killed, Louis digs up and re-buries his son there. It’s not a good idea.
This is the same 2019 disc upgraded to 2K for a 4K presentation, so the 1080p looks very satisfying. It’s an excellent viewing and sound experience with bold color, natural skin tones, and great detail in long-shots and close-ups. The ancient burial site and twisted, wood barrier separating the cemetaries looks especially good. Contrast and black levels deliver an eerie picture. We are definitely in Stephen King country.
A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack distributes clear dialogue, and good ambient and special effects throughout the room. The score is by Elliot Goldenthal, who also composed for “Frida” and “Across the Universe.” Joey Ramone, a good friend of Lambert’s, delivered the end-theme, “I Don’t Want to be Buried in a Pet Sematary.” King often mentions The Ramones in his stories and books.
Extras include the commentary, galleries, and featurettes “Fear and Remembrance” (a promo for the 2019 reboot), “Revisitation,” and the two-part “Stephen King Territory – The Characters and Filming the Horror”
Louis removes Rachel’s body from Jud Crandall’s burning home.
Frame shot from the 4K Ultra HD version - Lured by her now-evil cat, Ellie Creed (Jeté Laurence) is killed by a derailed tanker truck.
“PET SEMATARY” 2019
2019; R for horror violence, bloody images, and some profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime (4K), Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu 4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: A meaty four-part making-of, “Beyond the Deadfall”
THERE ARE enough differences in this reboot to call it “Pet Sematary 2,” the 1992 sequel being a disaster. (We wish we could forget it.)
The relationship between Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) is more stable. Neighbor Jud Crandall’s (John Lithgow) reasons for using the old burial grounds make sense. The biggest change is the death of oldest child, Ellie (a convincing Jeté Laurence), instead of two-year-old Gage. The father-daughter relationship is one of the strongest in King’s book, as well as the film. Then there's the ending. Wow. Definitely creeped me out.
Laurie Rose, Director of Photography, took a creative approach to filming King’s story. “Often you might start in a quiet, sedate, steady way … all very flowing and gentle and nice and beautifully composed … Then you kind of descend as the locks come off, and it goes kind of crazy.” Her vision begins with a “looser dynamic at the beginning,” and then becomes steadier, and “more eerie and composed as we move on.”
Paramount’s 1080p presentation (2.39:1 aspect ratio) is outstanding. Digitally filmed on Arri Alexa cameras, it was remastered in 2K. Color looks great, with good definition in sets and location shots, clothing and cats. (It took five to create Ellie’s Church.) Complexions look true making the contrast on the returned Ellie more chilling. Harbinger Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) looks ghastly.
The Creed house location actually had its own pet cemetery, but the production built their own, as well as the bordering Deadfall. It was all made from natural materials; no CGI or carved foam was used. “Crew members felt emotional going in there because it felt like a real thing,” says producer Mark Vahradian.
Exceptional eight-channel Dolby Atmos and default Dolby TrueHD soundtracks deliver clean dialogue throughout the room. Ambient and special effects get a workout from floor to ceiling on the Atmos. There’s a nice mix of birds, insects and breeze in the beginning. Then – boom! – a super truck roars down the road between the Creed and Crandall homes. We collectively jumped every time one sped by.
Another herald of doom-to-come is the droning beat of a children’s funeral procession heard as the Creeds settle into their new home. Spooky sounds glide through in later sequences, but the early dirge, along with the creepy, animal head masks, sets viewers up for horrors to come.
Christopher Young (“Sinister,” 2013; “The Grudge,” 2004) composed the eerie score. Starcrawler covers The Ramones’ classic, “I Don’t Want to be Buried in a Pet Sematary” played over the end credits.
Bonus features include an alternate ending to the new ending; deleted and extended scenes; and two featurettes, “Night Terrors” and “The Tale of Timmy Baterman.” “Beyond the Deadfall” is a juicy four-part making-of with interviews from the filmmakers and actors, and a look at working with the cats used to create Church.
— Kay Reynolds
Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) comforts his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) after the death of their daughter.