Friday, August 23, 2013

Stephen King's The Langoliers

Being a fan of Stephen King's stories (though I must admit, I'm a bigger fan of his stories than I am of his writing style, although I did think that It and The Stand were well written, even if they did drag a bit), I figured it's about time that I actually brought up one of the films based off his work.

The film this time around is going to be a lesser talked about film, The Langoliers, a three hour long miniseries that premiered in 1995. This is one of many in the string of miniseries that was adapted from a King story, the two most famous possibly being It and The Stand.

Sure, the production value of these types of movies may not be as high as your typical big budget blockbuster, and sure, you won't see the typical rape or dismemberment scenes from the books, and at times the acting can be quite a bit shoddy (The Langoliers is probably the worst offender). But really, there's a certain charm to these films that seem to draw me in. I just can't seem to resist the call of these sorts of low budget  horror/suspense movies, and not have a good time while watching.

This film is based off the short story of the same name that appeared in Four Past Midnight, a collection of four short stories that was published in 1990. The story focuses on an airplane heading to Boston from Los Angeles. Half way through the flight, ten people find themselves being the only ones left on this once fully packed flight. We also soon find that each of these people had just woken up from a deep sleep.

Thinking that they possibly slept through a lay over and the other passengers got off, one of the passengers who happens to be an off duty pilot, tries going to the cockpit to talk with the pilots. After having to beat down the door leading to the cockpit, we find that even the pilots are gone and the flight is going by itself.

After making an emergency landing at the Bangor International Airport, we soon find that not only were the other passengers of the plane missing, but so was everyone else in the world.

Although I enjoyed The Langoliers, it's quite possibly the worst of all these made-for-tv type movies based off King's work that I've seen. The production is very low, even by 1995 TV standards. You can tell that the film had a rather low budget, down to just how fake and CG looking the monsters at the end looked. Though, I must say that despite this super low budget, it just added to the fun of the movie.

Another thing to point out is the films acting. I actually rather liked Dean Stockwell, and in fact, I even liked David Morse and Bronson Pinchot (the guy is so crazy here, it's hard not to like him). But as for the rest of the major cast, if it wasn't one thing bad about their acting, it was another. The guy who played the British secret agent tried way too hard to be charming that it came off as fake, and the clarinetist and the "punker" girl ( I guess that's what they were trying to go for) both seemed like they had no idea what they were doing. Plus I found it sad that the one guy whose only purpose was to wander around looking for a sandwich and a beer felt more believable than the teacher and blind girl.

The story was something I very much enjoyed though, as I do with much of King's stories. The forced isolation of a small group of people, with seemingly no way to improve their predicament but are still trying to set things right, even if it seemed pointless is a great concept. I very much liked the sense of emptiness in this movie, which is sort of why I feel the low budget added to it. It's supposed to feel sparse, music included, and in some areas, it just felt right,

Maybe I'm just a sucker for low budget films, but I enjoyed this one. Like I've said, it is in fact the worst of all the miniseries' based off Stephen King that I've seen, but by no means is it "unwatchable," even with it's hammy acting and poor monster design. It's a fun movie and a worth a viewing if you're into b-grade films and have three hours to kill. For those of you who have Netflix, it is available on the watch now service, for those you who do not, you can find it bundled together with a couple other King films for cheap at stores like Wal-mart and I think even at Target.

Side note: The collection Four Past Midnight also included Secret Window, Secret Garden, which was later adapted to the silver screen, which many may know as simply Secret Window, with Johnny Depp as the lead.