Movie Project #22: Stand By Me [1986]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Stand By Me [1986]

Stand By Me [1986]
Director: Rob Reiner
Writers: Stephen King (novel), Raynold Gideon (screenplay), Bruce A. Evans (screenplay)
Country: USA
Genre: Adventure/Drama
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell
Running Time: 89 minutes

Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, an adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Body, is a favorite of many, but it took some time for me to warm up to to this coming-of-age tale.

Set in the 1950s, the film early on feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to provide that bubbly feeling of nostalgia. Songs such as “Rockin’ Robin” play in the background as our protagonists, a group of 12-13 year old boys, play cards, smoke cigarettes and mess around with guns. They represent a time since past, and Reiner does everything in his power to make us feel sentimental about this era. It’s all a bit much at first.

It was the kids that wound up winning me over on the film.

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Movie Project #30: Carrie [1976]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Carrie [1976]

Carrie [1976]
Director: Brian De Palma
Writers: Stephen King (novel), Lawrence D. Cohen (screenplay)
Country: USA
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta, Nancy Allen
Running Time: 98 minutes

Reason for inclusion: This is one of my biggest horror blind spots.

Accolades: Two Oscar nominations (Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress), Golden Globe nomination (Best Supporting Actress), #46 on AFI’s 100 Thrills

It appears that I watched Carrie at the best possible time, and not just because we are rapidly approaching Halloween. No sooner than the very next day after finally seeing Brian de Palma’s seminal 1976 adaptation of the Stephen King novel, I was forced to watch the trailer for its upcoming remake. Not only did the trailer give away the entirety of the film’s plot (complete with multiple shots of the penultimate prom scene), but it just reinforced the idea that a remake is entirely unnecessary.

I knew the general plot going into Carrie, and I had seen clips of it over the years, but I was surprised at just how sad of a tale this is. While still a horror film, it’s not really what I expected of the genre, as it plays out as more of a drama/thriller.

Sissy Spacek (in an absolute jaw-dropping performance) stars as Carrie White, a timid and awkward 17-year-old high school student. She is an outcast at school, almost entirely due to the extreme religious views her mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) forces on her at home. Poor Carrie is forced to learn about puberty on her own (i.e. her first period, which horrifies her and is shown in the very first scene of the film), and her mother dubs her a sinner for this. The 17-year-old is constantly bullied at school, further making her life miserable.

Carrie [1976]

However, things start to look up when one of the girls, Sue (Amy Irving), has a change of heart, feeling guilty about her role in the bullying. She convinces her boyfriend, Tommy (William Katt), one of the most popular guys at school, to invite Carrie to prom. Reluctant at first, fearing this to be a joke, Carrie eventually accepts his offer. Everyone appears to be genuine in their attempts to help Carrie; well, except for two students. Chris (Nancy Allen) and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta, in one of his earliest roles) just want to torment her some more, and they set out to ruin her evening.

Oh, and there’s one other slightly important bit that Carrie is discovering about herself: she has telekinetic powers. Her effects are subtle at first, such as moving a small object, but as she learns more about them, she begins to realize that hey, maybe she can fight back on the constant abuse after all.

Carrie [1976]

The film itself is a bit of a slow burn before reaching the chaotic final act, but it still presents itself as a fascinating character study. We can’t help but empathize with Carrie, and her character is a strong encapsulation of the life of a teenager (albeit a bit more extreme than most). All of the praise given to Sissy Spacek’s performance is well-deserved — those eyes will haunt me forever — and Piper Laurie is also terrific as her religious nutjob of a mother.

Carrie truly does stand the test of time, and while the fashion may be dated, the tale itself is not. This is a damn good horror film and one of the finer de Palma works that I have seen. It’s a shame that the remake will likely be the next generation’s introduction to this classic story.

8/10

Horror Movie Roundup #2: Children of the Corn, The Descent 1 & 2

I’m still pushing through my ever-growing stack of horror films, and for this batch I visited an 80s classic, a modern favorite and a dreaded direct-to-video sequel. Here are my mini-reviews for each of them:

Children of the Corn [1984]
Children of the Corn [1984]
Children of the Corn has all the makings of a great horror film: evil children, Satanic cults, a creepy rural town, and to top it off, it’s based on a Stephen King short story. Throw in a young Linda Hamilton embarrassing herself, and this should be a fun ride, right? Not exactly. Unfortunately, the film suffers from a lack of suspense, and it never really gets as spooky as you might expect. Much of this likely lies in the fact that this is a short story stretched out to a 90 minute feature. It feels like a bit of a throwaway film, and it’s surprising that it is still so popular today (the ninth entry went direct to video last year). Still, it’s not a bad effort, just a somewhat disappointing one when considering its legacy. 6/10

The Descent [2005]
The Descent [2005]
When six girlfriends get together for a spelunking adventure in an unmarked cave deep in the Appalachian Mountains, it doesn’t take long for things to go horribly, horribly wrong. The Descent, a title that works in multiple ways, takes us deep into the pitch-black cave with these women; their headlamps and flares are the only lights used to show the impending atrocities. With the foreboding darkness and tight, narrow crevices inside the cave, there is always a powerful sense of claustrophobia. Those who struggle with confined spaces will have a hard time watching this film. Once the shit hits the fan, so to speak, The Descent takes a horrifying, bloody turn with some truly impressive gore. There’s something for everyone in this clever horror flick, and it’s easily one of the best I have seen from the last decade. 8/10, leaning up

The Descent: Part 2 [2009]
The Descent: Part II [2009]
This direct-to-video sequel follows a new group of people who head down in the cave in search of those missing from the original. With new writers and a new director, the film doesn’t follow the vision of Neil Marshall’s 2005 feature, and it greatly suffers as a result. There are far too many moments that stretch credibility beyond belief, and it pisses all over some of the events from the original. The sense of claustrophobia is kept to a minimum as well, as the characters seem to maneuver around more wide-open spaces, and the lighting is way too bright this time around. As a stand-alone film, it isn’t terrible (there’s plenty of gore and a few memorable moments), but watching it comes with the risk of lessening the original’s impact. 5/10

Have you guys seen any of these three films? What do you think of them?