ABC Film Challenge – Horror – N – Needful Things (1993) Movie Review

Director: Fraser C Heston

Writer: W.D. Richter (Screenplay) Stephen King (Book)

Starring: Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia, Amanda Plummer, J.T. Walsh, Ray McKinnon, Duncan Fraser, Valri Bromfield, Shane Meier

Plot: A mysterious new shop opens in a small town which always seems to stock the deepest desires of each shopper, with a price far heavier than expected.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: One of King’s Most Interesting Stories

Story: Needful Things starts when Leland Gaunt (von Sydow) opens up an antique shop in the small town of Castle Rock, the shop known as Needful Things, see the locals visit, with them getting an unusually attachment to certain items in the shop, items that are clearly meant for each individual person, one that strikes a memory.

As the town starts flocking to the shop, it becomes clear that Leland has alternate plans for the town, with Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Harris) needing to investigate a new increase amount of small crimes, which slowly start to build in seriousness before the town turns to chaos.

Thoughts on Needful Things

Characters – Leland Gaunt is the mysterious shopkeeper that arrives to Castle Rock, his shop has everything the people of the town want and he knows everything about everyone in the town. He trades their desires for favours, which mostly involve going against people in the town, he knows how to remain calm through the conversations, knowing just what they want to hear. Sheriff Alan Pangborn left the big city for a quiet life, he is enjoying his life in the town, with his new fiancée, until the crime levels start to rise, which sees him going from dealing with cats in trees, to murders, can he stop the power Leland has over the town before it is too late. Polly is Alan’s fiancée, she runs the local diner opposite the new shop, she doesn’t run in like some of the other residents, which sees her witnessing the changes from the locals. Nettie is a shy former abuse victim that becomes one of the first customers of the shop, showing how easily people can like what he is willing to offer. We do get a string of people that start to get caught in his ideas.

PerformancesMax von Sydow is wonderful to watch in this film, he gives the character the mystery and charisma he needs to seem like a friendly person. Ed Harris is always good to watch, here he does the small town cop routine with ease, playing a good man who must help his people. Bennie Bedelia is strong without getting enough important early scenes to make us understand how disturbed her character’s life is.

StoryThe story here follows a small town that gets a new visitor in a shopkeeper that soon starts giving the locals everything they ever wanted, for a price, which sees the town turn to chaos and the sheriff needing to solve the problem before it is too late. This is one of the most interesting of the Stephen King stories, it looks at human desires taking control over our own sanity, how one town can be turned upside down by the ideas of what could be ours, rather than giving us what we need. The story is shown to unfold at a delightful pace because it shows how the deals are put in place with each deal, slowly starting to growing from disruptive behaviour right up to murder. The story does rely on the idea of town working together to prove themselves.

Fantasy/HorrorThe fantasy side of the film shows just how Leland can bring about whatever the person in the town wants, he can make the impossible, possible, which only plays into the horrors of just what he can do to this world, when people get everything they ever wanted.

SettingsThe film is set in the small town of Castle Rock, this is one location where everybody knows each other, which is one of the trademarks for any Stephen King novel.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are very simple, they do play into the idea of fantasy elements, when we see just what will happen with the power given to the people.

Scene of the Movie – He is a monster.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It does feel like it could have gone a lot darker.

Final Thoughts This is easily one of the more underrated of Stephen King’s adaptions, it gives us a perfect moral dilemma and keeps everything feel a lot more grounded for a horror one.

Overall: Entertaining throughout.

The Trial (1993) Movie Review

Director: David Hugh Jones

Writer: Harold Pinter (Screenplay) Franz Kafka (Novel)

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Anthony Hopkins, Jason Robards, Juliet Stevenson, Polly Walker, Alfred Molina, David Thewlis

Plot: Joseph K. (Kyle MacLachlan) awakens one morning, to find two strange men in his room, telling him he has been arrested. Joseph is not told, with what he is charged, and despite being “arrested”, is allowed to remain free and go to work. But, despite the strange nature of his arrest, Joseph soon learns that his trial, however odd, is very real, and tries desperately to spare himself from the court’s judgement.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Just Confusingly Bad

Story: The Trial starts when Josef (MacLachlan) wakes to find two police officers Franz (Thewlis) and Block (Kitchen) waiting for him, telling him of his arrest, only to let him continue with his day, as they wait for their inspector to call for him to be taken to the station, they don’t announce what he is being charged with, leading to Josef being left wondering just what he is wanted for.

As Josef starts trying to learn about the case, he only learns just how unusual everything about the case is, nothing is playing out like it should do for any other criminal case and he must find a way to prove his innocence.

Thoughts on The Trial

Characters – Josef is the bank clerk that is being arrested and sent straight to trial for something he doesn’t know he has done wrong, he tries to handle everything with his intelligence only to learn that not all the people involved know what is going on. He looks completely lost through most of the events in the film. The Priest is the man Josef turns to for answers. Doctor Hudd is trying to figure out what is wrong with Josef and whether he can be fixed before the trial. This film does have a string a colourful characters that leave everything feeling more confusing that piecing anything together.

PerformancesKyle MacLachlan in the leading role tries to carry this film the best he can, because of the overly confusing storyline, it is hard to get the best out of any of the actors, with everyone in the supporting roles doing all they can and Anthony Hopkins barely getting any screen time.

StoryThe story here follows a man that has been accused of a crime and is getting ready for his trial, only not everything is quite as it seems. Now this is a story that is completely difficult to understand, it seems to be poking fun at the culture that is quick to accuse somebody without them having actually committed a crime or even having an investigation about them. If this isn’t the case, it is even more confusing to watch because very little seems to make any sense otherwise, which does make the story feel very weak all around.

ThrillerThis is meant to be a story that is sold on the idea of a trial, which on paper should be thrilling and interesting, this isn’t what we get and nothing much really happens.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to spin what we would be expecting for the most part, this only adds to the confusing in the film.

Scene of the Movie – The first arrest.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The overly confusing nature of everything else.

Final Thoughts This is a way to confusing film that is poorly advertised, it does try to turn what you are expecting on its head, only to leave us left wondering why things changed.

Overall: Too messy.

Alive (1993) Movie Review

Director: Frank Marshall

Writer: John Patrick Shanley (Screenplay) Piers Paul Read (Book)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, Josh Hamilton, Bruce Ramsay, John Newton, David Kriegel, Kevin Breznahan

Plot: A Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the snow swept Andes are forced to use desperate measures to survive after a plane crash.

Tagline – They survived the impossible…by doing the unthinkable.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Brilliant Survival Story

Story: Alive starts when the plane crashes in the Andes, the surviving passengers, including Nando Parrado (Hawke), Antonio Balbi (Spano), Robert Canessa (Hamilton) and Carlitos Paez (Ramsay) look to help keep people calm and deal with injuries as they look to plan for rescue.

Antonio does take control of trying to keep the survivors alive, which includes making sure the food and drink lasts until rescue and people could survive the freezing nights, at this time, 26 people made it through the first night. As the time starts passing by, the realization that they are not being looked for sets in, which sees them having to make a drastic decision in their attempts to survive.

Thoughts on Alive

Characters – Nando is one of the few survivors that wasn’t awake after the crash, once awake, he starts to help with the survival attempts and is one of the few that pushes through the idea of needing to eat the dead to survive. Antonio is the captain of the rugby team and takes the leadership position, trying to keep everyone calm and alive for as long as possible, planning on making sure the food supply and other essentials is being supplied for the survivors. Roberto and Carlitos help with the medical problems after the crash, proving to understand how to survive the injuries they have received. These men and women are based on the real survivors of the accident, not everyone made it out alive and going into character details, might seem unfair to the people.

PerformancesEthan Hawke and Vincent Spano are both excellent in their roles in the film, they do show both sides of survivors as well as understanding how important they both are meant to be. The whole cast is great, showing how difficult it was to survive and instead of just turning to the accents, they keep it looking like an American version of the film, with the Uruguayan names

StoryThe story here follows the true story of the survival of members of the Uruguayan rugby team and other passengers of a plane crash in the Anders mountain range, which sees how they must survive over a 2-month period, while they are waiting for rescue. This is a truly amazing story of survival, it showed us just how difficult each day would be for the survivors and shows us how they faced a horrible decision, but one that saved their lives. It is one that does rely on how people did do anything to survive and how we wouldn’t be telling this story if some of the people hadn’t survived.

Adventure/BiopicThe adventure side of this story follows the survivors as they plan on surviving until rescue, which does play into the biopic side of the story, because this event did change the lives of the survivors.

SettingsThe film is set in the Andes mountain range, it shows the cold conditions, the fact they can’t just walk away from this location along with the brutal plane crash to start the events off.

Scene of the Movie – The crash is a brutal and honest watch.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – They all seem so perfectly shaved considering they are here for 2 months.

Final Thoughts This is an amazing story of survival, one that couldn’t even be written by a writer, it shows the impossible and has wonderful performance from the whole cast.

Overall: Must watch survival story.