Monday, December 23, 2013

Storm of the Century, Part 1

So, winter has finally come, there’s snow outside and the air is ass-numbingly cold. Your plans to go outside and frolic may have been quelched by the oncoming tide of snow flurries and ice-cold winds. It might be time to dig into the attic and bring out the mittens, scarves, wool blankets and kindling for the fireplace. And while you’re doing that, why not put on one of the best wintertime movies, Storm of the Century?

Creator: Stephen King
Starring: Tim Daly, Colm Feore

Yes, the Stephen King TV classic of murder, madness and I’m a Little Teapot itself. This is a huge, huge movie, with a lot to cover, so I’ll be splitting up the review into two parts. Isn’t that exciting? Aren’t you just unable to contain yourself?

Yes, my fans are all Asian now.

Well, shut up. This is Storm of the Century!

We start off this masterpiece with some narration, informing us that the great “storm of the century” did not teach the narrator the value of life, but that he only just learned it a little while ago. Well gee, isn’t that a strange way to start off a movie?

Now with real snow and ice! Take the Universal Studios ride!

It’s like “Yeah, I didn’t learn anything from the story of the movie you’re about to see. But when I woke up drunk and high off my ass in a motel with a fat hooker the other day before coming in to record the final narration, THEN I came to the realization that my life was a catastrophic ruin and I should have managed my money better!”

I mean geez, imagine if some other films started off in a similar manner. Imagine if Se7en started like that.

“I didn’t really learn anything from the events in the film you’re about to unfold. But now, years later and after many therapy sessions, I think I finally understand the point: you should never, under any circumstances, trust Kevin Spacey.”

Yeah, not quite as powerful, is it?

So what am I talking about? Well, when you’re in the movie that thinks it’s a good idea to juxtapose the brutal murder of an old lady while her attacker sits down to watch the weather channel and sing “I’m a Little Teapot”…

Note: No teapots were harmed in the making of Storm of the Century.

…and the brutal head-stuck-in-the-stairs scene of a young girl in town as her classmates mock her ruthlessly, setting her up for years and years of psychotherapeutic sessions with an overpaid, over-medicated shrink:

She went on to star in the 8-bit version of Let the Right One In.

Yeah, not quite seamless, is it? Bit of an odd pair of scenes to play after one another. I love the head-in-stairs scene just because it’s so bizarre…they spend way too much time on this. It’s not a particularly telling or atmospheric scene. Unless the point is that the little girl will now begin a downward spiral of getting her head stuck places throughout her adolescence. But mostly it’s just hilarious to picture Stephen King, the master of horror himself, putting so much effort into this.

And the other scene is just baffling, too. “I’m a Little Teapot,” really? That was the scariest thing you could come up with for the villain’s motif? Apparently, yeah, this guy’s name is Andre Linoge. He kills the nicest old lady in town for no reason and then sets up camp to watch TV. The weather channel is hilarious, warning of the coming storm in the most fanatical way possible. Check out the weather lady’s great TV journalism:

“The forecast is calling for destruction tonight, death tomorrow, and Armageddon by the weekend. This could be the end of all life as we know it.”

Yeah, THAT wouldn’t incite panic, right? Totally neutral and definitely how weather people are supposed to act! I’m sure she’ll have a great career writing tabloid junk for The National Enquirer by day and fanatical 2012 Mayan calendar bullshit by night. I guess maybe it’s just part of Linoge’s magical sorcery after breaking the TV though.

So a couple people come in and discover the horrific crime, and then find themselves accosted by Linoge, who somehow knows their darkest secrets. The town manager, Robbie Beals, comes in and finds out that Linoge knows all about that time he was with a hooker while his mother was dying in a hospice bed far away. It is actually a very creepy, effective scene, and the atmosphere is through the roof.

And this continues as Mike Anderson, the town constable, and his men arrest Linoge and take him down to the county jail, which for some reason is located in the grocery store. As the back door is jammed shut and there is no way into the jail directly, Mike and his guys are forced to take Linoge through the grocery store where most of the town is shopping before the storm. As they do, he reveals some things about other town citizens, like the young woman who went onto the mainland and got an abortion recently, or the guy who sells marijuana out of his warehouse illegally.

He also has the gall to touch Mike’s son, which turns the whole thing into a circus once Mike finds out that Linoge doesn’t have a wallet. Obviously keen on setting a good example for the cops and the rest of the townspeople, Mike goes apeshit and shoves Linoge up against the wall like a crazy person. Isn’t it a bit early to go nuts at this point, guy? I mean Christ, so many more people are going to die over the next five hours of movie screentime! Save some inhuman rage for later!

"I'll show you that I can act dramatic and bland at the same time!"

This is all fine and good, but I just want to know what would happen if he got one of these “prophecies” wrong for once. Wouldn’t that be hilarious? Just imagine his face!

So I guess they lock him up and all, and he keeps on jabbering about how if the townspeople “give him what he wants,” he’ll go away. As the storm is coming in, they don’t really have time to focus on that, and half the town is stuck in a shelter whilst the other half is watching over Linoge. But Mike does find time to go back to the murdered old woman’s place and find Linoge’s slogan written on the wall in blood:

Well, geez, there are easier ways to redecorate a house you don't like than killing its sole occupant and painting the walls in her blood...personally I like Craigslist.

The only frustrating thing about this whole thing is that Linoge won’t say what he wants. So this whole time he’s killing everyone and causing Stephen King-ified trouble all around town and asking them to “give him what he wants,” there’s no clues to what it is he actually wants! It’s sort of like having a fickle girlfriend angry at you for some reason she won’t tell you about. Well, actually that’s selling the movie short – picture that same fickle girlfriend if she didn’t even speak the same language as you. That’s what Storm of the Century’s villain’s evil plan is like.

While that’s going on, we also get numerous scenes of Mike interacting with Robbie Beals. Apparently Robbie likes to try and take things into his own hands and investigate, even though Mike sees this as his own job. They have a couple separate quarrels about this, spread out throughout the film, and really I don’t see the point … unless  Robbie really has this history of messing up police investigations, in which case I am not sure how he’d even have a high city position at all. But this is never established, and the movie mostly just wastes time with these two, which could have been cut out and made the movie that much shorter.

What is this, a remake of The Odd Couple?

And that’s another one of the problems with this. As much as I love a good, long, epic film, and as entertaining as this is, there are way too many characters. It’s like two simultaneous games of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon going on. You will never be able to keep track of all these characters. I mean, even as much as King tries to fix that problem by having them all constantly refer to one another by their full names. Nice effort, but it’s still about as confusing as your last family reunion with your super-distant cousins and their super distant cousins, and so on. I will give it that it tries to genuinely replicate the feeling of a small town though.

While the townspeople are clamoring about, Linoge is busy doing incredibly important things while locked up in jail, like helping the police with crossword puzzles:

This truly is the only way Andre Linoge could get his point across. He just got lucky and found the only town in America with a crossword puzzle superstition.

Yup, that’s the extent of his evil so far. Singing “I’m a Little Teapot” over and over and helping the police with crossword puzzles. Why do I get the idea this guy would be laughed out of the annual villains’ convention? But I guess he does eventually kill that guy by making him hang himself though.

"You've helped with your last crossword puzzle, buddy..."
Oops, wait, no, I had another one.

Good start, but how about something a little more adventurous? Like … an ax to the face, maybe?

Now introducing Axe-O-Vision.

Yeah, that’s more like it! I give that kill scene three out of four stars. But you could still do better, though … like, maybe have the couple with the aborted baby argue outside in the snow. That’s a good way to set up a kill scene. Or at least, make the viewers want to kill someone.

Back the fucking camera up. We don't need to see what it's like to French kiss this jackass.

So, I gotta admit, this scene actually isn’t that bad. For a scene where two young people are arguing about abortion, Stephen King handles it surprisingly really well in a medium where his stories usually turn to crap. The girl, Kat, apparently had the abortion because she couldn’t count on the guy to help out, seeing as he was cheating on her at the time. Neither side is really right and neither side is completely wrong either. It’s a pretty damn good, heavy drama scene.

After that, Linoge tries to make the guy kill Kat, but he can’t do it. So then Linoge does the ole switcheroo and makes Kat kill the guy instead, which she does. She then sits on the ground and intones creepily about the murder in a dead-sounding voice. Which is also done very well, and creates a lot of atmosphere:

…until she eventually just comes out and says she killed him, which kinda ruins the moment. It worked better at first because she was being so vague about it, but when she just comes out and says it, the spell is broken.

Ah well. At least we have a scene after that in which Linoge talks about how this other guy and his friends once beat up a gay guy. In retaliation, as Mike is standing in between them, the guy shoots at Linoge and instead hits Mike. How awesome. This guy should be the official marksman of the town. Why haven’t they handed him a gun award yet?

So that’s pretty much the end of Side One of my DVD – they get ready for the storm and then that’s it; cliffhanger. Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion, when we learn that really, all Andre Linoge wanted was a lifetime supply of Lean Cuisine ravioli.

Am I bullshitting you with that? Well, you’ll have to wait until next week to see!

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.