Stephen King’s NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES, Pt. 2 (2006)

The Road Virus Heads North
July 26, 9 pm (ET/PT)

This is a vintage King horror story, with a brutal knife murder that makes this suitable only for adults and teens. Horror novelist Richard Kinnell (Tom Berenger), while being lionized at a writers’ conference in Boston, visits his doctor, who tells him that something in his colon does not look right. He will have to return for further tests. On his drive back to his home in Maine (hmm, interesting, a horror writer from Maine?) he buys a strange painting at a yard sale. Depicting a vampire like creature driving a car, the painting, he is told by the woman running the sale, was made by a young man who soon afterwards hung himself. When Richard stops by his Aunt Trudy’s (Marsha Mason), he notices that the background has darkened somewhat. Repelled, she tells him to destroy it. He does throw it in a river, but the thing reappears. This time with the background of a building near his Aunt’s. Having heard a news report of the brutal murder of the woman at the yard sale, Richard, when he arrives home, nervously calls his Aunt. The picture grows more and more ominous, indicating that it, or someone connected with it, is out to murder him as well. The film ends on a note of great ambiguity, leaving its interpretation open as to what really has been going on—an out and out murder, or has the writer succumbed to fear of his own death (his mother and other family members had died at about his age). A must-see for King fans.

The Fifth Quarter
July 26, 10 pm (ET/PT.)

Instead of fantasy horror, King enters the world of film noir in this tale of a prisoner’s first 24 hours of release from prison. VP readers will be interested that Jeremy Sisto, star of the CBS Jesus Miniseries plays the very unChristlike Willie Evans. Willie has done seven years, presumably for robbery, when his wife Karen (Samantha Evans) picks him up. He can hardly wait to see their young son Jackson. Willie’s former cellmate had been living in the trailer with Karen and Jackson, but had disappeared some little while before the reunion. He shows up that night with a stomach womb, telling Willie who had shot him and of a quarter of a map that, when joined to the sections owned by three other robbers, would show where over three million dollars lay hidden. Having intended on going straight—he had even asked if Karen could get him a low wage job at the amusement park where she worked as a cleaning lady—Willie is faced with the power temptation of sudden wealth, as well as the desire to wreak vengeance on those who had shot his best friend. This dark tale of revenge, temptation and greed is not up to King’s usual standards, but it certainly holds the viewer’s attention all the way to its amoral conclusion.

I am sorry that the two reviews below are too late, but save them for when the series is released on DVD, as is the case with about all of the TNT dramas.”The End of the Whole Mess” really is worth watching and discussing.

Umney’s Last Case. July 19 9/8 pm. (ET/PT)

Stephen King takes a tragic but all too ordinary a plot of parents mourning the death of their young son and adds a bizarre twist in this fantasy. Sam Landry is a writer of hardboiled detective novels, married to Linda, when in 2005 death takes their young son. Unable to write or to comfort his grieving wife, Sam writes himself into his story. In 1938 Clyde Umney, the detective, is taken aback when Sam suddenly shows up in his office and tells him that he is about to banish him into the world of 2005. There Clyde, who always seems to have the right words, will comfort Linda, while Sam will escape into Clyde’s world of adventure. Of course, matters do not turn out as the God-playing intends. William Macey and Jacqueline McKenzie each play two roles, those of the married couple in 2005, and those of the detective and his girlfriend Gloria in the pulp fiction world of 1938. Fans of film noir should love this thought-provoking short film.

The End of the Whole Mess July 19 9/8 pm. (ET/PT)

This, my favorite of the series (thus far), is worth gathering a group together and discussing. Told by Howie Fornoy (Ron Livingston), it is the story of two brothers set against the chaos of hatred and violence wracking the world. Howie has but an hour or so to live, so he sits before a video camera and narrates the events of the past 25 years—of how his brother Bobby (Henry Thomas) had been a childhood genius under the tutelage of their talented, loving parents. Howie had become an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, while Bobby bounced from profession to profession, contributing significantly to various scientific fields. The brothers retain their childhood closeness, and at one point discuss the dismaying news of hatred, riots, and wars they see on television. Howie suggests that the cause is original Sin, but Bobby is not so sure, thinking that there might be a more scientific explanation, and thus a possible cure. After an absence of four years, he shows up at Howie’s apartment with a bizarre story of finding via a computer program a town in Texas, “the most violent state,” where no murders had ever been committed. After he and a colleague analyze the water, Bobby concludes that its unique composition can tame the violent urge in humanity. He has distilled a small amount and then enlists Howie to approach is wealthy celebrity friends to raise money for distilling a vast quantity and then to secure a fleet of helicopters to dump into a volcano about to explode, thus spreading the “magic” liquid throughout the atmosphere and thence, the world. His plan works, and for three years pace and harmony reigns throughout the world, until—. This well done fantasy can provide a good opportunity for a group to discuss Genesis 3 and Romans 7. What is the nature of humanity? Can there be a scientific “fix” to bring about universal peace: or is it, as some Greek philosophers taught, a matter of obtaining and acting upon the proper knowledge; or a matter of human choice informed by a changed heart?