Sometimes I come back to bring my series of Stephen King posts to a close, and this is one of those sometimes, so let’s get right into three from the 2000s.
HEARTS IN ATLANTIS (2001)
Hearts in Atlantis combines King’s nostalgia narrative style with his penchant for characters with psychic powers, and in its film form it is a relatively mellow experience.
A widowed woman rents a room to an older man, played by Anthony Hopkins. Soon her young son builds a strong bond with Hopkins. They spend a lot of time together, and Hopkins admits to the boy that men in dark clothes and hats are hunting for him.
Meanwhile, the mother is constantly suspicious that Hopkins might be looking to go pedo on her son. Not the case. The boy is actually falling for his little female friend and Hopkins is nurturing that relationship.
Amazing how straight tweens always fall madly in love in Stephen King novels, yet you don’t see crazy conservatives banning this type of grooming material from libraries…
The film is fairly disappointing. The men coming for Hopkins barely pose any threat or add any suspense to the story. Hopkins rarely uses his mind-reading powers. And when he does, it’s to shame the main kid’s bully, who regularly hurls gay slurs at the kid.
Hopkins calls him out on it because he can see that the bully likes to go home and dress in his mother’s clothes. This weird sort of defense against a homophobic riddled attack by use of another anti-gay attack is basically revisited later when the main kid gets his revenge on the bully, who we now know is queer, by beating him with a baseball bat. WTF?
Anyway, the film tries to go into heartstring pulling territory, with Hopkins unjustly being ripped from the boy’s life, but I wasn’t filled with emotion when all was said and done. I just think these kinds of films worked best in the 1980s…when Spielberg made them…and John Williams orchestrated…
FIRESTARTER 2: REKINDLED (2002)
This made-for-TV sequel that King had nothing to do with was a miniseries, so it suffers from the usual problem…too drawn out into 3 hours when 2 hours would have been fine.
The first half of the film is heavily filled with flashbacks retelling and often rewriting the events of the first movie with different actors. These are presented mostly as dreams that haunt Charlie (no longer played by Drew Barrymore).
Cutie Danny Nucci plays a worker at a research firm who is unknowingly hunting down Charlie for the character Rainbird, originally played by George C. Scott, but now portrayed by Malcom McDowell.
Unknowingly, while doing his job and getting closer to Charlie (so close that we get to see him shirtless and get a glimpse of his upper butt), Nucci is actually leading Rainbird right to her.
Meanwhile, Rainbird is gathering together a bunch of little boys who also have a variety of unique powers.
Seriously, the fun doesn’t begin until halfway into the film when Charlie has her first battle of the psychic powers with these boys.
After that, Dennis Hopper also joins the cast as someone from her dad’s past—a pretty unnecessary inclusion that is also one of the alterations in the plot from the first movie. There are plenty of chase scenes and also plenty of chat scenes (yawn), but the final battle, when both the boys and Charlie pretty much wipe out an entire town, is good cheap sequel fun.
DOLAN’S CADILLAC (2009)
This movie is based on a story from the King collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and it’s quite clear this should have been a short film in an anthology and not a movie. It was agonizing to sit through.
Wes Bentley is a teacher married to horror veteran Emmanuelle Vaugier. While out horseback riding, she witnesses sleazoid Christian Slater kill drivers of a truck transporting immigrant refugee women.
While those women are sold into sex trafficking by Slater, he also has Vaugier hunted down, despite she and Wes being put into witness protection. The only horror moment comes when they find a corpse in their house.
Vaugier is killed and then Wes decides he must get revenge. This is where it’s all downhill. First of all, I have no idea how he figures out Slater’s identity or how to track him, but he begins following him. He gets a gun. He becomes a construction worker. And it’s all part of his plan of vengeance.
Nothing happens beyond one encounter between Slater and Wes in a public restroom, which makes it confusing that they suddenly seem like lifelong enemies in the final act. At this point Wes creates a huge booby trap in a desert road. Once Slater and his car are both in it, they spend a chunk of time in a verbal battle that makes you question why they were ever considered A-list actors. The performances are eye-rolling, and there’s no good reason for Wes to keep Slater alive for so long when the ultimate torture (and the plan) is to just bury him alive…. An awful execution of a typical revenge flick plot.