August 25th, 2009

DESPERATION (2006) **

Although I am a big Stephen King fan, I have never gotten around to reading Desperation (or for that matter the companion Richard Bachman book, The Regulators).  After watching the lackluster made for TV adaptation from director Mick Garris (who has done a slew of King movies from The Shining remake to Riding the Bullet), I have to say I don’t have much of a desire to read it.  Of all the King flicks Garris has helmed, this one is the worst.

 

Ron (Hellboy) Perlman stars as a demented sheriff who drives around the deserted town of Desperation arresting motorists for minor infractions.  As time goes on, his demeanor gets more and more surly and his face gets increasingly gross looking.  Eventually we learn that he’s been possessed by a vengeful ancient Chinese secret… err… spirit that has the ability to hop from host to host (kinda like The Hidden except it’s one of those CGI whirlwind deals) that is trying to kill as many white folk as possible. 

 

Desperation is anchored by good performances from a terrific cast (which includes King/Garris vets Steven Weber and Matt Frewer) but there is very little else to recommend about this dreary and dull flick.  The first half of the film was OK when it was just Ron Perlman going bat shit insane on people.  My interest was quickly zapped though once his character abruptly disappeared.  There’s an especially gratuitous scene about halfway through where the survivors huddle themselves in an abandoned movie theater and chit-chat incessantly that really put the brakes on things.  We also have to deal with an annoyingly precocious know-it-all kid who talks a lot about “God” and has a spectral sister.  He got on my damn nerves real fast.  And don’t even get me started on the borderline offensive Chinese voice the monster spirit uses. 

 

It’s all pretty stupid (wait until you see the hilariously idiotic silent movie flashback complete with title cards) but at least the gore is good for a TV movie.  We get:  pencils in the eyes, severed hand in a fish tank, slot machine that pays off in blood, mountain lion to the jugular, pick axe to the sternum, severed arms as well as severed cheeks.  While King wrote himself a pretty slipshod screenplay, I will say he can concoct a scene where a snake crawls out of somebody’s trachea like no one in the biz.