An accident at a military base unleashes the greatest plague mankind has ever known (nicknamed Captain Trips), and the resulting contamination begins decimating Earth’s population faster than shit through a goose.
Adding to the apocalyptic calamity on hand is the fact that the hand-full of survivors that are seemingly immune to the disease begin having visions of either the kindly Mother Abigail (Ruby Dee) or the devilish Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheridan), and they are being called towards a rural cornfield in Colorado. Soon sides will be chosen, good and evil will have a final conflict, and the fate of the world will be decided!
Comprised of one hell of a stellar cast, some impressive visuals, and gnarly effects and make-up, this adaptation of Stephen King’s epic is a fantastic fright flick that manages the Herculean task of boiling down the maestro’s dense work into something that both wouldn’t run 18,645 minutes in length, and could actually be played on mid-90’s broadcast TV… and it succeeds in spades!
Let’s break it on down a bit further, shall we? You don’t have to answer that… I’m going to do it anyway, and there is nothing… NOTHING that will stop me I tell you!!
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Actors. We all love ’em and we can’t have movies without ’em, and The Stand has some damn fine ones! Notably Gary Sinise, Jamey Sheridan, and Molly Ringwald deliver some excellent performances as the heroic every-man Stu Redman, evil made flesh Randall Flagg, and adorable girl next door Frannie Goldsmith respectively.
Damn, I forgot to mention Matt Frewer (Max Headroom himself) as rotting psycho Trashcan Man… or Ruby Dee as the homespun messiah Mother Abigail… or Shawnee Smith (pre-Saw series fame) as gun toting wild woman Julie Lawry… or Laura San Giacomo as modern-day Lilith Nadine Cross… or Bill Fagerbakke as gentle giant Tom Cullen… or… you know what? There isn’t a bad lead performance in this film… and there are a putrid plethora of genre greats making guest appearances including Joe Bob Briggs, Ed Harris (Creepshow, Knightriders), and Kathy Bates (Misery, American Horror Story)… and that’s just the terror tip of the iceberg, but be on the lookout for cameos from directors such as Sam Raimi, John Landis, Tom Holland, and Mick Garris (who directed this flick by the way), as well as ol Stevie K his own self!
So where are all these folks runnin’ around? Well, in a world that has rapidly fallen apart… and you can expect to see all that entails; burning buildings, ghost towns, overturned cars, and piles upon piles of corpses left to rot in the hot, hot sun!
As a side-note on “setting”; the fact that Mother Abigail’s farm is shot on a sound-stage rather than on a real location adds a surreal quality to the proceedings and works towards creating a memorable dreamscape (aided and abetted by some creative lighting and framing choices) for the character’s preternatural adventures.
And that brings us to special effects; there are some seriously meaty chunks for you lot in the coffin club to lap up with this one… we get skin sloughing off, a seemingly endless supply of cadavers (the best being the crucified drug addict) in various states of decomposition, as well as the various demonic visages of Flagg… it’s all impressive just for the sheer amount of quality work on display (though in the interest of fair play, there is some over-utilization of the then new toy in the arsenal; CG morphing, but as the kids are wont to say; “the times, the times… “).
If the nearly six hour run-time (just under a minute shy for those keeping score at home) of The Stand isn’t enough for ya, there is also an archival commentary track featuring King and Garris, actors Sheridan, Dee, Rob Lowe and Miguel Ferrer, and editor Patrick McMahon, as well as a brief “making of” featurette. Both of these cover the film’s production, and what will truly amaze is the fact that for the scale required, this was a rather lower budgeted affair… and the creative methods utilized to bring the production in on time and budget are fascinating to hear.
With the impending release of a new adaptation of the material on the horizon, this is perfect time to revisit this creepy classic; it’s an epic story well told and acted, and has a ton to offer to horror hounds n’ King fanatics!