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 The Stand 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 sidenote 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… “).
Speaking of the “times”, at the time of this writing, we are still in the stages of a global pandemic, so to say this shit is timely would be an understatement… and what better time to unleash a new version of The Stand?
Since we hashed out the basics of the story above, I’ll skip right to the good and bad of this sparkly new edition!
With it being a new production, this newer version of that most Kingly of tales certainly looks a great deal more expensive than the, at-times, somewhat tacky looking original recipe, and the cast is a knock-out with Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgard, and James Marsden leading the way with terrific performances as the new Mother Abigail, Randall Flagg, and Stu Redman respectively.
On the downside, there was a decision to tell the story in a non-linear fashion (as opposed to the original and the novel that inspired it)… and to be honest, well it’s a bit shit really.
Having the events unfold all willy-nilly takes the excellent mounting suspense and ever-increasing horror of the original and throws it away as the momentum of the narrative is slapped silly again and again by this storytelling choice.
Thankfully both versions are present here so fans can compare and contrast which is the superior version (it’s the 1994 one), but both have their strengths, and fans of King will pick this up regardless of my wicked words for or against!