Nightmares & Dreamscapes is the latest in the celluloid collection from Stephen King. It is an eight-episode adaptation of his short stories with an all-star cast. The collection of stories are derived primarily from Nightmares & Dreamscapes, with one from Everything’s Eventual as well as one from Night Shift.
On the heals of the successful adaptation of Salem’s Lot last summer, TNT has put together this collection of one-hour movies to chill your bones. While, as with any collection, your mileage may vary, overall I found this to be a satisfying group of tales.
With Stephen King, of whom I have been a fan for many years, I've found that if you can get under 100-150 pages per hour of movie time, you can have a movie that is at least as satisfying as the original story. That is why movies such as Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil work so well. Movies such as The Stand work well as a mini-series.
In the past 30 plus years, Stephen King has re-created the horror genre from the ground up and has done it with well deserved commercial success. He is never going to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature, but that was never his intent. His intent was to scare the crap out of you. For the most part I think he has succeeded.
Now for the report card.
"Battleground" (William Hurt): A professional hit man receives a package of sinister toy soldiers after killing the CEO of a toy company. This is quite good. It has a lot of special effects and no dialog. Grade: A+
"Crouch End" (Eion Bailey, Claire Forlani): Newlywed couple finds a portal to another dimension while honeymooning in London. This has a Twilight Zone/ H.P. Lovecraft feel to it. Grade: B+
"Umney’s Last Case" (William H. Macy): After the death of his son, a writer switches places with a character in one of his stories. A Raymond Chandler-style detective is now in the real world. Another well done story Grade: A
"The End of the Whole Mess" (Ron Livingston, Henry Thomas): In his last moments, a renowned filmmaker recalls an experiment by his genius brother to end world violence but at a horrible cost. This is the most ambitious of all the stories Grade: A
"The Road Virus Heads North" (Tom Berenger): A horror writer's newly purchased painting begins to change with events in his life. This seemed to me like it had been done before and I did not connect with it. Grade: B-
"The Fifth Quarter" (Jeremy Sisto): A released convict goes on a treasure hunt to avenge the death of his friend Barney. This was pretty good and has some twists and turns. Grade: A
"Autopsy Room Four" (Richard Thomas): A man, bitten by a snake, is put into a catatonic state and awaits his autopsy. This, as I had suspected, would be hard to pull off. I did not like it as well as I did the others. Grade: C
"You Know They Have a Hell of a Band" (Steven Weber and Kim Delaney): A couple gets lost and find themselves in Rock and Roll Heaven. I really liked this one. Grade: B+
Overall grade: A-
Like any collection, some pieces are better than others. And your favorites may not be mine. But overall, I would recommend Nightmares & Dreamscapes for anyone who likes their spine tingled and especially those who are Stephen King fans.