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Stephen King's Desperation (DVD) ★★½

SmallvilleReviewed by Stuart O’Connor
Stars Tom Skerritt, Steven Weber, Annabeth Gish, Ron Perlman,
Shane Haboucha, Kelly Overton, Matt Frewer, Sylva Kelegian,
Charles Durning, Henry Thomas, Ewan Chung
Written by Stephen King, based on his novel
UK certification 15 | UK RRP £17.99
DVD Region 2 | Runtime 125 minutes
Directed by Mick Garris

Welcome to the former mining town of Desperation, Nevada. Population: one crazy, possessed mean-ass sumbitch sherrif. And the occasional dead body. And assorted crows and wild dogs. And whoever that crazy, possessed sumbitch sherrif Collie Entragian (Perlman) picks up on the outskirts of town and throws into his pokey.

SmallvilleThat's pretty much the setup for Desperation, which is certainly not one of Stephen King's finest hours — neither the book nor this cut-down TV movie from America's ABC network. Now I'm a long-time King fan, but most of the adapatations of his work just don't live up to the words he puts on the pages of his books, even the lesser ones. This particular one is directed by King's mate and sometimes collaborator Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, The Stand, The Shining) and while it has its moments, Desperation is, for the most part, just a standard, unoriginal horror flick — with a religious theme that's laid on so thick that it gets annoying after the first 10 minutes.

It begins with Mary (Gish) and Peter (Thomas) Jackson driving through the Nevada desert when they are pulled over over by Entragian, who finds a bag of weed in the boot of the car (gee, I wonder if he planted it). When the sherrif (who has begun acting quite strange) gets them back to the station, he kills Peter and throws Mary into the lockup with a bunch of other folks he's gathered up. Yada yada yada, long story short, it turns out that the cop is possessed by an evil spirit named Tak, which a mining company inadvertently released from a mineshaft (thanks for the environmental message, guys). It becomes a classic good-versus-evil battle thanks to a boy named David (Hoboucha), who claims he can talk to God. Right.

For a TV movie, Desperation has a decent amount of blood and gore (severed limbs, pens in eyeballs, etc) and a surprisingly decent cast. But one gets the feeling that these days the studios will make anything with King's name on it, whether or not it's any good. The best adapations of Steve's work so far are The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me and Misery. The worst are Children of The Corn and The Lawnmower Man. Desperation falls somewhere in the middle.

EXTRAS None. Which is a crying shame, because the Region 1 DVD has a commentary from Garris, Perlman and producer Mark Sennet. There's also a making-of featurette that includes an interview with King and Garris. But none of that stuff appears on this Region 2 version — and one has to wonder why not?

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