Stephen King's Desperation

Starring: Tom Skerritt, Ron Perlman, Steven Weber and Annabeth Gish
Warner Home Video
RRP: 17.99
Certificate: 15
Available 22 October 2007

A self-opinionated late middle-aged writer is riding his motorcycle between towns on his signing tour, when his is accosted at the side of a deserted Nevada road by a police sheriff, who sets him up with a drug-related arrest. He is driven to a desolate town called Desperation and thrown into a cell, adjacent to an old man, a young woman, a married couple and a young boy. The boy is visited by visions of his younger sister - murdered by the unbalanced and ruthless sheriff - who offers him help and advice, and when he regularly prays to God the others think he has lost it. A few hours behind the writer, on the same road, is his aid and a hitchhiker. When they find his motorcycle and a curiously abandoned motor-home, they head into Desperation looking for help, but all they find is a town full of dead bodies - all of them violently attacked, it seems. The young boy has asked God to save his best friend after an accident a while back, and now he feels he is being asked to do something in return. That 'something' is to fight an age-old demon known as Tak, who can jump bodies and control the beasts...

I've mentioned many times before, when reviewing Stephen King-related material, that I'm not a fan of his writing, but admit that many of his central themes and ideas can work well on the big screen. Whilst a long way from being the gems that are The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, Desperation is better than the majority of adaptations we have seen previously. What we have is essentially an It-like concept of a group of strangers being thrown together to fight an ancient evil.

When I noticed that the director is Mick Garris I initially had mixed feelings. Garris has been at the helm of other King projects, the excellent The Shining TV mini-series (forget the film) and the dreadful Rose Red, but as the originator of the groundbreaking Masters of Horror anthology series I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm glad I did.

Ron Perlman is deliciously wicked as the possessed Sheriff, Collie Entragian, and the conceited writer (is King having fun at his own expense here? I thought that was a purely English trait) is strong as the sceptic who learns the hard way, in an almost priest-like Exorcist crisis of faith with his own personal demons.

There is a missed opportunity here, as the old man explains the probable reason why he wasn't killed or possessed like the other inhabitants of the town. He reasons that it was because he was an alcoholic and drunk much of the time. Immediately, it occurred to me (like I'm sure it will all of you too) that this is a weapon, or certainly a valid defence mechanism against the demon. But no sooner is this revelation revealed than the old man is killed and it's all forgotten.

A solid and enjoyable tale of hope against adversity (but then aren't all stories that?), with a long build-up and a simple solution.

Ty Power

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