The Stand (1994)

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> Surprsingly Good
Overall Rating 67%
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Connections: The Stand

After a deadly plague kills most of the world's population, the remaining survivors split into two groups - one led by a benevolent elder and the other by a malevolent being - to face each other in a final battle between good and evil. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: November 16, 2009
Stephen King film adaptations have run the gamut of movie experiences. We've had classics, and we've had stinkers. We've had big budget releases, and we've had his infamous dollar films. We've had releases that fit snugly in the horror genre, while we've also had drama, science fiction, and yes, even a dip or two into the comedy side of things. We've had short movies, and we've had long movies... but never before or since have we had one quite this long. Yes, The Stand is an adaptation of King's book of the same name, and trying to condense that mammoth of a novel down into just one feature film wasn't going to be possible; hell, making a movie and a sequel wouldn't have worked. So, in order to tell the story in a coherent fashion, the filmmakers decided to go the miniseries route and produced a monster of a movie that clocked in at just a hair under six hours long. I have to admit that I was hesitant to dive into this release after sitting through the heavily padded Golden Years, but surprisingly, these six hours breezed past; in fact, the running time could have been expanded with little complaint from yours truly.

Before I get down to the synopsis, let me again point out that the movie runs for six hours, and needless to say, a lot of things happen in that time. I'm going to try and condense the plot down as much as possible, so keep in mind that I am leaving out huge chunks of the storyline. With that out of the way, the storyline begins in a government research facility out in the California desert, and not five minutes into the movie, something goes horribly wrong: a new virus which will soon be known as the "super-flu" is released, and this results in death for those working in the facility. A security guard hears the alarm and thinks that he will be able to escape with his family before catching the disease, but unfortunately for him, it's already in his body: he just lives a little longer than those who were working directly inside the plant. He and his family make it to Texas before succumbing to death, spreading this deadly disease to dozens of people along the way.

Much like a zombie outbreak, it doesn't take long before the world has an epidemic on its hands thanks to the selfish actions of that guard. The government tries to cover it up by saying that it's merely a new strain of non-lethal swine flu (which is rather frightening after recent events in the real world), but that is of little consolation to the thousands of people who are dying on a daily basis. In only a matter of weeks, the world's population has been reduced to a few hundred people who were apparently immune to this strain of virus.

All of these survivors start to have bizarre dreams, dreams in which they are talking with one of two people. Some dream of an elderly black woman named Mother Abigail Freemantle (Ruby Dee) who implores them to come to Nebraska to visit her, while others dream of a menacing man named Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheridan) who invites them to head out to Las Vegas to join him. As it turns out, these two people are more than just idle brain activity: both are very real, and both have an important part to play in the new world order. Some people, including Stu Redman (Gary Sinise), Frannie Goldsmith (Molly Ringwald), Nick Andros (Rob Lowe), Judge Richard Farris (Ossie Davis), and Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke), choose to visit Mother Abigail, while others - Lloyd Henreid (Miguel Ferrer), "Trashcan Man" (Matt Frewer), "Rat Man" (Rick Aviles), and Julie Lawry (Shawnee Smith) - side with the sinister Flagg. Each side will soon grow to include hundreds of people, and it quickly becomes obvious that Flagg's group wants to obliterate Abigail's band of survivors. Those survivors will have to - wait for it - take a stand if they are to survive.

As I mentioned once already, that is the extremely condensed version of the plot: there are huge chunks of storyline that I glossed over or omitted entirely, and really, you have to watch the movie or read the book to see the true scope of this work. Obviously, you're going to get a better telling of the tale from the novel, but surprisingly, the movie adaptation was mostly faithful to the source material and was a great rendition of it to boot. It should go without saying that it did leave out a few plot points and characters (the novel was bigger than some encyclopedias, remember), but I was shocked at just how much was retained for the film. King fans will be pleased as punch to see how faithful the screenwriters were with the source material, and though I would like to see someone take another stab at it for a network that isn't so strict with their content guidelines, I really can't say anything negative about this rendition of the story.

As I also mentioned, these six hours really flew by for me. This movie is basically the equivalent of four "normal" movies, so sitting down to watch the entire thing from start to finish requires a particularly strong storyline to hold my interest. The fact that I did just that should say a lot about the quality of the film, and even at six hours, there's not a moment to be found that feels padded or that would have felt more at home in the deleted scenes section of the disc. This is a testament to the quality of the source material, but it's also strong praise for the writers of the screenplay as well.

The one thing that I can complain about, however, is the acting abilities of some of the cast. Now, don't get me wrong, there are some great performances here: I loved Ruby Dee as the old woman, Bill Fagerbakke was perfectly cast as the dim-witted Tom (that's not a knock on the actor, but it was eerie how well he played the role), Shawnee Smith was great in this early role, and there are more than a few other performances that knocked it out of the park. However, there are just as many that didn't. Molly Ringwald immediately springs to mind with that statement, as even though the woman is cute as a button and has been in some major roles over the course of her career, she just seemed completely lost almost every time she popped up on the screen. Jamey Sheridan had his moments as the villainous Flagg, but again, there were scenes that could have worked out so much better with a more competent actor. Perhaps it's a bit unfair to expect a star-studded cast from a television miniseries, but a few smarter casting decisions would have went a long way.

Still, the pros certainly outweigh the cons in this case, and those of you who haven't sat down with these discs would be well-advised to pencil it in on your calendar. It's not a perfect film, but it is strong enough to warrant at least one viewing. If only I could say the same about all of the Stephen King adaptations that have come and gone over the years. 8/10.
Ginose #1: Ginose - added September 27, 2008 at 6:02am
Oh, that's pretty clever, Chad. Didn't know you added that "film has not yet been reviewed" list, feature... it'll surely get readers off the trail long enough for someone to actually endure this long-ass mini-series... damn... had the whole thing taped, too...
Edd #2: Edd - added November 16, 2009 at 6:38pm
I'll be dipped in shit and rolled in bread crumbs! Review is finally here. Probably the best King adaptation to film so far. 10/10
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