The Horror Honeys: What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas

What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas

Well kids, the Sci-Fi Honey bit off more than she could chew this week, lemme tell ya. I’ll review The Stand, I said! It’s one of the big reasons I got into horror! I read every Stephen King novel for YEARS after reading this novel (Until The Dark Tower Series. But that’s another story.) In fact, I’ll review not only the original novel, but the extended version AND the miniseries! It’ll be GREAT!

Jesus H Roosevelt Christ.  I. Am. An. Idiot. I don’t think I read and watched and wrote this much in University my entire final year.  SO without further ado, here are the last two week of my life.

The Stand was loosely based on a previous short story called Night Surf, which was published in 1969, and which introduced the virus ‘Captain Trips.' The novel The Stand was originally published in 1978, and re-released as The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition in the early 90s.  In 1994, a four-part miniseries aired, starring Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo and about a million other people, including small uncredited parts played by Ed Harris and Kathy Bates, and none other than Mr. Stephen King himself as Teddy Weizak.

The basic premise is that a weaponized flu virus called Project Blue (nicknamed ‘Captain Trips’) is accidentally released into the world when an infected soldier manages to get out of the quarantined base just before the gates close. Everyone in the base is dead. The soldier makes it halfway across the country to Texas before crashing in the town where a man named Stu lives. Stu and the townsfolk get quarantined by the government, where only Stu doesn’t die of the virus. Captain Trips spreads throughout the US and ends up killing 99.4% of the population (to be exact). 

There are several other plot lines in the book, which quickly develop into Good vs. Evil. The plot lines include a pregnant teen in Maine, an asshole rockstar in New York, and a deaf/mute for the ’Good Side,' who are all having dreams about a 106 year old woman named Mother Abigail. Where does Mother Abigail lead them? Boulder, Colorado. I like Boulder; lots of fitness and recycling and liberal people. I’m glad they went there.  Also, Stephen King lived there. 

On the ‘Evil’ side there are some convicts, an insane Pyromaniac called ‘Trashcan Man,' a friend of the Pregnant Teen, named Harold, some generally crazy/bad people, and the Bride of the Big Evil. The Big Evil is a demon named Randall Flag, and where does Randall head for immediately?

Las Vegas, of course, where else would he go??

The rest of the story is basically the Good side and the Evil side each being drawn to their respective cities and setting up camp, with Vegas becoming an armed Dictatorship run by Flagg complete with crucifixions all along the highway, and Boulder a democracy, with much hugging and health care. 

Sounds about right. 

Good and Evil collide, and you can imagine how it goes. 

So, here is where it gets interesting. I love the original novel. It has great musical references, is really scary, and is so well written, I just can’t say enough about it. It’s still one of my all-time favorite books, I always own a copy.  As I mentioned, Stephen King released basically a Director’s Cut of the novel in 1990, and I was stoked; it had something like 400 more pages! Deleted Scenes! Updated pop culture and technological references! And you know, I actually didn’t like it as much. I didn’t find that the added material overall added a lot, and the updated technology didn’t make much difference to me.  Whenever I re-read it, I read the original. 

Then there is the miniseries, which I re-watched this week JUST FOR YOU! I didn’t love it when it came out in 1994. I didn’t hate it either. And when I re-watched it this week, I felt the same way. The miniseries is split in four sections; the first three are generally not bad, sometimes really good. The last one though wasn’t great overall. And The Hand of God was a pretty bad special effect. 

I loved seeing Ed Harris and Kathy Bates. Gary Sinise is awesome. Molly Ringwald and Miguel Ferrer, no complaints at all. Most of the rest were meh, there was a lot of scenery chewing and overacting. And OH MY GAWD Jamey Sheridan’s Texas Tuxedo and mullet hurt my eyes. I know Flagg wore that in the book, but yerg.  It was also weird to see Max Headroom playing an insane arsonist, but he did a pretty good job.

Rob Lowe played Nick Andros, the deaf/mute, and he was woefully miscast. Woefully. It was painful to watch. He clearly took acting lessons before he did The West Wing in 1999, because he was terrible in The Stand. It slightly pained me to see this, because my 16-year-old self had a huge crush on Rob Lowe; his Tiger Beat pictures were all over my wall. 

But, he didn’t talk on my wall. Or act deaf/mute very, very badly.

My main point of contention with the miniseries was the inconsistency with the novel, and the omissions.  Characters were amalgamated, plot points are omitted/changed, and The Bride of Flagg dies differently than she does in the novel. I understand that this miniseries would have been about 20 hours if it had stayed true to the book, but things were changed that I felt were important to the story. For example, in the novel Harold starts off obese, then loses weight as the novel goes on, signifying losing his former self, while in the miniseries he’s thin from the start. In the novel Fran, the pregnant teen, tells her family and the father of the baby, while in the miniseries that doesn’t happen, and the baby’s father is only mentioned in passing.  Fran’s baby even changes gender – in the novel it’s a boy, in the miniseries it’s a girl they name after Mother Abigail.

I admit, I had forgotten how full of God Talk it is (novel and miniseries). Full disclosure, I am a Non-Believer, and it was a bit hard watching the miniseries and hearing all the religion and hymn singing and God vs. The Devil stuff. But The Stand is a great story. It’s Good vs Evil, and who doesn’t like that?  

The big reason I really love the novel is the same reason I like most of Stephen King’s novels, and also why his novels are so hard to make into good movies: the details. I love the tiny things, like how when Tom Cullen is in the desert sleeping, a rattlesnake sleeps next to him and then leaves without hurting him. I think the strength in King’s writing style is how he adds creepy details and writes them so well. Like in his novel It, where near the end the characters are flying through nothingness and there is this thing called The Turtle and they – never mind. Read it, I can’t possibly explain it and make any sense. Which is why they couldn’t put it in the movie, even though it is central to the novel. And why I didn’t like the movie It either, even though I loved the book.  I don’t know if anyone could make The Stand into a movie I’d like as much as the novel.  I hope they try though. I heard rumours that Ben Affleck was involved in a possible movie, we’ll see how that pans out.

Sci-Fi Honey Random Fact: apparently The Stand is Stephen King’s attempt at writing The Lord of the Rings, with Stu being Frodo and Randal Flagg as The All Seeing Eye. 

Sci-Fi Honey rating:
I give the original novel 5 mullet headed demons out of 5! ALL OF THE MULLETS!
I give the Uncut novel 4 unwed teen mothers from Maine out of 5. The updates weakened the book, to me.
I give the miniseries 3.5 exploding nukes that I can’t figure out how he got them out of the bunker out of 5. It was meh, and the Hand of God was terrible.