Keith, David

This is for commenter “knox” who exclaimed:

Are you telling me there’s a Keith David and a David Keith??

Yes.

Yes I am.

David Keith (on the left) was born in Knoxville, TN, and starred in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter, alongside of Drew Barrymore and George C. Scott.

So, “knox”, he’s a homeboy. You should have a statue of him somewhere next to the one of Glenn Reynolds. Look for it in the big park with the gazebo.

Keith David (on the right, duh) was born in Harlem, New York, and was in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He also does a ton of voice-over work. Contrary to the photo shown, he does smile, but he usually gets paid for scowling. If IMDB is to be believed, he was on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood in his 20s. About the same time he was in The Thing, actually. Heh.

Aha! The glories of Youtube: Watch. I’ve never seen him with hair before, but that’s unmistakably his voice.

One Thousandth Person To Visit The Indian Burial Grounds!

We had our thousandth visitor at the Bit Maelstrom today. At least, the thousandth since we’ve been counting, which started about a month ago.

Said person was looking for Stephen King Indian Burial Ground information. We aren’t the Internet’s #1 source of Stephen King’s use and abuse of aboriginal burial rite relics…yet. But we’re on Google’s first page!

Woo-hoo!

Our most recent visitor was looking up Maila Nurmi. So…sultry vampiresses and ancient indian burial grounds. I’ve found my niche!

Of Indian Burial Grounds and Killer Satellites

Ace makes this point in his review of Cloverfield:

Any explanation they could have provided would have been trite or stupid or both anyway, so what’s the point?

Bingo.

You’d think Stephen King could figure this out after 35–no 45!–years.

The Overlook Hotel in The Shining? Indian burial ground. Pet Sematary? Indian burial ground. Tommyknockers? Haven’t read it or seen the movie (did they make a movie out of it yet?) but I’m told it’s that old Indian black magic yet again.

The ancient indian burial ground was such a cliché back in 1979 when Kubrick’s movie version of The Shining came out, that grade schoolers were mocking it. King keeps trucking along, though, happily trotting that out as the “explanation” for whatever horror is being visited on his poor characters.

Speaking of trucking along: Maximum Overdrive? Army experiment gone wrong. The Mist? Army Experiment Gone Wrong. There are probably more but I haven’t read much King since the early ‘80s.

And, of course, “the government” is the villain of other King novels, whether it be the army or a CIA type group or what-have-you. Who could forget Firestarter’s evil “The Company”…or “The Business”…or maybe it was…“The Co-Op”…“The Shop”! That’s what it was! (“The Shop” had a super-secret hideout with horse stables! That’s right: The guys cleaning out the stalls had to be thoroughly vetted for mucking! But I digress.)

Explanations aren’t always bad. In horror fiction, they can create atmosphere. Lovecraft formed a very suggestive background out of the snippets he put into his Cthulhu story. For horror movies (which are really quite separate from horror fiction in tradition and style) the explanation can serve as a plot hook.

In Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy’s roots as a pedophile provide a satisfying base for the attacks, and a hook for the heroine to ultimately escape him. (Said hook thoroughly trashed by the tacked-on ending designed to facilitate sequels. But that’s another subject for another day.)

The horror movie Unearthed tries for meaningful explanation, both to sort-of explain the why and provide a hook for the heroine to kill the monster. It’s not well handled but it’s not tacked on.

There’s a reference to satellite-caused radiation in Night of the Living Dead but it’s never verified and comes as part of what would be inevitable discussion about causes on TV or radio. By contrast, Maximum Overdrive, which used the exact same explanation (killer satellites), does so as a groan-inducing tacked on post-script to an already groan-worthy film.

Someone (presumably King) had to sit down and say that, “Yes, this post-script makes the movie better. This will make sense of the previous 90 minutes of abuse we’ve inflicted on the audience.” The audience will say “Oh! That wasn’t as bad as we thought while we were watching it!”

The rule should be very simple to follow: If the explanation wouldn’t matter to your characters in the course of the story, it won’t matter to the audience either. Just skip it.

Another Author That Doesn’t Translate Well To Screen

Ray Bradbury.

I was thinking about him in the context of The Mist review. Movies based on his works tend to be gawdawful butcheries. The best version of his major work, Farenheit 451 was done by Truffaut, and I can’t stand to watch it, it’s so ugly.

No offense to Truffaut, but for me, the pleasure in reading Bradbury is the beautiful imagery he conjures.

So I think I can express a certain amount of hopeful anticipation in the knowledge that Mr. Darabont is going to leave the Stephen King farm to direct a new version of Farenheit 451.