Bring Out Your Dead!

Stephen King's The Stand Review

The Stand poster

It is an exciting time for Stephen King fans. Not only has Chapter Two of one of his most popular stories come to theaters, but he recently released a new novel with another already announced, as well. On top of that, fans are being treated to newly restored versions of his older works. The latest to get this treatment is The Stand, a made-for-television adaption, directed by Mick Garris.

The Plot

A man-made flu-like virus is rapidly spreading across the globe. Those who are immune are left to fend for themselves. The unaffected have split off into two groups, one fighting for good and the other, for evil.

My Thoughts

Originally released in 1994, The Stand is a made-for-television mini-series that consists of four parts or episodes.

“Part 1 – The Plague” sets the stage for the main plot of the film, while introducing [most] of the story’s major players; “Part 2 – The Dreams” dives deeper into the omniscient Mother Abagail and the somewhat confusing dream sequences that we are introduced to in the series’ first 90 minutes; “Part 3 – The Betrayal” sees the strengthening of both sides of this fight, the good with Mother Abagail and the evil with the apostate of hell, Randall Flagg; “Part 4 – The Stand” is the culmination of said fight, giving the audience the final verdict of who wins in this biblical battle of good versus evil.

I’ve just recently started doing more reading and although I’ve dived headfirst into some of Stephen King’s work, I have yet to read some of his longer novels, The Stand being one of them. Because of this, I am unaware of how the story has changed for its on-screen counterpart, but with the heavy involvement of King himself, I’d imagine it turned out just as he’d hoped.

Like the novel, The Stand is an epic tale, in both size/length and in tone and subject matter. Filmed over five months and in 95 locations, the six hour and one minute total running time pits the age-old battle of good versus evil on the grandest stage of all.

By splitting the survivors of this superflu into two camps, the human condition is truly exposed. What would you do if everyone around you was dying but you were spared? Would you fight to save the good of humanity or would you team with the darker forces to form a new world order?

Answering these questions for themselves and for viewers at home alike are a whole slew of interesting and peculiar characters. The denim clad demon, Flagg (Jamey Sheridan, Sully, Lizzie), has most notably recruited the pyromaniac known simply as the Trashcan Man (Matt Frewer, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, “The Walking Dead”), the ex-con who he’s broken out of prison, Lloyd Henreid (Miguel Ferrer RoboCop, “Twin Peaks”), and countless others. On the opposing side of the 108-year-old Abagail (Ruby Dee, A Raisin in the Sun, Do the Right Thing) stands simpleton Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke, voice of Patrick of “SpongeBob SquarePants”), deaf and dumb Nick Andros (Rob Lowe, St. Elmo’s Fire, Wayne’s World), hot shot musician from NY with some bad habits, Larry Underwood (Adam Storke, Death Becomes Her), and the newly appointed leader from East Texas, Stu Redman (Gary Sinise, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13).

In addition to these fine actors are innumerable other performers, some rounding out our main cast of characters, while others simply make brief cameos. The likes of John Bloom aka Joe Bob Briggs, NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Kathy Bates, Molly Ringwald, Ossie Davis, filmmakers Sam Raimi and John Landis, and Stephen King and director Mick Garris themselves can all be seen throughout the series’ four episodes.

Stephen King’s body of work spans decades with stories dealing with all types of horror and even other genres. He relies on much more than just blood and guts and The Stand is no different in these regards.

While there is little bloodshed actually shown throughout the series’ entirety, the parts that do require some extra gruesome details are brought to life with very impressive results thanks to special effects supervisor Steve Johnson and his team of talented artists.

Countless masses of decomposing bodies are strewn across the streets of every city the camps pass through and Randall Flagg’s true demonic face is shown a couple times, all of which are beautifully and frighteningly sculpted by the Steve Johnson XFX crew.

In a timeline that spans six months, lives are saved and destroyed, relationships formed and broken, strangers who shares dreams, visions, and intuitions of Godly figures becomes family, and a monumental war is waged.

The Verdict

The story of The Stand is a profound one, one that almost everyone can relate to in some way, shape, or form. It is an Emmy-award winning mini-series, but even with its attention to detail and a fair amount of character development, the 1994 film adaptation is still slowly-paced and due to its length, it is extremely difficult to get through in less than two sittings.

The practical effects are impressive, while the digital ones are unfortunately dated and seem almost out of place. The film itself is overall quite enjoyable, but certainly does not seem to age well. Even still, I’d recommend giving it a watch to longtime Stephen King fans or even newcomers to his work.

I give this one 3 Rodney King humanity awards of the day out of 5.

The Stand Re-stored

The Stand is available now on Blu-ray in a brilliantly restored collector’s edition from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment.

This new home release features audio commentary from the cast and crew, including Stephen King, Mick Garris, Rob Lowe, Ruby Dee, Miguel Ferrer, Jamey Sheridan, and Pat McMahon, and a brief behind-the-scenes featurette, The Making of The Stand.

It is presented in its original 4:3 full screen aspect ratio in 1080p with English stereo, Castilian stereo, and German stereo audio options and English SDH, Castilian, German, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles.

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