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The news keeps spilling out like an open wound of dreadful information, people are stuck at home in quarantine, and horror fans are talking about Captain Trips, aka the superflu, aka the man-made virus in Stephen King’s novel The Stand. This coronavirus thus far is nowhere near as deadly as the superflu. But we can see some parallels between real life and fiction: a collective state of anxiety and helplessness, the governments’ responses (or lack thereof), quickly filling hospitals, no known treatments, the dread of the cough. The Stand is basically the worst-case scenario of our current state of affairs mixed with supernatural elements, including one of King’s most notable villains: The Dark Man. 

Some Background 

This 1994 miniseries, directed by Mick Garris and written by King himself, is a classic. Some fans love it, some hate it; that is bound to happen with any book-to-screen adaptation. I have a love/hate relationship with the show. There are moments where I find it frightening and thrilling, emotional and, at times, comical. Other times it is completely frustrating and cringeworthy.

The Stand miniseries is six hours long and still, understandably, can’t include everything in the 1152 page uncut book. All that said, I’m not going to compare the show to the book because, despite their relationship, they are two different entities. Rather I will review the show on its own, occasionally pointing out some iotas relating to the novel. 

Okay. Enough of my ramblings. Let’s get started. 

The Plague  

Everything is fine until it isn’t. On a California military base protected by a razor wire fence and officer Charles Campion (Rick McKinnon) in a security booth, a biological virus has breached. Everyone inside the base is dead. Campion, the only survivor, panics and drives as far away as possible, taking his wife Sally (Hope Marie Carlton), their daughter, and the virus with him. 

As Campion travels, the virus spreads rapidly. People die left and right. But the government refuses to acknowledge their fault in the matter, downplaying how serious the disease actually is. Citizens riot, desperate for some kind of response. Only when the government starts losing their own members do they recognize the gravity of the situation.

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Campion makes it all the way to Arnette, Texas, where he utters his last breath to Stu Redman (Gary Sinse). For weeks, the military holds Stu and others who came in contact with Campion in quarantine. Only Stu survives.

The hospital puts him under many tests until the entire staff acquires the disease and dies. Stu escapes quarantine and runs outside to a new world. As he lays on the grass, trying to take everything in, he has a vision of Abagail Freeman (Ruby Dee), a 108-year-old prophet best known as “Mother Abagail.”  Abagail asks him to come see her, to come home. There’s not much time left. 

The Rest of the Crew (So Far)

Larry Underwood (Adam Storke), the vain, egotistical rock star who only sees his mother when he needs money. Living in California, he travels to New York and meets Rat Man (Rick Aviles), whose significance has not yet come to light. 

Another of our few female protagonists is Frannie Goldsmith (Molly Ringwald). She is compassionate and strong-willed, living with her father and dealing with the pesky admirations of Harold Lauder (Corin Nemec). 

Nick Andros (Rob Lowe), a sweet young man who is deaf, non-speaking, and the constant victim of Ray Booth (Patrick Kilpatrick). Nick is the first to meet Abagail. 

Lloyd Henreid (Miguel Ferrer) has a career dedicated to committing crimes. While the cops arrest him for murder, he sees a mysterious man perched on a telephone wire. But that man turns out to be a crow.

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Kareem Abdul Jabbar plays the Monster Shouter, a minor character who foreshadows the apocalypse and Larry’s fate.  

And, finally, out of the shadows in the middle of the night emerges none other than Randall Flagg, The Dark Man (Jamey Sheridan).

“Folks, I’ve just been ordered by my uninvited fascist guests to shut down.”

I adore (adore!) Rae Flowers (Kathy Bates). Her short scene guts me every time. Though the show does not credit Bates, she puts on one hell of a performance as a sardonic radio host who takes no prisoners. We don’t get to see much of her, but she is so well written that it feels like we’ve known her forever.

The Introduction

The Stand starts out with a bang. After Campion drives away, the camera leads us into his booth where we dive into the security footage and land in the military building. Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays as we float over the myriad of dead bodies piled on top of one another. One man kneels against a door, fingers inches away from the handle while a woman sits straight in her chair, neck cricked to the side, eyes white and dead. A game show is on the TV in one break room, the jovial contestants unaware of their future demises. Lunch trays are splattered across the floor, blood drips down the victims’ mouths. Lights in another break room sputter on and off. There isn’t a single place absent of death.

This scene is the perfect introduction to the series: the arrangement of the bodies, the number of deaths, the music. We are seeing the multitude of this man-made virus and the undoubtable aftermath to come:

The world is astronomically fucked.

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Critiques

As with the book, the cast in the miniseries is predominately white and male. One could argue they were recreating what King wrote, but that’s not a good excuse considering creative license exists. And this story is about the apocalypse. You’re telling me all the survivors are mainly white people? No. Just no.

I also want to mention Abagail Freemantle. She is one of the most important characters in the story, perhaps one of King’s most notable ever. And Ruby Dee is amazing in this role. But Mother Abagail as a character is stereotypical towards Black women. (This trait is very common for several Black characters in King’s early works, including The Shining and The Green Mile.) As much as I love The Stand, this stereotype is an issue that is impossible to ignore. 

Then there are moments when things get very cheesy. Adam Storke’s acting sometimes leaves something to be desired (e.g. Larry’s reaction when The Monster Shouter tells him “he’s coming for you” looks like Storke just woke up from a nap and forgot he was in a television show). There are some small continuity errors you might catch if you watch very carefully, including the occasional camera in the window.

Oh, and there’s this:

The Verdict

I have some issues with the show, but I still fairly enjoy watching The Stand. There’s something a little bit comforting about the fact that we haven’t gotten as bad as King’s world. It is cheesy, yet also disturbing, action-packed, and exciting. You can watch this episode on YouTube; keep in mind a lot of the music is muted because of copyright (the death montage is completely silent because of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”).

“The Plague” get’s 3 out of 5 Cthulhu. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Until episode two, check out what else we’re watching here at Haunted MTL.

First image after cover photo from the graphic novel. All other photos from YouTube.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Target

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Episode two of Amazon Prime’s Fallout was equal parts funny and bloody. This almost always leads to a good time.

The story

We begin this episode with the birth of some puppies that look like they’ve had a rough start to life. Each one is weighed, with the ones who fall short being incinerated.

One pup who is just below the correct weight gets a bit of a thumb on their scale. The scientist weighing them, Wilzig, writes down the proper weight. He later takes the puppy home to raise instead of putting them into what looks like an unforgiving training program.

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Eventually, we see Wilzig put some blue glowing thing into his neck. When a soldier comes for him, Dog attacks the soldier, and the two escape.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

We go from there to the wilderness, where Lucy is recovering from the last episode and enjoying a campfire at night. Wilzig and Dog come out of the shadows, saving Lucy from a bug monster. Wilzig tells Lucy she should go home. And if she’s not going to go home, she needs to evolve.

The next day Lucy finds her way to a town called Filly. As a Pennsylvanian, it hurts me to spell it that way. Lucy is entranced by this town, though clearly put off by the fact that no one is very nice here.

She eventually finds her way to a shop run by a delightful woman named Ma June. Ma doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping Lucy. Or, frankly, having Lucy in her shop.

Or in her town.

Eventually, Wilzig is tracked to this same shop, being tracked by The Ghoul. This is our final primary character. Lucy defends Wilzig, being aided at the last moment by Maximus.

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Maximus, by the way, has been having a terrible time. After finally becoming a squire he’s disappointed to find that his knight, Knight Titus, is a terrible person.

Fortunately, Maximus doesn’t have to put up with Titus for long. After Titus gets the bright idea to go hunting, he’s attacked by a mutated bear. Maximus freezes, unable to save him. Then, well, he decides not to save him.

It was Titus’s idea to go hunt the bear, after all.

What worked

Walton Goggins in Fallout.

The first thing I want to draw attention to is the shootout scene at Filly. This scene checked every box a fight scene should check. It was fun to watch, with great effects. But it also gave us insight into the characters. Lucy is a decent fighter and has a strong moral compass. The Ghoul is callus and desensitized to death. And Maximus continues to be, well, sort of bad at this whole fighting thing. But with enough moral fortitude that we have a hard time blaming him.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dog. Who’s name, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is just Dog. Which is fine. He doesn’t need to have a name to be a very good boy. He’s sweet, loyal, and fearless.

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Also, puppies. Puppies are always great.

Finally, I’d like to shine a spotlight on Lucy’s reaction to the world at large. She is both amazed and terrified by everything. And while she certainly doesn’t want to be rude, she also doesn’t want to be taken advantage of. The best example of this is when she stops to ask for directions with a bright smile and a gun.

Once again, I don’t have anything bad to say about this episode. It was funny, dark, and fun to watch. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Fallout, The End

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Launching with worldwide excitement, Fallout is based on the extremely popular game series of the same name. Fans of the series have waited with anticipation and trepidation to see if the Prime series would live up to the game.

Having now watched the first episode I can say that, so far, it’s successful.

The story

Our story begins with a children’s birthday party. A performer is there with his daughter, giving horse rides and taking pictures with the kids.

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As much as the adults try to focus on the party and the kids, it’s impossible to ignore the looming threat of war that’s on everyone’s mind.

Of course, it’s during this party that war comes, and the bombs drop.

We then cut to after the war and into one of the vaults established to protect humankind and the American Way. For future reference, this is Vault 33. We meet Lucy, our first main character, who’s petitioning to be married to a man from Vault 32 to ensure DNA diversity.

On the wedding night, though, Lucy and the rest of Vault 33 are met with a horrible surprise. The group they let in is not in fact from Vault 32, but is instead a team of raiders from the surface. The raiders kill a lot of the vault dwellers and kidnap Lucy’s father.

We are then introduced to our second main character, Maximus. He is in training to become a Knight in the Brotherhood of Steel. And, well, he’s not doing great.

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Things get worse when his best friend Dane becomes a squire before him. But when Dane is hurt, Maximus gets their spot.

Aaron Moten in Fallout.

We then go back to Lucy, who has decided to leave the vault and find her dad. Of course, the council of her vault doesn’t want her to go. So she is aided by her brother Norm and cousin Chet in a wild escape.

What worked

The first thing that deserves attention is the exceptional character work. Our three main characters are fleshed out and relatable right away. We feel sympathetic for The Ghoul before he’s even introduced as such. We love Lucy’s nativity and selflessness. And we love Maximus for his honesty and passion for his cause.

While these characters are their own people, they also exhibit the three responses we might expect to see in a post-apocalyptic world. We have the hopeful optimist who doesn’t understand how bad things are. We have the aspiring hero who wants to make the world better by force. And we have the self-serving individual who’s given up on the rest of humanity and is only focused on surviving.

Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was the balance of humor and gore. Because there was certainly enough blood and guts for even the most hardcore horror lover. We had a violent sabotage, a brawl with raiders, and even several nuclear bombs.

But there were a lot of funny moments as well. Usually from Lucy. Her overall goodwill and fearless gumption are absolutely hilarious, especially given the horrors she’s facing. It never ceases to amuse me.

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Ella Purnell in Fallout

Both of these aspects are done perfectly. The jokes land and the bloody scenes pull no punches. It was delightful.

All in all, this was an exciting start to a much-anticipated series. Here’s hoping they’re able to stick the landing.

For more tv shows based on video games, check out my review of Witcher. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Ave Hestia

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Episode seven of American Horror Story Delicate was a classic AHS flashback episode. If you were excited to see what Preecher had to say to Anna at the end of the last episode, I’m sorry to say that you will not get that satisfaction. However, we did learn all sorts of other fascinating things about the strange coven hunting Anna. And, we learned all sorts of things we didn’t know about Dex’s first wife, Adeline.

The story

We begin our story with a woman giving birth alone in a barn. When it becomes clear that she’s not going to be able to deliver vaginally, she pulls out a knife and cuts her stomach open to pull out her children.

For whatever reason, this is when the coven of witches decides to make themselves known.

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Ashlie Atkinson in American Horror Story.

We then cut to 2013, when Dex was still married to Adeline. In true Dex fashion, he’s surprised her with a puppy.

While that sounds great in theory, dogs are something a couple should talk about, not gift each other with as a surprise. An adult would know that. A trust fund boy like Dex does not.

Adeline owns a vegan restaurant called Ave Hestia. Love that name. She seems to be living a great life. She has a career she’s passionate about, friends who love her, and a husband she seems kind of fond of.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t want a puppy. She already had one.

Of course, things aren’t as good as they appear. We soon find out that Adeline was one of those babies we saw at the start of the episode. The other baby was Sonia, the painter.

Annabelle Dexter-Jones in American Horror Story.

And yes, both of these characters are played by Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

Adeline has stepped away from their family, and whatever dark things they do. But the family isn’t happy with her decision. And if she isn’t going to come back willingly, they’re going to make her.

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What worked

To start with, I loved the character, Adeline. She is fierce, she is fearless, and relentless. I feel like this would have been a far different story if Adeline had been our main character. It was astounding to see her interact with the same people Anna has, and get a completely different response. It’s clear now, how much everyone around Anna resents her for simply not being Adeline.

I also appreciated that there was just a shocking amount of blood in this episode. From the start when Adeline and Sonia are born, to the climactic end of Adeline, this episode is just drenched in blood.

Finally, I’m fascinated by the changes in this season from the book it’s based on. Because absolutely none of this was in the book. Compared to this, the book is heartwarming.

The book is kind of heartwarming even without the comparison.

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But I love the fact that, even with just two episodes left in the season, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I do not know what Anna is carrying. I do not know if she’s going to survive this. I do not know what these people want with her.

But I can’t wait to find out.

What didn’t work

All that being said, it is a bit frustrating to have no forward momentum in this episode. This was all backstory, and it felt like there wasn’t enough backstory to fill a full forty minutes. Because of that, it dragged. There were a lot of scenes that just didn’t need to be as long as they were. It felt like they could have cut that down considerably, and had some time to check in with our main characters at either the start or the end of the episode.

There are only two episodes left in the season, and I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen. But so far the story has been dark, bloody, and provocative. So I hope they can manage to end it on a high note.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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