My memory sucks, so I keep notes as I’m reading when things come up that I want to make sure I mention. This is especially important when I’m reading longer books since it takes me a while to get through them and I’d surly forget anything that I wanted to mention from the beginning of the book. It’s also important when reading short stories, since by the time I’m sitting down to blog I’ve read so many of them that it’s hard for me to even remember which ones I’m writing about, let a long any of the little things I wanted to say about them.
That being said, taking notes does absolutely no good if I forget to look at them when I’m sitting down to write my posts…….
Needless to say, as I was writing down some notes for one of the stories I’ll be talking about today, I noticed I had a note for Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut that I completely forgot about. And, of course, I forgot completely about what it was I left myself a note to talk about (thus proving that I do need to be making notes). Anyway, all I was going to say is that it’s another “Castle Rock” story and it even makes mention of Joe Camber (from Cujo). See, nothing really important, but still something I wanted to mention.
Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can get to the new stuff. I’ve actually finished Skeleton Crew, so this post will have the rest of the stories from it, then my thoughts on the collection as a whole, then my little blurb summaries that I wanted to do.
As always: Spoilers Ahead!
I remember really enjoying this story the first time I read it. And I mostly enjoyed it this time I read it too. It’s about a bunch of kids who swim out to a raft in the middle of a lake and then all get eaten by some weird organism that looks like an oil slick. Unfortunately, this story was included as a segment in Creepshow 2, and they did such a horrible job with it that it has sort of sullied my fondness for it and I don’t want to talk about it much. I still enjoyed the story, but I just keep thinking about the movie version and it makes me mad….. But, I suppose I should give you a quick rundown of the story, since they made some pretty big changes in the film version. And, since those changes are what make me mad and will be what I want to talk about there, I’d better let you know how the story did it.
Randy, Deke, LaVerne, and Rachel decide to celebrate the end of summer by swimming out to an old raft that Randy and Deke know about in the middle of lake. While swimming out there, Randy notices what looks like a strange oil slick floating in the lake. Once he gets to the raft, he sees that it appears to be heading towards the girls so he yells at them to hurry up. Once everyone gets safely aboard the raft, they give Randy a hard time for freaking out so badly. Until Rachel looks at the spot, gets semi-hypnotized, touches it, and gets pulled into the water and eaten by it. Then they stop giving Randy a hard time. They discuss making a swim for shore, but the spot moves very quickly and they realize they would never make it. After a while the spot moves and makes its way underneath the raft. At this point Deke decides to make a break for shore to go get help (because no one knows they are there so they can’t just wait). But, while running to the edge of the raft, Deke steps on one of the gaps between the boards and the spot oozes up and grabs him and proceeds to suck him down through the crack. This is, of course, described in all its gross gory details (thanks for that imagery Mr. King). Overcome with the shock of what’s happening it only occurs to Randy much later that he and LaVerne could have used this time to get away… Oh hindsight. At this point, Randy realizes that they have to avoid the cracks when spot is under the raft. Fortunately the spot goes back out into the lake and they are able to take turns keeping an eye on it. One standing watch, the other sitting and resting. As it gets later, LaVerne starts to get tired and doesn’t want to stand anymore. Randy then realizes that as long as they keep an eye on the spot, they can both sit down. Which they do. Really close to each other. And of course, it’s cold out. And their college students. So they start holding each other to keep warm…. Can you figure out where this is going? If you can’t then you haven’t watched enough horror movies….. Yeah, they start making out and then start to have sex…. Of course, LaVerne gets worried when Randy lays her down on the raft, but Randy assures her he can still see the spot. Well, he could if he wasn’t distracted….. Because he stops paying attention to it and the next thing he realizes is that LaVerne’s hair is in the water and that the spot is now sucking her into the lake. Whoops? When will those crazy college kids learn?? Anyway, after watching LaVerne get eaten, Randy gives up hope. He starts to wonder if the hypnotizing affect would help make it so he wouldn’t feel the pain…. So he stares at the spot and lets himself fall in…..
Well, I’m glad I did decide to tell you the story, because it reminded me just how much I did enjoy it as a story. And how much I was looking forward to seeing the film version. And how if they had done the story right, it could have been pretty good. Alas….. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
And that’s brings us to a brief interlude to discuss the movie
Creepshow 2 (1987)
Much like the original Creepshow this is a collection of shorter stories strung together with another brief story happening in-between. Unlike the first one, it’s not just a kid reading a comic book. Also, the in-between segments are animated, which is annoying (well, not completely animated, the movie starts with real actors then transitions into animation, then at the very end transitions back to real actors, all in all it’s quite dumb). The actually stories themselves aren’t animated, so I guess that’s something, though none of them are really very good. Only The Raft is based off of a previously published story, the other two are ones that King either wrote specifically for the movie, or just had never had the story published before (and still hasn’t that I know of).
Old Chief Wood’nhead
This title always reminds me of Pinocchio, because “little woodenhead” is what Geppetto always called him at the beginning. He even had a dumb little song he sang that gets stuck in my head when I think of it. Grrrr.
This story was probably the most enjoyable of the three, which isn’t really saying all that much. The acting is pretty sub-standard. And it moves pretty slow. And it’s not really all that engaging. I almost don’t even want to go through the trouble of explain the plot to you as it really is pretty lackluster….
Ray and Martha Spruce run a general store in some old dying western type town. Ray has an old wooden Indian statue that he keeps out in front of his store. He is visited by the chief of the local Indian tribe who gives him the tribe’s most valuable treasure to hold as collateral against the debt the tribe apparently owes Ray. That night Ray’s store is robbed by the chief’s nephew and two accomplices with plans to move to Hollywood (where the nephew is sure he will become famous because of his amazing hair). Ray and his wife are killed and the buglers get away with the store’s money and the tribe jewelry. At this point, the predictable happens. The statue comes to life and hunts down the three buglers and kills them. The story ends with the chief showing back up to the store to find the statue holding his nephews scalp. This is supposed to be “shocking” and also funny (because that’s what Indians do, right??? They scalp people…. And because he was going to “make it” in Hollywood because of his hair, double joke).
So, you can see, there isn’t much to it. Combine that with poor acting and you’ve got a pretty dull 20 minutes. And remember, this was the best of the three…..
Ok, so, for the most part, they got things right. And if it weren’t for the fact that the acting was atrocious, I could have enjoyed this story pretty well. But, they had to go and change it. And the change they made was just so dumb, so pointless, so angering that it really ruins the whole thing.
What could they have possibly done? Well, they turned Randy into a rapist. Yep, you read that right, a rapist.
Let me explain.
Everything is following the story pretty good up through the part were Deke gets sucked though the raft. They did change something here, but I think it makes it more believable. In the movie when Deke gets sucked through, he gets pulled through and it creates a big hole in the raft when he gets pulled though. You know, like what you would expect if you tried to pull a grown man though the slot between two boards in a raft. However, when I read the story, I sure got the image that King was describing it as if he got sucked and squeezed through the slats without any damage being done to the raft….. Maybe I read it wrong, but that’s sure the image I got. And trust me; it makes for a pretty gross image that I was not looking forward to seeing on screen….. So part of me is glad they changed it…. But also…….. No, no, NO! I’m glad they changed it…..
Anyway, that’s where the film starts to deviate. At this point, Randy and LaVerne sit down together to keep an eye on the spot, but they fall asleep in each other’s arms. Sometime later, Randy awakes with a jerk and looks around frantically. When he sees the spot is still out in the lake, he relaxes…. Then he notices that LaVerne is still sleeping in his arms. So he pulls up her shirt and starts fondling her breasts…. While she’s still sleeping. Then he lays her down and starts to pull her pants off too…. That’s when she starts to stir, so he pulls her shirt back down. Of course she’s stirring because the spot is now sucking her into the water….
So, yeah. That whole scene just made me angry and honestly a little sick. It was uncomfortable to watch. And there really was no need for it. I don’t see the purpose. It was mostly just an excuse for them to flash some boobs anyway…. Which just made it extra upsetting too. But just having it so…… Gross… just made it extra worse. I don’t appreciate nudity on film in any form, but if they had at least stuck to the story the way it was writing, they could have gotten there “gratuitous boob shoot” in and not had it be all creepy and rapey. I could have just looked away and been ok. But this, it was just…… wrong and put a sour taste in my mouth.
Anyway, they also changed the ending. After LaVerne gets eaten Randy makes a break for the shore. And he makes it, barely. As he crawls up onto the beach he turns to the spot and yells at it “I beat you”. At which point the spot turns into a wave, washes up over Randy, and drags him back into the lake. Then the camera pans over into the bushes off to the side of the lake where there is a “No swimming” sign. Oh geeze.
This is the last story in the movie, and it’s also the most ridiculous and over the top. And had I not still had the sour taste in my mouth from The Raft, I might have enjoyed it a little more.
Annie is having an affair and she wakes up late and is in a hurry to get home so her husband won’t find out. In her attempt to hurry, she doesn’t see a hitch-hiker and runs him over. She keeps going and after a while determines that she is safe and that no one saw her. After a while, the hitch-hiker shows up again. The rest of the story involves Annie constantly being bombarded and attacked by the dead hitch-hiker. The best part is that, while this is happening, the hitch-hiker keeps yelling at her “Thanks for the ride, Lady. Thanks for the ride.”
That’s pretty much the story. She thinks she’ll get away. Then he’ll pop up from somewhere else saying “Thanks for the ride, Lady”.
Yeah, so, while I wouldn’t ever watch Creepshow again, I definitely wouldn’t even recommend anyone watch Creepshow 2 at all. Heck, I’d even be willing to watch Creepshow again after seeing what a mess number 2 was. Yeah, if you’ve seen it, I’m sorry. If you haven’t, don’t.
Let’s get back to the good stuff now, shall we?
Word Processor of the Gods
This is a fun little story about a man who receives a word processor from his nephew. A home built word processor at that. The catch is, anytime he writes something on the screen, the word processor makes it happen. That is, if he writes something and hits “insert” the item will appear. If he presses “delete”, the item will disappear. As you can imagine, this creates some very, very interesting options. Especially for a man who is not happy with his wife and son…..
This story was also made into an episode of Tales from the Darkside
Tales from the Darkside – Word Processor of the Gods (1984)
While the episode pretty much followed the story perfectly, it is also what you would expect from a low-budget, Twilight Zone wannabe, 80s television show. Frankly, not all that great. Mostly stemming from the lack of budget and the “oldness” of it. Oh well, it wasn’t torturous to watch or anything like that.
The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands
This is another story within a story, but this one is much more like The Breathing Method than Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut was, because it actually takes place in the same club. Yep, the same story telling club, which is pretty cool. Even the same butler is featured. I’m guessing King just enjoyed that method of storytelling and decided to revisit it. And I think it works well, because some stories are just better when they are actually being told to you by someone, instead of a faceless narrator. This way you get to feel like you are actually there, in the club, listening to the story being told to you. And that is fun.
The story itself is really pretty simple, and I won’t tell you too much about it so I don’t ruin anything. If you read the title that will pretty much let you know what the story is about anyway.
This is a story about two astronauts who get stranded on a planet completely covered in sand. And it just so happens that the sand seems to be alive. It’s a fun little read, but one thing has always bugged me about it.
Landing on a planet that is essentially a huge sand dune makes one of the astronauts think about the Beach Boys, which is fine. However, near the end the story drops in a quote that is a reference to the song “Surf City”, which I have always believed to be performed by Jan & Dean, not The Beach Boys. So that has always bothered me 🙂
(Note: I decided to look up the song so I could have all my facts straight. Turns out the song was co-written by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. And, while the recorded version that I would have always listened to was in fact Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys did used to sing a cover of it at some of their concerts. So I guess I can accept this and stop being bothered so much).
The Reaper’s Image
Just a short little story about a mirror. Not much here, except that some people seem to see the image of the Grimm Reaper in the mirror. And then they die. Oh shoot, spoiler alert…… Only not really. That’s not a big secret because that’s the whole point of the story.
It’s a fun read with an all but predictable ending that tries to remain somewhat mysterious but really isn’t.
I am looking at my notes right now as I write this because this is another Castle Rock story. At least, some of it takes place near Castle Rock and one of the main characters grew up in Castle Rock and was even bullied by Ace Merrill (from The Body). Vern Tessio (also from The Body is also mentioned at one point).
This story is told first person by a young man whose name we never learn. He tells us about a night he was hitch-hiking and met up with a young lady named Nona whom he falls in love with. He even goes so far as to commit murder for her.
It’s a weird story for sure.
This is a sort poem that King wrote for his son Owen (thus the name). The poem is about a man walking his son to school and the son tells him about a school inhabited by fruit and what goes on there.
The story that went too far.
Seriously, King even admits that he crossed a line with this story. In fact, the story is mentioned in a foot note of Danse Macabre where King mentions toying around with an idea, but not sure if he would actually go through with it. Clearly he did as the story ended up being published. But in the forward to the book he clearly states that this story even makes him cringe.
So, that being said, I feel like in order to accurately talk about this story, I have to give you the synopsis. So here we go.
Richard Pine is former surgeon who was on a cruise line smuggling heroin when the ship sinks and he winds up on a very, very small deserted island that is really not much more than a beach and a pile of rocks. There is no vegetation at all. The story itself is excerpts from a diary that Pine starts to write while on the island. Through the course of the entries we learn why Pine is a “former” surgeon and what led to him being trapped on the island.
But that’s not the exciting part.
What happens while he is on the island is. At first he is able to sustain himself by killing seagulls, which he has to eat raw because he has no means of starting a fire. One day he trips on some rocks and snaps his ankle. At this point he is in trouble because it’s a bad break and could get infected and cause some major issues if it doesn’t heal properly. In fact, to ensure his survival, the best course of action is really to amputate the foot… Good thing he’s a surgeon right? Oh yeah, and good thing he’s smuggling a huge supply of drugs that he can use for pain killer. Right, so he decides to amputate and that actually goes well. Of course, now he can’t hunt birds anymore…… but…. He does have a nice….. meaty……foot…….
Which he points out that he made sure to wash very thoroughly before eating…..
At this point the entries start to become a little more eccentric. Partly because he didn’t stop using the heroin after his surgery, partly from blood loss, and partly because he is getting hungrier and hungrier. And then he decides that, since the first foot amputation went so well, there is no reason not to do the other one…. After all, he won’t need it if he starves to death.
The story continues with him amputating more and more of his legs to survive until he can’t go any higher because he wouldn’t be able to prevent too much blood loss (darn that femoral artery).
As the entries get more and more eccentric, the story ends with him deciding to eat one of his hands…
So, too far? Yeah, probably. Self-cannibalism is pretty out there. And there is even one part where he is so hungry that he starts drooling while he is performing the amputation. Yeah….. Too far.
And yet….. It’s one of my more favorite stores from the collection….
Uncle Otto’s Truck
Just a nice simple story about an old man who thinks his broken down truck wants to kill him.
I’ll let you try and figure out how the story ends 🙂
Most of this story is back story and history on Uncle Otto (the story is told by his nephew) and how he got the truck and the history and everything. It’s a fun read, but nothing really all that fantastic.
Oh, and Castle Rock is mentioned. As well as Billy Dodd, who is referred to as “Crazy Frank’s father” (Frank Dodd is the killer from the first half of The Dead Zone).
Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1)
This is a weird one. It starts off seemingly to be about a milkman making his morning deliveries. But then he starts making weird comments about leaving spiders. And cyanide. And other strange things. And when the story ends you aren’t really sure if the milkman is a homicidal maniac….. Or just maybe a simpleminded guy who imagines weird stuff.
My guess is that he’s supposed to be a homicidal maniac…. Especially based of the next story.
But, hey, if it’s not spelled out, it’s open to interpretation right? So you never can tell.
Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2)
This story, despite the name similarities, doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the other one. Except that the name of the main character, Rocky, is mentioned at the end of Milkman #1, and we do find out later it’s the same Rocky, so they are related, it just doesn’t appear that way, mostly because the stories are quite different.
In this story, Rocky has to get his car inspected before his current inspection expires. He and Leo are out driving and looking for a place they can get his car, which is not in any shape to pass an inspection, looked at. They just so happen to find an old buddy of Rocky’s that they convince to inspect the car. They do this by getting him drunk (which they already are). It’s a weird story to be sure. And it ends with the milkman from the previous story stalking them down and killing them. Or at least, that’s the implications.
This story was weird. And without the ambiguity of the previous one it isn’t all the interesting. If anything it’s just annoying following these characters that continue to get more and more drunk.
Apparently, both stories were adapted from an unfinished novel that was going to be called The Milkman. I’m not sure on much of the details, but perhaps King had a problem developing the story into a full-fledged novel.
This is an uninteresting story about a boy who has to say at home alone with his sick Gramma while his mom goes to the hospital to check on his older brother. Of course, the boy has always been slightly scared of his Gramma, so this makes the whole situation quite tense. Gramma passes away while he is alone with her, and that makes him even more nervous. Of course, the story gets a little interesting when we learn the back story and implications that Gramma just might be a witch. And of course, the suspicions are confirmed when Gramma comes back to life.
Oh, and there is mention of Henrietta Dodd…..Who is Frank Dodd’s mother.
All in all, the story reads about exciting as you would expect a story about an 11 year old boy staying home alone to read. It’s ok. Nothing great.
So of course they would turn it into an episode of The New Twilight Zone……
The New Twilight Zone – Gramma (1986)
I’ve only ever watched a few episodes of the original Twilight Zone, but I’ve enjoyed the ones I have. However, if this particular episode is any indication of the caliber of the “new” one, then I’ll probably avoid it.
It was not very good.
First of all, the story is about an 11 year old boy, so you’ve got to deal with kid acting. Second, he’s home alone, so he doesn’t talk much, so you have to deal with “voice over kid acting” so we can hear his thoughts. Lastly, the story had to be condensed way too much to make any sense in a 20 minute setting. Even though there isn’t much to the story, the back story parts are actually important to understanding the reveal at the end. But this episode tries to squish it all into a brief 3 minute dialogue that you hear in the boys thoughts as he is remember what people have said about Gramma in the past.
Basically, they had to rush too much to get everything in and it ends up not making any sense. Amanda had no clue what was going on and I had to explain things to her. Very bad.
That being said…… I’m not sure how they plan to make a full length movie out of it either, because it doesn’t seem like there is enough material for that. But they are. Mercy is scheduled for release sometime in 2014…. So you’ll have to wait until then for the review 🙂
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet
This is another story that is told as a story. Although not in the same club as The Breathing Method. Again, I feel that this method helps the story as you are hearing it told from someone else.
The main story is about a writer who is slowly slipping into insanity, and his editor who is slipping along with him. The editor is the one telling the story, so we know that he eventually makes it back to sanity.
It’s a fun story and a good read.
The only thing I really remembered about this story from the first time is that I didn’t really like it.
This time around….. My opinion didn’t really change.
It’s about an old woman, Stella, who is celebrating her 95th birthday. She lives on an island off the east coast and has never in her life crossed over to the main land. The story gives us some glimpses of her life on the island. Mostly it is about her getting increasingly sick and deciding to finally cross over to the mainland before she dies. The water has frozen over during a particularly cold winter, and she walks across. Her body is found the next morning.
Perhaps I just don’t get it, but I didn’t really find the story all that interesting at all.
And that’s Skeleton Crew. Over all, it’s a great collection. There are a few stories that are ho-hum. But there are some stories that are absolutely fantastic. I would definitely recommend you read through the whole thing.
I do find it interesting that the book starts with The Mist, which is one of my favorites, and ends with The Reach which is one of my least favorites. I find thing like that interesting.
Ok, so I told you I was going to do some story summary blurbs, like I did with the Creepshow comics because I had a fun time coming up with those. But as I sat down to write them up, I just wasn’t feeling it. I think it might be because the stories in Creepshow were all designed to be out there, so it didn’t matter. It might be because they were my way of coming up with summaries before talking about them. Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t get into these ones. I tried doing some of them, but they just didn’t feel as good. It could be that now that I’ve already discussed the stories I can’t get myself back into a frame of mind to summarize them this way. Whatever the reason, rather than give you a bunch of halfhearted stuff, I’d rather just not give you anything and apologize if I got your hopes up. So, sorry about that. If you are really, truly upset, let me know and maybe I’ll revisit these in a week or so and try again 🙂
And that brings me to what’s next….. IT!!!! I’m very, very excited for this one. IT is, to date, my favorite King novel, but I haven’t read it since my first read through 10 years ago, so I’m really looking forward to this.
That being said, I’m a little nervous as well that I’ve hyped it up so much in my head. I’m scared that maybe I’ll be disappointed on the next read though. I’m pretty confident this won’t happen, but I’m still a little bit scared.
So, I’ve decide to take a little break before I dive in. Amanda and I have been watching Sherlock, which is an amazing show and we love it, and I’ve gotten in the mood to read the original stories. I’ve got a complete collection of Sherlock Holmes on my bookshelf that I got in college and have never gotten around to reading, so I think that I’m going to read that before jumping in to IT. The main purpose is to give myself just a little King break. After all, I’ve been reading only King works for the last 2 and a half years, and I can tell that I’m starting to get just a little fatigued from it. So I think the break will do me good.
So, it may be a while before you hear from me again. My Sherlock collection is pretty long, and so is IT. I might check back in with you before starting IT, just so you’ll know I’m back on the journey. I haven’t decided whether or not to blog about other works or not. I’ve thought about that a little bit in the sense that when I do finish my King journey, I’d like to keep going. But I also want this blog to really be just about my journey with King specifically. So I’ve toyed with the idea of starting another one when I’m done with this one to continue the journey. But, while that make sense when this is done, I don’t necessarily want to start another one while I’m still in the middle of this one…. So if anyone has any thoughts, feel free to share them with me in the comments, I’m open to ideas and suggestions.
Lastly, before I sign off, the folks over at Flatliner Books (http://flatlinerbooks.wordpress.com/) recently featured me in one of their video post cards of blogs they have visited, so I thought it only right to give them a shout out as well. You can find the post here (http://flatlinerbooks.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/video-post-marks-for-s212-and-s31-4/), my blog shows up at about the 1:11 mark in the video. What’s interesting is that they actually stumbled upon one of my other blogs (my blog about the adventures of being a dad), but since this is my main blog, it’s the one that showed up on my signature when I comment on their blog that it was ok to feature me. So, I don’t even know if they’ve seen this blog or not, but they helped me advertise it. And really, that’s ok. This is the blog that I’d like the word to get out on anyway. Because the more the word gets out on this blog, the closer I come to having Stephen King himself find out about it 🙂
Thank you for reading.