Humble yourselves, yo: "Stephen King's Storm of the Century"
Spoilers ahead: "Stephen King's Storm of the Century." I swear, I'm returning it to the video store today, so go nuts on it if you haven't already.
I first watched "Stephen King's Storm of the Century," ironically enough, in the middle of a blizzard. I was living up on Mount Desert Island, and somehow trudged out to acquire the VHS cassettes from the Jesup Memorial Library before the worst of it hit. Of course, then I was effectively snowed in with an avatar of the horrormeister himself, and didn't that make for an interesting day or two, thinking every knock at the door (all one or two of them) might be Andre Linoge.
My husband and I recently rewatched the movie — Stephen King's only standalone screenplay, as far as I know. It was a fascinatingly different experience this time around, dissecting the film rather than passively allowing it to unfold.
I'm going to skip right over those horrific accents and head straight for the plot. King perfectly encapsulated the feeling of loneliness on a stormy island in Maine (having gotten myself lost on North Haven one night in my adolescence, I feel like I can speak to that point pretty convincingly). The adults progressively panic and circle the wagons tighter and tighter, but it does no good against King's supernatural Linoge, an old man with the creepy face of Colm Feore, who carries that creepy self-animate wolf's head cane. Which, if you've forgotten, also possesses the power of flight.
What fascinated me most is how the story — all 260ish minutes of it — is really quite straightforward. Linoge keeps repeating the phrase "give me what I want and I'll go away," but no one seems too keen on finding out what that is until multiple corpses later. What if he just wanted a really spiffy boutonniere for that wolf's head cane? I don't know ... it has independent mobility, maybe he's taking it to the creeper prom.
The thing that really captured my attention, though, was the children. One of my central theories about film is that children are representatives of nature; however the film treats nature is how the children themselves are viewed. Is nature scary? Then so are the children. Is nature all mother-y and nurturing? Then we're dealing with angelic/ prophetic children.
King always seems to fall on the side of the children themselves. Who else would have taken the time to show things from their perspective ("It's a doggie!"), reminding us that they have inscrutable intentions all their own. Children can be manipulated by adults, King is saying with this piece, but are not themselves evil.
Linoge walks like a man and talks (sorta) like a man, but his slightly odd affect tips us off to the fact that he's an Other — in this case, a representative if not of nature, then of the world. He's far older than humans, and somehow his powers will similarly prolong the life of whatever human child goes with him. He's a thing out of time, and despite his frightening affect and approach, he has a fairly sympathetic motive: the desire to be a parent. Mostly just to carry on his creepy work, according to the plot, but in personal interactions he seems very sensitive to the kids.
Our "hero" Mike Anderson is the only one to really protest against Linoge's diabolical game, and thus, of course, it's his child that's sacrificed to the monster, so to speak. Really, though, didn't we know Ralphie was going to be the chosen one all along, especially after that creepy moment in the closet (thanks again for the grey hairs, Mr. King)?
Ultimately, this isn't a story about triumphing over your fatal flaw as it is being humbled by the world itself. Anderson's journey is from one of relative comfort, a life in which he only cheated on a single test, to complete and abject ruin. Why did he deserve such appalling treatment? Because he's our Everyman, and King is saying that each of us can be similarly brought low if the circumstances are right.
That's the best aspect of horror, even when it isn't perfectly executed. It reminds you that although you may be safe in your house, danger is always ravening at the gate. This is how a "fringe" genre actually touches our most primal fear: that of being deprived, particularly, in this case, of a legacy, and peace of mind. After watching such a tale of woe, we can't help but gathering our loved ones (read: cats) closer to us to wait out the dark, seemingly interminable nights of Maine winters.
Courier Publications reporter Bane Okholm received her M.F.A. in Screenwriting from U.C.L.A. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @MediaHeathen.