Stephen King's The Stand

Starring: Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe and Molly Ringwald
Warner Home Video
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 05 April 2004

A breach in the main containment field at a government institute spells instant disaster. The gateman escapes with his family as the place is locked-down and everyone inside dies. Hours later the man drives into a gas station at Arnette and soon dies. The disease quickly spreads, and Blue Base, California sends in the army to quarantine the town, passing it off as a new strain of flu. But the disease spreads across the country leaving only one percent of the population alive and apparently immune. The survivors split into two factions: those who gather behind old Mother Abigail, and the cohorts of the evil, beast-like Randall Flagg. A final reckoning is at hand, and it could spell the end of the world...

Any people who have read my two previous reviews of Stephen King serials will know I am not a fan of his on the printed page. On screen, however, his wealth of good ideas often prove to materialise in good form. In this case though, The Stand miniseries suffers heavily from King Book Syndrome; it's simply far too long.

I pride myself that every release deserves at least one viewing in its entirety, but by the second disc I'd lost all interest and didn't really care if the human race survived or perished. At 345 minutes, this version of The Stand doesn't so much milk the concept as suck it dry. In my opinion, the only way to digest this without getting sudden urges to do the washing up is in 30 minute segments.

The two most important components in fiction are a strong plot and believable characters; unfortunately, this has neither. The characters are uncaring canon fodder and the plot strands, although admittedly present, are stretched so thin that they wouldn't take the weight of a tightrope-walking money spider.

Perhaps the problem is that King himself wrote the screenplay, adapted from his own novel. Director Mick Garris also handled Rose Red and The Shining in similar formats. The Shining worked as a miniseries, whereas this and Rose Red suffer extraordinarily long moments with nothing much happening.

Worth mentioning are the impressive make-up effects and the 5.1 sound quality, although only Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper and ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man saw it used to its potential.

This is described as a sci-fi thriller, but more closely fits the apocalyptic disaster movie format, with an added fantasy element courtesy of the representatives of good and evil and the dream sequences of the key characters.

For true die-hard fans of Stephen King this is undoubtedly value for money, with extras including a commentary by King, Garris and some of the actors, a making-of featurette, storyboard comparison, make-up effects and production notes - none of which are mentioned on the packaging.

Ty Power

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