Ginger Nuts of Horror
but for some stupid reason he’s swinging a pissing sabre about.
You know that feeling when you go to see a film, and you’re all full of anticipation because you loved the book? And then you get there, and the film is so disappointing that it makes you want to gouge out your own eyes, because you can’t stand to watch it any more? But you carry on watching it, choking back tears along with mouthfuls of popcorn, because you’re waiting in hope for that one great character you love, to appear at any second? But what if that character doesn’t come? What if the film massacres that great character even worse than the story itself? What if we’re just left hanging?
In a particular order, a countdown if you will, from 3 to 1, here are my personal, most disappointing screen adaptations of great characters of all time.
3) JACK TORRANCE
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) is a hugely popular horror movie based on the novel of the same name by none other than the master of horror, Stephen King. The film is home to many recognizable quotes; cue ‘here’s Johnny!’ and ‘I’m not gonna hurt ya, I’m just gonna bash your brains in!’
It also contains amazing, horrific imagery, a la the elevators spilling blood, and that gross, rotting woman who Jack unknowingly gropes in that creepy room. It’s pretty scary (come on, those twins.. I mean, the twins alone!), and Jack Nicholson successfully portrays a mad man on the edge. However, I do have a few gripes…
The original book version of Jack descends into madness, losing all sense of self and priority. The hotel becomes more important than his family, infecting him and driving him to his death. The main difference, to paraphrase the King, is that the book ends in fire but the film ends in ice. There’s no descent you see, for the film version of Jack… no descent into violence at all, because he already starts off that way.
Book Jack has the potential to go all killer, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a struggle there, an internal battle of right vs. wrong, and he loves his family, he really does. Despite his mistakes and his issues, he does love Wendy and Danny. Film Jack doesn’t seem to like them at all, right from the get go. During the opening scenes of the movie we see him travelling to the Overlook Hotel, being all snippy with them in the car. In fact, he’s constantly snippy and sarcastic to Wendy, even when she’s not being annoying. He seems to have absolutely no relationship with Danny whatsoever, until he wants to axe him to death, and in general, he just seems like a bad guy. If the book didn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t complain at all about film version Jack… as far as monsters go, he’s a good ‘un, but when we’re comparing him to the one on the page, his character arc falls flat. Call me crazy, but personally, I find the book version much scarier, because a loving husband and father suddenly going all psycho on their asses shits me up more than a psycho who.. well, goes psycho.
2) ANAKIN SKYWALKER
Now, I realise that technically speaking, Anakin isn’t a horror character. Technically. But hear me out, he is truly horrifying, I assure you. And here’s why….
For a start, you can’t help but compare him to Luke Skywalker, since Luke is the protagonist in the original trio, and Anakin is the protagonist in episodes 1, 2, and 3. Apparently. Since we can’t help but compare, let’s do it shall we? Luke is perhaps the most well rounded protagonist ever written, with a practically flawless arc and one of the most exciting ‘heroes journeys’ ever constructed. He’s brave, but unsure of himself at first, loyal, and generally an awesome guy. Anakin, on the other hand, the guy who spawned such a legend, is.. well.. what is he? Moody. A dick. A moody dick.
There’s all this talk of Anakin and Obi Wan Kenobi once being great friends… and yet, where is this friendship? We don’t get to see it, other than a brief conversation between the two of them in a lift about some cool bonding moments. Why didn’t we get to see the cool bonding moments instead of all those council meetings?! Anakin’s meant to be this great Jedi, and yet he’s unbelievably easy to manipulate. I mean, come on, the Emperor is clearly evil but ooohhh noooo, Anakin doesn’t notice. He’s easier to corrupt than a Microsoft operating system. Why doesn’t he trust Obi Wan? Since when has Obi Wan steered him wrong? If the guy was his best friend and his most loyal acquaintance then why, for the love of the force, does he not shut up and listen?
Apparently, his fear of losing Padme is what eventually flips him to the dark side, but for some inexplicable reason he’s got no problem with choke holding his beloved, even though he knows she’s pregnant. Nice. And, before that, before they even get married, he massacres a village because of the death of his mother. And what would be considered in real society, racism, to be honest. Even the kids got the burny end of the light sabre. And Padme doesn’t bat an eyelid about it, so clearly she’s not bothered about his homicidal tendencies. She really should have seen it coming when he went all ‘seriously moody face’.
The descent from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader should have been the most epic story ever told on screen, but like Jack Torrance, there’s no descent. He’s a bit of a dick as a kid, a total dick as a young adult, and then kind of a pussy when he finally goes all Darth. How disappointing. How very, utterly, cruelly, disappointing. So disappointing that sometimes I wonder if that trio of films was actually a joke.
And another thing – why in the hell does The Emperor carrying a light saber, when all you hear from him in the original trio is how the light saber is a ‘Jedi’ weapon. He’s powerful enough to just zap someone to death with his lightning hands, but for some stupid reason he’s swinging a pissing sabre about. I’m sorry. I have a lot of problems with those films. Anyway… moving on swiftly back to the point!
1) BEN CORTMAN
Those who haven’t read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend won’t even be familiar with this character because HE DOESN’T EVEN APPEAR IN THE FILM. Now, for the purpose of this list, we’re going to ignore the previous screen imaginings of the book (The Last Man on Earth, directed by Ubaldo Ragona in 1964 and The Omega Man, directed by Boris Sagal in 1971) and just focus on the most recent I Am Legend, directed by Francis Lawrence in 2007.
For those of you who don’t know, I Am Legend is the story of the last living human, Robert Neville, on earth. By night, he barricades himself in his house, which he has turned into a vampire-proof fortress. By day, he goes about, collecting supplies and staking vampires. Notice how I said vampires twice there? Vampires. Not weird, CGI zombies. I effing love zombies, but I was outraged as I sat there in the cinema watching what can only be described as a metaphorical bloodbath, with my favourite book ending up as the victim stabbed to death and slumped against the shower wall.
Ben Cortman is Robert Neville’s friend before the vampire apocalypse, and becomes his nemesis afterwards. He’s constantly turning up and harassing the poor guy, yelling ‘come out Neville!’ and generally being a bit of a shit. He’s a fleshed out character that provides much of the conflict for Neville, and adds dimensions to the story. The film.. just… it… argh. I don’t even… honestly guys; I can’t tell you if you’ve not read the book, the sheer devastation. I’m sitting there, just waiting for the inter-species rivalry and power play to begin, only to discover that instead of Ben they’ve just got this crappy, animated ‘leader’ of the rubbish zombies. I mean, they’re not even good zombies. It’s just. A word, that has yet to be invented, but they are one, and a total one at that.
There you have it folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed my rant… I mean, article. I’d love to know what disappointed you guys the most, so please leave a comment and we’ll have a good old whine about how unfair it all is.