One of Cusack’s most recent films was the Stephen King thriller, 1408. Cusack, a writer open to the belief of paranormal activity, yet never convinced, receives a postcard. This postcard piques his interest enough to fly across the country back to his previous home in New York City, despite its being filled with traumatic memories of losing his daughter to a terminal illness. Once he arrives in NYC to investigate the mysterious 1408 of The Dolphin Hotel suspense, shock, and tragedy ensue.
I don’t know how Stephen King is able to think up these “interesting” ideas. Honestly, who would come up with the idea that children and corn could be scary? Or the idea that being trapped in a car because a rabid dog awaits you? Who would think that murder spelled backwards would continually manage to creep out people for years upon years? Or what about his Creepshow shorts? Those are great. He continually amazes and frightens me with his innovation and creativity. He will keep me waiting for the day I can point out his predictability. Sometimes, I think his ability to continually produce new original work means he might be a bit deranged. What could have happened to the man to create such insane thoughts? What kind of process does he go through to foster his creativity? Maybe, I do not want to know.
However, his movies are not actually scary rather they are more suspenseful than anything. I suppose suspense can be scary. Whenever I think suspense I think waiting for an application decision or a job decision to fall through only to discover I will have no future. That is neither here nor there. So yes, they are scary up to a point.
There is a threshold that is reached in a Stephen King film where the viewer comes to accept the general circumstances of insanity, which enables the viewer to watch the film eyes wide open rather than partially covered with their hand. I don’t know how that happens. But, I noticed the phenomenon when I was watching 1408. In fact, I said it aloud to my friend who was sitting terrified behind her pillow in order to comfort her.
This set off the thought train. Stephen King must have a formula! Maybe he is predictable? Granted, I have not seen every Stephen King adaptation, I have only seen ten of King’s – I don’t know how many – films. I can only venture to guess that King’s films revolve around a general concept: The creepiness of the ordinary gradually perverting an obstensibly normal life. He manages to make beaches, dogs, hotels, cars, children, corn, fog, cabins, crates, proms, and a numberous other ordinary things pretty frightening. He doesn’t rely on alien invaders or the grotesque to frighten you. Instead, he induces one to reexamine ordinary things like a baby’s wail or a refrigerator. The “creep” factor of each the commonplace continues to build and compound on itself as one event leads to the perversion of the one before it. In 1408, a window closes unexpectly breaking Cusack’s hand getting blood everywhere. The suddenness with which the window falls on his hand is enough to prove the room is evil. Oh! But, we’re not done. He washes his hand off in the sink. Yet, the sink seems to have other plans releasing scalding hot water onto his hand forcing Cusack to spread blood on the shower curtains and fall around. These are mundane events gone extremely wrong. The juxtaposition of the ordinary and the “creepy” are what makes King’s films successful and appealing. Every day life is scary, according to Stephen King, not post-historical predators from outer space hunting down military special forces in jungles or deranged maniacs torturing their victims (Well, okay maybe the Saw movies are scary as hell). King delights in making you afraid of your own house.
His most recent film adaptation, The Mist is in theatres now. From what I can gather from the trailer, it is about a group of people trapped in a grocery store. Every time I venture into a grocery store, I always think this is the place I want to be if the apocalypse strikes. I will see the film in the next few days. See you there comrades.