Now I’ve never been a fan of Stephen King, mainly because I think the guy hasn’t ever had an original thought in his head, and secondly because I find his books are pretty boring. The guy tends to be ‘inspired’ a lot by other peoples work, and while I’m sure imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, when old Stephen does it, he tends to suck the life out of his object of affection in a way that is less of a compliment and more of a slap in the face.
Take The Shining – people love this book, rave about the film like it is the Godfather of the horror genre, but me, well I found it without tension, without scares, and unfortunately (in the film’s case) with Jack Nicholson, but Burnt Offerings, as one of the heavy influences for The Shining, is far superior both in written and celluloid form.
Burnt Offerings is the story of a the Rolf family (a married couple, their young son and elderly aunt) who rent a large old mansion for the summer at a suspiciously knock down price, from a pair of eccentric (the modern buzz word for all kinds of crazy) siblings. The condition of their agreement is that the couple must care for the pairs aging mother who is confined to her own apartment in the house, in the form of three square meals a day. With all of this sounding far too good to be true, they move right in, without a hint of foreboding, and so it is that another family earn their places in the Hall of Stupid Decisions.
The house, of course, is alive, and seems to become less run down as the family’s health and relationships deteriorate, and the creepiest smiling guy in the world haunts the already troubled husband (he’s Oliver Reed – he knows troubled) with a toothy grin that would leave you with little or no bejaysus if you were the focus of it (maybe stop off at the bejaysus store on the way home, and stock up. Just to be on the safe side.)
Based on the Robert Marasco book of the same name, the film version has a more satisfying ending than the open ended finale of it‘s source, but retains the intense, almost indulgent atmosphere of the book. With sterling performances from an almost sober looking Oliver Reed, Karen ’Mother Firefly’ Black and the legendary Bette Davis as Aunt Elizabeth, this will for me, always be a cleverly crafted horror classic, albeit tragically overlooked . A lot of the criticism directed at this film is that it’s a little slow, or heavy in dialogue, but with scenes like Reed attempting to murder his child in the swimming pool, or the house shedding it’s skin like a snake, are so iconic in their imagery and direction that I find it hard to believe that anyone could find it dull.
Each to their own I suppose.
Their own wrongness that is ..
So for those dreaming of a large mansion in the country, and a big car with a chauffeur to drive your Miss Daisy around, watch this little haunted house movie and tell me you’re not feeling a lot cosier in your bedsit, with the leaky taps and the damp problem.
Oh and if you’re a King fan that’s been offended by anything said in this blog, my condolences, but your lack of taste is really not my problem.