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Stephen King Mini Series Throwdown

Written by Josh Brewer, July 28st, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. Tweet to: @theJWBrewer

Stephen King Mini-Series Throwdown!

Long before the best goodies on TV fell into the mini-series category, Stephen King and a slew of collaborators took on the format and ran the gamut. Sure, we gave The Stand and It their own articles on the site, but these puppies vary so widely that a good old fashioned battle royal seemed the best way to handle it. 

The contenders:

The Langoliers (1995) Directed by Tom Holland with David Morse, Patricia Wettig, Dean Stockwell, and Mark Lindsay Chapman

Storm of the Century (1999) Directed by Craig R. Baxley with Timothy Daly, Colm Feore, Debrah Farentino, and Jeffrey DeMunn

Rose Red (2002) Directed by Craig R. Baxley with Nancy Travis, Matt Keeslar, Julian Sands, Kimberly J. Brown, Melanie Lynskey, and Matt Ross

Salem’s Lot (2004) Directed by Mikael Salomon with Rob Lowe, Andre Braugher, Donald Sutherland, Samantha Mathis, Rutger Hauer, Day Byrd, and James Cromwell

Bag of Bones (2011) Directed by Mick Garris with Pierce Brosnan, Annabeth Gish, Melissa George, Anika Noni Rose, and Caitlin Carmichael

The Lowdown

The Langoliers features a group of strangers who, while flying cross country, awaken to find the plane empty and the world below them in the dark. After landing the plane, they struggle to survive and figure out what has happened. Storm of the Century is set on Little Tall Island and focuses on the inhabitants trying to outlast a powerful blizzard. Unfortunately, the storm also brings a dangerous stranger to town who wants something that none of the townspeople are willing to give. 

Rose Red tells the pitiful tale of a college professor attempting to charge a haunted house with the psychic power of a number of individuals and the house’s attempt to fillet them all.  Salem’s Lot is a remake of an earlier mini-series, focused on how the town of Salem’s Lot is infested and destroyed by a vampire. A few of the residents try to overcome the evil, but find themselves more often at its mercy. And lastly, Bag of Bones deals with a writer trying to overcome the death of his wife and his fears that his wife cheated on him. In doing so, he’s drawn into a conflict between a divorced couple and the horrific history of his new home.

How About the Story?

While each of these puppies does something different, I can’t say they all have the same level of success. Rose Red features a solid story and constantly remains fun, though it never moves beyond that one note. You could say the same thing about Storm of the Century, though its ending works much better. The Langoliers works in the opposite way, starting with one hell of a bang and petering out as it moves along. Bag of Bones may be my favorite story here; alas, the execution doesn’t manage to live upto its potential. Salem’s Lot wins here, providing a number of fun twists and a ton of great moments. And the thought of the little dying town being so far off the map that it dies and no one notices rocks.                      Winner: Salem’s Lot, with Rose Red and Storm of the Century as runner-ups.


The Production?

All five of these puppies look like a million bucks, though again things can be a little hit or miss. Rose Red rocks as a big shiny vehicle while Salem’s Lot features a few really standout moments. Storm of the Century and Bag of Bones don’t have as many goodies- though the series don’t call for them- though everything they do looks solid. Langoliers again falls up short here, with the titular characters being almost laugh inducing. 

Winner: Rose Red and Salem’s Lot tie for the win with Bag of Bones in a distant third in this Mini-Series Throwdown.

What About Those Casts?

Salem’s Lot manages a few really great performances, though I can’t say that all of the supporting roles work as well. One actor reads lines off of cue cards during the finale, something that really doesn’t work. Rob Lowe rocks though. Bag of Bones features a few a-listers, though I’m not sure if they needed more rehearsal or what, because things seem a little muddy, even from the always solid Brosnan. Rose Red rocks a slew of solid performances, especially from folks that play really unlikable characters. Sure, Nancy Travis seems a little lost here or there, but overall, things don’t go poorly. And Kimberly J. Brown rocks her role, as does Julian Sands. The Langoliers and Storm of the Century both rock solid ensembles, with Colm Feore in story being particularly terrifying.

Winner: This is a toss up, but I’m saying Salem’s Lot and Rose Red sneak out on top. Storm of the Century takes the three spot.

The Scare Factor?

TV doesn’t always work well when it comes to the scare factor, and The Langoliers serves as a great example. The solid starting tension never materializes into anything more, leaving the last half a horror wasteland. Storm of the Century manages to keep it going the entire time, though it never quite goes full horror. Bag of Bones never manages to be more than eerie, and it lacks the ability to keep that going for too long. Salem’s Lot and Rose Red do the best, managing to be creepy the entire time while giving an occasional full out horror bump.

Winner: I’m giving it to Rose Red, with Salem’s Lot as the runner up.

Final Mini-Series Throwdown Show Down:

Salem’s Lot verses Rose Red for the win. At the end of the day, I’m picking Salem’s Lot. This puppy does more than just provide a few solid scares and a flashy design. It reaches for the metaphor, pulls it off well, and rocks as a horror flick. Rose Red is a big, shiney steak with way too much sauce on it. Sure, it looks pretty, but there isn’t any meat on the bones.

Mini-Series Throwdown Winner: Salem’s Lot

Rose Red and Storm of the Century earn a watch if you’re into the horror miniseries format. Pass on The Langoliers and Bag of Bones unless you’re looking for a laugh and have a ton of booze. Or want to have your own Mini-Series Throwdown

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