Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (2006)

I have this terrible habit of not watching T.V. shows until they are well into their run or even are off the air.  Don’t know why, but I suppose I just don’t get into talking about what happened last night on show “X” at the water cooler the next day at work.  Plus I really hate it when someone says, “You would love that show…” I think I might just be pigheaded that way.  This results in me missing out on a lot of shows that I would probably have had fun with when they were new.  But then there are shows like Nightmares and Dreamscapes that prove to me sometimes I wasn’t really missing anything at all.

Okay let me start off with the positives.  I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, especially his short stories.  I will also be the first person to admit that for some reason most of his books just don’t translate well to the big or small screen.  Sure there are some exceptions (Salem’s Lot, The Stand) but they are by far the exception to the rule (Sleepwalkers anyone?).  With this history I was sort of surprised that someone tried to make a miniseries out of a collection of his short stories.  What didn’t surprise me were that the best episodes were for the most part the non-supernatural stories, but more on that later.

Lets talk about the good, shall we?  Of the adapted stories my favorite and one of my favorite King short stories period is Battleground.  Here you have a hit man, played by William Hurt, returning home from his latest job.  The man he killed was the president and owner of a famous toy company, so when a box of toy soldiers shows up at his apartment you know it isn’t going to end well.  This is the only of the episodes with a supernatural twist to it that I enjoyed.  It is also interesting that it was adapted for the small screen by Richard Christian Matheson who is the son of one of my favorite authors and a legend to genre fans. 

Other episodes that I enjoyed are Umney’s Last Case where a cowardly author switches places with the hardboiled detective he has created in his novels when life gets too hard for him to live.  The story isn’t great, but William H. Macy carries the show here as both the detective and the author.  The Fifth Quarter is also not a bad episode.  But honestly isn’t much more than a crime story and might leave some King fans scratching their heads. 

Then you have some mediocre episodes.  The Road Virus Heads North is a pretty uninspired episode with an author being chased by demons both imagined and real as he struggles with some terrible medical news.  This is only notable because of Tom Berenger and Marsha Mason (barely) appearing in the episode.  I also wasn’t terribly impressed with Autopsy Room 4.  It tries to build some tension, but never succeeds.  The only thing good about it were some funny bits with Richard Thomas’ character towards the end.  This episode also suffers from a CGI snake that would make the worst Sci-Fi channel epic cringe. 

Then there are some truly awful episodes.  You Know they got a Hell of a Band somehow ruins one of my favorite King stories with some terrible impersonators of rock and roll legends.  The End of the Whole Mess was a mediocre and preachy story in the first place and really isn’t improved by it’s translation to the small screen.  Finally the only author that has had a worst track record being translated from the written page to the screen is H.P. Lovecraft.  So when they chose Crouch’s End, a King story with Lovecraft themes, they were really pushing their luck. 

So do I recommend getting a copy of Nightmares and Dreamscapes on DVD?  Even as a hard core King fan I really can’t say yes to this.  I picked my copy up for $6 at Big Lots a few months ago and it was probably worth that.  Though I wouldn’t pay much more for it.

2 ½ out of 4

reviewed by John Shatzer

© Copyright 2010 John Shatzer