ANDY MUSHIETTI — STEPHEN KING — IT CHAPTER ONE — 2017
This new production of this IT novel by Stephen King is only the adaptation of the first older part of the story when the main characters are children, hence twenty-seven years before the present time. And as such, it is a refreshing approach to the novel. Let’s hope the second chapter of it will come sometime soon.
So, we have here no flashbacks about the past but a direct story about the past, of the past. The monster is very clearly and mainly associated with the clown, though it can change shape and appear under different likenesses. It is in no way revealed what kind of real monster it is or hardly. The clown form is obviously effective with the bunch of kids he has to fight against, though he also for one little moment takes the form of dead Georgy to confuse the brother of this Georgy who has never accepted his death.
The film is also clear about the existence of a band of bullies in the community who attack and harass children, girls or boys, at school, of course since school is a bully stadium, and outside in the city at large, often with no one saying nothing at all and just passing their way as if they were passing water in their private outhouse. These bullies though seem to have a particular attraction for blacks. There are not many blacks in this community but there is one in the band of kids, one who is pure and simple saved from being lynched by the bullies thanks to the girl who is not yet in the band, and the band she is going to be opted into straight away.
Note the gay-bashing that opens the novel is not mentioned and the entering door of the clown is seen as some kind of sewage well in the underground section of an old abandoned and of course haunted house. The haunted house is a common theme with Stephen King.
The research of one of the boys about the cyclical episodes of disappearing kids and other catastrophes in factories is clearly documented and we know then this monster appears every twenty-seven years. The present cycle is broken up and defeated by the band of kids we are speaking of and that includes a girl, a Jewish boy, a black boy, and an overweight if not obese boy, plus three more boys who are in no way exceptional. Seven altogether and this number is fundamental in meaning and references:
1- the Holy Week.
2- the creation of the world.
3- the seven planets of the Babylonian astrologers.
4- the seven days of the week.
5- the seventh month of September.
6- the seventh day of the Jewish week which is, in fact, the starting day of the week before the six others (first to sixth), namely Sabbath.
7- the seven churches to which the Book of Revelation is dedicated.
8- the seven colors of the rainbow as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
9- the opposite sides of a dice always equal the number seven when added.
10- the seven dwarfs of Snow White: Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy.
11- the seven Lucky Gods of Japan: Hotei, Jurojin, Fukurokuju, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Daikokuten, Ebisu.
12- the seven Cherokee clans.
13- the seven people privately beheaded on Tower Green within the walls of the Tower of London: William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings, June 13, 1483 — Anne Boleyn,2nd wife of King Henry VIII, May 19, 1536 — Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, May 27, 1541 — Catherine Howard, 5th wife of King Henry VIII, February 13, 1542 — Jane Boleyn, sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn, February 13, 1542 — Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen, February 12, 1554 — Robert Devereux,2nd Earl of Essex, November 10, 1601 (this last execution was turned into an opera by Benjamin Britten);
14- the Seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church set by the Council of Trent (1545–63): Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the sick, Holy Orders, Matrimony.
15- the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride that are behind Dante’s Inferno and the film Sev7n.
16- and so many others.
There is a universal dimension of the number seven in the world and all civilizations. Note the number twenty-seven is also important since it is close to what we call a generation. It contains seven and it is three times nine, hence 9+9+9 (or 3x3x3), the beast in the Book of Revelation in a way or another.
Stephen King in this first chapter of his story is trying to frighten us with traditional children’s fears because children are haunted at times by what they love best, clowns for instance, and clowns are the best trap for children to make them do what they know they are not supposed to do. Who does not like a clown? And yet who is not frightened by what we love best, clowns among other things. The best friends of man can often become their most frightening monsters. Stephen King has exploited this ambiguity so often with cats, dogs, cars, grandfathers and so many others.
This first chapter is, of course, admirable because of the seven kids, in fact, eight with Georgy. They are perfectly managed and directed in circumstances and scenes that are supposed to frighten the audience, that are extreme. We assume these scenes must have been great fun for those kids. At least they could do exactly what they know they are not supposed to do in everyday life. The cinema is a tool of freedom.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
ANDY MUSHIETTI — STEPHEN KING — IT CHAPTER TWO — 2019
With age, Stephen King is discovering that he can give his own novels a new life by becoming the executive producer of video or cinema adaptations, and he does it with gusto. In this second and last chapter of his adaptation of his famous novel IT, he has found the proper people in special effects and in the visualization of what in the novel is nothing but fantasizing. The target of the descriptions and storytelling in the novel is to make the readers see, I did say SEE, what is only evoked with words and words have no color, no shape, no visual content. The art of Stephen King as a novelist is his ability to activate the imagination of the readers who become able to transfer the words into real images, visions, etc. But it is quite different with video or cinema art. Then we are dealing with an art production that is visual by definition and there you have to choose the proper visualization of the phantasmatic visions you may have in your head, and this is the art of special effects and other props or creatures devisers. Hence the final monster in the book, nothing but a giant spider, is not that visual, and this time the clown Pennywise is transformed into a multi-spider-leg monster. He is still the clown, but his multiple legs are pliant and articulated like those of a spider. That turns the monster into a friendly though frightening creature.
This second chapter starts with the killing of a gay man in one of the typically American events covered by the term gay-bashing. That is the beginning of the novel. And it is graphic. Then the intervention of Pennywise and a whole army of red balloons are just the perfect opening. Originally seven, only six of the old-time children, now grownups will convene, and only five will go away at the end. That’s fundamental: good can only come from the defeat of evil, and that can be attained only if some sacrifice is performed. Here one grownup kid does not come at all and ends his nightmare in his bathtub, and another one will be actually killed by Pennywise before Pennywise is taken care of by the remaining five.
King has a tendency to be faithful to his own writing, but apparently, he knows now the visual part has to be done by visual artists and I guess these visual artists have understood that they have to work within the frame suggested by Stephen King. In this film apparently, the two creative sides work together well, and the result is just fine. It will be deadly frightening to kids under 15 who are not supposed to watch it. It will be maybe slightly disturbing to teens and young twinks. And it will be visually attractive to adults over 25. Some of the special effects are typical of series like Supernatural, but King also works on a lot of underground narrow tunnels or wells and underwater trapped scenes. He is obviously trying to work on the claustrophobic tunneling minds of many spectators and the aquatic drowning and choking death appeal of many others. That works visually, though with a plain linguistic description it does not really work like that.
It is quite obvious he is cruel with his characters, but that is a recognized characteristic of the master. A step-mother-in-law of mine stopped reading Stephen King after Misery, and I guess she does not know what she missed or has missed, or maybe she had a relapse and went back to what she read before retiring from her primary school teaching position. In this film, the cruelty is a lot more effective because it is visual, but he maybe overuses blood and other black, red or maroon liquids or semi-liquids in which the characters are engulfed and nearly drown or die. Though the way they are salvaged from destruction is at times nothing but an ellipse, from dying to out of it by an editing trick. But then it is a question of rhythm. With horror movies, the rhythm has to be intense and swift and scenes are supposed to fall one after the other, one onto the other at a diabolical tempo. In this film it is perfect. The speed is schizophrenic, and all spectators should turn psychotic for about two hours and a half. Psychosis is good.
Note the way King makes the only female in the group of seven a systematically abused woman, by her father, then by her husband, etc., and the way Pennywise plays on it with gusto and enthusiasm, is slightly cliché and déjà-vu, but it is faithful to the novel. In our days of #METOO we are used to another type of abuse rather than plain violence, but, second but, in our times of confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are used to a lot of marital, domestic, family, parental violence in all possible directions though the main victims are women and children. The ritual of Chüd here or the reference to old Indian tribes and shamans, witch doctors and other spiritual masters, are also common in many of his novels, and films, like Pet Sematary, The Dark Side, and a few more. The ritual is turned into a simple tantra rite of repeating a simple phrase and then the simple accusation that Pennywise is nothing but a clown. A slight twist I did not remember is the fact that Pennywise was a foreign immigrant who became a real circus clown a long time ago and he became that monstrous being as if it were some self-inflicted and inflated curse.
The end — and we all know the end is always a little bit difficult, as it is heavily hinted at in this film, is slightly light, short, curt and they all go away and that’s it. That is not in Stephen King’s style because most of the time something stays behind, and it is not at all that simple. The last sentence of The Dark Tower is the first sentence of The Dark Tower, eight volumes before the end. Just enjoy it, and get the First Chapter too, so that you can enjoy the whole story.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
STEPHEN KING — THE BILL HODGES TRILOGY — VOLUME ONE — MR MERCEDES — 2014
Don’t believe all the book says. There are some mistakes like for instance the illegality of being able to read all formats from all zones on one DVD reader. Such a machine exists: it is produced by Sony, made in Malaysia and distributed to the whole world from Chicago by, among others I guess, Amazon. At least the one I have came that way and was delivered to me by Amazon.fr. Some other elements from police speak are not always listed in various sites or glossary on the subject. He seems to be using some shortened forms that are popular in his own living circles. For example “to steal the peek.” It refers to what is called “passive keyless entry and start” or PKES and the “signal” used to operate it can be captured from a short distance. As for the expression “stealing the peek” it does not seem to exist as such. Yet it now does.
But apart from that the book is not a glossary of police speak, nor an urban dictionary of crime speak. It is a book in the line of several books Stephen King has recently written that have to do with some kind of criminal, some form of crime, and catching the former or stopping the latter. Here we are dealing with a serial offender who is turning into a serial mass murderer. That is in no way terrorism and critics like Chuck Bowen in Slant Magazine, House Next Door are totally wrong when they define the book as a cop-and-terrorist thriller. Terrorism implies some political aim and in this case the man is deranged and nothing but a sociopath and psychopath. The Unibomber was a terrorist since he had a political agenda. But here Stephen King defines his criminal as a “mad bomber” and that does not make him a terrorist.
It is a thriller that does not use in any way supernatural or fantastic means like for instance in Doctor Sleep that deals with a band of criminals who are in a way living dead people and some kind of vampires though they do not drink blood but vital energy. It is in the line of Joyland in which a simple young man is tracking and bringing out and down a serial killer. Stephen King is thus in line with some of the books he has written before, though this one is original because it uses an ex-cop, a retired detective as the main character though Stephen King adds to this man an underage high school student and a psychologically deranged middle age woman who is somewhere between neurosis, psychosis and autism, definitely compulsive obsessive and yet sane enough to be of great help and to manage to get out of the super low state of mind and extreme dependence she is in at the beginning and reach some independence and equilibrium at the end.
The main criminal, aka Mr. Mercedes, is a psychopath and sociopath but as the result of an intense and prolonged trauma that started when his younger brother came into the picture and when their father got out of it leaving their mother with two sons, no income or nearly none, and the younger son is slightly retarded. Misery, poverty and later on the assassination of the younger son after a dumb accident in which the child chokes on a slice of apple and his mother aggravates the situation by trying to get the slice out of his larynx with her fingers instead of using the Heimlich maneuver. Stephen King knows everything about Heimlich and his maneuver since he used it in Christine. Thus it is a choice leading to drastic elimination. The assassination is performed on the incoherent child after his being brought back to life by doctors with a severe mental impairment by his mother and his brother together.
Then there is an allusion to a stepfather who took to using his stepson as a sexual toy torturing him too with cigarettes and other elements that are not mentioned. The mother took part in the victimization that implied rape even if it is only alluded to. The child becomes an adult for sure but attached to his mother and his mother considers him as a sexual partner, a surrogate to a man who would be her husband or lover, though with strict limits: she is the onanistic tool of the grown man. I would say this long lasting trauma can only produce the asocial psychopath we have in the book, though it is a little bit easy on the inside. The pattern of a stepfather and a mother victimizing the stepson (and son) is a little bit simple. We are spared though the direct gay sexuality which would not have been in anyway sane and the result of a choice, though he is clearly described as a closet-homo who hates women, especially young women and teenage girls Most of his direct victims are women, at times unwillingly on his part but women nevertheless. The last crime he plans is a mass murder of essentially teenage girls and chaperoning mothers.
What is particularly catching, appealing in the book is what Chuck Bowen hates. The writing is in a language that borrows a lot from colloquial discourse and even social dialect. His high school senior Jerome, a black teenager, uses a lot of linguistic ebonics in his discourse and this is quite typical of that black young man whose family members have typical Caucasian, hence American names and he wants to go to Harvard. He is the victim of quite a lot of racial prejudice in the mild ostracism that has taken the place of open segregative rejection of previous decades but that is rejection nevertheless. To compensate for this rejection, and to assert his blackness, with some white people he is in regular contact, he uses ebonics. This is natural and even both sane and healthy. That’s some kind of homeopathic medicine to overcome and tolerate any kind of bigotry, present or only intended around him.
The retired detective, Kermit William Hodges, is also quite typical of people in his situation. He is alone and he easily slips into some fattening life style that leads him to overweight and a coronary accident at the end. He has abandoned all sexual activity that implies a partner. In other words he is a social and psychological wreck. All the easier for him to jump on the bandwagon of some police work on the side of official duties, hence to become an uncle. Since the criminal is making it a personal case against him he reacts in the very same way and makes it a personal case against the criminal. Nothing new under the sun. Circumstances just add some more disinterest from the official police department of the city that sidetracks him into being his own master in clandestine police work. Circumstances (his heart attack) will enable him not to perform the last stage of the neutralization of the criminal.
The writing itself is split into short sequences jumping from one character to the other, from the retired detective to the criminal essentially but not only. This is cinematographic writing of course, which makes this novel into an easily adaptable story for a film. But that is the way all modern writers write today with TV and cinema in mind. Chuck Bowen has it wrong: most modern novels have that structure of an unfinished scenario and that cannot be considered as a shortcoming because it corresponds to the viewing habits of a modern audience who watches TV series and films all the time, stories that are more and more exploded into some kind of mosaic of short sequences.
This very story line is catching and appealing. We get into the story and then we are in a way mesmerized by the story telling. We can maybe say everything is understandable before it happens and we can foresee every event. That is true and false. At every crucial point in the novel we can see the options that are available to the author. It is true most of the time what the author chooses is among these options, but it is only one option in a set of several. The end is predictable and yet apart from the idea that the criminal will be stopped, we cannot really predict how, where, when and by whom before it happens. The very conclusion of the novel is tremendously moving. We cannot resist thinking of Misery, though the cruelty against Retired Detective K. William Hodges is a lot less intense than that described in that older novel. The book altogether is more luminous than older books and is in the line of Joyland as for this luminosity. That is probably the element that could be regretted: the brutal rude cruelty of the Richard Bachman side of Stephen King. He seems to have curbed it in his latest novels. Should we regret it?
But it is true he is experimenting other styles under the collaborative influence from his son Joe Hill, a novelist of his own. He has thus a real future and heir for the coming decades in the cinema, in fiction and in other genres like the musical. Maybe he should concentrate on these new forms and aim at producing more mini series or films than books. He maybe has written enough books and should change media. But such a choice has to be his decision. It is true it is difficult to do better than a good dozen of his older novels, not to speak of The Dark Tower series, IT or The Stand that are plain master pieces. But yet there still are some territories he can explore for our pleasure.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
STEPHEN KING — THE BILL HODGES TRILOGY — VOLUME TWO — FINDERS KEEPERS — 2015
“Mr. Mercedes” was a prodigy in Stephen King’s long and voluminous work. But this sequel is a miracle this time. And there are so many reasons that I can only give you a few.
First the suspense is perfect. The end is unpredictable, really, at most one among many others. It is centered on a teenager, a junior in high school who is totally trapped by life. And the big event in his life is the 2009 depression that makes his father unemployed and his mother unemployed and then employed in a lower job. Then there is the phenomenal Mercedes terrorist attack at the job fair at the Municipal center. The son is suffering because his parents are bound to end up in separation and divorce and he hates the idea, for them, for himself and for his younger sister. What can HE, HIMSELF and HIM AGAIN do about it?
That’s the genius of Stephen King. He knows how to center his stories on children, teenagers particularly, and he seems to be able to capture their psyche, their strange mind and growing personality, growing in tortured anguish, awe and angst, permanently victimized by their own self-centered altruistic ego. They want to do something for other people and yet it is always for their own sake and that’s why it hurts. So what happens then? They launch themselves on the most incredible schemes that are supposed to bring salvation and epiphany, redemption and regeneration to everyone they may think of, but first of all and mostly to themselves. Then they will twist their minds and their psyches and their neurons, mirror or not, because their schemes are bringing some wounds and pains to those they love instead of only helping them along.
Stephen King has always been able to do that, to describe that, to delve, dive and soak himself in such contradictory antagonistic and dialectical good bad-doing or bad good-doing. You would use a long M word, and that would not be Mercedes, if it were some solitary play, but these teenagers or tweenagers cannot do anything without involving other people in their intentions or in their targets, and good morning Vietnam, let me introduce you to the catastrophe of the century who kills quite a few people and nearly kills a few more. The criminal, the psychopath, the sociopath, and whatever else you may think of along that path, is an ex-convict on parole who is absolutely crazy, I mean a “path” of any type you can think of: sociopath, psychopath and even, that’s new, just out of the magic hat, culture-path. The poor man, because it has to be a man, is so fixated on the work of the writer he killed out of vanity and disillusion that he is able to kill half a dozen people to just have the chance of reading the novels this writer never published. Bad luck all along since he is frozen feces-less by his own intellectual mother and he gets drunk and he rapes a woman, a substitute for his mother that he would have liked to rape, that he should in his small logic have raped twenty times at least as soon as he was something like 12.
Then the heart of the novel is that the money he stole and the notebooks he stole too from that assassinated writer, he buries them before being caught raping a woman and before being railroaded down into some penitentiary for life. Then the whole novel is the peregrination of the money, that ends up in some charitable saving plan, and the notebooks, that end up all burnt up in the final catastrophic and abysmally apocalyptic scene, though six were saved by the teenager who plays hero — maybe he is in a way — and Stephen King seems to forget about these and seems to assume that they have all been destroyed. Maybe he should check the loose board at the back of the closet of this young teenager.
That kind of suspense novel is perfect, absolutely perfect and Stephen King manages to include some allusions to some of his short stories and films, but forget about it. It is gently vain and funnily gentle.
But the book has a tremendous symbolic value. 185 minus 6 notebooks (if I am not wrong on the numbers) get burnt up at the end of the book. An “autodafe,” an act of faith my foot, an act of barbarity from another time, another civilization, another barbarism, another monstrous inquisition in some Mesoamerican or south American Spanish or Portuguese colony based on burn them all, the male Indians, and keep the females for your service. And burn them all they did there in the basement of that closed and disaffected and abandoned Municipal Centre. All except six of them. How can Stephen King even imagine such a crime against humanity and against human culture? I swear I will hate him forever for this act but I must admit it is the perfect climax in the grisly repellent suspense crime story this book contains.
And Stephen King cannot obviously resist putting some “magic” or supernatural energy somewhere, but I can’t reveal it since it is going to be the starting point of the next volume of this psychopathic series.
Enjoy the novel, especially at night, and in the middle of the night get your courage up in your hands and feet and walk to the out-house at the back of the yard outside in the pitch-dark night, if you still have an out-house, and imagine the monsters that are going to catch you while you are tiptoeing along to that small bungalow of your physiological needs, but please do not wet your pants, underwear or pajamas, or whatever you are wearing, or the grass if you are wearing no encasement for your family jewels, just an XXX-large T-shirt you have put on as a nightshirt with some provocative inscription on it, front and back, like Bill Hodges’s assistant.
Have a good reading session under the full moon of all crimes.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
STEPHEN KING — THE BILL HODGES TRILOGY — VOLUME THREE — END OF WATCH — 2016
I will dedicate this review to our good old friend Bill Hodges, alias Kermit William Hodges, aka Kermit, otherwise known as the Det-Ret, who died at the end of his third statutory case and eponymous volume, and was buried in total privacy by his own father and creator Stephen King when this one was finally through with exploiting the character in his fictional stories. Let us pray for a minute for this glorious and courageous character who could not enjoy his fame more than a few months after his victory and yet in great pain, in spite of morphine.
Now let’s become what we should always be, busy beavers.
This volume, like the previous two, could be taken all by itself and that’s how I am going to look at it. We are dealing with a psychic psychopath, Brady Hartsfield, alias Library Al or Z-boy, aka Dr Babineau or Dr Z, also named Zeetheend in virtual reality, and even known as Zappit Zero in game hardware. We could refresh you on the previous crimes but it is not necessary here and in the book there is no summary of the previous action or actions though the essential elements are given by Stephen King when necessary.
But let’s be clear, at least a little bit more. In the first volume Brady Hartsfield ran a stolen Mercedes Benz into a crowd waiting for the opening of a special job fair, very early in the morning in 2009 killing quite a few and maiming quite a lot more. Later on Brady Hartsfield tries to blow himself up in a boy-band concert in the middle of thousands of kids, essentially girls, and parents. He is stopped just in time by Holly Gibney who seriously concusses his skull and mashes his brain into total coma for a while and a paraplegic situation afterwards. He thus ends up in a special unit in a hospital in a state that is declared catatonic though we have a glimpse at the end of the second volume that he is maybe not completely catatonic, at least not on the mental side of his being.
The second volume concerns a completely different business like a vacation from the Hartsfield case, while this hard-core criminal is recuperating from his catatonic state. A vacation to recuperate from mental vacancy.
In this here third volume we go back to Hartsfield and we discover how an over 60 year old doctor used this patient as a guinea pig for not yet certified experimental drugs under no control at all. The patient then re-conquers his mind and develops some particular capabilities, like telekinesis but also the great ability to use hypnosis to capture the attention of people and take control of their minds and at first direct them to his obsession, to commit suicide, and even later to host his own mind and thus transport him in a body that is little by little made a simple pod for the mind of the criminal Brady Hartsfield. This is not a new idea and Anne Rice used it a lot in her novel “The Body Thief” where Lestat de Lioncourt, her vampire, and another man who is in no way a vampire have this ability and play around with it. Here Brady Hartsfield uses this ability to move around when he is paraplegic to go and do things he could not do, to organize his big scheme and set up the whole technical apparatus he needs to do it, either under the appearance of Library Al, alias Z-Boy, or under the appearance of Dr Babineau, alias Dr Z.
He will thus buy a whole batch of game consoles that are out of the market because of some bankruptcy, have them reprogrammed into hypnotic machines that will enable him to take control of the minds of the users and lead them to suicide, because his main objective is to make hundreds of people commit suicide, to start and feed a real suicide epidemic. He is then known as the Suicide Prince, or Prince Suicide if you prefer, or even the Prince of Suicide. He is a genius in computer science though in his hospital wheelchair he cannot do much. He will have to take control of a girl with whom he had worked in the first volume to be able to achieve his aim. She is Frederica Linklatter. For the sake of money she finds herself involved in that completely crazy project. She even let her own lesbian friend if not partner go just for the thousands of dollars that are falling into her basket. Then Brady Hartsfield is able to plan and start his vengeance against three people essentially, Barbara Robinson, a black girl who is essentially the sister of Jerome Robinson. Brady Hartsfield had noticed her in his second terrorist attack on the concert. Then he is targeting Jerome Robinson, a black boy he calls the Det-Ret’s nigger lawnmower, because he used to do that for Bill Hodges when he was a teenager, and of course Bill Hodges, though he does not so much want to kill that last one as make him suffer with the suicide epidemic he is planning.
I am not going to tell the story that leads to the full and final destruction of Brady Hartsfield. I’m going to make a few remarks at a wider and higher level.
My first remark is that — for once — Stephen King closes the trilogy with a “no survivor” situation, at least the main pair of characters are exterminated, the criminal Brady Hartsfield and the ex-cop Det-Ret Bill Hodges. The end is not a new beginning. It is a real end, not like the second coming restart of the Dark Tower, and if there were to be a new beginning it would have to be of a somewhat totally different nature. One may out-Caesar Caesar but as long as Caesar and Brutus are still alive, both of them. Then out-Hodging Hodges becomes impossible once Hodges is out.
My second remark is that more than ever the third volume is a metaphor of America. In the previous episodes the situation was saved by a woman Holly Gibney and a young black teenager Barbara Robinson. In the same way the second volume was saved by this same Holly Gibney and a young black teenager Jerome Robinson. In this third volume, taking place six years after the events of the first Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney are going to be killed by Brady Hartsfield when Jerome Robinson, now a young black man, arrives with the cavalry and the cavalry is one horrible monstrous snow mobile or snow tank that saves the day by crushing Brady Hartsfield into some dying pulp led to his own death by such a rolling over and abandoned in the snow storm to freeze till the cops may arrive. The famous Christine is revisited in this end. Jerome Robinson is an obvious personification of Obama. Holly is the personification of Hillary Clinton, except that the woman came first and will stay last. But is it not the very situation we had in 2008 and then 2016. The Blackman will naturally move on to his own life.
My third remark is that any institution in the USA, including the police, are institutionalized into impotence, and not only by the Peter Principle. This volume as much as the two previous ones shows how all institutions are the victims of the ambitions of their members who prefer messing up a case to jeopardizing their personal goals, though some private initiative is going to force them into doing what they refused to do at first and they then are very good at making it part of their plans. They are vampires sucking the pith and marrow of the adventurous individuals who seize the day and change the world. At the same time if they cannot recuperate those adventurous individuals, then they will push them into oblivion and inexistence by all means possible. Here the X Files are the matrix of such a bureaucratic administrative perversion we all have encountered here and there.
My fourth remark is that Stephen King has become obsessed with and by death, “one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peal.” (347) There is no escape from some obvious elements in life — and death. “Friends and neighbors, does the sun rise in the east?” (296) “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” (293) “Two survivors of the City Center massacre. . . have committed suicide. . .“ (263) No getaway from your fate. Even if it is racial/racist and sexist. “She is blackish, a word that seems the same as useless, and she doesn’t deserve to live.” (115) And that fate is often repaired with patches and elastic bands. “Deep in his thoughts, he misses the primer-spotted Chevy Malibu for the third time in two days . . . standing next to it an elderly man in an old Army surplus parka that has been mended with masking tape.” (108–9) It is all nothing but a backside front countdown. Nine pink fish to capture that are carrying numbers. Numbers that have to be captured in these pink fish to add up to one hundred and twenty in one hundred and twenty seconds. The obsession of the diabolical hour of Jesus’ death on the cross, the ninth hour. The obsession of the twelve disciples, of the twelve months of the year, that all accompany the Lord in his death on the cross; accompany and reject, to maybe recompose themselves when the danger is passed, except John at the foot of the cross and the two Mary’s, the last two not being disciples, at least officially, but these are a kid under 15 and two women. And this book all starts with a survivor of the City Center Massacre, Martine Stover, being put to sleep by her mother, Mrs. Ellerton, who then commits suicide.
Seen like that in backward retrospective the whole book is like a descent into hell and we can then think of the seven screens of Brady Hartsfield’s own morbid regressive perspective. (91)
1- His brother Frankie he helped die by pushing him down some staircase.
2- His mother Deborah he helped commit suicide with psychic means.
3- Thing One and Thing Two, his long lived and still-born inventions.
4- Mrs. Trelawney’s gray Mercedes sedan that killed quite a few at the City Center.
5- The wheelchair in which his body is now locked up as the result of his failed attack against the Mingo Auditorium.
6- A handsome, smiling young man. . . , the old Det-Ret’s nigger lawn boy.
7- Hodges himself who will lead the attack bringing the death of this pitiful excuse for anything as far away as possible from what we generally call a man, and yet this chase will lead to closure six months later.
How can you be more gruesome in your regression than that? Just a child turned into a monster by his family conditions, his jealousy against his little brother, the ambiguous and obscure role of his mother and this child will grow into a computing genius who will use his capabilities to in the end commit suicide, kill himself, destroy his sorry excuse for a human being, but along with dragging as many people down behind and with him as possible. Don’t tell me that does not exist. San Bernardino, Orlando, Paris, Brussels, and so many other places where one can die and kill dozens at the same time, as if these deaths, including theirs, were able to compensate for their mentally neutered and physically spayed frustration.
Strangely enough I found an obvious mistake in the book. Page 234 and page 237 the Chevy Malibu, the possession of Library Al, is absent from Dr Babineau’s property when the police arrives though Library Al is sleeping and snoring upstairs. This Library Al is attributed later the coming to Dr Babineau’s, then going to the hospital and then coming back to Dr Babineau’s and staying there, and yet his car is absent, and Dr Babineau’s has been shot at, by whom? And this Chevy Malibu is the car Brady Hartsfield in the body of Dr Babineau uses to get to the hunting camp for the end of his suicide inflicting and suicide committing mission. This discrepancy is surprising but I guess when we are dealing with a mental monster we may lose some threads or some threads may get loose.
I will conclude with a double question.
Is Stephen King obsessed and fascinated by his own death, which would be morbid?
Is Stephen King the simple mirror capturing the reflection of what life is in the world? The obsolute domination of inflicted and self-inflicted death everywhere in the world? And when there is no war in a country you can be sure there will be a San Bernardino in California or an Orlando in Florida to inflict their load of victims onto our souls and minds.
We could wonder if Stephen King is not recapturing the self-drawing of blood that was ritualistic among all men in Maya society a long time ago. And this is only one case of self-sacrifice. What about the systematic human sacrifice that is still going on in our societies under the name of the death penalty?
We can go on wondering, but it is a sad state of affairs in this supposedly civilized world where one candidate in the US presidential election is advocating torture not to get information since we all know it is ineffective for that, but to get even with the barbarity of the other side. A never ending competition at who was first and who will be last. There is always an ugly duckling in a brood of political fledglings.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
STEPHEN KING — BRENDAN GLEESON — HARRY TREADAWAY — MR. MERCEDES FIRST SEASON — 2017
Stephen King as an executive producer is faithful to Stephen King as an author, and yet there are a few changes, cosmetic changes you will say, made necessary by the change of the medium. In this first season, Jerome, the young black highschool senior who is going to be the first black student at Harvard, we are still a few years in the past, is not shown in the close relationship he was having with Mr. Hodges in the novel. His father is even quite strict about it though for reasons that are as explicit as they are unreadable. Racism, fear, insinuations of all sorts, etc., with this kind of situation, innuendo is the only language you can speak. A few other things are rearranged for a serial form — and killer by the way — which means each episode has to end with a cliffhanger, and that is not always easy. A series also slows down the rhythm since it has to start rather slowly and it has to move not too fast so that the cliffhanger comes as a precipitous short punchline if I can use this word for a video, maybe a punch-scene.
This being said, Brady Hartsfield sure is a monster and he was in the novel, but the visualization of the monstrousness of the chap makes him so obviously unpleasant and distasteful to everyone that it is surprising his boss picks him to become a store manager, or his lesbian colleague more or less falls for him — as a friend of course — and we are also surprised that he may be a good ice-cream man, friendly with all and particularly children. That makes his deep-rooted psychiatric dysfunctioning all the more sort of artificial and based on some clichés. Written in the book the circumstances are not as shocking as they become in pictures. His causing the death of his brother with first an accident (the brother chokes on some apple slices) that ends well with the Heimlich maneuver, that is not very well performed in the series, and then second with pushing him down the stairs to the basement of the house, is cruel. His possessiveness towards his mother, and it is hinted that’s why he killed his younger brother, is, in fact: only his way to make her a slave in her absolute solitude and to satisfy his perverse desires by titillating and teasing his mother into satisfying her own perverse desires. That’s a cliché, but it is a true case of pedophilia generally minimized and forgotten. The pedophile in a family has to be the father, and can’t be the mother, and the child is too young to be a pedophile, isn’t he? Note the fact we are dealing with a son, not a daughter. It is the Oedipus complex in the absence of a male rival between the son and the mother, an absence constructed by the elimination of the younger brother.
The fact that based on such a situation the son becomes a mass serial killer is most surprising. But it is possible, though the child has to be particularly introverted not to be able to find alternative directions in school and with kids, boys and girls, his age. There is no empathy at all, and it is the belief, common and popular, even populist, that all perverts are born like that, just the same way all normal people are born like that. The basic and most unacceptable belief in American philosophy, psychiatry, and ideology (religious or not), that all criminals are born like that and thus are different at birth, and thus all those who are different at birth have to be born criminals. Read my lips as Ronald Reagan would have said. And the first difference is to be an immigrant. Good morning, Apocalypse!
The series also insists heavily on the ineptitude of the police to capture the situation and to act up to it in the name of hard evidence, circumstantiality, the first amendment, the Miranda protection of accused or suspected criminals, the fear the case may stall in court for who knows what kind of mistake in the punctuation of the investigation. But at the same time that makes Bill Hodges a sort of vigilante, a self-appointed justice-maker, a social trash collector and incinerator, a cop (or ex-cop, same thing, once a cop always a cop) and a judge and an executioner and an undertaker, all in one person. And that is another caricature that makes him slightly disagreeable, especially since he is all but civil with his neighbors and the people he meets and deals with.
Apart from that, it is not a detective story since we know from the very start who the berserk mind is. Then we would have liked a little bit more carefulness about the possibility for Brady Hartsfield to burn his house with two bodies in it, leaving all his tremendous equipment in the basement, moving out of it via a tunnel and the police do not catch him so that he can disappear in a second underground cave where he has the same level of equipment as in the basement of his mother’s house, where he can plan the final attack. It is true Stephen King seems to love tunnels and underground hiding places but at times it is sort of easy, even if in a series you do not need to give the specifics of this tunnel and the second underground laboratory because the audience of a series does not look for logic but they look for tempo, rhythm, cliffhanging moments, grossness more that terror or horror. But well since it was a series and could last ten episodes, the director could have been more careful about such logical elements. But the treatment of the subject seems to be very similar to that in the series The Path or Shameless (the American remake, because the British original is quite different: the Brits are very careful with detail and logic). I must admit, and this is true in the book too, that it took these police officers a long time to understand that the electronic car keys we have nowadays work with a signal that can be easily captured if you have the proper equipment. I think James Bond and Mission Impossible have overused such elements of digital swiftness. I guess after a certain rather early age, police officers do not get any continued training and education, particularly in the technical fields. A shame.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
SOME NON-KINGIAN SUPPLEMENTS
FOR A REAL HORROR DIET
HBO -TRUE DETECTIVE — FIRST SEASON — 2014
A very interesting mini-series taking place in New Orleans and Louisiana.
A recent and very disturbing crime, hardly described actually, sends two cops in today’s world back into the past and a similar crime that is described with more detail, though not too much, and especially the two ex-cops who dealt with the crime at the time in 1995 or so. The crime got a solution. In fact, a solution was found and the spectacular crime was not repeated but the deeper crime which was the abduction and disappearance of children was never examined in depth because of a blocking element in the family circle of the governor and one of his relative, nephew or whatever, who was a preacher and who had a whole network of religious institutions dealing with the education of children, and yet any piece of inquiry was leading that way, to these institutions, particularly one that was closed after some kind of hushed-up scandal.
The two cops who dealt with that older case are both out of the police force and they become, particularly one, suspects or persons of interest for the two modern time cops.
The investigation of the two modernistic cops will lead nowhere. They actually will come across one of the people in the case, but they will not know the difference between right and left (or wrong as for that) nor back and front.
The two ex-cop turned private investigators will come to a real solution this time, some kind of closure but the solution will not be satisfactory because the political and religious establishment in New Orleans will accept you arresting in a way or another one or two of the members of the grass and roots monstrous army that practices children abduction as a sport and entertainment for further games and distractions but not higher than that.
The happy abducted children end up soliciting in New Orleans. The unhappy ones end up being live toys for some adults whose minds are so perverted that the captive will end up in small pieces but death will only ensue long, long, long after the beginning of the live slicing up and live cutting off and live extracting of this or that organ.
The mini-series remains very prudent as for graphic exposure of this violence and torture. The main interest is the effect of it onto the two cops who originally started investigating the case and will bring it so some kind of a satisfactory though partial solution. As one of the two will say: “You can never get them all.” He should have added, “You can never get the big fish in such cases.” And you must get yourself satisfied by the fact the big fish authorizes you to take the minnows, their minnows. It is truly one minnow down, ten minnows up. Volunteering in this field of human monstrosity is the most common element you can imagine.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
HBO -TRUE DETECTIVE — SECOND SEASON — 2016
If you like messy situations and systematic corrupt police forces and political institutions, this is your series. No matter who you are, if you are on the other side of the road across from some corrupted people, you will die. If you are not corrupted and thus ready to die any time the corruptor will deem it necessary to kill you, then you will die. There is no choice in this world apart from being a corruptor at the top or being a perambulating still not dead character that will sooner than later end up six feet under.
Of course, you can kneel in the middle of a road and pray for a truck to run over you.
Of course, you can, every morning, take some non-lethal dose of cyanide and after a short while, it will accumulate till it kills you.
Of course, you can start shooting with a gun in a street, up in the air if you do not want to kill or wound anyone, but you will end up dead with many bullets from duly-weaponed NRA members or some duly-trained killing cops.
But apart from that, all the rest is circumstantial. I would just advise you to choose a way to die duly avenged before dying. Kill a few and wound the others and they will kill you on the spot.
Entertaining because of that totally rotten vision of a rotten society that does not even try to plead non-guilty. The title is borrowed from a magazine, “True Detective” (originally “True Detective Mysteries”), a pulp magazine that enjoyed fake detective stories and giving details on all sorts of cases that existed or not, but all the details were more or less fantasized, fanciful and maybe even plainly invented.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
HBO -TRUE DETECTIVE — THIRD SEASON — 2019
This third season has something more than the previous season. It is a cold case of a long time ago that got cold again ten years later, and that’s still cold some longer time later when the two policemen who processed the case twice are retired and living in old age, the case comes back again because the son of one of the two detectives, the black detective Wayne Hays, wants to bring some peace to his past-haunted father and he makes him become one essential participant in a TV documentary on the case. But nothing is simple and will neglect the personal motivations of this son and the female documentary-maker.
In 1980 two kids get missing, a boy and a girl, the girl is Julie Purcell. They are the children of a disunited couple who are simple, ordinary people with no future in their lap, nor in their local community. We are in West Finger, Arkansas, a rural community where a Highschool teacher is a top intellectual, one rare person who has been to college, apart from local doctors and lawyers. The boy is found dead in a cave, lying on his back and his hands joined in prayer.
The series constantly shifts from 1980 to the second investigation in 1990 when it comes back because the fingerprints of the girl reappear somewhere in another community, and the “present time when the two cops are retired. The fact is that the first investigation was complacently closed when a local Indian who survived by collecting trash that could be recuperated, recycled or reused in a way or another, and who had a reputation with children, became the target of a bunch of male farmers and farmworkers because he dared speak to two of their kids. They assaulted his house, and that was not the first time they attacked him. So, he is ready, and the house is very highly trapped with explosives, and he has good guns, and he is a sniper of some kind. Twelve people will be killed when the police arrive. An officer, to get some brown points with the local dominant family and later get a security job there, plants the red backpack of the disappeared girl in the wrecked house of the Indian who was killed by the black detective of the team, Wayne Hays, when the Indian turns his weapon onto him, hence out of self-defense. The Indian is thus accused postmortem of the kidnapping and killing of the girl Julie Purcell.
That was in 1980. In 1990 same kind of reluctant investigation on the side of the higher-ups of the state police, local police department or sheriff’s office, and district and state Attorneys. After finding some compromising elements, the case is closed from the top as being in fact in no way re-openable, since the “kidnapper and murderer” was found and is not here to deny this accusation. It is officially closed again when the press alludes to some information that could only come from the investigating officers, in fact only one, the black detective, Wayne Hays, and the District Attorney and the Chief of the local police accuse him of having given some information to his wife who used to be a highschool teacher and had become a writer with the book on the case after the first investigation. That’s a conflict of interest. The black detective will be proposed with a threefold choice: sign a document that would make his wife appear as a liar; accept to be moved to some bureaucratic job within the police department; finally, resign and move out. Out of love for his wife, he takes the second option and he will end up his career till retirement as a clerk in some office far from the madding crowd of criminals and murderers.
But twenty years later, things are different. The two detectives are retired, and they get together again and find out that Wayne Hays has some loss of memory, but he also has two children, a son and a daughter that look after him, his son particularly. His partner is alone, has always been alone, and he lives with a few dogs in the back yard of his house. They deserve coming together for the end of their life so that the end of their lives will be only one life together till death them parts. But this time they work on the elements they had not worked on in the two investigations, and this time, on their own, with no one over their heads and behind their backs, pressing their shoulders in the ground. And they finally find the truth in the last episode when they find the one-eyed black man they had been looking for, for a long time, after they visited the mansion of the big family, today more or less disappeared, finding the pink underground living quarters where the girl had been abducted and kept, and after speaking to the daughter of the black maid of the family. The one-eyed black man can tell them the details. They also find out where Julie, known as Mary July, ended up after her escape with the help of the one-eyed black man. A Catholic women’s refuge.
And they even find the tomb of this Mary July who would have died of AIDS. A fable invented by the women’s shelter where she had found refuge so that she could start a new life with… no word here, it is secret and sentimental, but so nice. The only moment when there is some sweet sentimental content. Wayne Hays will actually find her, but he will play Alzheimer’s to speak to her and her daughter without telling them who he was. Old age has some advantages. So he calls his son who comes with his sister and they drive him home where his ex-partner arrives for dinner and we know he will bring his dogs sometime soon and have them installed in the back yard and the two will live a final phase in their life (singular of course) that will be happy and totally far away from crime, murder, sin and whatever can be evil in this world.
The most surprising side of the series is Wayne Hays wife and the very personal, sentimental, at times strained, at times in complete harmony relationship between the young black detective and the young black highschool literature teacher, then husband and wife, and then more distant at the end, to the point of being completely out in the most recent period. This relationship was both tempestuous and intense with love and complications. That’s quite original since the wife actually did her own investigation on the side, discovered some things and got a lot of confidential remarks from some of the young and less young people in the community and participants in or witnesses of the crime. I said it was a case of conflict of interest and double allegiance, and it sure was, it sure is.
Dr. Jacques COIULARDEAU
ERIC KRIPKE — THE BOYS — 2019
They could do something with this topic of super-heroes if they did not get stuck in the moralistic hypocrisy of doing good things for the world as long as the world venerates them. That kind of dependence on super-heroes is the proof our society is wrong and deeply sick, and not only on some coronavirus, COVID-19 or COVID-2075. It is childish and it ruins the serious questions at stake here and it is not superheroes.
What about a single private company in the whole world capable of having their superheroes everywhere and to make the weather they want, killing those they don’t like and call bad ones, possessing, controlling and even alienating all those they want to be their servants, and torturing those who refuse. That’s no longer childish, that’s plain mentally underdeveloped.
What about having a super substance, a Compound as they call it, that enables a kid, if taken early, to develop a superpower of any type and then to keep it alive with regular consumption of the drug. That’s a real problem that we should not even be able to touch, approach, discuss, represent and certainly not advocate. And that’s what they do. But of course, when you know Eric Kripke is the master puppeteer behind the series you know that’s the only thing they are going to do.
This type of TV series is habit-forming, worse than all the opioids in the world and it is also a crowned virus in a way that makes the audience delirious and soon enough these people in front of the screen are going to get so dependent that they will have to be sent into social intensive care and probably end up with a good-sense-ventilator, hoping after a couple of weeks there, they may regain consciousness and be ready to walk into society again.
Understand me well. The famous comic strip superheroes have nothing to do with these shameful, in fact shameless, pale imitations that are there only to make money by attracting advertising like flies. The DC comic strips had a real social dimension, a real dreaming dimension. This series has none of that. It is a caricature of a culture that was born in the most exploited and alienated dregs of society and for them and to defend them. Here let me laugh! Homelander spoils a mission on a hijacked plane, so he just leaves and let the plane crash. Frankly!!!
Anyway, his name, Homelander, is an insult to plain simple naïve and innocent young people, since he wears the name of the most obscure, non-transparent, non-democratic and threatening security institution in the world. That’s a symbol. Make a series that becomes habit-forming and people get addicted to it and the main superhero who is the worst hypocrite you can imagine is the acme of “totalitarian security” in the deep state we know.
They could have done better, but with another creator, author, and producer than our dear Eric Kripke (Eric Kripke is an American television writer, director, and producer. He is the creator of The WB series Supernatural, the NBC series Revolution and Timeless, and the Amazon series The Boys.) He always tries in the series of his I know to erase the deepest social problems in American society, but always with some superficial allusions or links to Indians, to Jesus, to the Torah, so that he can say that he is open to everything and everyone, though he is only open to making an audience dependent. This is not the opium of the masses but the opioid of all TV audiences.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
ANDREA DI STEFANO — THE INFORMER — AMAZON PRIME — 2019
A convict free on parole is working undercover for the FBI. He intentionally though reluctantly gets himself incarcerated again in order to infiltrate the prison-mob at a maximum-security prison and guarantee drugs’ providing to the prisoners for the boss of the gang he is following for the FBI. He just had to break his parole. Some staged domestic violence will be enough. But an extremely rotten and ambitious FBI area boss moves over the FBI agent for whom Pete Koslow was the informer and decides to get rid of him and have him executed inside the prison, burning at the same time the operation against the gang and satisfying himself with getting two underlings.
But an agent in NYPD decides to teach the FBI a lesson and to save Pete Koslow who is warned by a black prisoner about what is going to happen so that he manages not to be killed, but to kill his white assailant and then to take hostage one warden and to get loose in the prison where he stages a hectic and wild escape. He is helped in it by the FBI agent he was an informer for and manages to escape from the ambulance when he was transferred to a hospital as the warden he had taken hostage and was killed in Pete’s prison clothes when Pete had put on the hostage’s uniform and identification.
The NYPD agent will finish the job and provide him with a passport and documents necessary for him to escape after seeing his wife and daughter in Central Park, from a distance and assessing all the FBI agents around them ready to terminate him.
We all know the FBI is rotten and the police are not much better. At least that is common in many films and series. We all know prisons are the best crime schools on the planet and that real power is money and no matter what crimes you may have committed, you will always be the boss in the prison if you have the money you need to buy the wardens and the stuff you need to satisfy the “commercial” demand among the prisoners. Prisons are a real crime university and a fully-free-trade market-economy, all managed from some clandestine crime authority, outside the prisons, of course, provided with direct or indirect lobbying agents everywhere necessary.
Entertaining but not outstanding. Especially since the ending is really sad.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU