Not since The Stand (1994) has a Stephen King movie adaptation had such a high body count. And these expired husks aren’t just for statistical/social reasons: they’re rotted, leaking, stinking and bloated, with snakes and hairy tarantulas coming out of mouths and holes where the eyes and south of the belt exit-only ramps used to be. Like human non-recycleables, these things are all over the place.
One person is responsible for all this carnage: the town sheriff. He’s so sadistic, you cringe in your swimsuit (hey, the washing machine’s broken —don’t judge me) every time he traps another victim on a long stretch of highway just outside the small Nevada town of Desperation. Those he doesn’t kill right away land in a small jail. The others get shot without a lick of thought. (i.e., a five year-old girl.)
As with all Stephen King stories/adaptations, you’re overloaded with complex characters, one of which is always “different,” in this case a young boy who speaks directly to God. Good thing as the other God (i.e., Tak) is possessing bodies (i.e., the sheriff) and making them rot from the inside out (i.e., goopy drawers).
The first half of Stephen King’s Desperation (2006) is intense enough to make your underpanties twist up under the driveshaft. The small town is completely dead from the inside out. Dozens of dogs evenly line the street as if waiting for a cat parade. Vultures peck nonchalantly at bodies, snacking lightly in-between meals. And there are rattlers (snakes) and crawlers (spiders) everywhere you step. (The grocery store scene will make you think twice about ever walking into a food shop full of dead people again.)
The second half, where the God kid and Tak’s prisoners get out of jail (great scene) and try and figure out what the flip, starts to sink under its own weight. Outside of town is the Chinese Pit, a coal/gold/gravel mine where Tak’s cathedral nightclub was disturbed, thereby unleashing the vengeful god and making the Chinese immigrants who were digging in the mine all those happy years ago to go crazy and kill each other with pick axes to the chest vicinity.
The get-out-of-jail people wrestle with moral issues, more spiders and a cougar in a bathroom that changes shape to that of a Vietnamese guy with a bomb. That part will make sense if you just have patience. Instead of getting out of town, the survivors head for the mine where they have a redeeming showdown with Tak, complete with flashback wedgies and dialogue that works better in a book than in a movie with gnarly, decomposing bodies all over the place.
Normally, I’m all about vengeful gods wreaking havoc, especially if they look like a monster and/or evil something or rather. But Tak looks like cigarette smoke (ala, Lost), which isn’t so scary, unless you factor in the health detriments of second hand smoke. The ending gets kinda “group huggy,” but in the end a decent take on a book with too many pages. Better, anyway, than Stephen King’s ultra-crappy The Langoliers (1995). (The movie version.) Man, what a punch bowl turd that thing is/was/continues to be.