STEPHEN KING’S THE LANGOLIERS. (1995) BASED ON THE NOVELLA BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY TOM HOLLAND. STARRING PATRICIA WETTIG, DAVID MORSE, DEAN STOCKWELL, MARK LINDSAY CHAPMAN, KATE MABERLY, FRANKIE FAISON, BAXTER HARRIS, KIMBER RIDDLE, CHRISTOPHER COLLET, BRONSON PINCHOT AND STEPHEN KING. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Though I’m reviewing this excellent Stephen King adaptation as a film, it was originally aired as a two-part television mini-series back in the mid-‘Nineties. I saw it myself on TV in the late ‘Nineties when I was just a young one and my mind was totally blown by it.
To this day, it’s one of my favourite book-to-film (sorry, mini-series!) adaptations of Mr. King’s, along with THE MIST, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, MISERY, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, CARRIE, IT, THE SHINING and BAG OF BONES. As always when I list these, there are probably a few which I’m overlooking. I’m sure you guys can name the ones I’ve forgotten!
THE LANGOLIERS is a novella, or really long short story, from FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT, a big thick book of four novellas. The other three novellas are THE LIBRARY POLICEMAN, THE SUN DOG and SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN, which was made into a film starring the utterly swoonsome and delicious Johnny Depp.
When I watched THE LANGOLIERS in two parts back in the day, it was electrifying. The first ninety minutes naturally ended on a cliffhanger and I was left petrified, wondering: ‘Who or what is coming? Is it really ‘the langoliers?’ And who or what are ‘the langoliers,’ anyway? Are they monsters? They must be monsters! Why else would everyone be so scared?’
I’ll admit to you guys now that, on the second and final night of the mini-series, I was a tad disappointed by the ‘reveal’ of the titular ‘langoliers.’ Now, years later and having watched the film (I call it a film, okay…?!) many more times since then, I’m fine with them. I love them now. But I’m not under any circumstances going to tell you what they are or what their deal is…!
I really think that this is one of Stephen King’s most finely-crafted stories. It concerns a flight from Los Angeles to Boston that really does turn out to be a journey into a kind of hell. Ten people wake up from a nap to find that, other than themselves, the entire crew, the pilot and all the other passengers have completely disappeared, leaving behind… what?
Good question. What they’ve left behind always struck me as being one of the most fascinating parts of the film. Not only have they vanished without their books, spectacles, wallets, passports and even hairpieces, but things that would surely have come from inside them, like pacemakers and dental bridge-work, are also sitting abandoned on their chairs. The ten survivors are freaked-out like you wouldn’t believe at their new Twilight Zone-style circumstances.
The survivors aren’t entirely without luck, however. In fact, they’re damned fortunate in terms of who exactly made the cut onto the survivors’ list. They have a pilot among their number (coincidentally enough!), a mystery writer who’s great at figuring out riddles, an English assassin who can figure his way out of any tricky situation you care to name and, finally, a psychic little blind girl who can- sort of- predict the future and who can tell the group important stuff about what they need to do next and stuff. You know, that kind of stuff.
Oh, and there’s also a soon-to-be-middle-aged schoolmarm whose biological clock is no doubt ticking its arse off and who’s on a mission to find a man, whether it’s a Secret Service Agent with a rather charming way with proboscises or a recently-bereaved airline pilot with a strong reliable moustache in a reassuring shade of grey. Recently-bereaved? That makes him ripe for the picking, surely? I’m telling you this for nothing, this little missy’s bringing someone home to meet the folks, one way or another…!
I’m not going to tell you (though I’m dying to!) what it is that’s happened to everyone else on the plane and why it is that the enormous plane is flying on autopilot over an America that doesn’t seem to have anyone at all left alive in it. I think you’ll agree that that’s an extremely eerie concept.
Understandably, the group are beside themselves with panic. Has there been a nuclear attack that they missed while they were napping? (That would have to have been some nap!) Is it a government conspiracy of some sort? Are they dreaming, or have they all just gone stark raving mad…?
As keen as they are, though, to safely land the plane on American soil and thereby stop all of the wandering aimlessly around the empty skies, I wouldn’t be in such a hurry if I were them. What’s waiting for them on the ground might be even worse than the journey from hell. It might just be something so bad that they couldn’t even have dreamed it up in their worst nightmares and getting away from it may just be murder, heh-heh-heh…
Stephen King, who by the way plays a funny little cameo in the film, has some incredibly interesting ideas on the subject of time and time-travel which even I found fascinating, and I usually zone right out when people start talking science to me. But his ideas I loved, and I found ’em totally believable as well, if only for the purpose of this sci-fi/horror film. I’m absolutely dying to tell you about the time rip that resembles a cross between The Totally Groovy Eye Of Sauron and a psychedelic vagina, but for once I’ll keep my trap shut. Well, nearly shut…!
Bronson Pinchot, who played Balki in odd-couple situation comedy Perfect Strangers, is great as poor demented Craig Toomy, whose manic behaviour can all be explained away by the appalling psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of his father in his childhood. I loved the mystery writer too and the guy who was always mooching about for something to eat. Rehab girl was just annoying. Hellooooo, did women just not wear bras in the ‘Nineties, then?
Patricia Wettig, from ‘Eighties drama serial thirtysomething, is someone I’ve always found to be as drippy as her name. Miaow…! She’s actually okay in this, however, as the desperate-not-to-be-single-at-her-age schoolmarm who takes it upon herself to mother the little blind girl. What’s that I was saying about her biological clock? Oh yeah, it’s ticking loud enough to wake the dead. The dead in Outer Mongolia. The Outer Mongolia on the moon. Jupiter’s moon, that is. The farthest moon away from Earth. Haha. You get my drift.
The slow and steady build-up of suspense and tension in the film is what makes it so brilliant. I’ve always just found this to be an incredibly clever and entertaining watch, one of the King’s finest ever film adaptations. I recommend it for a night when you want to just sit down for a few hours and shut out the world. Pizza would almost certainly be required. The three hours you spend watching this will by no means be a waste of time, which is just as well. Sadly, having watched the film, we now know what happens to time-wasters…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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