A human-made plague that is accidentally loosed wipes out about 99% of the population. Guided by dreams of either a saintly old woman named Mother Abigail (Ruby Dee) or a scary guy named Flagg (Jamey Sheridan), the good survivors head to Colorado, and the bad ones go to Nevada. There’s a large cast of characters, but the highlights include Texas good ol’ boy Stu (Gary Sinise), his pregnant girlfriend Franny (Molly Ringwald), former pop star Larry (Adam Storke), deaf/mute Nick (Rob Lowe), professor Glen (Ray Walston), good ol’ boy # 2 Ralph (Peter Van Norden), and intellectually disabled, awesome Tom (Bill Fagerbakke). On the bad side there’s head guy Lloyd (Miguel Ferrer), offensive Black stereotype Rat Man (Rick Aviles), and lunatic Trashcan Man (Matt Frewer). It all boils down to an epic battle between God and Satan, with humans as pawns in their chess game.
It’s a made-for-TV movie from 1994, so it looks cheap and the special effects are godawful. The adult situations more prevalent in the book are easily edited, so the jump to primetime television is actually a smooth one. The teleplay is penned by King, so it’s quite faithful to the book; there are some changes, mostly weeding out characters due to time constraints—and I am glad for them. I certainly don’t miss The Kid, who for some reason makes Trashcan Man give him a hand-job, or Rita the whiny granny.
The Stand used to be one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations, but it just gets cheesier every time I watch it, from Larry’s crappy hit single to the giant hand that shows up to save the day. My biggest gripe is the lack of diversity—aside from the occasional mute extra, the majority of people are white, with a few Black people. But even that’s a slight improvement from the book; they upped the level of social awareness a tad by making a male character, Ray Flowers, a woman (cameo by Kathy Bates), and they made a white character, the Judge (Ossie Davis), Black. BUT they did heter-ize a character who was bisexual in the book, Dayna. BUT don’t get me started on Dayna; this is a link to an article I wrote for horrornovelreviews on the depiction of gay and bisexual characters in King’s works. So, eh. As I’m editing this in 2020, I did come across casting information for a remake from this year–they’re upping the ante by making Larry Black. Good on them. I also see no Rat Man in the credits, cheers. One can only hope that in 2020 they see fit to include more LGBTQ characters.
Aside from my griping, I feel some things are done well. Though there are quite a few characters, it’s fairly easy to tell them apart—unless you wander in ¾ of the way through the movie like my friend Hope did. I had to explain over and over who was who and what was going on. The acting is decent, though Molly Ringwald gets on my nerves with her one expression of wide-eyed surprise.
Also, as corny as the movie gets, it still conveys a powerful message: the planet is fucked up, and our possessions and nuclear weapons won’t save us. The solution posed by the movie is that we need to start all over, stop polluting, and stop acting like jerks to each other.
While it’s not one of King’s eerier efforts, horror fans should still be pleased. King himself has a small role, as does Shawnee Smith (best known as Amanda from Saw). There are cameos by director Mick Garris, John Landis, Sam Raimi (both playing dim-witted henchmen), and Joe Bob Briggs, former host of Monstervision. There is one scene I find a little creepy—the camera pans over a plethora of dead scientists while “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays. Otherwise most of the attempts at scares come from Flagg turning into a circa-1994 CGI demon.