Directed by Craig R. Baxley [Other horror films: Dark Angel (1990), A Family Torn Apart (1993), Rose Red (2002), The Glow (2002), The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003)]
This mini-series, written by Stephen King (and mercifully not based on a novel) is perhaps, aside from his book It, one of the finest things he’s ever done, and it stands as my all-time favorite mini-series, and in fact, one of my favorite pieces of television that I’ve ever witnessed.
I can’t say when I first saw this – I doubt it was when it originally aired over three nights, but I do know I was pretty young, and given I would have been around six years old when this came out (I was born 1993), it’s not out of the question I saw pieces of this when my parents watched it. What I do know is that I did see a lot of this when I was quite young, and that only enhances my pleasure of it now.
With a mini-series like this, it’s hard to know where to start. Storm of the Century possesses three episodes and totals 4 hours and 17 minutes. Out of these four hours and 17 minutes, there’s only one thing I don’t care much for. Otherwise, this is outright perfection in a way that no mini-series has ever come close to matching.
There’s virtually nothing I don’t like about this – the story is fantastic. The setting is fantastic. The performances – almost every single one (and this is a big cast) – fantastic. The moral quandary the characters find themselves in, the mystery, the suspense, the music (oh, the music), the opening and closing narratives, the imagery, the atmosphere, the emotional gut-punches – all fantastic.
A mysterious man comes onto an island off the coast of Maine right before a storm (the titular storm of the century) hits hard, and this man, one André Linoge (Colm Feore), kills a woman and starts off a chain of events I daren’t reveal, because if this is a mini-series you haven’t seen yet, it would be a disservice to dig too deep into the story.
What I can say is that the story is fantastic (and given that I’ve already said such, that may be self-apparent), the mystery behind what Linoge wants (for, as he repeats, if he’s given what he wants, he’ll go away) is fantastic, and the atmosphere, which is already great due to the storm and isolated island setting, is quality dread.
I’ve never seen an island setting put to such great use. The whole theme of how island folk look after their own, and more so, known how to keep a secret, is embedded in the viewers from the beginning, and it only solidifies the longer each episode goes on. It’s a great look at island life (or what I imagine island life is like, given I’ve never set foot on an island in my life), and I love it.
There are a lot of great performances here, central among them Colm Feore and Tim Daly. I could watch Colm Feore walk through a crowd of people and pontificate on their dirty deeds all day, and his performance here is just masterful. Same with Daly – his utterly straight-laced attitude works well given he’s the town constable, and more so, he works great as a moral center and the central character, especially toward the somewhat depressing conclusion. Daly was also in both Spellbinder and The Skeptic.
Who else stands out? Well, who doesn’t? There’s Jeffrey DeMunn (The Blob, The Mist, The Green Mile) as the town manager that few people like. There’s Becky Ann Baker (Freaks and Geeks) with her quality accent, and Torri Higginson with an even better one. I absolutely adore Julianne Nicholson as Kat (“She’s your wife, Mike. How would I know where she’s hot?”), and though she got only two scenes of note, Myra Carter as the elderly Cora stole each of them.
An affable counterpart to Daly was Casey Siemaszko as Hatch, and playing Daly’s wife was Debrah Farentino, who did great despite the maddening choices she made toward the end (but really, it’s pretty hard to blame these people given the dire circumstances they were in). Ron Perkins was great as Peter, same with Steve Rankin as Jack. Denis Forest popped up here and then, and he was always a nice face to see (and his secret was one of the most tragic).
Who couldn’t feel bad for Nada Despotovich as she discusses leaving DeMunn’s Robbie or Adam LeFevre running and screaming in fear after finding a dear friend dead. Kathleen Chalfant was great (especially with her back-and-forth with Myra Carter’s irascible character) and most of the child actors and actresses were acceptable.
Once we figure out exactly what Linoge is after, the characters are thrown into quite a fun moral quandary (and of course, I mean fun for us, the audience, and not fun for them), made all-the-better by the fact that while I fully, 100% agreed with Daly’s vote more, given what the townspeople had been to up to that point, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the vast majority to take the opposite choice (and some try to play both sides, such as Daly’s wife).
They never really needed that many special effects aside from the constant storm raging on. The silver wolf cane did look a little janky at times, but I thought the sequence with the kids in flight looked reasonably decent, and even a better example, the dream in which the townspeople walked off a pier into the ocean really came across well.
I mentioned there’s one thing I didn’t care for, though, and now seems a good time to point it out. Every now and again, Linoge growls at the camera, baring vampire-like teeth. He doesn’t do this to anybody in the mini-series – just us, the audience. Now, something like that happens in the final scene of the mini-series, witnessed by an actual character, which was fine, but otherwise, this technique just struck me as somewhat out of place. I get it, they need to cut to commercial, but they can do that without a toothy growl.
Aside from that, though, like I said – perfection.
And speaking of perfection, that score. This video is a little piece of the score. Throughout the mini-series, it really packs a punch, and there’s plenty of atmosphere and emotion resonating from just the score alone, which is impressive, and, on a personal note, it’s not that common that a score is as consistently moving as this one is.
Storm of the Century may seem like quite an undertaking, given it’s over four hours long, but it’s a journey well-worth it, and if you’re one that’s skeptical of King-related mini-series, I can’t say I blame you, but I’d ask you at least give this one a chance, as this most definitely stands out as a solid work.
Born in sin? Come on it, as my pappy always said.