Stephen King should put William Goldman in his will.
Many of you probably know Goldman better as the novelist and screenwriter behind The Princess Bride. This is his third turn at adapting King's work for the big screen; he previously wrote the screenplays for Misery and Hearts in Atlantis (he also did uncredited fixer work on Dolores Claiborne). This time out, he's done a master's job of turning a fairly messy, bloated, hard-to-follow novel about four psychically-awakened friends encountering an alien invasion in the snowy woods of Maine into a lean, suspenseful screenplay that crackles with wicked dialog. He's deepened the story and added elements that vastly improve upon the source material, namely the characters of Captain Owen Underhill (Tom Sizemore) and Colonel Abraham Kurtz (Morgan Freeman), and Jonesy's memory warehouse.
Goldman should get an Oscar nomination for his work here.
But he won't.
The reason he won't get an Academy nod is the same reason that many of you out there really won't enjoy this film: it's got some of the nastiest sequences I've seen in any horror film. Really, stomach-churningly nasty. If you are the least bit squeamish, there's a scene in here that will make you want to avoid bathrooms for a solid month.
I have two words for you: shit weasels. If you think you might not want to know what a shit weasel is, you're probably right. If the idea of killer alien eels crawling out of people's butts is overwhelmingly vile to you, you probably won't be able to get past it enough to appreciate the film for its many merits.
Having said all that, if you're a horror movie fan and not easily squicked, check this movie out. I personally enjoyed it from start to finish. The excellent writing aside, it's uniformly well acted, from Morgan Freeman's truly scary colonel to Jason Lee as the goofy Beaver to Donnie Wahlberg as a psychically powerful retarded man.
The direction is sharp, and the cinematography and effects are top-notch; the film looks amazing.
It's enough to make you want to go read the book.
Running time: 136 minutes
Release Date: March 17, 2003
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Screenwriters: William Goldman and Lawrence Kasdan
Cinematography: John Seale
Morgan Freeman: Colonel Abraham Kurtz
Thomas Jane: Dr. Henry Devlin
Jason Lee: Joe 'Beaver' Clarendon
Damian Lewis: Gary 'Jonesy' Jones
Tom Sizemore: Captain Owen Underhill
Timothy Olyphant: Pete Moore
Donnie Wahlberg: Douglas 'Duddits' Cavell