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Monday, October 19, 2015

Night Surf

Probably the thing that most people remember about this short story is its link to The Stand; this is the first time King brings in the superflu, the Captain Trips.

Which isn't fair because there's a lot more to this story. It's one of those that's more horrifying the more you think about it.

In the short form, it's about a group of young people (I'd guess somewhere in their early twenties) living on or near Anson Beach after the world has essentially been wiped out by Captain Trips.

Side note: am I the only one who's noticed just how fucking weird a name that is for a flu, even as a colloquialism? We just accept that's what it's called, and no one that I know of has called out just how odd it sounds. Its name doesn't suggest anything about an epidemic, and if you apply an illness to it, I think of a fainting-spell type of disease, not a superflu. Oh, well, I guess it's not that much more odd than "Hoof in Mouth disease".

These youngsters, including our narrator Bernie, his erstwhile girlfriend-cum-fuck-buddy Suzie, psycho rich boy Corey, fairly nondescript Needles and young couple Kelly and Joan, all believe they're immune from the virus, mainly because all of them once were infected with its previous strain, A2, or the Hong Kong virus (Captain Trips is officially A6). Because of this, they've started to pretty much do whatever they want. It's pretty clear they don't really even like each other, but they've banded together mainly because...well, I'm not even sure they know why. The need for human companionship. A sort of tribal survival thing.

Bernie is the one through who's eyes we see this whole story. He narrates with a sort of robotic detachment; he doesn't really feel much about what's going on unless it affects him directly. He seems to hate Suzie, and finds her unattractive, repeatedly going on about how fat she is, both in his mind and out loud, yet is still okay with having sex with her. Something about Bernie's character makes me think Suzie isn't really fat at all, just that a guy like Bernie, who's starting to feel the entitled attitude of a young man who answers to no one, focuses on her flaws to a crazy degree, even deciding a woman who has hips must be fat. The fact that Corey later bears her on his back with relative ease makes me think I'm right; Suzie is of average size, which in Bernie's increasingly sociopathic mind, is not good enough for him.

Suzie, however, is not sane at all. She starts off clingy, desperate to know if Bernie loves her, which he openly says he doesn't, and she flies into a rage, threatening to kill him, and I think she means it. Then Corey chases her off up the beach and she's all smiles again. We'll need someone who has a good crazy look to play her.

The others aren't really focused on that much; Corey seems to be as far gone as Bernie in terms of realizing the rules no longer apply and they can do pretty much whatever they want. The others have even less characterization, which is fertile ground for a movie to develop.

At the beginning of the story, they're burning a guy. Yeah, Bernie just sorta says "After the guy was dead..." and proceeds to describe the rest of the day as if they just did a grocery run. The burning guy, Alvin Sackheim, was so far gone with the disease that he thought Suzie was his grandmother and didn't even notice he was burning until he was close to dead. Burning him was Corey's idea; a sacrifice to the beach. Bernie doesn't seem to care about the whole thing, Suzie is turned on by it, and Kelly's only response is "Some fire."

And then, Needles reveals he's sick. He's got the Captain Trips, and he'll be dead soon. This makes Bernie realize that none of them are really immune, that in fact they might all be dead soon. This makes him remember flashes of his life before A6 hit, and we realize he was a pretty normal guy. And there's where the real horror comes in; Bernie has started shedding all the elements that made him fit in with polite society, apparently less than a year after society crumbled. In The Stand, we watch a community get built up that is trying desperately to hold on to what they figure makes them human. Here, we see what happens when all societal niceties get stripped away. Bernie's not a monster, and that's what's scary about him. We could be him.

Anyway, I'm not sure how this would work as a full movie. There's a lot going on in this story, but most of it is in the mind of our twisted lead. However, it might work as an extra feature on a BluRay release of The Stand.

There's already been a Dollar Baby short film of this story and...I should stop for a moment and explain what a Dollar Baby is because if I don't I'm sure I'll pay for it later. A "dollar baby" is a term coined by King in reference to a select group of students and aspiring filmmakers or theater producers whom he has granted permission to adapt one of his short stories for $1.The list of Dollar Babies is very long, and grows nearly every year. They've been around since the 70's and are still around today. Some of the filmmakers behind the Dollar Babies have gone on to have professional careers, including Frank Darabont, who made The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist and is considered one of the greatest King-adapters there is. Some Dollar Babies, such as Darabont's The Woman in the Room, are available on home video. Some can be found on YouTube. I probably should have mentioned this in my last post; Strawberry Spring is getting its first Dollar Baby sometime this year or next.

Despite that, I'm not considering Dollar Babies the same thing as previous adaptations. This is mainly because at the end of the day, they're just short films, and not even short films meant to be seen by a wide audience. There are tons upon tons of short films adapted from King's works, and this blog is about feature-length adaptations. I'm making something of an exception here because of Night Surf's connection to The Stand. In fact, I toyed with the idea of including it as a sub-plot of The Stand as part of a maxi-series, but that wouldn't work because while it includes the disease, it doesn't have anything to do with the plot of the novel. Instead, I think it will make an hourish-long film that focuses on the character of Bernie and the question of: is he losing his humanity, or has the stripping away of social mores exposed what humanity really is?

This film, as I said, can expand more on Bernie's friends as well, not to mention giving more attention to Alvin Sackheim, showing him, say, watching the news, deciding to flee town before he gets sick and driving across the country, gradually getting sicker.

For the role of Bernie, I'd like to cast a young guy who looks like he used to be the kid next door but now seems more sinister. Kier Gilchrist did exactly that; growing from a cherubic child actor to a scarecrow-like adult actor. Compare the two shots below and you'll see what I mean.
Gilchrist a few years ago

Gilchrist today
 I mentioned how Suzy is shown to be losing her sanity, and I picked actress Halston Sage to play the character, because, as pretty as she is, she has a quality to her face that suggests she could do madness quite well.
I went with Cal Barnes for the role of Corey, the kid used to privilege who is the first to suggest something truly over the line; burning Alvin. He looks like a rich boy who could turn evil on you.
Needles is a name that suggests "drug addict" to me, and I think it was intended to, so I wanted a guy who's thin and looks strung out. I ultimately went with Alex Shaffer, though there's probably tons of guys who fit this role.
Then there's Kelly and Joan, who don't really do or say much, and I just chose a couple of blandly pretty people for them. Again, they'll likely get fleshed out a bit; one idea I had is that the two of them are co-dependent, needing each other more as lifelines for each other, and showing that if they're separated just for a few moments they start acting like heroin users in need of a fix. Logan Miller and Ciara Renee are the couple I chose.

Finally, for the non-role of Alvin Sackheim, I decided on Damon Herriman because he's just good at playing guys who are aren't all there. I want Sackheim to start off looking relatively normal and grow increasingly mad as the disease ramps up in him.
So that's Night Surf. We'll be blowing through several more short stories here in the next few days. We've got five more before we get to the first full-length novel I'm covering.

Next up: I Am the Doorway!

1 comment:

  1. The whole "Captain Trips" thing confused me a bit, too. I know it's got something to do with the Grateful Dead in general and Jerry Garcia specifically (I think it was his nickname), but beyond that, I don't know.

    I agree that "Night Surf" has more going for it than being an offshoot of "The Stand." It's a very good story.