Monday, 28 September 2015

Review: Stand By Me

I can't believe I haven't seen…

Stand By Me Poster

Stand By Me (1986)
Cert: 15 / 88 mins / Dir. Rob Reiner / Trailer
WoB Rating: 6/7

Now I'm not the only one who expected the decomposing corpse of Ray Brower to lurch forward, his undead facsimile of human senses brought out of stasis by the proximity of his former associates, and to sink his stained teeth into the leg of Vern, am I..?

Stand By Me: The Walker Years

"This is how it starts. Already in a state of shock at the sight of an ostensibly dead body, Gordie, Chris and Teddy can’t believe what’s happening; is this a joke? Some adolescent prank orchestrated by Vern’s older brother Billy, in order to lure them twenty miles into the wilderness and scare the shit out of them? But no, this is very, very real. As the hideous parody of Ray severs Vern's tibia with the ferocity of its bite, blood geysers from the wound as the head pulls back to strike further up the leg, tearing flesh from the stunned Vern. His screams had been quickly silenced by the flood of adrenaline into his system, and he now sits wheezing, shaking too much to co-ordinate the removal of the ravenous cadaver from his lower-leg.

Then, reality snaps back into play and Gordie knows what he must do. Ray Brower is no longer his acquaintance, his classmate, the macabre destination of the spiritual and physical journey he’s been sharing with his closest friends. This is a monster. A monster which is now attacking one of the few people Gordie feels - no, knows - he can trust in this world. The .45 which has been weighing him down for the last day suddenly dances in his hands, it too has reached its destination. Although a giddy feeling grips his chest as he aims, Gordie’s hands are unnaturally still as he aims the gun at Ray, and an effortless squeeze of the trigger discharges a deafening metal slug which throws the frothing animal back three feet. Half of the creature’s chest is now missing, the rapidly necrotising tissue proving no obstacle for the ordnance, but to everyone’s slack-jawed amazement, it plunges forward at Vern again; the red, quivering mess of his knee-joint acting like a magnet for the ghoul’s eager jaws.

The time for restraint is over; Gordie kneels forward and halts the thing's progress with the barrel of the pistol pushing into what used to be a face. There are no speeches, no farewells. All that squirms out of Gordie’s mouth is a weak “…fucker”, before the second shot within a minute tears the back of the undead cannibal’s head away, spraying the foliage in a range of hues which nature had never intended them to bear. It’s over. The three boys join Vern and the remains of their classmate by slumping to the ground, speechless.

After what seems like hours, the ear-ringing silence of the woodland is disturbed by heavy, hurried footsteps. Ace Merril enters the scene then quickly halts and surveys the carnage. “What the fuck? …What the fuck have you assholes done?”

Gordie hangs his head, exhausted. Where to begin? And is it all worth telling to this douchebag anyway? He wouldn’t know the truth if it smacked him in the face, and even then he wouldn’t care. Shit, he’s stepping forward. “Hey, asshole, I said---“

And without looking up, Gordie already knows what’s happened. Unencumbered by rigor mortis or decomposition, the thing which used to be Vern springs at Ace - no mean feat with only three limbs - catching him off-guard and clawing, biting, chewing at his throat as the blonde boy's high-pitched, withering scream accompanies them to the dirt. Ace Merril's final smart-assed quip is a gurgling sigh emitting from the morass of tendons beneath his jaw, his widened eyes glassing over as his feet twitch less and less. Billy and the rest of the older gang are standing at the top of the clearing at the railway track, transfixed by the carnivorous picnic on display; unable to move.

That's when the previously mute Teddy finds his voice, the psychotic swagger beginning to return amid the madness. "Yeah that's right, fuckers! You're not as tough now, are ya?" he jeers. Billy is shaking now, crying and pissing himself. Somehow it's this, rather than Teddy's yelling which makes the former Vern's eyes dart up, like an ill-mannered diner ready for the next course.

Throughout all of this, Gordie stands holding the .45, a small voice screaming at him to put a stop to all this. But the rest of his brain shuts that voice down. Not Vern, man. Not Vern. As one, Gordie, Chris and Teddy begin tumbling town the hill toward the riverbank, leaving Billy and his moronic cohorts to fend for themselves. Gordie doesn't even know how many shots he has left, anyway.

The voice reminds him that just one would suffice.

+ + + + +

And that was how it started. At least, that's how I remember it starting, although it was all so long ago now my brain may be playing tricks on me. We hardly spoke a word on the long walk home; we didn't need to. I guess someone from Billy's gang must have had the wherewithal to make it back to their pickup truck, because by the time we reached Castle Rock, some of the gang (all that was left) had long since returned. Although whoever was compos mentis enough to drive didn't have the common sense to leave their wounded friends behind, because they brought the infection into town with them. And that was how it started.

The town fought hard to quell the outbreak, but these things won't be contained. At least, that's what the CDC told us, in the days when they were still trying to offer advice. The lucky few who escaped the town were gone within a year, but once the surrounding cities became over-run, even the military stopped trying to clean up the mess. I've never been able to shake the guilt of not putting an end to things on that railway siding. Chris tried his best, telling me that Ray Brower would have bitten someone anyway as the authorities were looking for his body. But I could have stopped it. I could have stopped him.

Chris lasted around two months before being bitten. I was with him at the time, and I'd swore not to make the same mistake again. I know he understood. Teddy on the other hand? He disappeared three weeks after we got home; could have been his mind snapping, could have been bitten, or perhaps his Dad finally just finished what he'd been threatening to do all those years? I don't know, although I can't pretend I didn't enjoy taking Teddy's old man down when he was attacked by one of them outside the bar a month or so later.

And now it's just me. Cleaning up the walkers which drift into town, as well as the looters who think there's anything here worth taking. It's just me, baby. Just me.

It turns out I only had one shot left in that .45. One shot which could have stopped all this. Maybe. I've lost count of the number I've fired since then, but I've always kept that one shell with me. If I couldn't finish things in 1959, I'll sure as hell finish them when it's my time. It's not been my time all these years, but the neighbouring towns are spent and the fish are just about gone from the river.

So, I'm putting these words into the glove-box, not as a warning but a kind of record. Maybe even a confession, I guess. A message-in-a-bottle, cast into a worldwide ocean. I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.

This is how it ends.

Because y'know: four kids just walking back home? "That ending sucks…" ;)

Have you really never seen this before?
Really. I was more Back To The Future and Transformers in '86, and it just never crossed my radar after that.

So are you glad you've finally have?
Absolutely, it's marvellous.
I wouldn't have just written 1200 words of zombie-fanfic if it wasn't

And would you recommend it, now?
Well I would, except everybody else has seen it, obviously.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't, although that eagle/hawk screech is in there.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
The film stars Richard Dreyfuss, who appeared in 1973's American Graffiti, directed by George 'Baron Papanoida' Lucas.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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