Mick Garris has also had much experience in the televised fantastic anthology format. One of his first industry jobs was as story editor on the Steven Spielberg produced tv series Amazing Stories (1985-7), for which he also wrote nine episodes. More recently, Garris returned to the anthology format as creator, executive producer and guiding hand behind the Masters of Horror (2005-7) series and its less successful cousin Masters of Science Fiction (2007), followed by a further horror anthology Fear Itself (2008-9). Quicksilver Highway gives the impression of having been intended as a pilot for an anthology series that never ended up selling. Garris adapts two stories, Chattery Teeth (1992) from Stephen King and The Body Politic (1992) from Clive Barker, who around the time was considered the No 2 name in horror next to King. Both stories are 45 minutes apiece and were almost certainly originally intended to fill a one-hour timeslot of a presumed tv series. Christopher Lloyd is wound in as a narrator character, which is customary for most of these anthology series (although Lloyd is an actor better known for his comic crazy man style and never gets the essential ghoulish or dark threat that a role like this requires).
Whenever he is in the directors chair, Mick Garris always seems to swing between the absurdly over-the-top and occasionally judiciously restrained effect although the over-the-top swings are inclined to dominate. Quicksilver Highway seems to sit at the mid-point of the pendulums swing, tending generally towards the restrained, if ultimately producing nothing remarkable. The first segment, Chattery Teeth, comes with a passable set-up. Mick Garriss handling is okay, if nothing to write home about. However, the segment is stuck with an incredibly absurd central manifestation of the fantastic a set of plastic wind-up teeth that come to life and start attacking people. The entire episode teeters between whether one finds the sight of a set of wind-up plastic teeth with legs attacking someone and dragging bodies off into the desert risible or not.
The two episodes seem linked by the loose theme of body parts (or plastic simulations of them) gaining a life of their own. If Chattery Teeth had a credibility problem with its central happening, then this goes into orbit with the second story The Body Politic. The films credibility point sinks in a bad way when we get to images of Matt Frewer asleep in bed as his hands start having conspiratorial finger puppet conversations about how to escape. On the other hand, Mick Garriss over-the-top style actually becomes the saving grace of The Body Politic, turning the episode into something like a madcap full-length version of the sequence in The Evil Dead 2 (1987) where Bruce Campbell is attacked by his own hand. There are some highly amusing scenes with Matt Frewer under attack by his hand as it punches and tries to strangle him, or with he having to tap out the numbers on a phone with his nose to call for help and then the hand dragging him across the floor and raising a meat cleaver to free its other self. It is Garriss finding the basic absurdity of the second story that ends up making Quicksilver Highway work.
Other Stephen King genre adaptations include:- Carrie (1976), Salems Lot (1979), The Shining (1980), Christine (1983), Cujo (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), Children of the Corn (1984), Firestarter (1984), Cats Eye (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), The Running Man (1987), Pet Semetary (1989), Graveyard Shift (1990), It (tv mini-series, 1990), Misery (1990), a segment of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Sometimes They Come Back (1991), The Lawnmower Man (1992), The Dark Half (1993), Needful Things (1993), The Tommyknockers (tv mini-series, 1993), The Stand (tv mini-series, 1994), The Langoliers (tv mini-series, 1995), The Mangler (1995), Thinner (1996), The Night Flier (1997), The Shining (tv mini-series, 1997), Trucks (1997), Apt Pupil (1998), The Green Mile (1999), The Dead Zone (tv series, 2001-2), Hearts in Atlantis (2001), Carrie (tv mini-series, 2002), Dreamcatcher (2003), Riding the Bullet (2004), Salems Lot (tv mini-series, 2004), Secret Window (2004), Desperation (tv mini-series, 2006), Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (tv mini-series, 2006), 1408 (2007), The Mist (2007), Children of the Corn (2009), Everythings Eventual (2009), the tv series Haven (2010-5), Bag of Bones (tv mini-series, 2011), Carrie (2013), Under the Dome (tv series, 2013-5), Big Driver (2014), A Good Marriage (2014), Mercy (2014), Cell (2016), 11.22.63 (tv mini-series, 2016), The Dark Tower (2017), Geralds Game (2017), It (2017), The Mist (tv series, 2017), Mr. Mercedes (tv series, 2017 ) and 1922 (2017). Stephen King had also written a number of original screen works with Creepshow (1982), Golden Years (tv mini-series, 1991), Sleepwalkers (1992), Storm of the Century (tv mini-series, 1999), Rose Red (tv mini-series, 2002) and the tv series Kingdom Hospital (2004), as well as adapted his own works with the screenplays for Cats Eye, Silver Bullet, Pet Semetary, The Stand, The Shining and Desperation. King also directed one film with Maximum Overdrive (1986).
Clive Barker has also directed/written Hellraiser (1987), Nightbreed (1990) and Lord of Illusions (1995). Other adaptations of Clive Barker work include Candyman (1992), which produced two sequels, The Midnight Meat Train (2008), Book of Blood (2009) and Dread (2009). Barker has also written the screenplays for Underworld/Transmutations (1986) and Rawhead Rex (1987), acted as Executive Producer on Gods and Monsters (1998); wrote and produced Saint Sinner (2002); and produced The Plague (2006).
(Review copy provided by Kathy Tipping)