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Nightmares & Dreamscapes: Battleground -- An early look

by Keith McDuffee, posted Jul 6th 2006 12:46PM
battleground
I'm a fan of Stephen King's writing, though more specifically, I enjoy his short stories. I've read a few of King's larger works, but sometimes I just need a quick beginning-to-end read in one night, and books like 'Skeleton Crew,' 'Night Shift' and 'Nightmares & Dreamscapes' fit the bill nicely.

TNT has a new series debuting next week that pays homage to several of King's short works, titled Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King. Though the title matches that of one of King's compilations of short stories, there are episodes covering stories from other books of King's as well.

Case in point, the premiere episode, 'Battleground,' comes from King's 1978 book, 'Night Shift.' Does the episode do the 10-page story justice? Read on for my thoughts.

'Battleground' stars William Hurt as John Renshaw, a professional hit man who's exceedingly good at what he does. Rehshaw returns to his apartment after completing a hit on the owner of a big toy store company, where he soon receives an unexpected package from said toy company. Upon opening the package, he finds he's fighting for his life against foes he'd never faced before.

The episode follows the printed story quite well, though of course when you have an hour-long show, you've got to stretch the original 10-pages somehow. For example, in the book, the hit on the toy store owner isn't mentioned in detail. In fact, Renshaw kills the toy maker's mother in the book. The mayhem within Renshaw's apartment is extended somewhat, though done in a way that doesn't shame the story.

The one key difference between the two tellings of the story is the ending which, in the print version, has a very TV-show or Movie-like feel to it already. While I wasn't disappointed in the changed ending, I did wonder why it was done.

One thing I noticed once the episode was over was that there were no speaking parts at all, including Hurt's Renshaw (with the exception of some loud screams and yells). Even a television broadcast shown is silent in an airport, with Renshaw reading the subtitles. Cleverly done.

I'll admit I was a bit afraid that this episode would just not do the story justice, especially with the visual effects, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's fun and the effects are very well done. Even though you can easily find plot details for this story online, I'd rather not spoil what happens here. I think at least this episode is well worth watching, Stephen King fan or not. If you're into The Twilight Zone or Amazing Stories, Nightmares & Dreamscapes is for you.

'Battleground' airs next Wedneday, July 12 at 9 PM ET/PT on TNT.

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James Kew

I too did not notice the absence of dialogue -- even though I had read about it here before watching. Nicely done.

It did seem stretched a little long, though; it's a very tight story with a sudden and surprising ending, whereas this one seemed to meander a bit.

(And yes, Crouch End was _awful_.)

July 13 2006 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chad

It took me awhile to notice the lack of dialogue, even though I had read this before watching it. Even after I did notice, I soon forgot and was more interested in the story itself having not read this one. I loved the "thermonulear weapon" badge on the box at the end, for some reason it made me chuckle. I was glad I tuned in for this ep, and glad I found something else to do while the next one, "Crouch End" was on.

July 13 2006 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
karen

not a huge fan of king's books, but have typically enjoyed the made for tv movies based on them: however, i couldn't stick with battleground beyond the first 20mins. no dialogue whatsoever, and it seemed overly ponderous. won't be tuning in to the rest of this summer series unless i have absolutely nothing else to do.

July 13 2006 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason

Seems like maybe TNT's trying to pick up on Showtime's relative success with the Masters Of Horror anthology series, but with a different angle. Instead of the hook being all these notable horror directors doing different stories, have the hook be that it's an anthology series of King stories. Hopefully it'll work for them, as the potential is certainly there to be a winner if they don't get lazy about it...

July 07 2006 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Duane

I can truthfully say that Steven King is responsible for the most physical reactions from me while reading his books. It's happened 3 times now -- IT, when somebody walked by carrying balloons out of the corner of my eye; The Stand, when somebody coughed; and Nightmares and Dreamscapes, the one about the reporter that goes on the trail of a wacko that turns out to be a real vampire (The Night Flyer, maybe?) That one gave me honest to god nightmares. Great stuff.

July 06 2006 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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