Book vs Movie: The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker

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I like to keep things interesting and mix things up a bit with these posts. For this book versus movie, I decided on a short story instead of a full length book. I’ve been wondering for quite some time how different that experience would be. I picked “The Midnight Meat Train” from The Books of Blood by Clive Barker, one of my favorite horror writers. (Seriously, I have a Hellraiser obsession, but we’ll talk about that another time.)

The story starts off telling us about a relative newcomer to New York City, Leon Kaufman. After three and half months he’s realized it is not the sparkling dreamland he’d been pictured. He moved to the city because of his life long infatuation only to be disappointed in the gritty, violent reality. We don’t find out much about Leon except the way he views the city. In particular, we hear at length his thoughts and disgust at a recent news story about murdered subway riders strung up like cattle in a slaughterhouse. Then we meet Mahogany, the subway butcher just doing his duty. After a late night at the office, Leon’s commute home lands him face to face with the subway butcher. The two face off in a battle for survival. What I like most about this story is the way it captured the city. It screamed 1980’s New York. It taps into the alluring excesses of New York and it’s brutish underside that was often ignored.

Not surprisingly, the movie gives us more of a back story for Leon and tries to give a little more context to the plot. Leon is no longer an anonymous office worker. He’s a photographer trying to break into the New York art scene by exposing the rougher side of the city. He also has a beautiful girlfriend that he proposes to at some point during the movie. Neither element really adds to the story, but I guess it didn’t hurt either. My biggest complaint about the movie would be the larger changes to the story don’t really make sense. In the story, it’s essentially dumb lands him face-to-face with Mahogany. But in the movie he actively seeks him out suspecting he might have something to with a woman’s disappearance because he was on same train. It gets really intense really quickly and just doesn’t seem believable.

For this one, I’d go with the original story. It’s quick, to the point and damn good horror. The movie didn’t do much justice to the story, the additional characters, scenes, or background didn’t really add to it. Plus it didn’t have the same atmosphere or momentum. It wasn’t exactly horrible though, not very logical, but okay. Plus I didn’t mind watching Bradley Cooper for an hour and change.

Book vs Movie: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Been quite some time between Book vs Movie posts, but I had to squeeze The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in for SciFi September. I’m starting to realized that I don’t read many funny books, like straight up comedy or even mixed genres like comedic horror or this silly scifi novel. I watched the movie at some point but never picked up the book. I’ll have to work at that, especially considering how much enjoyed this.

The book’s introduction tells us it’s the story of a “terrible, stupid catastrophe and some of it’s consequences.” It also tell us its the story of the fictional book titled, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s not really. Its mentioned a lot and is useful tool for exposition and random tangents but that’s it. The story is about Arthur Dent, an earthman thrown in the weird and wonderful world of space travel. Thanks to his alien friend, Ford Prefect, he hitches a ride on a Vogon ship and survives the earth being demolished to build a hyperspatial express route. From there he embarks on a fantastically improbable adventure.

While the movie keeps a lot of the major elements of the book, it also changes a lot. The sequence of events were switched around, or happen off screen and the basic plot is very different. It seems like most of the changes were to play up the absurd comedic elements. I guess it works, it’s a pretty funny movie. But it lacks that special something the book has. One major loss was the strong role chance and coincidence played in the events. Everything in the novel, while being ridiculous still seemed natural and inevitable. But in the movie it felt forced.

I have to give this one to the book. The movie felt like it was trying way too hard. Without reading the book, you wouldn’t know and might enjoy it. But, I just felt this nagging sensation throughout the movie. I can’t explain it completely. Part of it was that it seemed like they were just trying to make it as ridiculous as possible for no good reason.

Movie vs Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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The Hate U Give book cover

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I’ve wanted to read this book for a while. When the movie came out it was added to my list for future posts. But then I stalled, and stalled and stalled. As interested as I was in it, I also didn’t really want to face it’s realness. The book revolves around Starr, who witnesses her childhood best-friend, Khalil, get shot and killed by a police officer. She struggles with fear, guilt and shame as the people around her pressure her to either stand up for her friend or stay silent for her safety. This builds on the pressure she already feels attending a private school with mostly rich white kids.

I knew this book would not be an easy read, and would likely bring me to tears. I was absolutely right. Hearing everything from Starr’s point of view is heartbreaking. The realness of the story also makes it hit hard. The characters are flawed. Khalil questions the officer, responds with an attitude and doesn’t follow his directions. You may find yourself judging him, it almost seems as if Starr does too in the moment. But as Starr points out, he didn’t do anything wrong, certainly not anything to deserve to die. It also accurately reflects real world stories where the victim ends up being more scrutinized than the police officer. Starr also has her own complicated and conflicting issues. The story is just too real not to hit home.

The movie sticks pretty close to the book. They switch the order of scenes, eliminate some characters and make a few changes that don’t have a major affect on the overall story. I didn’t like the changes they made to the story line following her school friendships. In the book, Hailey’s racist behavior is more of a ongoing issue extending beyond Khalil’s murder, the movie makes it the catalyst for all the conflict between with her friends. In the book it’s a lot more complicated, a lot the deeper issues Starr and her family struggle with are just barely mentioned in the movie. They also threw in an extra confrontation between police officers and the family that seemed just to be there to shock viewers and drive home the main theme. Generally it was a good movie, and a pretty good adaptation. What’s odd is that for a fairly long movie, a little over two hours, it felt rushed. It also didn’t seem to have the same natural flow as the book. The order of events and scenes felt disjointed and pieced together. There are also elements left out of the movie that would have added more depth. I think the narrow focus on Starr, made the other characters fall flat.

Overall, I’d say the two were pretty comparable. They both manage to tell a difficult story that shines a light on a very real problem. While the movie has a very narrow focus, I think the book really highlights how the events affect more than just the individuals involved. In the real world it’s hard to see the connections, but the book really shows how the events ripple out to family, friends and the communities of the victims of police violence and abuse. I preferred the book over the movie but I really think this is a story everybody should hear in either form.

Book vs Movie: Princess Bride by William Goldman

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The movie Princess Bride is an old favorite of mine and a better love story is inconceivable. There’s something for everybody, romance and a hot hero for the ladies; revenge and sword fighting for the guys. I won’t even try to imagine how many times I’ve watched it; there was a time it was on at least once a week. (That might be a little exaggerated.) I was pretty shocked to find out there was a book, and that it took me this many years to know. Wasn’t it lucky when ebook came up as a freebie through Prime. I know Amazon is horrible but it’s so convenient. I made up for it by borrowing the DVD from the library. That works, right?

I was pretty excited to read the book. I’d always loved the movie so naturally I expected the book to be even better. I will say it was interesting. The book is presented as an abridged version of a fictional novel the author’s father read to him as a kid. The introductory first chapter sets up the premise with a bit too background about how he ended up doing this abridged version. I didn’t read the whole thing, about half way through I jumped to the actual story. He also interjects the story randomly, explaining things he left out or other related notes. They didn’t distract too much from the story and some were a bit humorous but I could have done without them.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve watched the movie and it was still just as good as I remembered. Besides some minor changes the movie sticks pretty close to the book. They incorporated the author’s premise of the kid being read to, but it really fades into the background you kind of forget about it. I’m pretty surprised that the whole thing wasn’t completely committed to my memory. How I forgot about the R.O.U.S, I have no idea. Of course, I did remember my favorite parts, mostly the end when they rescue Buttercup. Never could get those scenes of Westly barely able to move out of my head. (I’m wondering if that says something about me.)

This is one of the few times where I have to say, I liked the movie better. The book isn’t bad, I actually really like the story. The biggest issue was the chapter introducing the whole fictional novel premise. It was too much, too many tangents, too much information, just too much. And the interjections became a little annoying after the first couple. So yeah, if you were thinking of reading the book, I’d say just skip it and watch the movie again.

Book vs Movie: Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

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So this post is just a bit different from my usual book vs movie. There are actually two movie adaptations of the book, made within only a couple years of each other. So I watched both and will be comparing all three. Second, I did not wait to finish the book before watching the movies. I watched the first just as I started the book and the other while I was about half way. I thought it would be fun to switch it up, plus I’d already read the book previously, although it was long enough ago that I barely remembered it.

This book is one of the only vampire novels I know of that mainly focuses on children while being meant for adults. The main characters Eli and Oskar are twelve years old. Rather they both appear to be twelve years old, Eli is actually a vampire that’s lived hundreds of years. Despite her long life, Eli still has child like qualities highlighted by her interactions with Oskar. While their relationship is the main focus of the story, the book bounces around to several other minor characters and subplots that all converge. It all comes together well, and in all it’s a great book. Although I will admit towards the end I felt it was dragging, I was impatient for the end. I don’t remember feeling like that the first time I read the book, so this might have been the result of watching the movies first.

I have to say for an adaptation the original Swedish film was damn good. Obviously, with so many characters and subplots, a lot cut out from the movie. However, they were able condense the story and cut out parts that weren’t integral. Although, they did hint at one major part of Eli’s backstory but didn’t elaborate, which in that case could have just been left out. Otherwise I think they did an excellent job with adapting it. The movie has a pretty eerie atmosphere. The beginning was especially jarring, and seemed stilted.  It seems to echo the book in that respect, jumping around to different story lines, yet moving faster than the book. It’s hard to describe but while moving quickly it still felt like a slow buildup.

The American version, Let Me In, was made only two years after the Swedish movie. It’s not supposed to be a remake but it’s own adaptation of the book. While sticking to the same basic story it was a pretty different movie. I guess on it’s own it might be an okay movie but after the book and the first adaptation it was disappointing. I thought there were pointless changes, like changing of main character names, and they cut out a lot more of the story. It didn’t have the affect and felt a lot more rushed. Even the friendship between the two main characters seemed to spring up overnight.

The one aspect that both movies kept from the book that was really cool is the consequences of a vampire entering uninvited. That’s usually not included in most vampire stories and I thought it was an interesting inclusion and also the affect is pretty sick, in a good way. So obviously in this case here the book is best. Although I will caution to read the book first, it does feel like it drags if you watch the movie first. And hands down the Swedish version is much better and a very worthy adaptation.

Book vs Movie: Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Rourdin

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In an effort to keep these interesting I wanted something a little out of my normal reading and viewing habits. I decided on the kids book Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief.  I’d seen parts of it on TV, it seemed okay and I was interested in how they combine the mythology with a modern day setting. I’ve always loved reading mythology, the Olympian Gods especially.

If this series came out when I was a kid, I would have been obsessed. A thirteen year old kid from New York finds out his father is Poseidon, god of the sea, then goes on a quest to save the world. I enjoyed reading the book, it’s a quick read for me but has a good story. I really liked the way the author wove in mythological aspects into the setting. Especially, how magical elements were hidden in plain sight. For example, Medusa’s victims as garden statues and DOA records as the entrance to Hades. The story was humorous, the characters likable and it really kept my interest.

The movie was okay. It keeps some elements from the book but the story ends up vastly different and not for the better. There were a lot changes to the story, big and small. The movie isn’t terrible but it could have been better if they had stuck closer to the story from the book. One major change to the story took a way a lot of the agency of the characters. In the book, the decisions they make lead to face monsters and various obstacles. However, the movie eliminates all of that with addition of a magical tool that guides them on their way. We know exactly when to expect a fight or action scene, there’s no suspense, no tension. While reading the book, I was always wondering what mess they would get into next and how it would change their path. The movie ended up seeing our protagonist and his friends go on a very different quest.

This time around, I have to say the book was definitely better. The movie was fun to watch, the characters and the humor hold up well. However, they should have stuck closer to the source material. The book just had a better story. Let me know what you think. Have you read the book, watched the movie? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

Book vs Movie: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

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So far I haven’t been too disappointed with the Valley of the Dollsmovie adaptations, of course that had to come to an end. I have issues with some of the movies but this one by far has to be the worse adaptation I’ve seen. Of course, a large part of that could be the novel’s length and two decade timeline. A movie just could not do it justice.

Valley of the Dolls is an excellent book and it’s easy to see why it was and has remained so popular. It provides an interesting story with genuine characters you care about. It starts as a fish out of water story centering on Anne Welles, a small town girl who moved to New York City. Her job puts her in the center of the city’s entertainment industry, which highlights her innocence and naivety. Central to the story are her friendships with Jennifer North and Neely O’Hara. Switching points of view we get a picture of each of their struggles in the limelight and eventual reliance on prescribed pills, other wise known as Dolls. By the end we can read it as a cautionary tale and social commentary of show business. It’s relevance is not relegated to it’s own time period, many of the themes are just applicable today.

One reason the book works so well is because the reader becomes invested in the characters. We get to know them as they form their friendships and are just starting out in their careers. The movie does a poor job portraying this. None of the women seem to struggle at all, in fact they seem to become famous and wealthy overnight. And the friendships seem to form out of nowhere, we barely even see how they know each other besides being loosely associated through familiar social circles. The character’s in the movie end up coming off unsympathetic, especially Anne and Neely. Almost from the beginning they seem entitled and self absorbed. It’s easy to blame some of the issues on the time constraints of a film, but there are lots of other changes that simply do not add to the story. And the most horrific change of all, the ending. It was completely butchered.

I waited until after writing this to read reviews, or anything else about the film, and apparently many people love it because it’s so bad. I can understand that and yeah I got a few laughs out it. But it was just sooooo disappointing after the book. I was going to say don’t waste your time with the movie, but on second thought go ahead, just remember you’ve been warned. If you do give it a try I’d say watch the movie, then read the book.

Thoughts, opinions, questions? Comment below.

 

Book vs Movie: Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis

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This movie and book are a little different from the rest of this series so far. It’s the first nonfiction book I’ve done and the movie is not meant to be an adaptation. Rather it’s simply inspired by the book. Which makes sense if you know anything about the movie.

I actually came across the book accidentally; I was searching the library catalog for the movie and instead the book came up. I remembered seeing it when I was younger and only vaguely remembered it. I was curious how it’s story could have come from a nonfiction book, much less one written by a scientist. I didn’t expect the book to be as interesting as it was. The full title is, Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist’s Astonishing Journey into the Secret Society of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis and Magic. I assumed it would be a dry scientific statement of facts, when actually it’s written as a narrative of the author’s experience. It begins with his first adventure to South America where his interest in ethnobotany began. The rest of the book tells the story of his trip to Haiti in the hopes of discovering the secret to making zombis, assumed to be a drug made from a plant with an anesthetic effect. While relaying his experiences, he includes information about the country’s history, it’s culture and political structure. This provides a much larger story about Haiti’s political and social issues at the time.

It’s been a long time since I saw the movie and watching it again I realized how much I didn’t remember. The images that had stuck in my mind of zombies and magic made up a very small part of the movie, and mostly appeared as dreams or hallucinations. Surprisingly, the movie’s basic plot doesn’t deviate that much from the author’s story. They used a fictional name instead of the author’s and additional changes that enhance the story and gets movie viewers invested in the characters. Including a romantic subplot which of course provides an excuse for sex scenes. And while the main character does have to battle with unseen forces, the scariest parts come from real world horrors.

The book and the movie are both excellent and a preference for one or the other would depend on the type of experience you’re looking for. The book tells a compelling true story that also educates the reader. I’d recommend it if you are interested in learning more about the country of Haiti and the voodoo culture. While the movie does a great job integrating the author’s story into an entertaining horror movie.

 

Book vs Movie: A Simple Favor

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It’s been a while since I did one of these posts and this one is the result of pure coincidence. I had no idea the movie was based on a book and checked it out of library hoping to just watch an entertaining movie. A day or so later before I even got the chance to watch it, I came across the book. My crazy brain decided it was a sign, so I held off watching the movie until after the book. I was able to finish it in a matter of days, it’s a pretty quick read, although I may have rushed it a bit.

The book is okay, it’s a good read. It jumps into the story quickly, with a blog entry from Stephanie about her missing friend Emily. Stephanie is a stay at home mommy blogger, very sweet, and innocent seeming. She comes across very sympathetic especially placed opposite the darker, mysterious Emily. Most of the book is written from her point of view and we get a really well rounded picture of her. She has some questionable actions but she still seems like the victim and you can’t help but root for her. On the other hand the few chapters from Emily’s point of view kind of just make you not like her, at all. It sheds a little light on her motivations, however, she really seems to lack substance. It’s all very surface level making her seem selfish without any remorse of self reflection.

The movie is not so different from the book, we get the same basic story with a few different twists. Some are completely understandable and necessary, for example changing Stephanie’s written blogs into videos. One change I really liked was adding to Emily’s backstory which was pretty non-existant in the book. The movie does a much better job of creating a well rounded character and we can almost understand some of her actions. I really liked the movie, until the end. I’ll start by admitting that the ending of the book is pretty far-fetched and unrealistic, but not half bad. The movie on the other hand is not just unbelievable but actually bad. It ends with this scene that completely does not fit with the tone of the rest of the movie. While the movie does have some humorous moments, mostly due to Anna Kendrick, it’s pretty dramatic. However, the ending is almost comedic. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it felt like a parody of the rest of the movie. (If that makes sense.)

I think the movie did a good job with the source material. In fact, many of the deviations made it better than the book. But I just can’t get over the ending. In the end neither was that good.

Have you read the book, seen the movie? Let me know what you thought of either or both.

Book VS Movie: The Shining by Stephen King

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Despite watching the movie The Shining a bunch of times and being a huge Stephen King fan, I never got around to reading the book. When I started this series of posts I decided it was about damn time.

It’s a different experience reading the book after already having seen the movie. I found it really interesting to get more background about the Torence family, our main characters. The novel includes details about their life before moving to Denver, Jack’s alcoholism, how he lost his teaching job, and even memories of his own abusive father. I’ve read that Stephen King didn’t like the adaptation mainly due to the lack of character arc. I can understand his point, Jack’s descent in the novel is much slower and you actually see his struggle for control. You really see a guy that wants to do the right thing for his family. And one thing I did always hate about the movie was Wendy. The character in the book is nothing like the weak and timid woman in the movie. I can’t really say I like the book better, but it was nice to really go in depth into the characters, even some of the minor characters like the cook, Dick Hallorann.

While the novel and the movie share a basic story, they are depicted in very different ways. Few of the iconic scenes from the movie appear in the book. There are not creepy twins,  the elevators do not spew blood, no hedge maze and the ending is completely different. Some of these do take inspiration from the book, for example the caretaker that killed his family had two daughters and the elevators were a major aspect of the haunting. Also the book featured topiary hedges in animal shapes instead of the maze. I assume the limitation of the time kept them from featuring these creatures come to life as they do in the book. For those that pay attention there are also very small details, for example the scrapbook that has a major role in the book does at least make an appearance in the movie.

So now I’ve read the book and really liked it. Still love the movie though. I can’t really say I think either is better. Yes the movie deviates from the book, a lot. But in my opinion many of the changes were due to the change of media. The movie was good because of the visual elements while the book was much more focused on the characters. I’m not sure the movie would have been as good if they tried to stick closer to the novel.