KING ON FILM: THE REVELATIONS OF ‘BECKA PAULSON

Rating:

Becka, it’s not blood, it’s raspberry filling

Main Cast: Catherine O’Hara, Steven Weber

Director: Steven Weber

Never stand on a water-logged cardboard box, staring down the barrel of your husband’s gun.  That’s a lesson Becka Paulson (Catherine O’Hara, HOME ALONE) learns when she topples off the box and shoots herself in the head.

Luckily, the bullet doesn’t kill her.  Terrified of admitting the incredibly stupid thing she’s done, Becka covers the wound with a Band-Aid and tries to go about her day, cooking dinner for her husband Joe (John Diehl, STARGATE) and sitting idly by listening to the man in the 8X10 frame on top of the TV talking to her while Joe leafs through a swimsuit magazine with a beer.

The man in the frame (Steven Weber, Wings) tells Becka that Joe is having an affair with a woman he works with at the post office.  Becka already suspects this is true, but the man in the frame just confirms it.

Joe tells her she should get that wound on her head looked at.  It’s just a bump, Becka insists.  But she agrees and goes to the town vet because Joe says he only charges $9 a visit.  The vet, Dr. Fink who, I was surprised to see, wasn’t in fact wearing scrubs, a mask and sunglasses while laying down some funky tracks with Prince, tells her the wound seems to be healing nicely and while he can give her a fresh bandage, he’s only a vet, so can’t prescribe her anything to help with the voices, nor the fact she received a phone call from her dead father.

Becka thanks him, pays him his $9, then goes to the Derry Dollar store to pick up some stocking stuffers for Joe as Christmas is coming up sooner rather than later.  The cashier tells her the register is down and her manager isn’t there, but that’s okay because Becka can figure out the total in her head, with tax, so she pays for her two sacks full of 8X10 frames because the man in them insists she wants to put one of him in every room of Becka and Joe’s trailer, and heads home to make dinner for her man.

Back at home, the man in the frame and Becka have a talk about Joe’s infidelity while Becka makes some improvements to her vacuum cleaner.  See, before she tinkered with it, she had to plug it in and push it around herself.  Now, the vacuum is self-powered and self-propelling.  Those D cells use a lot of juice, though, Becka says and she wonders if she might oughta swap them out for a motorcycle battery.

“Now you’re talking,” the man in the frame says.

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson was an episode of the 1995 reboot of the classic Outer Limits TV series that aired during the third season and was based on a short story by Stephen King.  Becka Paulson first appeared in a short story of the same name originally published in Rolling Stone in 1984 and was later re-worked as a chapter of King’s novel THE TOMMYKNOCKERS.  In the original story, it’s a picture of Jesus that’s talking to Becka and, instead of her new mental powers coming from a bullet in her brain, they come from the alien energy permeating the town of Haven, the setting for that novel.

For some reason, the standalone version of this adaptation has The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson set in Derry, possibly because in 1995, Derry was more recognizable as a King location than Haven, but that’s a minor detail that most won’t even notice and that doesn’t affect the outcome of the story in the least, considering there’s not a single mention of Bobbi, Gard, or the thing they’ve been digging up in the woods outside of town.

The adaptation was written by Brad Wright who has written a TON of Stargate episodes, and directed by Weber, a well-known horror fan (he would also write an episode of The Outer Limits as well as an episode of the Masters of Horror series in 2005).  Weber’s direction is fine, nothing outstanding to note; it all came across as an episode of television horror, but considering his work with Mick Garris that same year on The Shining miniseries, and that Garris would go on to create the Masters of Horror series, I would suggest on his next foray behind the camera, he look to loftier mentors.

O’Hara is fun as Becka Paulson, bringing some of her comedic genius to the role of a woman slowly losing her mind (however, I wish there had been more HORROR in a King adaptation).  Deihl, also, is good as Joe, creating a character who is just doddering enough we want to feel sorry for him, but just passive aggressively abusive enough that we can’t.  Does his treatment of Becka warrant the outcome of this story?  Possibly.  We never do learn if he is or is not in fact having an affair, but Becka’s final revelation suggests that maybe he wasn’t unfaithful, maybe he was just an asshole.  In which case, maybe not quite such a drastic climax to this episode, but that’s also all part of the madness brought on by the bullet lodged in her brain.

Know what I HATED in The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson?  The music.  Good God, 90s TV scores were not only too loud, but too damned “cute”.  It’s like they’re trying for whimsy, and this is a Stephen King story being adapted for an episode of the freaking Outer Limits.  There’s no room for whimsy here.  Stephen King is a brand and that brand is HORROR, but this score would feel perfectly at home in a Disney show about a kid detective.  NOT bringing to mind the darkness implied by losing one’s mind while a bullet is stuck in their head, let me tell you.

The score aside … well, I didn’t LOVE this King adaptation, but I’ve seen worse (have you read my review of Chattery Teeth?).  It seems an overall odd choice, a once-standalone story that was later reworked and inserted into one of King’s famously worst novels, but, hey, it was 1997 and that’s just how things were done back then.

The 90s film adaptations have a reputation for being terrible to Stephen King and it’s a reputation well-earned.  With GRAVEYARD SHIFT, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK and THE LAWNMOWER MAN on that list, it’s a wonder the King name survived the decade, and in this series we’re only up to 1997; there are two more years of King reviews to get through before we’re out of this particularly bad decade, and there are some real piles of crap still to come.  The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson isn’t, like I said, the WORST thing to come from the dynamic duo of King and film, but no one’s talking about this one in the same sentence as THE SHINING or CARRIE, either.

King on Film

1976-1992 (Carrie to Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice)

The Dark Half (1993)

The Dark Half (1993) Movie Review | Movie Rewind

The Tommyknockers (1993)

The Tommyknockers Movie Review | Movie Rewind

Needful Things (1993)

Needful Things (1993) | Movie Rewind

The Stand (1994)

Stephen King’s The Stand Movie (1994) | Movie Rewind

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption Movie Reviewed | Movie Rewind

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) | Movie Rewind

The Mangler (1995)

The Mangler – Stephen King Short Story Movie Adaptation (movierewind.com)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Dolores Claiborne Starring Kathy Bates | Movie Rewind

The Langoliers (1995)

Langoliers (1995) – A Stephen King Movie Strike Out | Movie Rewind

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1996)

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK … AGAIN (1995) | C. Dennis Moore – Horror Author

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: THE GATHERING (1996) | C. Dennis Moore – Horror Author

Thinner (1996)

Thinner – Movie Adaptation of Stephen King’s Novel | Movie Rewind

The Shining (1997)

The Shining – 1997 TV Mini-Series | Movie Rewind

Ghosts (1997)

King on Film: Ghosts (1996) – Starring Michael Jackson | Movie Rewind

Chattery Teeth (1997)

Chattery Teeth 1997 – Stephen King on Film | Movie Rewind

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