Cain Rose Up (1989)

“Eat the World, Piggy!”

Main Cast: Chuck McTague, Brett McDowell

Director: David C. Spillers

We’re back with another Dollar Baby, this time adapting the SKELETON CREW short story “Cain Rose Up”.

Dollar Babies are what Stephen King called adaptations of his works by amateur filmmakers, purchased for $1 with the understanding that the makers would not sell or license their films.  Some people started with Dollar Babies and went on to have very good careers in filmmaking, like Frank Darabont who started with The Woman in the Room and went on to make THE GREEN MILE and THE MIST.  Others, like David C. Spillers, made CAIN ROSE UP and went on to make nothing else.

The choice in what stories to adapt for these kinds of projects fascinates me sometimes.  I’m sure a lot of the time, it comes down to what can we film with the limited resources at our disposal, so you pick a story about two kids playing a game in their father’s barn (LAST RUNG ON THE LADDER) or, like this one, about a guy who goes nuts on the last day at college and opens fire on the students outside his window.

But sometimes I think an important part of the story is forgotten when choosing shorts to adapt, mainly the WHY of the whole thing.

CAIN ROSE UP has always been a problematic story for me, and not because of the subject matter, but because of the lack of WHY.

In this story, Curt Garrish (played by Chuck McTague), after insisting he’s flunked his final exam, goes to his dorm room, takes out a gun, and starts shooting.

That is the whole of the plot.  There’s a short scene where a fellow student comes in asking for Garrish’s notes and commenting on his Humphrey Bogart poster, but all that is filler and none of it gives any insight to Garrish’s character or motivation.  So in the end, the one sentence plot I just gave is ALL we get.

And that’s not the fault of the filmmakers, that was King’s story.

Originally published in UBRIS in 1968 and republished in SKELETON CREW in 1985, CAIN ROSE UP is 5 ½ pages and it offers not one line to help explain WHY Garrish is doing this.  Is it because he flunked his exam?  If so, we need a little more backstory to explain why THAT would be enough to motivate him to do what he does.  “I flunked my exam” is NOT reason enough for me.

At least the other times King tackled this subject (the short novel RAGE written as Richard Bachman and the end of the novella Apt Pupil) we get the backstory and understand our characters and their motivations.  This time?  Not so much.  I can only assume King used THIS story as his template and then, knowing he didn’t get it right the first time, wrote those other stories later in trying to fix what he’d messed up before.  It happens.  A writer gets an idea he wants to see realized, writes it, then decides he didn’t quite convey the ideas he wanted to, and he writes another story later trying to get it right the second time.

It happens to the best of us.  Or maybe it’s just me.  Could be just me.  I really hope it’s not just me…


Spillers and company decided, for whatever reason, that CAIN ROSE UP was the story they wanted to adapt, and they did so with an 8-minute short that basically tells the same story.

They changed a few details.  In the story, Garrish uses a rifle, in the film, a small revolver that looks like a toy.  In the story, Garrish’s roommate Piggy has already left campus, while in the film he’s dead in the closet.

I’m guessing Spillers used his friends for this project as none of them—with the exception of Brett McDowell who played “Bailey” and worked as a grip on THE HOBBIT, ALIEN: COVENANT, and THE BATMAN—did anything movie-related afterward.  For the most part, what he got on film is decent enough.

None of the performances looked like they may one day lead to an award winning performance in something else, but none of them pulled me out of the movie any more than anyone else.  Then again, it was 8 minutes, the plot was super simple, and the dialogue was minimal.

McTague as Garrish gave off a bit of a loner vibe, but didn’t strike me as the threatening type.  Then again, isn’t that the famous line we always hear?  “He was such a quiet boy, I never would have expected something like this from him.”

Overall, I’m glad I could finally see CAIN ROSE UP as it adds to my King on Film knowledge, but in the wider world, I don’t feel I’m any better off for having seen it.  It is what it is.  It’s a decent enough, if somewhat cheap-looking, adaptation of a short King story.  Nothing more.  In my opinion, any fault in this film isn’t on the filmmakers’ shoulders, but falls squarely on King.  He wrote the story, he failed to provide a motivation or explanation, Spillers and Co. just adapted what he gave them.  It is the very definition of “Meh”.

CAIN ROSE UP is available free on YouTube (along with bloopers).

King on Film

Carrie (1976)

‘Salem’s Lot (1979)

The Shining (1980)

Creepshow (1982)

The Boogeyman (1982)

Cujo (1983)

Disciples of the Crow (1983)

The Woman in the Room (1983)

The Dead Zone (1983)

Christine (1983)

Children of the Corn (1984)

Firestarter (1984)

Word Processor of the Gods (1984)

Cat’s Eye (1985)

Silver Bullet (1985)

Srazhenie (1986)

Gramma (1986)

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Stand By Me (1986)

The Lawnmower Man (1987)

Creepshow 2 (1987)

A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)

The Running Man (1987)

Sorry, Right Number (1987)

The Last Rung on the Ladder (1987)

Pet Sematary (1989)

The Cat From Hell (1990)

The Graveyard Shift (1990)

IT (1990 Mini-Series)

Misery (1990)

The Moving Finger (1991)

Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

Golden Years (1991)

The Lawnmower Man (1992)

Sleepwalkers (1992)

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

The Dark Half (1993)

The Tommyknockers (1993)

Needful Things (1993)

The Stand (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

The Mangler (1995)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1996)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

Thinner (1996)

The Shining (1997)

Ghosts (1997)

Chattery Teeth (1997)

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (1997)

Trucks (1997)

The Night Flier (1997)

Chinga (1997)

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

Gerald’s Game (2017)

1922 (2017)

The Stand (2021)

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