Maine native Billy Hanson’s short film, “Survivor Type” is one of the best Stephen King adaptations I’ve ever seen.
Too bad you can’t see it.
That’s Big Steve’s fault, as the film was licensed through the Bangor horror legend’s “Dollar Babies” program, where students or beginning filmmakers can purchase the rights to one of King’s short stories for a buck.
(Attention, Maine filmmakers — the complete list of unclaimed stories can be found here: stephenking.com/dollarbabies.php)
The only catch: As part of the agreement, the resulting film can’t be streamed online, sold on DVD or in any way exhibited for money.
It’s a double-edged form of generosity on the part of the notoriously generous King: Great for filmmakers looking to create a horror film with a built-in fan base, but a serious bummer for film fans who actually want to see the thing.
Hanson sympathizes, to a point.
“It’s a really cool idea,” Hanson explained from his home in Los Angeles, “and something I hope a lot of filmmakers know is out there. A lot of people have made these, ranging from high school-level productions to professional, well put-together shorts. It’s really a great deal from Stephen King.”
Having seen Hanson’s film (sometimes it’s good to be a critic), I can attest that “Survivor Type,” based on one of King’s most ghoulish short stories, is one of the good ones.
In it, a cocky surgeon and amateur drug dealer (Gideon Emery) finds himself stranded on a tiny, barren island with nothing but some water, a first aid kit, a video camera, a suspiciously sharp knife and a big batch of the heroin he was in the process of smuggling.
When a gruesome injury renders him unable to chase the already meager game available, the rapidly weakening doctor turns to alternative sources for, um, protein.
Overflowing with clever filmmaking ideas, a great performance by Emery and some truly gut-churning special effects, “Survivor Type” captures the essence of King’s grisly story.
Just ask the audience at the world premiere in Bangor last August.
“Two people walked out in Bangor,” Hanson said with a laugh. “One person passed out — my cousin. He left to throw up, and fainted in the lobby. Poor kid.”
Anyone looking to vomit, swoon or just see some great Stephen King film horrors will, for the time being, have to hit the road (or a ship, if you dare).
Following the “Dollar Babies” rules, “Survivor Type” has made the rounds at film festivals as far-flung as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Oklahoma and Australia.
As for Maine?
“I’d love to screen it in Maine again,” said Hanson, whose next project, a supernatural thriller titled and set at “Katahdin,” will bring him back home next year if all goes according to plan. “I’ve submitted it to the Waterville film festival. I know there’s already an existing fan base of people interested in seeing it.”
Including the author himself?
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that he saw it and really liked it,” said Hanson, “so that’s enough for me.”
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.