Lisey’s Story (Apple TV+)

Am I paying for Apple TV+ by now? I don’t think so. It seems as if this free trial is going on forever, but I guess that’s just the pandemic times we live in. Time passes slowly up here in the mountains / We sit beside bridges and walk beside fountains…

I’m usually short of things to watch, these days. I’ve got a policy about avoiding grim dramas with mostly male casts. Sean Bean in prison? No ta. Also: stop creating narratives about women-free environments. Obviously, I’m completely inconsistent in enforcing this policy (I watched The Terror, for example), but that’s British management for ya.

(Hidden subtweet about work, there.)

Anyway, apart from deciding to re-watch Lost, which is on Amazon Prime in the UK, I started watching Lisey’s Story on Apple TV+. This is a Stephen King adaptation of Stephen King’s favourite of the Stephen King novels, with the screenplay adaptation by Stephen King.

Unpopular opinion alert.

My problem with almost every Stephen King thing I’ve ever seen or read is that a lot of his ideas are really dumb and expressed stupidly. And I can’t help thinking that the grown-ass adults in this adaptation (and others) must have been somewhat embarrassed to have to say lines like “Bool hunt” or “Blood bool” or “Booya Moon”. Or to type the episode title “Under the Yum-Yum Tree”.

It sounds stupid, and you feel a little bit stupid sitting alone in your living room watching people say these words.

Take The Shining, the film adaptation of which Stephen King famously hates. What Kubrick did was underplay all the dumb Stephen King stuff (the guff about the title itself). There is still that really stupid scene in the kitchen where the shining thing is explained. I just wish they’d used almost any other words to describe it. Words like ‘psychic connection’ or ‘telepathy’. A ‘Bool hunt’ is a treasure hunt, more or less. And of course using the term Stephen King made up takes you into Stephen King’s text world, and is supposed to aid your suspension of disbelief.

But it doesn’t because it’s stupid.

Ignoring all that shit, we’ve got a narrative about the widow of a famous writer who is beset by people who want her late husband’s papers. Of course there are multiple flashbacks and time periods because what self-respecting contemporary drama would dare to start at the beginning and travel in a linear fashion towards the end? So we jump around in time a lot, which I increasingly think is the TV producer’s go-to technique for what can we do to make this stupid dumb shit seem interesting? It’s probably just my paranoid self, but I always suspect a certain contempt for the audience.

Anyway, there’s a creepy villain. King is good at creating weirdos. There’s a self-harming semi-catatonic sister. A dead husband with a disturbing childhood. And Julianne Moore as the woman who has suppressed a lot of memories, apparently, and is now being encouraged from beyond her husband’s grave to un-suppress them.

So it ticks along in this fashion for three episodes, and then comes the episode where Julianne Moore, Lisey, is horribly attacked and mutilated by the creepy guy. If there’s a correlative to the stop creating narratives without women rule, then it’s the stop creating narratives in which women are captured and tortured rule.


Having just come off the only-average Mare of Easttown, in which a side plot includes women being captured and tortured by a creepy guy, I was irritated, to say the least, to find myself listening to the graphic foley sounds of a tin opener being repeatedly stabbed into Lisey’s chest. If this is a spoiler, I don’t fucking care. Fuck everybody involved in this. If not doing this kind of thing means not doing this kind of thing, so be it. I mean, if you write a story in which the entire plot hinges on someone being horribly mutilated with a tin opener whilst being attacked by a creepy guy in her own home, well, maybe don’t do that. I know the horror genre is beloved by many people, and that Stephen King in particular is the toppermost of the poppermost in terms of horror writers, but seriously, fuck everybody involved.

Suspension of disbelief, oh yeah. Boo yah, bool yah, whatever. Where my disbelief turned into a balled up sock thrown at the TV screen was the bit just after she’s regained consciousness after being horribly beaten and tortured and receives a phone call from the local police, checking on her welfare.

An actual welfare check.

So, of course, she tells them that the creepy guy has invaded her home, stolen some papers, and horribly beaten and mutilated her with a tin opener and to please send an ambulance immediately.

Of course she doesn’t.

She says, “I’m fine. Just a bit tired.” Or words to that effect. And goes off to boo-ya country or whatever it’s called. Stupid, dumb, violent, horrible.

No stars.

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