Kingdom Hospital

RIGET (THE KINGDOM) I & II. 1994, 1999

Directors: Morten Arnfred & Lars von Trier


Director: Craig R. Baxley

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Years ago, Granny Artemis & I saw Lars von Trier's epic-length Riget aka The Kingdom (1994) on a big screen on consecutive nights in Seattle, at The Egyptian Theater.

This epic of a scientifically advanced but malevolently haunted hospital originated as a mini-series for Dutch & Swedish television, yet it transferred to the cinema house very well. It was mindboggling in its strangeness & sweep, though admittedly butt-numbingly dull in stretches. The overall effect was in general so all-encompassing, we really felt that we had had very good fortune to have been part of a Seattle horror fan community event.

Viewing the sequel mini-series Riget II (1999) on the small screen didn't have the same impact, but the double-epic taken together was an undeniable accomplishment of art, horror, & originality.

Although I never much liked anything else von Triers has made, I didn't give up on him until he excreted the English language film Dogville. After that I came to the opinion that the genius behind Riget & Riget II must've been co-director Morten Arnfred, despite that it is usually referred to as von Trier's The Kingdom.

When I first heard that Stephen King had been hired to adapt it as an American mini-series to be set in Maine, I thought he just might be the guy to make that work. There certainly had been some dull patches that Stephen could rightly condense or improve, & at the very least the strangeness of the original would be something he'd understand & not ruin.

Starting off, Kingdom Hospital (2004) wasn't a bad remake, & some of the stuff "original" to Stephen King -- like the fictionalization of his actual experience of having been run down & nearly killed by a complete asshole -- add splendid touches.

It had been years since I'd seen the original Dutch mini-series so some things in the new version, that seem to be original to Stephen, might also be in the original, or might have been stuff I "missed" because it was in Dutch so I never realized how silly-ass it was supposed to be & I took it all quite seriously. But some of the Englished version's jokiness is either merely stupid, or undermines any hope of a sustained horror-mood in the hospital. The talking animals who do impersonations of Arnold Schwartzenager & Jack Nicholson might be effectively surreal & attention-getting, but after the third time, these touches were just awfully silly.

The best most haunting & evocative bits are still not Stephen's, & it's rather startling that the series was so deeply advertised as "Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital" when in fact it is an Englished version of Arnfred & von Triers' The Kingdom. I did not deplore it as a remake of something that was superior as it stood in the original, but I sure to hell hope Arnfred & von Lars got some extra money so that promoters could pretend Stephen King wrote it.

King's an honest guy, a decent guy, & I would like to see a statement from him about someone else's work being so extravagantly promoted as Stephen's. Can I rewrite Pet Semetary which always needed a better ending & retitle it Paghat's Pet Semetary? It seems like this would have been embarrassing for him.

Well, I watched a couple additional episodes of Kingdom Hospital, & it was okay, but not okay enough to hold my interest to the end. I did like some of the performances including Bruce "Willard" Davison's descent into madness. But in all the comedy defeated the mysterioiusness & I got to the point where the only character I cared about was the anteater.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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