Craig Toomey's Coronavirus
In Stephen King's “The Langoliers,” the state of today's air travel is foreshadowed.
I told myself I would not be topical – that I would publicly ignore the coronavirus – but I can no longer. There is simply too much to say about one of the most emotionally effective, surreal films of my childhood. The Langoliers occupied 9-11PM's slot on ABC for May 14th and 15th, 1995 (Sunday and Monday, twenty-five years ago.) It's an adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same title and is fairly widely-regarded as the worst such adaptation of all time. You can now watch the whole three hours of The Langoliers in 360p (supposedly) at your leisure thanks to OpenTube (for now.) One commenter (on the since-taken-down YouTube video) echoes what I'm about to tell you: “My god! I thought I dreamed this movie up as a kid. I have been trying to describe this to people for years and here it is, it’s real!” In order to write this, I joined the Stephen King Wiki Discord server and was immediately welcomed with a request not to type in the text channels: “I’m working on adding some new channels so pls nobody type in them til I’m done.”
The Langoliers begins with a pissed-off British secret agent (Mark Lindsay Chapman,) an insane businessman (Bronson Pinchot,) a psychic, vision-impaired young woman (Kate Maberly,) Sarah Jessica Parker (Patricia Wettig,) and a just-widowed pilot (David Morse) all boarding the same redeye flight to Boston – American Pride Flight 29. This group falls asleep and mysteriously wakes up alone on the aircraft except for Stephen King himself (Dean Stockwell,) a stupid incel violinist (Christopher Collet,) and a stoner (Kimber Riddle.) My favorite character, Craig Toomey, is the “twerp” business boy with daddy issues who can't stop himself from demanding to know what's going on. James Bond shuts him up with a “nose hold.”
Whoa. No one's driving the plane!
David Morse proceeds to try and contact air traffic control in a fairly-realistic manner, but is unable to receieve any radio signals at all, even from Strategic Air Command. Frankie Faison plays the single person of color on the flight, Don Gaffney – “a tool and die worker for Hughes Aircraft” – who dies first, of course. James Bond lecures David about inciting panic and almost immediately reveals his secret identity. Then, the Hungry Idiot (Baxter Harris) wakes up whilst Toomey begins screaming again.
Scaring the little girl? Scaring the little girl?! Lady, we're diverting to some tin-pot airport in the middle of nowhere, and I've got better things to think about than scaring the little girl!
After the entirety of the male cast threatens to beat him up, Toomey, sweating his balls off, begins slowly tearing strips of paper and moaning sexually like an absolute madman. Some irritiatingly irrelevant dialogue insues in which Stephen King Author Man narrates through Sherlock Holmes deduction to figure absolutely nothing out. He is wearing stripes on plaid. He suggests that the entire situation could be some sort of government experiment and I can't believe I'm wasting your time with this. “If it were just this plane, I could give you a scenario, but unfortunately, it's not just this plane. The city of Denver is probably still down there, but all its lights were off if it was.” Here you can see how excellently this script was written.
I've been sitting here running all these old stories through my head. You know, time warps, space warps, alien raiding parties. I mean, we really don't know if there's anything left down there, do we?
Sarah Jessica Parker reveals to Powers Girl that she's on her way to meet a guy she's been emailing with. Stoner girl asks if everything is going to be okay and Incel Violinist looks horny. She's going to rehab for stones. The captain announces to his nine passengers that they're beginning their descent into Bangor International Airport, near Stephen King's birthplace. Don asks Toomey to stop ripping up paper and the useless food addict yells “well, at least we'll be able to get some chow when we land” offscreen. Craig, sweating even more, is still ripping up magazines in the face of Don's threats. “Try it, you little jackass,” he says. I'm wondering where I can snag this American Pride livery for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Director Tom Holland manages to add drama to a more-or-less routine landing.
This place is utterly, totally deserted... You know, there's something wrong with the air here, Brian.
It's occuring to me that this may be the worst script I've ever actually sat through reading. “This place smells wrong. Really badly wrong.” Toomey threatens to sue the airline for $30 million for missing his 9AM meeting before seeing flashbacks to his abusive father (John Griesemer,) who mentions the Langoliers for the first time. The deserted airport scene is the reason I've written this whole thing – the dulled sounds of the characters' heels on the tarmac, the putrefied air. The clocks have stopped. The payphones are dead. The computers are lifeless. The abadonedness of it all. This is what the coronavirus has done to the world and to Craig Toomey. Even the battery-powered devices are dead. This is what confuses Stephen King Author Man to the point of head-rubbing and cigarette smoking for the first time in ten years.
The production was actually made at Bangor International Airport as this incredible video hosted by Toomey's actor explores.
LOVE IS NOT PART OF THE BIG PICTURE!
It's never actually explained what The Langoliers are. Ken Tucker for Entertainment Weekly describes them as “little meatballs.” The little Beatles-haired girl can hear them approaching. “It sounds a little like rice krispies after you pour the milk.” Foodism abounds. “A really terrible, scary sound... Something making that horrible cereal noise.” She screams that the cereal is going to kill them. Somehow, Toomey finds a revolver while he's losing his mind. Kimber Riddle the Stoner went to NYU.
Don't forget, Craiggy-weggy, the langoliers were here. And they will be back.
Stephen King Author Man and Food Addict note that the food and soda have gone completely flat. “Tastes like old tire,” says Don. “What we're dealing with is time, not dimension,” says Stephen King. I'm wondering what in the hell sort of room they're in at the moment, and who decided those light wood countertops were ever a good idea.
The bottom line is, I believe, that we have hopped an absurdly short distance into the past, say as little as 15 minutes, and we're discovering the unlovely truth about time travel. That one can't appear in the Texas State School Book Depository on November 22nd, 1963 and hope to stop the Kennedy assassination. One can't witness the building of the pyramids or the sack of Rome, or investigate the age of the dinosaurs firsthand. No, fellow time travellers, have a look around you. This is the past. It's empty. It's silent. It's a world with all the meaning of a discarded old paint can. Sensory input has disappeared. Electricity has already disappeared. And time itself is winding down in a kind of a spiral that's going faster and faster.
Little Prophet notes that the sound she's been hearing is once again getting louder. Mr. Toomey's face is shoved in the floor, his nose bent.