TAK, THE UNDERAPPRECIATED ‘BIG BAD’ OF STEPHEN KING’S MULTIVERSE

When one thinks of the greatest or most terrifying villains that prolific novelist Stephen King has brought us through his prose over the last several decades, names like Pennywise, Randall Flagg, Jack Torrence and the Crimson King are the ones that readily pop into most peoples minds. Understandable, given that each one of these guys stand tall above the veritable legion of baddies that King has created during his career. And while some lesser known antagonists in the King canon do get their share of notoriety(The ‘Raggedy Man’ in “Cell” and The ‘Space Cowboy’ from “Gerald’s Game” will be getting their big screen avatars in the next year, for example), one truly sinister and oddly comical villain is time and again dispensed with, left off of top ten King villains’ lists and generally denied any of the respect his wicked and often funny ways truly deserve. We are speaking, of course, of malevolent Todash darkness resident and macabre scourge of Poplar Street…By way of the China Pit near Desperation, Nevada and weighing in at…NOTHING…because he is incorporeal, thus essentially more of a “force” than physical being, per se… IT’S…

TAK!!

Appearing in just two novels (“Desperation” and “The Regulators”) which King released simultaneously on September 24th, 1996, Tak is an evil spirit who often dwells inside a mine shaft deep under the barren ground of a small Nevada town called Desperation. These two novels, in case you aren’t yet aware, are mirrors(or in King-speak, ‘twinners’) of one another in that they both feature Tak as the primary antagonist and have several characters who appear(sometimes vastly different in age and looks) in both novels. In each novel, something occurs to allow Tak to crossover into the Earth realm by way of an entry point or ‘ini’, located in a deep catacomb under the China Pit. Once through the ini, he uses possession, physical and mental manipulation, complete omnipotent reality warping, to say nothing of raw, hatred-fueled violence to accomplish his goals.

Descriptions of his true form are sparse in the novels, but in “The Regulators”, he is described as an extra-dimensional being which is a mass of swirling red lights in a cloud of blackness imperceptible to a human eye. Since he shares many characteristics with IT, it’s quite likely that he and ‘IT’ are similar types of creatures who live beyond the boundaries of human perception. They both exist primarily outside of Earth in Todash darkness, which is to say the eternal black void at the farthest reaches of space. This fact, along with a couple other traits would seem to indicate that both creatures are inspired, like so many of the creatures that populate King’s multiverse, by the ancient, unknowable monstrosities of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. And, much like ‘IT’, who can only exist briefly in an Earth-bound form, Tak is never fully able to manifest his own corporeal body, spending most of the novels occupying a variety of human hosts.

One thing that makes him such an interesting villain is he has somewhat human moments of confusion, hubris, and frustration. He has preferences, while in human form for certain types of food and television shows. He’s able to reconstruct reality as he sees fit. He’s utterly confident in his ability to control others and often makes jokes while delighting in the suffering of his victims. And as with ‘IT’, he isn’t capable(at least in our world) of being permanently destroyed. Perhaps it’s this chilling knowledge that he will always survive on long past the lifespan of those who temporarily defeat him that adds so much to his already frightening characterizations and sets him apart from the pantheon of King creatures. Whatever it is, Tak is a BADASS. The adaptation of “Desperation” didn’t really do him justice, so if they ever do make a “Regulators” film, it needs to be as twisted, manic and gory as the book was so that people can understand just what makes Tak, eh, TICK.

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THE MANIAC COP TRILOGY

Ever wonder what a slasher movie would be like if the guy running about slaying people for whatever half-baked reason was an undead member of the New York police force? NO? Well, someone did and the result was this oddball little film called “Maniac Cop”(1988) produced and written by Larry Cohen. Think “Friday the 13th” meets “The Shield”. What the film lacks in a believable plot, it more than makes up for with gung-ho performances by the lovable and ever-over-acting Tom Atkins, the quite-large and creepy Robert Z’Dar as the titular big-boy-in-blue and a young Bruce Campbell, hot off of his “Evil Dead” success. Some nice dark humor and entertaining action/death scenes make the story of zombie Officer Cordell seeking vengeance on people for, well, varying and sometimes unclear reasons oddly watchable. In an uncommon turn for the genre, both sequels are arguably as good if not better than the original film. It’s a smidge campy and certainly doesn’t hesitate to ask the viewer to suspend disbelief on the regular, but it’s a fun bit of celluloid and if you get the chance to revisit this odd little trilogy you may be pleasantly surprised. Eyes up for the Sam Raimi cameo near the end.

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