Cross-country travelers on an isolated highway are arrested by a corrupt sheriff and taken to the local jail in Desperation, Nevada. Handcuffed in the back seat of the police cruiser, they watch in horror as they pass townspeople lying dead in the streets. When the sheriff begins to physically transform, the wayward hostages realize there is a deeper and bigger evil at play in the town of Desperation.
Director Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers), also recruited by Stephen King to remake The Shining, knows how to capture King's horror aesthetic on film. Desperation, based on a more recent King novel, is a pastiche of earlier King novelties, such as the psycho in uniform, this time Sheriff Collie Entragian (Ron Perlman), and dogs summoned by the devil, this time by TAK, an ancient Chinese demon. Desperation, Nevada has a collapsed mine full of Chinese immigrant ghosts, whose spirits are trapped with TAK until they're accidentally unleashed. The TAK-possessed local sheriff is killing everyone, save a few travelers who stumble through on road trips. In the opening scene, Mary (Annabeth Gish) and her beau are pulled over by Sheriff Entragian, framed by his placing of marijuana in their trunk, then read their rights with a Satanic "I will kill you" thrown in. Later, Steve (Steven Weber), Cynthia (Kelly Overton), and Vietnam vet John Marinville (Tom Skerrit), ride into town, and they too encounter the evil policeman's wrath. They all meet a brave, imprisoned boy, David (Shane Haboucha), with whom they team up to end the mayhem. Desperation uses blue and green lighting to embrace the funhouse look, and camera shots highlighting the Sheriff's deranged face make the film occasionally spooky. But the rehashed plot detracts from the fear-factor, leaving one to pine for earlier King story adaptations, like Misery, or Cujo.--Trinie Dalton