Stephen King must have had a lot of fun making Kingdom Hospital – where malevolence meets malpractice — a remake of the 1994 Danish miniseries Riget by Lars Von Trier (Dogville, Dancer In The Dark). It originally aired on ABC in 2004 and is much more interesting as a DVD horror and thriller movie than it was on TV (must be the lack of commercials). It features King’s usual scary monsters and very weird secondary characters but also has a very funny heavy dose of dark humor, some of which is obvious and some (like the blue van that hits central character Peter Rickman) that are similar to the van that hit King a while back and sent him to the hospital.
Kingdom Hospital, with its evil-looking corporate logo, was built on the ruins of a factory that burned down many years ago, killing a bunch of children who were working there. It is a very modern hospital but the ground tends to shake from time to time, elevator 2 is unreliable, the Down syndrome kids in the scullery seem to have special powers and know what is really going on, and its best neurosurgeon, Dr. Hook played by Andrew McCarthy, has a thing about riding around the basement in a golf cart. When painter Peter Rickman and psychic lady Sally Druse (Diane Ladd of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) get admitted, the spooky stuff really notches it up a bit.
The spooky stuff includes ghost from the past like Mary (who looks a lot like a character out of Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride or A Nightmare Before Christmas) and Antibus her pet anteater who has healing powers and saves Peter Rickman’s life by dragging him closer to the road so he can be found, a vampire looking teen called Paul, and a thin Coke-bottle glasses wearing security guard.
One of the reasons this show works is that there are not really any stars. This means you do not really know who is going to buy it or when and at the same time each important character gets its share of attention and, so, character development. This is the kind of project that required an ensemble cast approach and it got it.
The second episode is a little plodding. Dave, the guy who hit and run Peter Rickman, gets killed off by Antibus the anteater and Dr. Hook believes Mrs. Druse when she says there is a presence in the hospital. The scariest thing about this episode is when you realize it runs some thirty-nine minutes so there were about 20 minutes worth of commercials when it aired.
This is good scary fun.Kingdom Hospital: The Beginning features the pilot episode Thy Kingdom Come and the next episode Death’s Kingdom. This release is followed by Making The Rounds and Post Mortem.