“Stand by Me” (1986)

“Why’d you get this?” my husband asked when I brought Stand by Me home from the library. I had to think a moment. “I saw a review of the new Blu-ray edition in EW,” I said (we do not own a Blu-ray machine), “plus you mentioned you’d read on Wil Wheaton’s blog they’d had a reunion and he was sad River Phoenix wasn’t there.”

There you are, folks. As good an example of how my mind works as anything.

I’d seen it before, but can’t remember when. My husband G. Grod hadn’t. I’d read the Steven King novella, “The Body” from Different Seasons. G. hadn’t. So he got to watch a very good film for the first time and I got to be surprised at how well it stood up these years later (apart from the framing sequence, which I didn’t care for) and still cringed and covered my eyes at the scene that most grossed me out AND stayed with me all these years, in both its book and movie form. (Steven King has a way of doing that, doesn’t he? I think there’s one scene from most every one of his books I read that stays with me that I wish I could drain of its power to horrify me.)

It’s about four twelve-year-old boys in 1959, who find out about a secret in the woods, and decide to go looking for it.

Vern: You guys wanna go see a dead body?

It’s a strong character piece, refreshingly devoid of the supernatural elements that are King’s normal stock in trade but what impressed me most were the performances director Rob Reiner coaxed out of his young cast: Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, and poor, dead River Phoenix. The non-showy acting and story combine with apparent effortlessness to tell a satisfying, bittersweet story.

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