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Desperation is a 1996 novel by Stephen King turned into a movie in 2006. It begins on Highway 50 in Nevada, a place some refer to as the loneliest place on Earth. A couple, Mary and Peter Jackson, are on their way back from a visit with friends when they are stopped by a sheriff who behaves strangely and discovers pot in their trunk, (accidentally left in there by Peter's stoner sister) and takes them to jail in the seemingly abandoned mining town of Desperation.
On the way there, he recites the Miranda report, only mixing "I'm going to kill you" in with it, which unnerves the couple.
The cop proceeds to abduct more people as they pass through the lonely Nevada road, using one excuse or another. He repeatedly speaks in a strange, guttural language and seems to have literal control over the local animals, such as coyotes, insects, and birds.
Soon he gets Johnny Marinville, a recovering alcoholic writer. He beats Johnny up and takes him to Desperation, but not before he gets in a call on his cell phone to his editor Steve Ames, who later arrives with a girl named Cynthia Smith. A family of four, the Carvers, is also stopped and hauled into the Desperation jail.
Several of them are killed by the cop, whose bizarre statements and mannerisms escalate into violence and murder sprees. The dead appearance of the town is no coincidence. Among the survivors is a boy named David, who seems to have a special connection and communication with God. With little time and little choice, the group must establish a chain and fight to survive against the growing evil. The miners Dug Too Deep, and Tak, an Ancient Evil driving this nightmare, wants to play.
This work contains examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Johnny Marinville used to be one, and Tom Billingsley is one.
- Alternate Universe: The Regulators, another book by Stephen King, is an alternate universe version of Desperation. It has the same characters, but in different roles (a brother and sister become a married couple for example, with their parents in one book becoming their children in the other).
- All Myths Are True: Averted in-universe; the legend about the origins of the ancient evil is not quite true.
- Anyone Can Die: Well, it's a Stephen King book.
- Artifact of Doom: The can tahs, which transform anybody who touches it into an homicidal maniac controlled by Tak.
- Black Speech: The language spoken by Tak and those he possesses/brainwashes.
"Mi him, can de lach, mi him, min en tow. Tak!"
- Body Horror: The ancient spirit Tak is so powerful that it causes any body it possesses to expand and fall apart (animals will explode if it possesses them).
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The sheriff casually inserts the words "I'm going to kill you" into the middle of the Miranda rights.
- Chinese Laborer: Chinese workers accidentally discovered the gate to Tak's dimension when they Dug Too Deep.
- Demonic Possession
- Dug Too Deep
- Eldritch Abomination: Tak
- The Film of the Book: The 2006 movie with Ron Perlman as the sheriff.
- Ghost Town: Desperation.
- God Is Evil: Well, not exactly evil, but very cruel. He sends David Carver, an eleven-year-old boy against the Big Bad; his family is killed one by one; when he wishes to die, and the Big Bad needs to be defeated with a suicidal mission, God sends not him, but Johnny, who says to David:
"You said 'God is cruel' the way a person who's lived his whole life on Tahiti might say 'Snow is cold.' You knew, but you didn't understand. Do you know how cruel your God can be, David? How fantastically cruel? Sometimes he makes us live."
- Heroic Sacrifice: Johnny Marinville
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Poor Pie.
- Misplaced Wildlife: The story takes place in the Nevada desert during the summer and includes a few scenes with hordes of fiddleback spiders. Said spiders do not live this far to the west, and they prefer a temperate climate.
- Most Writers Are Writers: One of the main characters, Johnny Marinville, is a writer.
- Name's the Same: One character is called Peter Jackson (which is also the name of a cigarette brand).
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Desperation? Sounds like a great place to live.
- Religious Horror
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Although Johnny is not technically a veteran because he only went to the Vietnam War as a journalist, the trope still applies to him. It's eventually revealed that his experiences caused him to literally die inside.
- Sibling Switch Squick - Thanks to the alternate universe, the Carver family from one version of the story reverts who are siblings and who is married. In other words, David and Pie would be brother and sister in Desperation, and their parents Ellen and Ralph, but in The Regulators, they're married, and Ellen and Ralph are their children.
- Significant Anagram: The very tall sheriff is called Collie Entragian. Entragian is an anagram for "near giant".
- Stupid Evil: Discussed. One character wonders why, if Tak regularly needs new humans to use as hosts, did he slaughter everybody in a city in the middle of a desert. He mostly gets this trope as an answer.
- Taking You with Me: Johnny in the end.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Tak can not only talk to animals but also give them orders in Black Speech.
- Trigger: The song "Good Lovin'" from The Young Rascals triggers Johnny's Vietnam War flashbacks.
- Verbal Tic: Sheriff Collie Entragian has a habit of adding "TAK!" to the end of random sentences. He was possessed by Ultimate Evil at the time