Director: Brian Henson
Writer: Richard Christian Matheson
Starring: William Hurt, Bruce Spence, Mia Sara, Jackie Kelleher
Before you loyal readers come after me with pitchforks and torches for choosing another entry from the Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King series. Please bear in mind that this short film was directed by none other than Brian Henson (Son of Muppets creator Jim Henson) but it also has an interesting…I hesitate to use gimmick…but I can find no better word at the moment, the film has no single line of dialogue uttered. Not one. Only William Hurt could pull this off and with the masterful directing of Henson we end up with a top notch piece of light horror that could very well have failed and been quite laughable in the hands of other talent.
We begin the short film with Jason Renshaw (Hurt) driving while listening to his Ipod during the night through the city of Dallas until he arrives outside of the gates of the Morris toy headquarters, where Hans Morris (Spence) the head of the company is inspecting a prototype Astronaut figure on a workbench within the factory warehouse. Hans is a man that clearly loves his work and the products his company produces(Spence really pulls this off conveying all of these feelings just by the way he looks upon or interacts with certain toys in the warehouse) for the children of the world, meanwhile outside of the factory we see Renshaw is using a pair of binoculars to watch the windows of the main building for signs of his target. Hans leaves the factory floor and heads to his private office, he has taken a small fairy-like toy with him, it slowly spins while emitting a melody. Renshaw sees Hans through his office window and very calmly begins to prepare for completing the job he was hired to do. After putting away his Ipod he slips on a pair of socks over his shoes, followed by selecting something on a cell phone, and then withdrawing a tiny gun from his duffel bag in the passenger’s seat, filling it up with a CO2 canister. Next he pulls on a pair of latex gloves and finally a rubber mask that he attaches to the front of his face and kept in place by a baseball cap so that his features are distorted.
We then see inside of the headquarters as a guard is busy watching a basketball game when he hears…quacking. Following the sound he leaves the guard station to investigate, outside of the glass door is an open cell phone with scrolling text that read, “This is a bomb. It will detonate in…10,9,8…” The guard uses his keycard to open to door and scoops up the possibly explosive device, he takes a step forward to toss it when Renshaw who was standing around the corner of the building grabs his arm and shoots a dart from the CO2 gun, the guard becomes limp and the intruder places him gently on the ground before removing the dart and placing it in his pocket. Before dragging the guard out of site he steals the unconscious man’s keycard and retrieves his cellphone. As he enters the building Renshaw calmly walks into view of the security cameras before entering the station and deactivating all of the headquarters security measures, but not before noticing there is another guard who is checking making sure all is right with the offices upstairs. As we follow the guard on his rounds, Renshaw steps out from behind a corner and shoots a dart into this guard as well but this one reacts better than his counterpart and goes for the gun on his belt, the intruder is quicker and slams the man against a wall and throws him to the floor, holding him down forcibly until the drug on the dart takes effect. Renshaw hides the guard in one of the offices before heading upstairs and into Hans private office with the use of the stolen keycard. The toymaker stands as the intruder enters casting an accusing glare at Renshaw, the intruder calmly walks around the boardroom table and as his fate dawns on him, Hans closes his eyes silently…praying, maybe pleading…before Renshaw shoots him once in the forehead and three times in the heart. Hans collapses into his chair before falling forward on his desk. His assassin walks calmly around the desk and checks for signs of life, satisfied that he has done his job he takes a moment to gaze at a picture on Han’s desk, through its shattered glass we see an elderly woman (Kelleher) surrounded by toys and at the bottom a handwritten note reads with an odd little horned caricature beside it, “Best from your number one ideas girl. Love, Mom” Renshaw notices the fairy-like toy on the desk and switching it on smiles as it plays it melody, he then switches it off before stuffing it into a pocket.
We next see Renshaw accepting a glass of champagne as he travels first class to San Fransico, the entire time he is listening to his Ipod, not communicating with his fellow traveler (Sara) beside him. He removes a phone from the seat, and swiping his credit card through sends a message that reads, “Watch NEWS. Wire payment. Jason Renshaw” As Renshaw walks through the airport terminal we see a muted news broadcast with closed captioning reporting the death of the”Internationally renowned” toy manufacturer from Dallas. Renshaw just coldly watches it for a few seconds before heading towards the exit to the terminal, as he waits patiently on an escalator he notices a child in front of him with one of Morris’s dolls tucked in her travel pack, and as he gets to his apartment after checking messages at the front desk (we can only assume this is what he is doing since no one ever speaks) he notices another Morris toy company creation sitting on the desk counter of the young woman before him. Finally he is able to get into his cold and sterile looking luxurious apartment and we can see just how weary the assassin lifestyle is making Renshaw as after placing the fairy-like trinket in a glass case where he keeps other memorabilia from his assassinations he barely sits on his sofa before he passes out. He awakes groggily as we hear the door bell ringing over and over. He slowly makes his way to the front door and check his security monitor to see that it is the young woman from the front desk and she is carrying a large plain wrapped package. Renshaw makes no move to communicate with her so she leaves the package at his door before returning to her post. He warily opens the front doors and we see that the package has only a handwritten note with his name and address on it along with an odd horned caricature…
Of course the spoilers need to end here. In fact I may have gone too far into detail for this short film already but as I stated up above that with the talent involved you will never miss any real meaning because the characters do not speak. I didn’t even find it odd at first until halfway through the film, I restarted it just to make sure no one had spoken a line even on the television sets. One thing to look for when you are watching Battleground is in Renshaw’s apartment, if you pay attention you’ll notice the Zuni Fetish Doll from Dan Curtis’s Trilogy of Terror. This is not the first time this story has been filmed by the way, it also appeared in the 1981 ABC series Darkroom. This Stephen King short film deserves its five out of five pumpkin rating!