I hadn’t visited Little Tall, an island off the coast of Maine, since February 1999, but soon discovered that nearly two decades of separation had done nothing to soften the memories of my three-night visit.
When Stephen King’s miniseries “Storm of the Century” aired all those year ago, I found myself hopelessly locked to the screen. It wasn’t just that the master of horror had unleashed his latest nightmare unto the masses or that Tim Daly (a personal favorite) played the lead, it was the compulsion to learn what it was that the mysterious man with the pea coat and cane wanted so that he’d go away.
That first night was all it took for me to understand that I was not only terrified of a character known as Andre Linoge, but also that I would never forget the name Colm Feore, the actor who had brought him to life.
What struck me as I re-watched the series recently was not so much the horror of Linoge’s deeds, which were plentiful, but that I was just as petrified of Feore’s performance as I had been when I first witnessed it eighteen years earlier.
It was more than the realization that Feore’s performance hadn’t lost an ounce of effect, but rather the understanding that Andre Linoge was and remains the only character that legitimately unsettled me.
The Exorcist made me feel fear and The Witch left me pondering what I’d seen days after walking out of the theatre, but to be completely honest, while mesmerizing, not even Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter left me shook.
Colm Feore as Andre Linoge, however, did.
Feore shared common traits with the aforementioned doctor. His manner of walking and talking were unique, they possessed inhuman poise and control and made the most of very little screen time, but only Andre Linoge made me uncomfortable.
With a perpetual smirk, Feore’s character delighted in the islanders’ inability to understand Linoge’s advanced existence. Not once did he challenge Constable Anderson’s (Daly) attempts to detain him, he simply sat in his cell with an eerie calm and alien eyes that peered through everyone who dared look in his direction.
Linoge unleashed cryptic messages of “Born in lust, turn to dust. Born in sin, come on in” and “Give me what I want and I’ll go away,” peppered between unrelenting taunts about the deepest, darkest misdeeds of Little Tall’s inhabitants unfortunate enough to be in the same room with him.
Like “Storm of the Century’s” characters, Feore held me rapt in uncertain fascination. My brow furrowed at the balance between polite, Lecter-esque cooperation and biting challenges that tore away shards of flesh. Unlike Lecter, however, Linoge’s gruesomeness went beyond elevated awareness or the evil of man’s inhumanity to man, but was rather directly tied to an entity clearly armed with powers that were not of this world.
Though he eventually revealed that he’d lived thousands of years, the series never delved any further than Linoge’s admission that he was neither a god, nor an immortal. What was evident from the outset, however, was that Andre Linoge was not human.
Be it eyes that flashed red or Jeffrey DeMunn’s deceased mother (it was a King project, so of course DeMunn was in it), Linoge could make people see whatever he wanted them to. Whispered chants turned to hissing that inspired folks from Little Tall to drown or hang themselves, plunge an ax into their skull or even beat a loved one to death with his silver, wolf-headed cane. On more than one occasion, Linoge pointed out that hell was about repetition, and proved a man of his word as he methodically terrorized and demoralized the entire island.
Early in the series, Linoge got a few steps ahead of the officers, picked up Constable Anderson’s son and rattled the law man as he chatted with the boy about the birth mark on his nose. Linoge referred to it as a fairy saddle, just as his father did. It was something Linoge had no business knowing. Anderson’s demand to put him down was simply met with a smile and a question — “Or?”
It wasn’t the omnipotence that sent chills cascading down my spine, but rather the sinister satisfaction that Linoge took in tormenting the terrified residents of Little Tall.
As Deputy Hatch (Casey Siemaszko) couldn’t help but ask, “Who’s holding who prisoner here?”
Time and again I found myself teetering between hypnotic confusion and the hairs on my neck standing on end at the words and actions of Feore’s character. But above all else, many times I found myself wondering aloud what Daly finally blurted with equal parts panic and desperation, “What do you want, Linoge?!”
Constable Anderson and the inhabitants of Little Tall eventually received the incomprehensible answer about what it would take for Linoge to go away. Though he could not take, Linoge made it clear that he could punish as he shared that the reason they had been selected was because islanders knew two things above all else — how to pull together when the going got rough and how to keep a secret.
Andre Linoge tested their collective mettle on both.
Stephen King once said that Colm Feore “killed the part of Andre Linoge,” and truer words were never spoken. Linoge is not only one of King’s most underrated creations, he is one of the finest villains to ever grace a screen and the only horror character to leave me frozen in fear.
I hadn’t visited Little Tall in nearly twenty years, but I’m glad I went back.