It’s extremely hard to dispute the fact that Stephen King hasn’t had an effect on all things horror since his first novel Carrie was released back in 1974. In the time since, Stephen King has became an international success and the recipient of much deserved critical acclaim. His first novel Carrie was also his first story that was tuned into a film adaptation. Directed by Brian De Palma and released in 1976, the film was a huge success which only made Stephen King and his novels more popular. Flash forward to today and here we are with over fifty of his novels, short stories, and collections reinterpreted as features for both television and film.
I’m not going to sit here and rank what I feel are his best adaptations, because honestly I haven’t read a whole lot of Stephen King’s work. What I want to do with this editorial rather, is to talk about some of his features that influenced me. I don’t want to sit here and compare the films to the book, but rather to say why I enjoyed them and to hopefully show my appreciation for what he has given to all of us as horror fans.
I want to start off with the first Stephen King adaptation that I can remember seeing knowing full out who Stephen King was and what he had done. It was Stephen King’s It. Loosely based (from what I hear) on the novel of the same name, it originally aired on ABC back in November of 1990 as a two part miniseries. Now granted, it was a TV miniseries on a major network so it is obvious that this was a very cleaned up version as compared to the original novel, but as a young boy who was way too young to be seeing even this version, it absolutely scared the hell out of me. Pennywise was a bit creepy, but that wasn’t the scariest part of the whole miniseries (to me). The moment that got me was when Young Beverly (Emily Perkins) saw a balloon filled with blood, burst in her bathroom sink.
When she tells her abusive father, he comes to investigate, putting his hands in the blood and seeing Beverly covered, but he acts like nothing is there. The thing that just scared Beverly half to death, wasn’t even visible to him, so how could he understand or help her? It’s a common theme in horror in any format to have the protectors of the community including police, parents, adult figures of authority become completely helpless either by having their power taken away from them or their ignorance to the problem in question. This was also a running theme in another one of Stephen King’s movie adaptations titled The Shining.
From what I understand, the hard core Stephen King fans aren’t really partial to the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining (again, from what I’ve heard) because of its many liberties it has taken with the original source material. I see it as an amazing achievement in cinema as far as horror film, technical execution, and acting are concerned.
This one of the first movies I have ever watched that when viewing the finale, or the events leading up to them, I actually felt the cold that enveloped the outside of the Overlook Hotel. The portrayed freezing of the characters and the setting, while showing the seclusion of the tenants as well as Jack Torrance’s’ mind being shut out to the outside world was so effective to me that I actually felt cold. They weren’t just the chills, I actually felt the temperature of my body drop, which made me angry because I hate the cold. Add that with a bear giving oral pleasure to a butler (which came out of nowhere) which led to the conclusion of the film succeeding gloriously in completely mindf**cking me.
Years of psycho therapy later, I saw a commercial for yet another Stephen King miniseries which wasn’t a novel first, it was a specific screenplay written to be a TV miniseries called Storm of the Century (1999). Although it was never released on the printed page, you could easily tell this was a Stephen King story with Stephen King’s characters in a Stephen King world. It was 1999 and in both TV and film mediums at the time, I have never seen a character to intimidating and creepy as Andre Linoge. He knew everyone in the town forwards and backwards expending their deepest and darkest secrets left and right as soon as he didn’t immediately get his way. When he needed to resort to violence, he did and boy was it swift and unrelenting. Again, another made for TV series that was frightening and also relatively gore less. The Mist on the other hand, well that’s a whole other story.
I am one of those people that absolutely loved The Mist. Directed by Frank Darabont (who also directed Stephen King adaptations Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) the film version of the Mist was another one of Stephen King’s stories that had his style and character development all over it. Some people who disliked the movie felt that it was a bit unrealistic; while I can see their point, I still completely disagree with. The film went a little bit far with the idea of telling us how panicked and scared people get in a time of crisis whereas they will turn to anyone or anything that provides answers. Anyone who works in any field that interacts with customers can no doubt attest to a disgusting side of humanity that rears around its head the second they feel that things haven’t completely gone their way.
Trust me, I could sit her all day and have a conversation about horror works based on Stephen King’s material. Just because I haven’t mentioned them here, Cujo, Pet Sematary, Christine, The Tommyknockers, The Stand, and more all have at least some great moments in them worth watching. Not only have these movies and miniseries influenced our horror culture, but the books and the man himself have influenced countless people’s lives.
So now that I’ve talked a little bit about my favorite Stephen King movies, I want to know more about your tastes. Do you agree with me? Do you think the movies I picked were terrible? Do you have a moment in a Stephen King influence movie or miniseries that just scared the hell out of you? Share your Stephen King love/hate in the comments!