There was a time when you couldn’t throw a brick in Hollywood for fear of braining somebody working on an adaptation of a Stephen King work. The author is known for both his mastery over the genres of horror, suspense and magical realism, among others, as well as his prolific output, which includes nearly 60 novels, 200 short stories, a number of novellas. His work has found its way on to both small and large screens and is responsible for at least half the horror films made in Hollywood over the past four decades. As The Dark Tower hits theatres we bring you some other celebrated adaptations of stories by the Master of Horror.
This is what started the ball rolling: the first film adaptation of Stephen King’s first book. Carrie is an unpopular high school girl in a small town; Carrie lives with her psychotic, abusive mother in that small town; and Carrie has untapped telekinetic powers that could wipe out a small town. Better not mess with her! Of course they do, so she messes back. Spoiler alert: It’s bad, really bad; for the town. The movie is a cult classic, though.
The Shining (1980)
Jack Nicholson starring in a Stanley Kubrick adaptation of a Stephen King novel. While that sounds a recipe for both commercial and critical success, audience response and critic reviews were initially muted, with King himself noting that it was a “good film, but a poor adaptation”, and he personally hated it. But as with fine wine, appreciation slowly grew and today The Shining is regarded one of the greatest horror films ever made. Since then, Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of writer Jack Torrance, The Overlook Hotel, with its eerie interiors and eerier residents, and other motifs from the film have become an indelible part of pop culture.
Stand By Me (1986)
Taking a break from all the death, destruction and horror, Stand By Me is based on the relatively cheerful story of four boys who go on a hike into the woods in Oregon. Of course, it is a Stephen King story and the objective of the boys’ walk is to find the corpse of a dead child, but it’s still pretty light. The movie is now regarded a classic of the coming-of-age genre and arguably introduced the master of genre to a whole new generation of readers. King himself loved the movie, calling it the first successful cinematic adaptation of his work.
Pet Sematary (1989)
While critics didn’t particularly enjoy the film adaptation of Pet Sematary, audiences streamed into watch it in theatres all over. Revolving around a family from Chicago who move into rural Maine (King’s favorite setting for his stories) and a friendly neighbor who shows them a pet cemetery behind their house, the story is a slow descent into insanity and desires that are best left unfulfilled.
Celebrity and their fans, talk about obsession, right? That’s what Misery talks about anyway as it follows bestselling author Paul Sheldon as he decides to steer his career towards a different direction after achieving both fame and success with a series of romantic novels. Alas, before he can have his new gritty manuscript published he meets with a road accident and wakes up, bones broken and dislocated, at the tender mercies of Annie Wilkes, who’s luckily a trained nurse. Unluckily, she’s also psychotic and obsessed with Sheldon’s romantic oeuvre. It does not end well apart from for Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of the insane nurse.
Stephen King's It (1990)
A nearly-1200 page novel, Stephen King’s It was condensed into a two-part, four hour TV miniseries, but still managed to terrify entire generations of kids (including the writer of this list) and give us a lifelong fear of clowns. While It is being rebooted into a two-part movie series later this year, the original is still scary as hell – despite lame 80’s CGI – due to an inimitable performance by Tim Curry playing Pennywise the Dancing Clown, who stayed in character during the entire filming and so was avoided by the entire cast and crew because he was just that creepy.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
One of the few Stephen King works not to feature any supernatural or horror element, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank redemption, went on to be adapted into one of the most critically-acclaimed films of all time. Following the story of banker Andy Dufrense, convicted to life in prison for the double murders of his wife and her lover, the movie is a parable for keeping up one’s hopes and spirits no matter how bleak a situation may seem. And how that can eventually turn out to be rewarding.
Apt Pupil (1998)
This one is more horrific than horror, with humanity’s evil the villain rather than a supernatural entity. High-schooler Todd Bowden that his elderly neighbor, Arthur Denker, is actually a Nazi war criminal in hiding. Bowden has an unhealthy obsession with the Holocaust and war crimes, and as he finds a perfect encyclopedia of evil in Denker, the already odd relationship between the two mutates into something far more sinister. With Ian McKellen delivering a chilling performance as the aged but still diabolical Denker, this movie truly a study in evil.
The Green Mile (1999)
Set during the times of The Great Depression, The Green Mile tells the story of prison and death row supervisor Paul Edgecombe and his surreal meeting with death row inmate John Coffey, “a black giant of a man”, who soon displays abilities and a temperament that belies his conviction for the brutal rape and murder of two young girls. Boasting an impressive cast, led by Tom Hanks as Edgecombe and the late Michael Clarke Duncan as Coffey, the film was nominated for several awards and remains a highly-regarded piece of cinema.
Secret Window (2004)
Secret Window - the film - is based on Secret Window, Secret Garden – a novella – and is one of the few recent films (relatively) in which Johnny Depp remembers he’s an actor and not a caricature. Don’t get us wrong, the man is a formidable actor, but he does wander into over-the-top territory with increasingly depressing regularity. Here however, he’s in top form as a successful writer struggling with writer’s block and a strange visitor.