With the sudden resurgence of movies based on Stephen King stories, I have decided to resurrect…
The Blog from Beyond the Grave.
Every Halloween for the last, oh… 13 years or so, I have written a blog entry detailing some of my favourite horror movies. Some have been about creature features, some have been about Canadian horrors but none so far has been about the movies from the mind of the incomparable King of scary stuff.
Don’t beg. I’m just going to lay it all out here on this plastic sheet for you. Normally, I’d tell you to put some coffee on. I don’t blog short if it can be helped. Today, however, I’m cranking this one right out of the ol’ meatgrinder as fast as I can. It’s not comprehensive by a long shot, only a summary look at the cream of the crop.
THE BEST OF KING’S BEST
King’s first novel and first movie adaptation. The great Brian de Palma. The incomparable Sissy Spacek. Piper Laurie at her best. John Travolta even. So much pig blood. A tale of a young telekinetic and her overbearing mother. A parable for America? You can safely skip the 1999 sequel and the 2013 remake. Stick with the original on this one.
The Shining (1980)
Are you kidding me? If you haven’t yet rented this from the video store then you must do so right after work today. First off, it has Jack Nicholson in his unrelenting prime, plus Shelley Duvall at the top of her game too. Second, it was directed by Stanley “Perfectionist Perfect Perfectionism” Kubrick. Third, the visions of the elevator opening, the twin girls, Red Rum, and the axe coming through the bathroom door. Can anybody say ‘psychological’?
The Dead Zone (1983)
Holy moly, Canada’s creepmaster David Cronenberg takes America’s creepmaster Christopher Walken through King’s story about a guy who develops clairvoyance after waking up from a coma. The movie is essentially a parable that’s like every guy who said, “if I was alive when Hitler was in power, I would’ve…” Well, here’s a character that sees what will happen when a certain American politician comes into power. He also sees other things too. None of them are that good, I gotta tell ya.
It (1990 and 2017)
Whereas the former It had the benefit of Tim Curry’s magnificent acting, the latter It has the benefit of a great set of young actors and the detriment of too much CGI. So, take whichever It you choose.
This is one of the few King stories that doesn’t take place in New England. Also, it’s one of the few that seems utterly plausible and messed up for just that reason. It’s the first time I ever saw Kathy Bates perform and the first time I understood that you have to be really great to win an Oscar in a horror movie. Like, really… really great.
The Mist (2007)
I have written about it again and again, and it holds as one of the greatest horrors because it not only puts in the monsters but it also shows how people turn into worse monsters than they. That, plus not glossing over the super-depressing ending makes this a total winner. Frank Darabont rules.
Salem’s Lot (1979) – a TV movie, but I still can’t believe that my parents never let me watch it. All my friends did. It was on TV. Everybody watched it. Geez, mom.
Creepshow (1982) and Creepshow 2 (1987) – anthology horror shorts in the vein of the classic comics, but first brought to the big screen courtesy of King’s writing and George Romero directing (with Romero writing on the sequel, stuff based on King stories).
Cujo (1983) – just watched this a year ago. I should’ve watched it in 1983 for full effect, I think.
Christine (1983) – I vaguely remember this and thought three things: that Keith Gordon was going to be a great actor, that John Carpenter should stick to his own stuff, and that King should not write about cars that come alive.
Children of the Corn (1984) – never saw it, but it had so many fans that it spawned too many sequels.
Firestarter (1984) – another King telekinetic yarn, this time with a child Drew Barrymore.
Cat’s Eye (1985) – another kind of anthology, with three stories linked by a cat. Drew Barrymore again, but James Woods too with his natural creep factor.
Silver Bullet (1985) – a werewolf yarn. Yawn. Gary Busey though and his natural creep factor.
Stand By Me (1986) – a classic nostalgic piece, but hardly horror-based unless you count the vomit scene.
The Running Man (1987) – Arnold Schwarzenegger in tights playing a convict on a game show to win his life back. The book was better.
Pet Sematary (1989) – dead animals come back to life, which is not good. Megan Follows (of Anne of Green Gables fame) is.
Needful Things (1993) – Max von Sydow is perfectly cast here.
The Stand (1994) – some people swear by this four-part TV mini-series. Yes, I can still hear my mother swearing.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – time and time again voted as one of the greatest films period, and I agree. Still, not a horror, unless you count the sewer crawl scene. Frank Darabont robbed of Best Director Oscar.
Dolores Claiborne (1995) – Kathy Bates again, but in a family trauma drama.
Apt Pupil (1998) – here’s the IMDB blurb: A boy blackmails his neighbor after suspecting him to be a Nazi war criminal. Enough said.
The Green Mile (1999) – another great King story, again not considered horror unless you count the execution scene. Also directed by Darabont.
1408 (2007) – John Cusack in a haunted hotel room. Pretty good but not memorable in any way.
Under the Dome (2013-15) – a TV show. Okay.
11.22.63 (2016) – a TV movie. Revisionist history about JFK assassination. Okay.
Maximum Overdrive (1986) – it should be noted that Stephen King had some substance abuse troubles. It should also be noted that he should not write about cars that come alive. I have noted this already.
The Lawnmower Man (1992) – in the early days of CGI, King’s version of Flowers for Algernon turns into a descent into electronic madness
Sleepwalkers (1992) – in the early days of CGI, here’s a King story where people turn into animals. They looked cuddly to me. Disappointed.
Dreamcatcher (2003) – okay, how do I put this? There’s an alien invasion and people develop horrible diarrhea. Whose idea was this? Who talked Lawrence Kasdan into this? Who?
Secret Window (2004) – Johnny Depp. Misery lite. Skip.
Cell (2016) – a long-form exploration of the central conceit of Kingsmen. Stick with Kingsmen’s version.
The Dark Tower (2017) – Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba have a manliness-off contest in this long-awaited and quickly forgotten version of King’s epic book series. Are we getting more of this? I think that has already been answered.