Well you knew this one was coming. When deciding to do this blog about authors having their books turned into movies, one of the first authors that pop into your head immediately has got to be Stephen King. King is a literary master who has written numerous works and continues to be an avenue of source material for Hollywood still today. I know I am going to get some hate mail for my ratings but I had to narrow it down to at least a top 20 and doing so I left out some big titles. Two that jump out are “Stand by Me” and “Dreamcatchers”. I know, I know, I can hear the screams across the internet. But at the end of the day this is my list, and Stand by Me was always one that I just didn’t quite connect. Also of note, all these were not novels, some were based on short stories, but I still wanted to include them. So for week 2, the author I chose is Stephen King and here is my list, enjoy.
#20- The Lawnmower Man (1987) – A scientist performs experiments on his mentally challenged gardener trying to increase his intelligence with success until he starts to lose control of his patient. Some may kick this movie out off their list, but this was another fun movie I really enjoyed at the time. A pre-Bond Pierce Brosnan, plays the scientist who uses Jeff Fahey to be his guinea pig and until Fahey becomes super intelligent and begins a reign of terror. At the time, this movie had some nice special effects and cool virtual reality. A good mix of Sci-fi and horror “The Lawnmower Man” is a true guilty pleasure, and may be cheesy but is still fun.
#19- Sleepwalkers (1992) - Brain Krause and Alice Krige play a nomadic Mother and son who are known as “sleepwalkers” and must prey on young girls to extend their life force. When they move to a new town they set their sites on Mädchen Amick as their next target. This movie is another guilty pleasure of mine. It is not the greatest, but the cast does a decent job and the movie is filled with many cameos. Also of note the makeup effects for the shape shifting Krause are fantastic. Again, “Sleepwalkers” is not the best King movie in his library but definitely enjoyable none the less.
#18- Maximum Overdrive (1986) – When a comet passes close to the Earth, all the machines begin to come alive and attack humans. A group of people are trapped in a truck stop and must fight for their lives against some deadly trucks that have come to life. This was a small budget movie from the 80’s that was not only written but actually directed by Stephen King. Emilio Estevez plays an ex-con trapped in the truck stop and trying to lead the survivors out of this nightmare. This could be considered a B-movie cult classic. The plot is fairly simple, the acting is not so great, and it is not filled with many scary moments, but there are some decent kills along the way. Oh, and some nice AC/DC music to boot.
#17- Silver Bullet (1985) – When a small town is ravaged by mutilations, a boy begins to suspect it may be the work of a werewolf. The town folks believe the killings are the work of a psychotic killer, but a wheel chair bound youth played by Corey Haim in one of his earliest rolls realizes a werewolf may indeed be doing the killing. He, along with his sister played by Megan Follows and crazy uncle played over the top by Gary Busey try to stop the werewolf. A fun film filled with some unexpected comedy and lots of red herrings keeps you engrossed and entertained. In my eyes one of the better werewolf movies, but rarely discussed in company of other 80’s classics such as “An American Werewolf in London” or “The Howling”.
#15- 1408 (2007) – John Cusak stars as an author who writes about paranormal activity. He travels to New York to stay in the infamous room 1408 of a local hotel which is said to have killed many guests over the years. Cusak sets out to try to debunk the stories by spending the night. Cusak is great as the cynical writer with a tragic past trying to prove there is no truth to the hoax of 1408. Samuel L. Jackson costars as the hotel manager who tries to talk Cusak out of staying in 1408, and warns him of trouble he could encounter. “1408” is more of a thriller than classic horror but delivers on some creepy moments that leave you uneasy. I think this movie gets unjustly panned by horror lovers, because of the PG-13 rating. A very interesting movie with some good twists and turns, with an almost 1 man Broadway style performance by Cusak.
#14- Secret Window ( 2004) - Johnny Depp plays a famous mystery writer who one day is confronted by a strange man claiming he has stolen his story idea. Depp frantically searches for the original copy of his idea for proof and when he cannot produce the copy strange things start to happen. The stranger, played by John Turturro starts to stalk and terrorize him. Depp is great as always but Turturro just always amazes me in every role he does. If you take a look at 10 different parts played by Turturro they are all so different, I think that is an amazing complement to his talent. This movie has a few chills, but it is mainly character driven and some surprises happen along the way that keep you engrossed. This one usually gets mixed reviews but I enjoyed it. Without Depp and Turturro, I can tell you this would rank much lower.
#13- Cujo (1983) - After their family pet St.Bernard “Cujo” is stricken with rabies he begins a reign of terror on them and the small town where they reside. Dee Wallace Stone, one of the 80’s horror queens delivers a great emotionally charged performance as the mother who will do anything to protect her family from the terror caused by their rabid pet. The movie is like dynamite with a very slow developing first half until the fuse is lit for the explosion of violence and terror brought from the second half. The attack scenes are very vicious and disturbing still today. From 1983 until now anytime I see or hear a dog bark I jokingly refer to them as Cujo. That is when you know a movie has left an impression on you.
#13- Children of the Corn (1984) - Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton play a pair of travelers who are stuck in a small Nebraska town that turns out is controlled by evil kids. When they discover there are no adults, the couple has to fight for survival. This movie is very creepy and I will never forget the crazy Malachi who is one of the leaders of the kids played so eerily by Courtney Gaines. There are not many slow points in this movie as the two main characters spend most of the movie running for their lives. In a similar premise to the classic “Village of the Damned”, “Children of the Corn” has many horrific moments and some tense scenes of violence.
#12- Needful Things (1993) - A very interesting King transfer about a stranger that enters a small New England town and opens a store named “Needful Things” and strange things begin to happen. Max Von Sydow is perfectly cast as the mysterious shop owner who gives the town members their most wanted desires and in return convinces them to do evil against their neighbors. Ed Harris plays the sheriff who discovers something sinister taking over the town and sets out to stop it. “Needful Things” is filled, with a mix of thrills, good supporting cast, great scenery and perfectly placed black comedy.
#11- The Mist (2007) – After an intense storm attacks a strange deadly mist hiding evil creatures overtakes a small Maine town trapping several people in a grocery store who must figure out a way to survive. The Mist is an interesting film. It is a combination of John Carpenter’s “The Fog” and King’s own earlier work “Maximum Overdrive”. It is very tense and unsettling, with not only horror elements but great character studies in how people might react when confronted with the end of their world facing them. “The Mist” reminds me of classic horror movies from the 1950’s. A nice cast of B level actors are assembled to bring it to life including Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, William Sadler, and Andre Braugher. This movie is very highly recommended. Be sure check out the DVD which also includes a black and white version harkening back to what I mentioned earlier reminding me of 1950’s horror.
#10- Firestarter (1984)- This movie stars David Keith and Drew Barrymore as a father and daughter with special abilities being hunted by a secret government organization known as “The Shop” led by Martin Sheen. Drew Barrymore, age 8 at the time plays Charlie, a girl with the ability to start fires at will. Her Father, played by David Keith also has a special ability to make people do whatever he wants. Both actors give great emotional performances. Keith especially is much underrated here as the Father trying to free his daughter and just live a normal life. George C. Scott, in a chilling performance is also good as the assassin sent to bring Charlie back to “The Shop” by any means. Similar to several other King adaptations, the early parts are slow developing until the end really catches fire (pun intended). This is more thriller than classic King horror. The special effects are still good, especially the fire scenes with Barrymore’s character. Firestarter is a real barn burner (last one I swear).
#09- The Dead Zone (1983)- After awakening from a coma after 5 years Christopher Walken plays a school teacher who discovers he can foresee events in others lives when he touches them. A very gripping thriller, Walken is intense and portrays a very sympathetic character not normally seen in his later roles. When he shakes the hand of an up and coming politician he discovers something very sinister and evil in his future and tries to stop it at any cost. “The Dead Zone” is directed masterfully with lots of depth and emotion by David Cronenburg in one of his best and more mainstream films.
#08- The Green Mile (1999)- Powerful performances by Michael Clark Duncan, Tom Hanks, and a stellar supporting cast highlight this dramatic Stephen King Adaption. The story which takes place in the 1930’s stars Michael Clark Duncan who plays a gentle giant with a special gift who has been imprisoned on death row for murdering two children. Once incarcerated, the head guard played by Hanks discovers this meek man and his wonderful gift and he and the rest of the guards encounter a moral dilemma on how to deal with him. Duncan who plays John Coffey does so well, conveying such sympathetic emotion. You genuinely care for this behemoth man who is so childlike. A top notch cast and direction lead the way for this wonderful story. Tom Hanks is also great as the concerned guard. “The Green Mile” was nominated for 4 Oscars, including best picture and best supporting actor by Duncan. King noted, this was his favorite adaption of any of his novels and it is clear to see why. First rate all the way.
#07- Christine (1983) – Horror master John Carpenter brings this 80’s horror classic to life about a kid’s obsession with his murderous classic car. The car comes to life and becomes very jealous and obsessed and will do anything to have his owner played by Keith Gordan all to itself. This movie has lost a little bit of its luster over time but still is fun and creepy. Not a star studded cast, but still decently acted. I ranked it high because at the time it was so new, fresh and different. And come on how many movies about killer cars are there? Can’t you imagine them selling this movie in Hollywood then, here would be the pitch; “Imagine Herbie the Love Bug, but he kills people that mess with his owner”.
#06- Pet Sematary (1989) - The creed family moves into a house in the country and after a tragic accident claims their son the distraught Father buries him in an Indian burial ground in the back yard. The cemetery is supposed to bring people back to life, the only problem is once raised, and they do not come back the same. A truly unnerving thriller led by Dale Midkiff as the father that will do anything to save his son but when his son returns evil must do everything he can to survive. This movie is a white knuckle thriller that still leaves your heart racing. There are plenty of jump scares and violence. This movie is a very faithful adaption of the King novel. My only complaint is haven’t we learned that Indian burial grounds can only cause trouble (See “Poltergeist”)?
#05- Misery (1990) – James Caan plays a best selling novelist who gets in an accident in a Colorado blizzard but happens to be rescued by his number one fan. The only problem is, his number one fan played by Kathy Bates is crazy and once she finds out he has killed off her favorite character cripples him and holds him hostage. This is a creepy psychological thriller with lots of punch and dark humor. Misery is basically a two person play with Caan and Bates delivering exceptional performances. Bates is especially good turning in an Oscar winning performance as the heart of gold fan who balances sweet and lovable with pure evil. I will never get over the scene with the sledgehammer, still leaves me queasy to this day.
#04- It (1990) – Okay, it was a good thing I was older when I saw this or I would be freaked out by clowns to this day. It starred a good cast mainly from television led by Harry Anderson, John Ritter, Tim Reid, and Richard Thomas. Yes, this was one I had to include even though it was a television mini series. It is still very scary and keeps you on the edge. Tim Curry is great as the clown terrorizing this group of kids who come back to town as adults to attend a funeral of a childhood friend. To be on TV in the early 1990’s it has lots of scary moments and chills throughout. If you have never seen “It”, don’t let the fact that it was a TV movie stop you from seeing it. Oh and if you are scarred of clowns, you probably won’t to avoid this one.
#03- Carrie (1976) – “Carrie”, is a masterful combination of a Stephen King story directed by one of my favorite directors Brian DePalma. It stars Sissy Spacek as a quiet high school kid who endures torture at school and at home until she explodes with deadly consequence when pushed over the edge. Spacek is great in the eerie title role, the way she uses her eyes and facial expressions in the final act leave you with chills. A supporting cast of young up and comers like John Travolta, William Katt, and . Piper Laurie gets special note, in the role Carrie’s crazy mother. I also need to mention there are great camera shots by Brian DePalma, add to this horror classic.
#02- The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - Nominated for 7 Oscars, this King adaptation is an incredible story of hope and friendship. Tim Robbins stars as a banker in the 1940’s wrongfully imprisoned for life for murdering his wife. While in prison, you follow the troubles and friendships he encounters adjusting to prison life. What can you say about this movie? It is truly incredible on all accounts. The friendship that develops between Robbins character, Andy Dufresne and “Red” played by Morgan Freeman are genuinely heartfelt and you truly feel emotionally connected to this unusual pairing. This movie is well directed and well acted and is a must watch. If there is anyone out there who has never seen this movie, read the rest of this blog and go get it NOW. As Red so eloquently puts it, “Get busy living, or get busy dying”.
#01- The Shining (1980) – This was the hardest decision between choosing this and “Shawshank” but I think in fairness to King his body of work deserves to have a Horror movie as #1, so I chose of course The Shinning. Jack Nicholson plays a former teacher who along with his wife (Shelley Duvall), and son (Danny Lloyd) travel to Colorado to be winter caretakers of the isolated Overlook hotel. While there, Nicholson’s character starts to experience cabin fever and insanity begins to overtake him. This movie is well directed by Stanley Kubrik. It is a truly eerie and chilling scary movie. This is one of the few movies that spring to mind where the actual hotel is part of the horror; the foreboding atmosphere created is unsettling. I can still see Danny Lloyd’s character riding his big wheel through the hallways of the hotel and slamming on the brakes when he sees the ghostly twins. Every time I stay at a hotel with long hallways I think of this movie, every dang time! Nicholson is tremendous and at his insane best, everyone remembers, “Here’s…..Johnny”. I can talk about this movie all day, one of my top 5 horror movies of all time hands down. The ironic thing is King did not like this translation of his book and remade it into a television mini series later more faithful to his book. “The Shining” is an absolutely brilliant masterpiece.
So there you have it, this one was very hard. Send in your comments or your rankings so we can get some discussions going. I am sure I will get some disagreements but I look forward to the banter. I know what you are saying, I left off some good films like “The Langoliers”, “The Tommy Knockers”, “The Stand”, and “Salem’s Lot” but I tried to only go with 1 television representative and I chose “It”. Stephen King is a master of suspense and suspense and I enjoyed revisiting some of these great movies and look forward to more of his future releases. See you next week for our third entry into “From Page to Silver Screen”. See if you can guess who I am choosing. Until then, stay classy!