Monday, March 29, 2010

STEPHEN KING: MOST LIKELY TO GET SCREWED IN A FILM ADAPTATION

Stephen King has said that he is the literary equivalent to "a Big Mac and fries". I'd like to say that he's more of a three course spectaculathon filled with high end desserts and a major meal only Emeril Lagasse could whip up. The classics of horror that he's written have been labeled as the inspirations for many screenwriters, and he's probably the most iconic horror writer next to H.P. Lovecraft. Many of us might not even be fans of the genre if it wasn't for his work. I remember walking into my parent's bedroom as a child and trying to sneak reads of the Stephen King novels on my mother's bedside. He's one of the most published authors of all time, has sold over 350 million copies of his books sold, and has had more of his stories turned into films or tv miniseries than any other author of all time with 86 adaptations. One would believe that this magnitude of talent would produce some of the greatest horror films to go along with it, right? WRONG. Out of those 86 adaptations, I'll go along to say that 10 or less are anything to bat an eyelash at. The rest...garbage. In defense, the films that ARE good aren't just good...they're monumental. The Shining goes to be one of the scariest films of all time and IMO, Jack Nicholson's best work to date. All of the films are impacting, but it doesn't necessarily mean the films are anything of worth. Stephen King is by far the author most likely to get screwed in a film adaptation.

Witness the iconic train wreck, Children of the Corn. While the film is praised for having Isaac and Malachi, the two creepiest amish kids ever on screen, it is also noted to be one of the crappiest films ever made. The COTC franchise is a joke in the horror industry. It's honestly what the Duggar kids would be doing if TLC didn't keep them on track. The story the film is based on, was a short story Stephen King published in Penthouse. Really? PENTHOUSE!? That should have been a sign right there that this is a story left best on paper and not on the silver screen. It has spawned six sequels and a made-for-TV remake. The Children of the Corn is the horror equivalent to The Land Before Time. It never ends and the first one wasn't even good. The first film received two thumbs down by Siskel & Ebert and currently reps a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes, ouch.

Stephen King's The Dark Half was the second highest selling novel of 1989. When George A. Romero, king of the f'ing zombies signed up to direct the film, it seemed as if this would be the saving grace of the novel turned film work of Stephen King. Romero was just so stifled making a studio picture, that this just became so bland and drab. I've read The Dark Half. I find it horrific and brilliant, I've seen Dark Half, I wish I couldn't admit to that. The film is watchable, but it's not something I'll ever care to see again. The only admirable thing about the film is the suspense that goes along with not knowing the story, once you've seen it once...there's nothing to the film to keep you entertained. It's a one view film at best. I think the reason I dislike it so much, is because of the drastic contrast between the book and the film. At least with films like LTROI or even Harry Potter, the movies are STILL good despite having monumental books to live up to, the same cannot be said for this one.

TV mini-series seem to be the absolute WORST culprits. The Tommyknockers, Rose Red, Kingdom Hospital, and yes, IT are some of the worst adaptations of King's novels to date. The first three can easily just be explained as "god awful with bad CGI, bad acting, and bad interpretations". IT however, is something people fight me with tooth and nail about. Do you want to know why people say IT is so scary? BECAUSE HE'S A FREAKING CHILD KILLING CLOWN WITH SCARY TEETH THAT COMES THROUGH YOUR PIPES. The storyline is compelling, the length is unnecessary, and the scenes from the book they chose are the most "family friendly" of any of them. The film has no balls, and is a complete JOKE compared to the novel. The series is just lucky that Pennywise as a character is going to freak people out in general. Of course he's going to be scary. I'm not denying that Pennywise is frightening, but I am denying that IT is a quality adaptation. The series is incredibly slow, the ending is so bad I turn it off before it happens, and the only redeeming qualities of the series is when Tim Curry is on screen. Anything else is laughable, dull, and a waste of time. The book is downright disturbing, and IT is just sort of bland. The only reason it reached any sort of success is because there is an overwhelming amount of people with phobias of clowns, and because Tim Curry is a genius. If Pennywise had been played by anyone else, that film wouldn't be anywhere near as iconic and Pennywise would have been written off as just another creepy clown like Bozo without the buckets.
It is true that there was a HUGE SK obsession in the 70's, 80's, and 90's...but even his films made in the 2000's are dreadful (with the exceptions). 1408 is a freaking joke. I'm a John Cusak fangirl and even I watched the film with the same expression I have when I see fat women in Wal-Mart wearing spandex with crimped mullets. It's a trainwreck and nothing more than wasted potential. This isn't to say ALL Stephen King film adaptations are crappy. His non-horror films are widely successful. The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me are two films that are almost universally accepted as good films. The man has got talent for writing, if only filmmakers could properly capture it. *sigh*

17 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

You should also have mentioned Misery - my favorite King movie of them all and scary as hell for a non-horror movie...

Pax Romano said...

I think his books are tough to adapt because many of them are lengthy, almost epic in scope so they are either boiled down to two hours for a film, or turned into eight hour tv movie events with a less than spectacular out come (The Stand).

Misery, Carrie, and to a lesser extent, Christine worked so well because they were relativity straight ahead tales.

I'd like to see HBO or the BBC adapt one of his epics and finally give them the treatment they deserve.

BJ-C said...

The point of this post was to show how there are few examples of his good work. carrie, misery, and the shining are already universally accepted as classics. everyone knows that already.

Andre said...

Ahhh thank you- I have been on a SK kick...reading Salem's Lot, the Mist and now The Stand. When I brought up on Twitter that I really wanted to see a highly decent adaption/Not a made for TV movie of Salem's Lot. People immediately replied back saying that blah blah blah it has to be a made for TV movie because it's so long and captures all the character-whatever who knows. THE POINT IS. Stephen King, as much as I love him often complicates his stories with too many characters and too much stuff. Works great in a book- but a movie needs little something called editing. This isn;t really what you are talking about but I needed to speak my peace. Good editing can probably fix most Stephen King adaptions. Do we really need to go through every single character? Probably not. And I will prove this to you all when I finish my adaption of Salem's Lot. Mmmhmmm..

OH and thank you again for saying that 1408 is crap. I thought I was the only one. Remember when I said I didn't understand the whole John Cusack craze? Well it's because of this movie. It's just....laughable.

The Mike said...

Good points, though I'd say there are a few more good King flicks than you let on...just don't ask me to name them.

He's definitely a writer whose horror stylings don't transfer well to film. Even The Shining, while entirely epic, loses huge amounts of detail from the novel.

Matt said...

I agree with a lot of what you have said here, particularly about IT. I've always argued that it is a highly overrated series especially when compared to the awesomeness of the book. The ending is SUCH a let down and there isn't anything particularly frightening. I think that book deserves a solid R-rated film adaptation.

Slightly disagree with you on Children of the Corn - I think it has some solid moments of creepiness but it does fail as a whole. Forget the sequels...

Let's just hope if JJ Abrams has the balls to do a Dark Tower film, he does it right. I'd be heartbroken to see my favorite King series turned into another crappy King film.

Edward Brock said...

Interestingly, my favorite Stephen King "movie" is the TV mini-series STORM OF THE CENTURY. What separates it from most of his other work is that it's an original screenplay. Maybe that's why it works so well.

I think part of the failure of his adaptations is that the director/producer often inflicts their own ideas into the films or attempts to make it "better". But we must not forget that any story is burdened by loss when moved from literature to film.

My favorite adaptations (the ones I think, at least, cling to the flavor of the original stories) are:
The Shining (of course)
Night Fliers (an under-appreciated film that was very faithful to the original story)
The Mist (finally)
Pet Semetary (Miko Hughes still creeps me out)
Carrie (wonderful atmosphere & one of the creepiest mothers in film)

Matt said...

Totally forgot Storm of the Century. That one was excellent. Night Flier was also great.

R.D. Penning said...

I own 47 of Stephen King's books, and 28 of his movies. I have read every Stephen King book excluding Under the Dome, and a few of his works no longer in print. I love Stephen King! I do agree that most of his movies lose some of the stuff that makes them great in the transfer to film, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy watching them. Some people call Maximum Overdrive a horrible film, but I frickin love it. Great soundtrack and I thought King did a great job directing. I think Frank Darabont should be the only person allowed to direct King movies, as he is pretty much flawless at doing so. The Mist was probably the best king adaption of all time, but it was of a short story, and Darabont added the ending. To this day I have found only one King adaption that I did not enjoy watching on film, and that is The Langoliers. The movie was so horrible, and so far off from the novel it was anger inducing. Pax, The Stand is still voted today as the #1 Made-for-TV movie of all time. I'm writig a novel here, I should put out a warning to people: Don't get me started on Stephen King. He is my hero, and inspiration for everything I am today. Great debate starter though!!!

R.D. Penning said...

I forgot to mention, IT is being remade, and I believe they are shooting for a hard "R" rating. You wish is granted.

badgerdaddy said...

Kingdom Hospital isn't an adaptation of a King work - it's an adaptation BY King, so there's even less excuse.

Just saying.

CSY said...

LOVE Stephen King novels...DO NOT love ALL Stephen King movies. You've made some VERY goos points with this post B. IT...I freaking HATED it! I re-read the book right before the mini-series came out. LOVE Tim Curry, was VERY disappointed in the movie.

Davey C. said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Did you just insinuate that the first Land Before Time wasn't good? Blasphemy!

I do really love Shawshank and Stand By Me. Both are really great flicks, in my opinion.

ZedWord said...

To be fair, King has contributed to some of his own self-screwage on occasion (i.e. Maximum Overdrive).

Also, technically, Kingdom Hospital is not an adaptation (at least of King's work). King wrote it as a miniseries as a remake / adaptation of Lars von Trier's "The Kingdom."

Have you seen Storm of the Century? It was the first miniseries he wrote for TV. I think it's probably one of his strongest productions.

gord said...

Thank you for trashing IT. God was that movie a piece of crap. I saw it when I was fairly young (being a Stephen King fan from about the age of 7) and even back then I was bored to tears by it and wondered why it was so tame.

Rabid Fox said...

It is a shame that more adaptations don't translate well, for whatever reason.

I recently had a chance to watch Salem's Lot for the first time. Aware it was a tad on the cheesy side before hand, I still wanted to watch it, and I still ended up disappointed by it. I cringe at ever having to sit down and watch the sequel--I can't believe they made a sequel.

And I must confess to enjoyed 1408, thanks in large part to John Cusack.

TheGirlWhoLovesHorror said...

The Tommyknockers is a Stephen King phenomenon, in that BOTH the book and the movie (another TV miniseries) sucked.

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