Stephen King holds the record for the most adaptations from a living author. Let’s not forget he has written original screenplays. Remember, Rose Red?
Love or him hate him when his films debut or a miniseries is on television people tune in. Stephen King knows what scares us.
This is why am listing my top five Stephen King adaptations made for television or the silver screen. King writes the better King adaptations himself. Sometimes he modernizes or improves upon the original story.
I debated listing the Shining in here. Undeniably the Shining is a great movie. Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson changed an entire character. Wendy Torrance was no longer a strong woman she was a meek and somewhat submissive woman. Shelley Duvall gave a great performance, but she is not the Wendy Torrance that you meet in the book. I also think because Kubrick made so many changes that is why Stephen King hates the movie and even remade it. Out of respect to King who is my favorite writer of all time I left it off the list.
So my first choice is The Stand. The Stand is one of my favorite Stephen King novels made into a miniseries in 1994. King wrote the screenplay. Starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamie Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo to name a few. The ensemble all-star cast is amazing. Let’s not forget the performance by Rob Lowe who was it adorable this movie. Matt Frewer who is a pro at playing crazy was Trash Can Man. I was also happy to see Corin Nemec. We knew him as Parker Lewis can’t lose and to see him play a nerd was surprising.
The miniseries stayed faithful to the book. I can watch it a couple times a year and still feel entertained. The Screenplay updated the book a little. The miniseries omitted the short side stories that would make you cry. Which I appreciated. The movie also had the element of optimism.
The special-effects now are outdated it might seem cheesy. But for 1994 this was a good movie and any movie that can open with don’t fear the reaper as its song is awesome in my book.
What’s scary about this movie King preys upon our worst fears of a viral pandemic. The flu is not scariest part of the apocalypse it is the aftermath. No matter what theme you’re going for zombies or war it’s the people that survive that you have to worry most about. King was one of the first modern authors to use that trope.
The Stand can be a little cheesy. The protagonists of the story were still wholesome and hopeful and it was refreshing. Most horror films you find the survivors are flailing about without a plan or hope. The characters still have faith.
If you have a lazy weekend to check out this movie, I recommend it. Keep your eyes peeled for a Sam Raimi cameo.
Salem’s Lot is another Stephen King adaptation from a novel made into miniseries. I’m not talking about the second one made in 2000 that once again starred Rob Lowe. I’m talking about the one released in 1979 directed by Tobe Hooper.
It was great. I liked the screenplay I felt the screen play was faithful to the book and didn’t change too much. And it was also terrifying. Salems lot was a made for TV movie and the little vampire children were frightening.
If you are a Dark Tower fan, you’ll understand Salem's Lot ties into the Dark Tower. A certain character has a part in the film.
David Soul famous for Starsky and Hutch starred as our hero Ben Mears. He returns home to Salems Lot after the death of his wife. He returns to write a book on the Marston house and it turns bad for him. Ben meets a woman named Susan Norton. He ends up having a romantic relationship with and things don’t go well, Thanks to vampires in Salems Lot.
Mears pairs with a local boy named Mark Petrie and they fight the vampires in town. Salem's Lot is worth watching as a vampire movie that ties into the Dark Tower universe.
It is another Stephen King adaptation the original from the 90s. Not that I hold anything against the remake I think it appeals to a younger generation. The setting is now the 80s rather than the 50s but the new Pennywise doesn’t scare me. In fact the whole movie didn’t scare me.
The 1990s miniseries was epic and Tim Curry was terrifying. You can’t look at a sewer drain the same way anymore.
It’s also featured in all-star cast rounded out by John Ritter and Jonathan Brandis who are both no longer with us. It’s hard to watch it without thinking of either actor as each had an important role in the movie. In the 90s when I was a kid of this movie was scary you could rent it on VHS. It took all day to watch and it was terrifying to watch It.
Although it’s a scary movie, there is hope there were moments of happiness in the movie. For me I kind of felt like the remake lacked that aspect which helps break up the tension. Maybe that’s why it was easier for Pennywise to scare me in the 90s version. They would have flashbacks of the losers club or do something fun together. It would break up the tension and then Pennywise would show up and it was scary.
True confession I read this book when I was about 11 years old and I couldn’t finish because it scared. One day I plan on reading it. If you’re fond of the book, I suggest you pick up 11/22/63. A few of the key players from It appear in 11/22/63.
My fourth pick is Pet Semetery. The blockbuster kind of ruined Mary Lambert's directing career. Before Pet Semetery was a well known and sought after director of music videos.
The movie follows a young doctor and father Louis Creed. Louis Creed is played by Dale Midkiff whose other well-known movie is Elvis and me. Louis has moved his family to Maine from Chicago. A series of tragic events unfold.
Jud Crandall is Louis neighbor and friend. Played by Fred Gwynne best known as Herman Munster. I don’t recall Jud scaring me but he tells a disturbing story. Jud also gave Louis Creed the idea to use the Pet Cemetary. Was Jud responsible for everything that happened after Church died? Many people feel Jud was scary too. Let me know in the comments if you felt Jud was frightening?
Pet Semetary is terrifying even if you remove Zelda and Victor Pascow. The worst thing that could happen to anyone is losing a child. That’s what this movie is praying upon is the loss of your child. King's daughter Naomi's cat was run over by a truck. Then later the same week his son Owen had a close call and King stopped him before he ran into the road. Hence Pet Cemetary was born.
We all know Gage Creed dies and his dad buries him in the pet cemetery. Gage comes back not right. Little Miko Hughes went from cutest little baby you’ve ever seen in a movie to being a terrifying monster.
Mary Lambert knocked it out the park for her first directorial debut. The problem is she signed on for Pet Semetery 2 which was a bad movie. Despite having great actors. It was a bad script. Mary Lambert never directed a hit movie again after that. It’s a shame because she did a great job with the original movie. She directed Halloweentown II and episodes of the Blacklist.
Carrie is another amazing King adaptation. That opening scene in the locker room. We It left an impression on everyone. Carrie is the girl most of met at least once. Shy, misunderstood, and bullied.
Remove all Carries telekinetic powers you still have a frightening and relatable story. We can all relate to Carrie being persona non grata at school. As a teenager that’s the worst thing not to be liked at school. When your classmates dislike you and make fun of you your life can be miserable.
I have not even brought up Carries mother Margaret. An abusive religious zealot who likes to lock Carrie in the closet. Piper Laurie was remarkable in her role. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie both received Oscar nominations for this film.
Carries classmates conspire to prank her during prom. Which causes her telekinetic powers to go haywire.
Since Carrie was the first Stephen King novel made into a movie, it was crucial that it was a good movie.
Could you imagine what Kings career surviving if this movie was bad? Imagine someone other than Sissy Spacek playing Carrie? We wouldn’t have all the movies we have today. Stephen King is a massive part of our pop culture. King's influences reach wide so it’s a great thing that this movie was a success!
There we have it my top five Stephen King adaptations. Next week I will list the top five Stephen King adaptations that suck.
Check out my post on my 13 favorite 80's horror movies here.
Stephen Kings Worst Adaptations can be found here.