The Stephen King Edition

To keep things nice and fresh with Nightmare on Netflix, and because there are a bajillion horror movies up on their website, I’m going to try to do a series of five or six films within a theme every month. For March, I’ve picked Stephen King. A lot of people claim that his writing has gotten stale, but he’s really where my love of the genre was born. Sure, when I was nine and ten I was reading Christoper Pike and R.L. Stine books, but my first ‘horror’ novel was Salem’s Lot. It was devoured quickly and followed by Carrie. I dove into his catalogue, spending bus rides to school, lunch hour and every waking moment before bed flipping through the pages just so I could get to the climatic endings.

Without King, I wouldn’t have ever been introduced to Clive Barker, who is easily one of my favorite authors to date. Without King, there would be no Joe Hill (his son), who is responsible for Locke & Key – one of the best independent comic series out there (of course with the help of Gabriel Rodriguez), and the few novels he has already had published (Horns, Heart Shaped Box, and 20th Century Ghost). He helped pave the way for countless writers, the popularity of his books forcing publishers to give the genre a chance and I don’t think they’re regretted it.

Netflix.ca has a great selection of Stephen King films and I’ve forced myself to narrow it down to my favorite five. I’ll include all of the other available movies at the bottom should you want to explore further.

CHRISTINE (1983)

Vroom.. Vroom!

Arnie is the quintessential nerd: bullied at school, struggling to live up to his parents’ high expectations, weedy and riddled with acne. That is until he meets Christine, a red and while 1958 Pontiac Fury and while she’s seen better days, Arnie takes it upon himself to bring the old girl back from the dead. It’s the standard love story between a boy and his automobile that turns deadly as the car, possessed by a malevolent spirit becomes jealous of Dennis, Arnie’s closest friend and Leigh, his new girlfriend. While instilling the nerd with confidence and protecting him from those who want to harm him, the car is bad news. There aren’t a lot of horror movies that have a car as a villain, so it instantly makes this stand out. With the addition of a strong cast, interesting and brutal death scenes and a satisfying conclusion, this is King at his best.

1408 (2007)

Where You Never Check Out

Mike Enslin is a debunker of the supernatural and born skeptic, so naturally when given the opportunity to demystify one of the ‘most haunted’ places in America, he’s going to investigate. After meeting the hotel manager, he’s given the key and led down the hallway where the elusive room awaits. Once inside, Mike is trapped and forced to face otherworldly forces that drive him to the brink of madness. I’m a really big Cusack fan and the horror movies he tends to do veer more on the psychological traumatizing than the jump out of the closet with chainsaws scares, and this is no different. We’re told that no one stays the room, that even when it’s cleaned, it’s done in the quickest way possible and once Mike is stuck within its walls, we start to understand why. It’s a simple film, one that Cusack manages to carry all on his own, dealing with the supernatural terrors that slowly reveal themselves.

STAND BY ME (1986)

Cherry Filling Not Included

A departure from the horror genre, this is coming-of-age story about a group of boys going on an adventure to find the body of a missing kid. Four friends, fulfilling all of the standard stereotypes, embark on their journey together and over the course of a couple of days, emerge fundamentally changed. Over the course of the 48 hours, they’re faced with conflict amongst themselves, a gang of older kids and a train. Yes, a train. It’s told from a reminiscent point-of-view, one of the boys are looking back when they hear the news of a friend’s death and remember this particular memory with fondness. While the characters initially seem to be stereotypes, the young cast breathes life into them, creating multidimensional people that can be related to easily. They’re genuine. This movie has stood the test of time, and regardless of how many times I’ve seen it, I enjoy it profusely. Often though, I need to remind myself that it came from King as it is quite a change from his usual work.

The MIST (2007)

Cthulhu is Waiting

The day after a violent storm strikes a small town in Maine, a mysterious bank of fog comes rolling down the mountainside into town. It soon becomes apparent to some, that there are unknown creatures hiding in the smoky darkness who seek to kill anyone who ventures into the mist. A group of townsfolk cluster together in a grocery store and soon start pledging their allegiances – some to Mrs. Carmody, a religious fanatic who preaches of the end of times, others to Norton who disbelieve and venture into the mists (only a few who return). When the cult concludes that human sacrifice is the only way to appease the monsters, Drayton and a few others set out to brave what lies in the fog in search of safety. It’s not a bad movie. What it suffers from the most is that the director felt the need to reveal the creepy crawlies, and it’s done with moderate success. CGI spider-like things and flailing tentacles should have been secondary to the human panic, the finger pointing and the drama within the grocery store, and I feel like it lost sight on that. Still enjoyable though, especially Marcia Gay Harden as the leader of the zealots.

PET SEMATARY (1989)

Bury with Caution

When the Creed family cat is run over by a car, their neighbour suggests that it be buried in local Indian burial grounds just past the cemetery. Surprisingly, the cat returns from the dead, only different. It’s not long after that Gage, the son is also brutally killed that it’s decided they do the same with the little boy, hoping that he could return. He does, only different. Evil possesses any creature that crawls from that ancient plot of land and the results are terrifying. Whenever there is a child who is the villain, it adds another element to a film, that loss of innocence only to have it replaced by something far more sinister, creates a sense of dread – doom even. The cast is a little lacklustre, but the adaptation (as done by King himself) is true to the book. One of the downsides that many novel-to-film adaptation suffer from is the inability to transcribe the horror to the screen, with King’s work, it seems to be more prevalent. This is gory and disturbing, probably one of the best transitional pieces of his written words to date. Also, The Ramones do a killer song for the soundtrack.

LIST OF MOVIES

Below, I’ve included a list of all of the major films, television shows and mini-series that have been adapted from one of his novels or short stories. The ones in bold, are ones that you can grab on www.netflix.ca

1976 – Carrie
1979 – Salem’s Lot
1980 – The Shining
1982 – Creepshow
1983 – Cujo, The Dead Zone & Christine
1984 – Children of the Corn & Firestarter
1985 – Cat’s Eye & Silver Bullet
1986 – Maximum Overdrive & Stand By Me
1987 – Creepshow 2 & The Running Man
1989 – Pet Sematary
1990 – Graveyard Shift, It (TV mini-series), Misery
1991 – Sometimes They Come Back
1992 – Sleepwalkers
1993 – The Dark Half, Needful Things, The Tommyknockers (TV mini-series)
1994 – The Shawshank Redemption & The Stand (TV mini-series)
1995 – The Langoliers (TV mini-series), The Mangler & Dolores Claiborne
1996 – Thinner
1997 – The Shining (TV mini-series)
1998 – Apt Pupil
1999 – The Green Mile & Storm of the Century (TV mini-series)
2001 – Hearts in Atlantis
2002 – Rose Red (TV mini-series) & The Dead Zone (TV Series)
2003 – Dreamcatcher & The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (TV movie)
2004 – Secret Window
2004 – Kingdom Hospital (TV series) & Salem’s Lot (TV mini-series)
2006 – Desperation (TV mini-series) & Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the stories of Stephen King
2007 – 1408 & The Mist
2009 – Dolan’s Cadillac
2011 – Bag of Bones

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