It’s easy to assume that literally everybody has at least once read a Stephen King book – there’s a lot of them to begin with, since he averages more than one per year, and this is quite impressive, since a large majority are rather on the chunky side. Even those people who declare that they’ve certainly not read more than 3 books in their whole life must have one of his books among those three. There have been more than 100 adaptations of his work, including feature films, shorts and TV series – some masterpieces, some very good projects, and some… well, less inspired.
Two days from now, Stephen King, the master of horror (and not only) will turn 70. Therefore, what better time than now to go over some of the finest films and series inspired by his work? Something to keep you busy until the weekend maybe – or an incentive to re-watch an old favourite which you haven’t touched in years? Turn off the lights, let the pitch-black darkness engulf you, and explore our list!
Being a famous author has many perks, as Paul Sheldon learns when an avid fan of his books rescues him from a car crash, and tends to his wounds. Things take a downhill turn when he finds out that she’s a rather deranged individual who has trouble separating fiction from reality. Starring James Caan, Richard Farnsworth and, of course, Kathy Bathes in one of her best ever roles, the Rob Reiner adaptation is on par with the book and up there with the best thrillers of last century.
Before deciding to earn a living by adapting zombie-centred comic books to series, Frank Darabont spent the 90s producing masterpiece after masterpiece. This is definitely one of them: he took the beautifully written Stephen King prison drama, managed to even improve its framework and degree of emotionality here and there, and directed this wonderful and inspiring film starring Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan among many talented others. You should under no circumstance miss this one!
A strange and thick mist gathers within a small town, and a handful of its inhabitants find themselves taking refuge in a supermarket. Things get a bit more complicated once they find out that the mist is actually ‘populated’ by bloodthirsty creatures. This adaptation features a slightly more apocalyptic tone than the short novel it’s based on, but actually manages to improve the formula a wee bit – after all, this is Frank Darabont at it again. Note that a mini series based on the same book was released this year, but as far as I’ve seen, it’s not exactly been warmly received.
An overly-confident man who spends a night in a wide variety of reportedly haunted places, or ones that are dominated by paranormal activity, arrives at a hotel which offers its own haunted room. As he starts what seems to be just another day at office, he realizes that this time, things might take a different turn. While not as expressive or freakish as the novella it is based on, the film starring John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson still offers plenty of excitements and thrills to entertain you on a rainy evening.
The fifth listing, and the third Frank Darabont film. Quite the Stephen King fan, is he not? I think that this film needs no presentation whatsoever – you can find it on IMDb’s Top Rated Movies list, on the #1 spot, where it’s been for years and years. Is it that good? Absolutely.
In what is probably the weakest entry of the list, Maximum Overdrive is… different. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and it definitely excels at (not) doing this. Things are pretty normal in a small US town, until machines everywhere start coming to life and having a will of their own, which mostly translates to homicidal tendencies. Cars, lawnmowers, chainsaws… you can imagine the carnage. All accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack heavy on AC/DC songs, and directed by Stephen King himself. Fun!
Ah, Stanley Kubrick’s third last film and one of his masterpieces, or so is The Shining considered. Often described as one of the pillars of Western horror filmmaking, this adaptation is certainly a reference point in the genre. Involving an isolated hotel, an evil presence and a gradual descent into madness, it stars Jack Nicholson in one of his best ever roles and, although it doesn’t quite rise up to the quality level of the book, and kind of messes up the ending (at least in my view), it still remains a fantastic watch.
The final movie of the list is a very underrated one in my eyes. Mort Rainey, a writer living in a secluded cabin after recently having split from his wife, is repeatedly threatened by a strange man, who accuses him of plagiarism. Things shortly escalate, and turn into a thoroughly captivating exploration of Mort’s mental sanity. Don’t let the relatively low IMDb score fool you, this is a mind-blowing experience.
In this 8-episode mini series, we meet a high school teacher who, by means of time travel, attempts to travel back to the early sixties and do his utmost to prevent President Kennedy’s tragic assassination. It’s a great book and a great series, which might or might not be renewed sometime in the future – King himself declared that he has some ideas for a continuation, so let’s see what happens.
When a mysterious forcefield surrounds a small town in Maine, trapping most of its inhabitants inside and cutting all means of physical communication with the outside world, they must find a way to make due with their newfound status quo. This is another King-inspired production which is less about horror and more about human psychology – it might not be as impactful as the book, but its three seasons have been received quite well by the general public.