It’s a pretty interesting time to be a Stephen King fan, as 2017’s seen the emergence of King in almost all media. His works “It” and “The Dark Tower” are being adapted in to highly anticipated feature films, “The Mist” has been turned in to a series for better or for worse, and Scream Factory are re-releasing “Misery” on blu-ray later in the year for fanatics. With “The Dark Tower” coming to theaters very soon, I thought I’d ring in the occasion by highlighting five stellar Stephen King movies, and five you’re much better off avoiding.
What are some King adapted movies you think are worth watching, and what are some you think should be avoided? Let me know in the comments!
5. Stephen King’s It (1990)
It’s good to see where Stephen King movies were, once upon a time. Not only were his movies adapted in to television mini-series, they were events. “It” from 1990 isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s managed to become a mainstay in the genre. That’s mainly because of its strong performances by Jonathan Brandis, Emily Perkins, and Tim Curry, who plays the horrifying bogeyman known as Pennywise. The wheels fall off in part two, but otherwise, it’s a solid adaptation.
5. Sleepwalkers (1992)
Vampire cats. Alien vampire cats. Energy sucking alien vampire cats. Anthropomorphic Incestuous Energy sucking alien vampire cats. And cameos from Clive Barker, Stephen King, Joe Dante, Jon Landis, Ron Perlman, and Mark Hamil for some reason. Avoid.
4. Carrie (1976)
Brian DePalma’s tale about bullying and pure evil awakening to the hail of mocking and brutality is still about as relevant as ever. Even in spite of the film being made in the mid-seventies, a lot of the themes are still very evocative. There are also a slew of great performances from folks like John Travolta, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, and Sissy Spacek. It also garners a very iconic finale, where Carrie slaughters her entire school in one fell swoop using her newly acquired mental powers.
4. Langoliers (1995)
It’s a two part TV movie about people lost in another dimension on an airplane. They’re stuck in an airport bereft of people, and they turn one another for some reason. There’s unusual hallucinations, and badly computer animated monsters in the finale. It’s… incoherent dribble. Avoid.
3. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King has spoken against Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel time and time again. Every film fan knows that King adamantly despises the way Kubrick transferred his novel to film, but there’s also no denying “The Shining” is still an iconic horror film in its own right. With amazing performances from folks like Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, “The Shining” is a mystifying, and compelling horror tale.
3. Tommyknockers (1993)
There are Aliens, there’s a small town filled with a lot of obnoxious and dysfunctional people, the aliens feed on the people’s darker desires, and there’s a ton of hammy acting, forced drama, and really awful special effects. With two parts total, this adaptation has some good ideas, but is a fairly middling film. Avoid.
2. The Shining (1997)
The three part adaptation of King’s novel is intended to be so much more loyal to the source material, and while it’s not the worst movie ever made, it does waste an awful lot of time on some fairly ineffective material meant to scare. Stephen Weber, and Rebecca DeMornay are fine, but the movie plods along, while Courtland Mead is just terrible as Danny. It’s only worth watching if you’re a King completionist. Avoid… maybe.
2. Misery (1990)
Inspired by King feeling held prisoner by his fans only accepting his horror work and openly rejecting his efforts to write fantasy and drama, “Misery” is a stellar horror drama about a superstar writer held hostage by a rabid fan who insists he write for her, and complete the book in the exact manner she wants it. The film by Rob Reiner garners a host of memorable moments including character Paul getting his ankles hobbled, and villain Annie refusing to accept a plot hole in a Paul’s book. It’s a gem.
1. Dreamcatcher (2003)
Lawrence Kasdan effectively wastes a banner cast of excellent actors in a movie so bad it feels like someone actively trying to imitate the tropes of Stephen King’s typical stories. There are aliens, and a virus in a small town and quirky characters that re-unite after a tortured childhood, a disabled character used as a magical plot device, and alien poop monsters. Not to mention Morgan Freeman offers up a rare god awful performance. This is a baffling, nonsensical waste of time. Avoid at all costs.
1. Stand By Me (1986)
Based on the novella by King known as “The Body,” the Rob Reiner directed drama is a brilliant and heartbreaking coming of age story about four boys who travel across their country to see a dead body. During their journeys, they experience all kinds of unusual incidents, including a confrontation with junkyard owner, and a hilarious encounter with leeches. Starring Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell and River Phoenix, “Stand By Me” is just a richly acted, and engrossing drama with themes about grief, death, and the unpredictability and unfairness of life.
Not Exactly a Stephen King Movie to Watch for the Hell of It
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
John Carpenter’s underrated 1994 horror thriller is a loving ode to both HP Lovecraft and Stephen King, as he sets the story on an insurance investigator who realizes popular author Sutter Cane’s fans are suddenly becoming murderous, raving lunatics after he’s gone missing. Seeking to figure out where the author went, and hoping to claim his latest manuscript, he travels to New Hampshire to find him, and is dropped in to a labyrinth of monsters, madness, and an insane exploration on existence and the power of the author. It’s a dark, disturbing and brilliant horror film.