We’re at the middle of an all out Stephen King renaissance where, once again, he is a hot item in Hollywood. Many of his short stories and novels are being adapted in to big, acclaimed projects, and we’re even getting second stabs at “The Stand” and a third stab at “Salem’s Lot.” With “Doctor Sleep” on the way, and Hollywood opening the scope of King’s writing for films or television, there is an inevitable remake of “The Shining” coming. But until then, fans of Kubrick’s loose cinematic adaptation can now invest in the 4K edition of the horror masterpiece.
Stephen King is an author that never goes away even when he’s experienced something of a renaissance in pop culture. King’s “It” remains one of his most iconic and easily digestible novels, but peculiarly a book that needs drastic alterations to make it more palatable for film. Andy Muschietti had a bonafide challenge on his hands to deliver a two part film that confronted the terror of loss of innocence, and confronting the demons of the past. It all invariably comes dropping down on the Losers Club with the help of the mercilessly vile Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
Anyone who knows me knows that I hate the first adaptation of “Pet Sematary” from 1989 as well as its sequel. I think the first version is silly, exploitative, and looks more like a cheap TV movie than anything. It also sets up so many plot elements and a mythology that it never clarifies or resolves. While the new version of Stephen King’s novel “Pet Sematary” also never quite answers all of the nagging questions, it at least adds a brand new logic to it, giving many of the characters motivations for their irrationality. There’s also an explanation as to the allure of the pet sematary and why it’s stayed up for generations.
Stephen King is a pop culture entity that is guaranteed to stay in the public consciousness for a very long time. Every few years he fades in to the background for a while, and then re-emerges to take pop culture by storm. The last few years have been yet another Stephen King renaissance with the new popularity of classic novels, the smashing popularity of “It” and the re-release of a lot of his famous and infamous cinematic entries. Everything from “Christine” to “Maximum Overdrive” has been given a physical release, and it’s a lot of to see how much King has carved his way in to pop culture, with various hits and stumbles. “Sleepwalkers” is a stumble.
“Creepshow” isn’t just a horror movie, but it’s also the gold standard for what most anthology horror movies strive to be. While there have been anthology horror films before it, “Creepshow” popularized the genre for a new decade and helped redefine the idea of the sub-genre. Not just that, but “Creepshow” is also a rebuttal to the golden age of horror comic from EC. Once upon a time the comics label that produced violent horror based comics were shut down due to their controversial nature. “Creepshow” is a movie that combines immense talents from folks like George Romero, Stephen King, and Tom Savini to provide something of a rebellious middle finger and show a new audience that these tales were as fun as they were violent.
“Cell” was troubled from the moment it was optioned in to a movie. Rather than become a success tale like “It,” it instead was left to tread water as a limited release that was quietly tucked away on the VOD market, and is now a two dollar purchase on streaming services. It’s not surprising since “Cell” is a film that could have used a much better script, a lot more development, and about twenty more minutes in its run time. In its state it feels utterly incomplete, half baked and rushed, along with pairing two stars that, at their best, are magnificent and at their worst, make a good living phoning in (shut up) performances. Tod Williams had the chance to jump on the ball and really provide us with a frantic and scary commentary about our over reliance on technology, and he fails.
It’s surprising for such an iconic author that Stephen King’s tales are so tough to bring to the big screen. I don’t know why “Children of the Corn” has managed to become something of a semi-classic since 1984 because the only scary thing about it is how boring it is. “Children of the Corn” has been a baffling horror presence since 1984, garnering a whole series of movies, including a remake, and sequels to the remake. There’s even been a new film in 2018.
Once upon a time a very popular Stephen King novel was made in to a hit movie and it became influential among many horror buffs. That’s about the extent of drama or intriguing Hollywood back story you’ll get with “Unearthed & Untold.” I’m sure it would make for a wonderful extra in its initial release, but I don’t know per se if it granted its own special release on Blu-Ray. The oddly celebrated horror drama is a movie that wasn’t much of an underdog like “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and didn’t garner weird supernatural coincidences like the set of “Poltergeist.” It was just a movie that was made thanks to a book that scared its own author to the core…