Writer Stephen King has given us decades of great horror stories we can never seem to get enough of. The transition his books have made to the silver screen and television has been filled with mixed results, but there are the occasional few movies that capture what enthralls us about his best work.
If you’re deciding on which movies based on King’s work to watch on Halloween, hopefully these choices will narrow down your list. But whether you watch these films or not, be sure not to use them as an excuse not to read the books they’re based on!
While Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of King’s book may have significantly differed from its source material (the writer made no secret of that), “The Shining” has more than earned its place among the best horror movies ever. Seeing Jack Nicholson lose his marbles as Jack Torrance is a fiendish delight, and Shelley Duvall threatens to be more terrifying as Torrance’s wife, with her emotional exhaustion pushing even the audience over the edge. It’s not just the image of those twin girls that makes this film such a horrifying experience.
The first King novel to be adapted to the big screen is still an unnerving experience to sit through. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie make their characters vividly human even as they are possessed by forces that appear to be far beyond their control. The pettiness of her classmates may remind you of the bad times you had in high school, but seeing Carrie White get her revenge makes it all worthwhile. Don’t even bother with the TV remake or the unnecessary sequel which came years later.
The thing that horrified King the most — finding out his number one fan is anything but a pacifist — is brought to thrilling life by director Rob Reiner. Kathy Bates gives a tour de force performance as Annie Wilkes, a nurse who rescues her favorite writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) from a nasty car wreck. Bates goes from hysterically emotional highs to terrifyingly debilitating lows as Wilkes does everything in her power to make Sheldon bring her favorite character of his back to life.
“The Dead Zone”
David Cronenberg directs one of the best King adaptations ever with this thriller starring Christopher Walken. Made before the actor descended into self-parody for a time, Walken plays a writer thrown into a coma after a brutal car crash and then wakes up five years later to discover he has developed psychic powers. It’s a gift he did not ask for and takes his life in a direction he won’t be able to tear himself away from.
One of the more recent adaptations of King’s work marks the third one directed by Frank Darabont. What could have been just a B-movie is made all the more enthralling as Darabont presents us with monsters that prove to be more threatening than the supernatural ones menacing those trapped in a local supermarket: ourselves. Everything builds up to one of the most devastatingly gut-wrenching conclusions in movie history, which shows just how much fear can change everything.
King wrote the screenplay for this horror anthology directed by George Romero, and it’s a reminder of how entertaining anthologies can be. King himself plays a dimwitted farmer in one of “Creepshow’s” stories. The most horrific chapter comes in “They’re Creeping Up On You,” when E.G. Marshall finds his sterile apartment invaded by cockroaches.
Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”
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