The horror of it all
Friday's Hollywood release IT , isn't, of course, the first of Stephen King's stories to make it to the big screen. Here's a quick look at the top 10 film adaptations from the author's work
Stephen King is a household name when it comes to books. You could make a strong case for the films too, considering the number of films that have been adapted from his literary work, usually in the horror genre. As many as 60 of his stories have been adapted into cinema and television. Here’s a look at the top 10 silverscreen adaptations of this author:
10. Pet Sematary
Stephen King’s seminal work is not only one of his scariest but also much revered among his fanbase. A story that ends with zero hope, the impossible not only happens here, but also scares the living daylights out of you. While the film adaptation was not up to the standard of the book, it is still remembered fondly as a film where no one is safe.
9. The Mist
Frank Durabont completed his trilogy of Stephen King adaptations with this film. Being about paranormal activity, the story’s in contrast to his previous two films, but does not compromise on Frank’s strength: human emotions. A city is blanketed by a mist and monsters hide behind the cover. When the people of Bridgeton, Maine, are all trapped inside a supermarket, what follows is a horrific tale of who the real monsters are. Are they the ones outside or the ones inside? The film also is one of the few adaptations to stay true to the bleak ending of Stephen King books.
8. Dolores Claiborne
It may not really be horror of the variety you know Stephen King can conjure up, but this tale of a strained relationship between a mother (Kathy Bates) and daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who have had their share of problems growing inside the same home, is plenty horrific. Kathy Bates might not have won the Oscar a second time but she says this role is her all-time favorite.
A writer who specialises in dismissing the presence of supernatural activities accepts the challenge of staying alone inside a hotel room. What happens for the next 100 minutes is pure psychological terror enhanced by the claustrophobic atmosphere of the movie. John Cusack plays the protagonist tremendously, and the film is popular for having as many as four alternate endings.
Imagine a vain writer who has written bestsellers and with a huge fan base. Now what if he wrote a book that pissed off one of his fans so much, that she, who is so obsessed with his work, kidnaps and threatens him into writing a novel of her choice? Such was the performance of Kathy Bates that she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, the only one who has ever won for a Stephen King film adaptation. This movie maybe familiar to Tamil audiences as Julie Ganapathi in which Saritha played the obsessed fan.
This movie started it all. The story goes that Stephen King wrote a draft of his story but he was dissatisfied with the way it was proceeding and threw it into the bin. His wife apparently took the crumpled notes, and kept it on the table of King and asked him to finish it as she wanted to know how the story ended. Brian de Palma, who was pushing new-age cinema into Hollywood in the 70s, bought the story, and gave us a film about a high-school girl (played stupendously by Sissy Spacek) with telekinetic powers who was constantly bullied and who had an abusive mother to boot (played by Piper Laurie). The film contains one of the most shocking twists in the horror film genre and the movie garnered two Academy Award-nominations for its leads. Oh, and did I mention that a certain John Travolta was introduced in this movie?
4. Dead zone
Christopher Walken plays a teacher who wakes up from a coma and suddenly finds that he can see the past, present and future of everyone around him. He sees a megalomaniacal leader in Martin Sheen who wants to become the president of the USA, and sees that after he becomes the president, he threatens to launch nuclear bombs. No, we are not talking of Brandon Stark of Game of Thrones. Or Donald Trump. Just the wooziest, quintessential what-if Stephen King story directed by the underrated David Cronenberg. Stephen King thought the film was better than his book.
3. Stand by Me
Not many are aware of the non-horror canon that Stephen King has written. In 1982, he published a collection of four novellas called Different Seasons, of which three went on to become movies. The first of these trifecta, The Body, was adapted as Stand By Me (named after the Ben E King classic), a coming-of-age story about four boys who in 1959, set out to explore the backwoods for a missing body. The film's ending was slightly more forgiving than the book and as the title song rolls over the end credits, if you do shed a tear or two, know that you are in the able company of Stephen King, who ranks this as the best adaptation of any of his novels.
2. Shawshank Redemption
This movie about hope is a heartwarming story shouldered ably by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. A novella, King was skeptical about its film adaptation and the film confirmed his fears by not doing much at the box office when it released. But over the years, it has amassed such a cult following that it has occupied the top spot of IMDB for nearly a decade now. The character of Red was originally envisioned to be a white man, but one might be so bold as to say it is quite impossible to see anyone else other than the majestic Freeman playing that role.
1. The Shining
Really, was there any doubt that this legendary Stanley Kubrick film was going to be ranked 1? “Heeeerrreee’s Johnnnyyyy!” Who’s going to forget the axe-wielding Jack Nicholson say that with malignant intent? Who’s going to forget ‘room number 237’ or for that matter, ‘redrum’? This much-revered psychological horror film about a crazy writer was not how Stephen King envisioned his adaptation to be and he apparently hated Stanley Kubrick for it. But an adaptation, of course, isn’t often simply translating what’s on a book into film. It’s about being respectful of the source material, but attempting to be faithful to the medium of cinema. The Shining shines brighter than the rest.