October Guest Blogger Liz Wilkins of the website Liz Loves Books!
Well it’s October and for horror enthusiasts, that means Halloween and endless scary books, movies and the like.
I announced last month that horror is one of the genres I’ll be releasing next year. Though it is one of the genres I like, the truth is most horror entertainment out there is downright awful (I do blog about one notable exception on television though). Most of the material I consider good to great (books or movies) is from thirty or more years ago, including the classics. That’s a lot of years. But one of the best-selling authors of all time has made this genre his domain and that is of course, Stephen King.
So I asked my friend Liz who lives in wonderful England and is a fellow King fan to help me with this question: Why are so many of the good Stephen King books turned into such bad Stephen King movies?
I did a random count of 37 Stephen King movies and yes, we have classics like The Shining and The Shawshank Redemption, but then we get Sleepwalkers and Maximum Overdrive. Even television series are a mixed bag: The Stand started out great, but ended mediocre at best; same with It. The rest are so bad we don’t even want to remember them (ie., The Langoliers, yikes!). So why such a bad track record with the Stephen King book adaptations?
So here’s Liz:
Stephen King and the movies.
I have been a Stephen King fanatic since I picked up a copy of “The Stand” – the uncut version – in my early teens, after which I devoured everything he had already written and have not missed a story since. I am never disappointed – some of course are better than others but one thing I can count on when it comes to this author is an electrifying read.
You would think therefore, that his imaginative writing and deeply dark storytelling would lend itself well to the visual medium – he is, after all, a master of words, his descriptive prose painting an often horrifying picture in your head as you read. Surely any movie based on his work would be amazing. Well, not so much.
Out of the numerous and extensive adaptations of King novels and short stories I have seen (and trust me I have seen them all) I could count on one hand the ones that actually work. Truly terrible most of them – the absolutely AWFUL version of Riding the Bullet for example, which loses every sense of the feeling of the original work and had me throwing shoes at the television. More recently, Under the Dome has been adapted into a popular television series – it is actually quite good but again very little of the original source material remains. Mr King is involved there but it seems even he has a problem with page to screen…
Perhaps his work is too dark, too full of depth to transfer easily..The most popular film of course, nearly always voted for in polls as one of the scariest movies of all time, is “The Shining” starring the indomitable Jack Nicholson. It is in fact a darn scary movie – but again it is not the work of Stephen King. He himself has made no effort to hide that fact that he does not like it.
There are excellent ones of course. The original 1970’s adaptation of “Carrie” is chilling and captures the ambience of the King novel very well. Kathy Bates as an actress has had some success in bringing his characters to life, with “Misery” and “Dolores Claiborne” but overall adaptations of King novels tend to fall extremely flat.
Unless, it seems, they are in the hands of Frank Darabont. The Green Mile is a marvel of an adaptation and he took Mr King’s evocative short “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption” and turned it into a tour de force. Then of course another short “The Mist” to which he added an ending that was so haunting, I have never been able to watch the movie since…
So perhaps it takes a particularly visionary director to create a King novel on screen. I was recently disappointed to hear that JJ Abrams had abandoned his plans to bring The Dark Tower to life as I thought his eclectic style would have been highly suitable. It is now in the hands of the equally talented Ron Howard however so I would hope that something amazing will come to pass.
Overall when thinking about it though, perhaps it should be said that Stephen King’s novels should remain on the page and in the active imagination of the readers brain.
Liz Wilkins runs one of the best book review websites out there and you can find her at www.lizlovesbooks.com
Austin Dragon is the author of over 30 books in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror. His works include the sci-fi detective LIQUID COOL series, the epic fantasy FABLED QUEST CHRONICLES, the international futuristic epic AFTER EDEN Series, the classic SLEEPY HOLLOW HORRORS, and new military sci-fi PLANET TAMERS series. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, ex-political junkie, movie buff, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, futurist, and dreamer.