Stephen’s Kings and Paupers

September 20th, 2012 by Ran

Stephen King turns 65 tomorrow. Is it rude to wish someone a happy birthday the day before? I don’t know. (Happy birthday anyway Steve? Can I call you Steve? Thanks.) What I do know is that while Stephen King is most recognized with the horror genre, he has probably written every genre there is during his prolific career (which seems far from over). Under his belt you can find novels, short stories, scripts, comics, directions to his house and even grocery lists. His work has been adapted into feature films, TV films, mini-series, comics, theatrical plays and even video art installations (not really). It seems that every Stephen King novel automatically comes to a screen near you, as if there’s a machine that turns his written words into moving images. As such, you’re bound to have your hits and misses; and hey, that’s what we’re here for today: to celebrate the good and the bad of this great popular writer. I chose to leave out the obvious hits, like The Shining, The Green Mile, and The Shawshank Redemption, in favor of making things a bit more interesting. So let’s see the best and worst titles based on books or short stories by King, divided into arbitrary categories:

Future Dystopia

Best: The Running Man (1987)

Not only did Battle Royale beat The Hunger Games to the same idea, King wrote this book in 1982. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars here as a reluctant contestant in a futuristic TV show on which convicts are pitted against one another to see who survives. While it’s not as good or disturbing as the Japanese film, this sci-fi thriller’s campy look, Arnie’s one-liners, and fast pace will entertain you for sure.

Worst: The Stand (1994)

I wasted six hours of my life on this mini-series. Most of the time you see people walking in a post-apocalyptic world preparing for the ultimate showdown between good and evil. I am not opposed to slow films, don’t get me wrong, and I thought I would be compensated for my patience at the end, but the so-called ultimate battle was an utter disappointment. So do yourselves a favor, avoid this shocker.

Writer’s Life

Best: Misery (1990)

misery_l

One of King’s best adaptations, without a doubt. Kathy Bates stars as a mentally unstable fan, who rescues her favorite writer (James Caan), after he’s involved in a car crash. Caan goes from being thankful to being held captive by a psychotic woman that can’t deal with the fact that her idol has killed off the heroine of her favorite novels. Bates’ performance of a lifetime (Oscar winning), the great tension build-up, and the minimalistic production all make for a very scary film.

Worst: Secret Window (2004)

I guess Stephen should have stopped writing about writers after Misery, but I also guess he couldn’t help himself. Starring Johnny Depp and John Turturro, one would think this film has a chance to be somewhat watchable, but the story is so predictable and recycled, that you find yourself just waiting for it to be over. It’s kind of the opposite of Rob Reiner’s modern classic.

Objects Come to Life

Best: Christine (1983)

Christine_stephenking

The story behind this film doesn’t sound like much: A vintage car possesses the young man that bought it (Keith Gordon), changing his character from an insecure geek to a dark and arrogant youngster. Strangely, this is a very compelling horror thriller, with great atmosphere, that will make you wanna get in your car and drive.

Worst: Maximum Overdrive (1986)

He shouldn’t have super-sized from cars to trucks. King even directed this silly horror sci-fi about trucks trying to kill some guys at a diner in North Carolina. While this is a bad movie in every aspect, there are some unintentional comic elements that are perhaps worth an ironic viewing. Perhaps.

Youth

Best: Stand By Me (1986)

stand-by-me-cast1

Another Rob Reiner film, and another modern classic. I guess he should direct all of Stephen’s adaptations. After all the horrors, suspense and supernatural stuff, King comes to us with a beautiful and touching coming of age story, revolving around a group of young friends who find a dead body (We’re still talking about Stephen King). To this day directors try to recreate its feel, cementing it as a timeless and essential film.

Worst: Carrie (2002)

Not that this movie is that bad, but it is a useless remake that pales so much comparing to the original Brian De Palma classic from 1976, that I had to put it in. This was a made-for-TV movie, that was supposed to be a pilot for a TV series. With an astonishing runtime of 132 minutes, an inferior cast, direction and production, you will not be able to decide whether you’re more bored or more disappointed from this film. (and a shout-out to the original, you should have been here.)

Animals Attacking

Best: Pet Sematary (1989)

I have only one problem with this film, and one message to viewers: Cats do not behave like this when they’re alive! Stop demonizing them! Aside from that, this is a creepy horror film (as horror films should be), that still holds some scare power. With a memorable role by legendary actor Fred Gwynne, and a great title track by The Ramones, you will not be disappointed.

Worst: Graveyard Shift (1990)

If you’re into guilty pleasure, this might make the cut, but otherwise just leave this one alone. So during a graveyard shift, people discover a deadly creature in the basement. Low budget, shoddy direction and a plain silly plot are the makings of this truly bad film. Brad Dourif’s character as a wacky exterminator is not enough to make it worth watching.

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