by Patrick Bromley
My favorite food is pizza and my favorite writer is Stephen King.
I'm sure there some for whom either (or both) of these opinions will discredit me. I am ok with this. I understand Stephen King's place in pop culture. He writes a lot of books, sometimes two a year. He uses corny turns of phrases and often relies on the same tropes. His endings are often disproportionately disappointing in comparison to what has come before. In spite of this, there is no other author whose work I enjoy reading more and to whose next book I look more forward. Yes, he's written some clunkers. But I'm happy to grant the guy who wrote Dreamcatcher
some leeway because he's the same guy who wrote The Stand
. M-O-O-N spells I love that book.
Stephen King movies are often a different story. The common wisdom seems to be that all of the movies made from his books are terrible, but this is lazy and ignorant thinking that comes as a result of people just repeating said common wisdom without thinking much about it. It's true that I like more Stephen King movies than most people might, but that doesn't change the fact that there are a least a half dozen adaptations (probably more) of his work that are legitimately terrific. Many of those will be represented in this lineup. Some of them aren't because I had to make room for The Mangler
. I gotta do me.
And yes, I probably should have saved this list for #ScaryMovieMonth, but I've been tearing through Stephen King books lately (or, as my 6-year old calls him, "Step-hen King") and wanted to write this up. What can I say? I was in a mood.
10 a.m Carrie
(1976, dir. Brian De Palma
With over 100 movies and TV shows adapted from the writing of Stephen King, it makes sense to start with the first -- both the first novel King published and the first film to be adapted from his work. I know there are some people who feel Carrie
has dated badly because of the haircuts and the clothes and the music and the soft focus, but I find it to only get better with age. Not only are its themes more relevant than ever (something even the 2013 remake failed to capitalize on), but De Palma's energy and stylistic flourishes feel just as contemporary in a cultural space filled with directors influenced by him. I like this movie more every time I see it. We're off to a good start.
Noon Silver Bullet
(1985, dir. Daniel Attias)
Normally I would wait to the overnight section of these 24-hour marathons to start programming the more idiosyncratic, "just for me" picks. But like Carrie
, Silver Bullet
does a great job of melding the more humanistic, character-driven side of King's writing with the supernatural stuff -- it's just that Carrie
gets credit for doing it and Silver Bullet
doesn't. I'm a big, big fan of this underrated werewolf movie (despite the appearance of one of the all-time worst screen werewolves) and love the way it blends early '60s-style nostalgia -- shades of To Kill a Mockingbird
(I swear!) -- with stupid '80s gore. Corey Haim and especially Gary Busey are great. I'm happy with its placement here.
1:45 p.m. Stand By Me
(1986, dir. Rob Reiner
Of the handful of non-horror Stephen King adaptations to make it to the screen, Stand By Me
was the first and still one of the best. It's a comedy, it's a drama, it's a coming of age story in which the characters talk more like Stephen King characters than in most other adaptations. Plus it's proof that the kinds of diversions in which King so often indulges -- stuff like the "Lard Ass" story -- can sometimes be iffy on the page and even more so on screen. Slotting this any later than third would make it stick out too much, but this side of both his work and his filmography ought to be represented.
3:15 p.m. The Dark Half
(1993, dir. George A. Romero
Here's a Stephen King adaptation that usually gets lumped into the "bad" column but which I think is pretty underrated. It's flawed in part because Romero was tasked with visualizing some things that work much better in a novel (the sparrows, the sparrows) and in part because it was a difficult movie to make -- not everyone got along and it got caught up in the collapse of Orion, shelved for a few years before getting dumped with little attention. I was hoping Scream Factory's Blu-ray from last year would help audiences rediscover the movie, which has great atmosphere and some really interesting stuff from Timothy Hutton, but that hasn't happen. I do wish that Ed Harris had been able to reprise his role as Sheriff Pangborn from Needful Things
(in reverse, I guess, since this one was short first), because I sometimes struggle with buying Michael Rooker as a decent, sympathetic human being. It's the kind of subdued horror film that would work well in this spot, especially as we rev up right after this.
5:30 p.m. The Mist
(B&W version) (2007, dir. Frank Darabont)
Probably the last great Stephen King movie (or at least the most recent one), adapted from a novella by a filmmaker who in some ways owes his career to King; of the four features Frank Darabont has written and directed, three of them have been Stephen King adaptations. This is a really cool monster movie and
a scathing social commentary; like Romero's original Night of the Living Dead
, it's a movie about (as JB has pointed out) how terrible people can be to one another when the shit goes down. The movie plays even better in Darabont's preferred black & white, maybe because it looks even more like NotLD
? The famously bleak ending doesn't come from King's story, but the writer has publicly said he likes it better than his own. I still don't know exactly how I feel about it. What I do know is that I have to program this thing early on or else risk becoming irrevocably depressed.
7:45 p.m. Creepshow
(1982, dir. George A. Romero)
After the insane downer that is The Mist
, we need to pick things up and have some fun again. No King adaptation is more fun than Creepshow
, still my favorite horror anthology of all time and a better tribute to EC Comics than even Tales from the Crypt
. Though I'm not the world's biggest fan of "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" -- Stephen King's sole outing as a leading man -- it's never enough to sour me on the film as a whole, which delivers great segment after great segment with a mix of dark comedy, wonderful creature effects and twisted morality. It's just so goddamn entertaining.
10 p.m. Sleepwalkers
(1993, dir. Mick Garris)
As nighttime begins to set it, my tradition is to always let the movies get weirder and sillier. Sleepwalkers
is both. The film marks the first pairing of King with frequent collaborator Mick Garris, directing King's first original screenplay not based on one of his own works. It's a crazy, over-the-top movie, filled with giant cat people and incest and at least one person getting stabbed with a cob of corn. Largely misunderstood on its release (the '90s were a weird time for horror), Sleepwalkers
has aged quite well and is now one of the decade's more underrated entries. It's a blast.
11:30 p.m. Pet Sematary
(1989, dir. Mary Lambert)
Well, we have to get to it sooner or later. I go back and forth on this movie, which I sometimes find grisly and nasty in a really effective way and sometimes manipulative and off-putting and trashy. All of this indicates that the movie is pushing buttons and leaving me unsettled, which means it works even if I sometimes get mad at it for working. Few films capture the ugliness of which King is capable better than this one, and Fred Gwynne's Maine accent is heavy enough to represent every King story set there, which is most of them. Plus it has Zelda, still the scariest thing anyone has ever put in a movie ever.
1:30 a.m. The Mangler
(1995, dir. Tobe Hooper
Like I said, nighttime is when I like to get weird. There are few King movies weirder than this Tobe Hooper adaptation of a King short story about a possessed laundry press. Coming as it does a few years past Hooper's most creatively fertile period, I won't make the case that this is one of his best films, but it's much more in keeping with the kind of outrageous movies he made so many of and for which he rarely gets credit. Plus one of the things I tried to do with this marathon is program a lot of the King movies directed by the heavy-hitters: Romero, Cronenberg, De Palma, Darabont, Kubrick (I left out Carpenter because I think Christine
only works early on and I had other stuff I wanted to watch more). There are very few -- if any -- authors whose work has been directed by so many masterful and iconic filmmakers. No way I was leaving my boy Tobe off that list.
3:15 a.m. It
(1990, dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)
I struggled with this one a lot, mostly because of its length (I could program two more movies into the time slot it takes to watch just this one). But because television has been such a huge source of King adaptations and because this is one of the very best ones, it seemed appropriate to put it here. The first half is infinitely better than the second (it originally aired in two parts, split between childhood and adulthood), but there's so much to like throughout that I can overlook some of the rough spots...like the spider monster revealed at the end, which King himself accused of looking like an enormous Duracell battery. I put it this late on purpose thinking that, should one begin drifting in and out of sleep, this is the time to do it. I can't imagine anything scarier than waking up to Tim Curry's Pennywise -- still one of the best Stephen King monsters ever put to screen -- yelling about how they all float down here. THEY ALLLLLL FLOOOOOOAT.
6:30 a.m. The Running Man
(1987, dir. Paul Michael Glaser)
Almost everything I programmed into this marathon falls under the category of horror, and while there are several good Stephen King dramas there weren't many I felt like watching under these conditions (though Dolores Claiborne
came very close). Here's a loosely adapted -- VERY loosely -- film from a story King wrote under the name Richard Bachman. It's pure '80s action movie nonsense: loud, garish, violent and stupid. Naturally, I love it. This is the perfect movie to revive yourself before going into the home stretch. It's also maybe the last fun to be had, as the next two movies are going to be pretty heavy stuff. Remember: there's nothing funny about a dickless moron with a battery up his ass.
8:30 a.m. The Dead Zone
(1983, dir. David Cronenberg
This is a really interesting film in that it's one of the best King adaptations, but also one of the most somber. It's the David Cronenberg movie that feels least like a Cronenberg movie. Though it has elements of the supernatural, it's really more a character drama and a tragic one at that. There's something about the greyness of the sky that has always stuck with me, and Christopher Walken gives one of his best -- and certainly warmest -- performances. It will be a great comedown after a nighttime of goofiness and a reminder of just how strong a number of the late '70s/early '80s King adaptations were.
10:30 a.m. The Shining
(1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
Yes, this will take us well beyond the 24-hour mark and closer to 27. But c'mon. It's The Shining
. It's one of the greatest horror movies ever made. Really, though, it just seems crazy to talk about programming a marathon of Stephen King movies and not include what is arguably the greatest one -- ironic, since it's famously the one with which King himself was so vocally displeased. What better way to watch The Shining
than when you're feeling cooped up in the same place for way too long, starting to think you're never going to leave? Maybe you never left. Maybe you've always been here.
I love all the stories out there about how Stanley Kubrick messed with Steven King, like how he changed the color of Jack's car from red to yellow and then in the opening scene they pass a red Volkswagen that has crashed. Kubrick also picked on Steven King for telling ghost stories which he felt was being optimistic of an afterlife.ReplyDelete
Kubrick once called Stephen King at four in the morning and asked him if he believed in God. King responded with a yes. Kubrick was silent for s bit, then exclaimed "I KNEW IT!!" and hung up. Dude was insane.Delete
A good list, but I might include two of the following in place of "It" since it's a tv miniseries (and not a great one at that):ReplyDelete
The Shawshank Redemption
The Green Mile
I don't want to be "that guy", but I absolutely am. What do you think of The Shining movie versus the book? I honestly think that the book is much better. Not only is there actually any sort of transformation in the book, but the movie makes it just about a haunted hotel while the book is a lot deeper than that.ReplyDelete
But besides that, I always love reading these because they just give me more movies to pile on to my Watch List. So thanks. Keep 'em coming.
Kubrick preferred to take "good" books and turn them into "great" movies. He was smart enough to find interesting stories and improve upon them (whether the author liked it or not).Delete
For me I have always preferred the movie adaptions of Kings novels over than his books. For me those stories just work better visually. 'It' is my favourite King novel, but Tim Curry's Pennywise is still one of the scariest things I have ever seen.Delete
No Maximum Overdrive? Oh, hang on a minute...ReplyDelete
This would be my #1 pick for a King marathon tbhDelete
Love it. I can go to sleep at 3:15AM, wake up at 8:30 and not miss anything. :-)ReplyDelete
Misery? :( Oh well, I guess you can only fit so much in 24 hours. 'Tis a great list otherwise!ReplyDelete
Right there with you on Silver Bullet, Patrick. I know it's maybe not a great movie, but there is something about it that I like quite a lot. (And also, if you ever see a copy of the original book (Cycle of the Werewolf, the first edition from from Land of Enchantment), grab it; it's written in 12 chapters/months and it's a great little read, if only for the fantastic Bernie Wrightson illustrations.)ReplyDelete
I used to check out that book from my local library on a constant loop, mostly for the pictures. They were GORY and I couldn't believe it.Delete
Second this. My friends and I passed this around in school and couldn't believe it. It really felt like we were getting away with something.Delete
You mentioned him as an author...You ever read The Cell. I am all about audio books as I head back to Chicago from my new home (5 years) in Cedar Rapids. This weekend for example, I am heading in for Nascar and the Bears....anyway.ReplyDelete
I really enjoyed this book. I am kind of surprised it hasn't been adapted to film with all the zombie love going around.
I have read Cell! They've been trying to turn it into a movie for years. Eli Roth was going to do it for a while. They finally succeeded; the movie is wrapped and awaiting release. John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson star.Delete
And I have read a rumor that Lloyd Kaufman has a cameo in Cell....Delete
As authors go, for me there's Stephen King, and then there's everyone else. I'll still read other authors, but more often than not, when I'm reading fiction, it'll be a Stephen King novel in my hand before anything else. It's just that I don't like taking a chance on other authors most of the time. I've been burned many times, as was the case when I read Clive Barber's new book, The Scarlet Gospels, which in itself was a surprise because I've tended to like Clive's fiction. King is a great literary gateway author, however. Usually, when he champions another author, in his own work, in interviews, or in blurbs, they're pretty damn good. I was already an Elmore Leonard fan before I knew King liked him, but that still reinforces my point. But I always know, when I pick up a King book, I'm going to like it. Even when the story itself may be flimsy, the prose is exquisite. And even a flimsy story from King is better than some other author's best. I've been doing a chronological re-read of King's work lately. Right now I've got less than two hundred pages to go on IT, which I don't think I've read since high school. I was a member of the Stephen King Collection book club when I was in high school, and I know I read The Shining around that time. When I just read it recently for my big chronological re-read, I didn't remember having read it before. That was weird. As for the whole "which is better, the movie or the book," I have to say I can't really play that game. Not with The Shining, anyway. The world is big enough for the book AND the Kubrick film. I'm sorry to say that King's miniseries isn't very good, and doesn't even compete. There are some good things in it, but not enough good things. And King has never been that great a screenwriter. The Stand teleplay is probably tops for him, and even that has some issues. I am happy that these last few years have seen something of a King renaissance, and that he is finally getting the accolades he has so richly deserved. Lately, I think Finders Keepers is the best book he's written since Under the Dome. Let's not speak a word about the series. Let's pretend it didn't happen. God, that show was such an insult to the book. I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on his next story collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.ReplyDelete
Right, since I read Carrie in 1977 at age 11 there´s Stephen King, long pause, and then there are guys like Dan Simmons, Clive Barker or Peter Straub, who I really like, but who never come close to the effect Kings books have on me. Even when he lets me down sometimes with a mediocre ending like Under the dome, were the first 800 pages were simply great and the last 30 were just headscratching nonsense to me.Delete
Happy me, yesterday I bought the german edition of Finders keepers, which went on sale just a few days ago.
From Patricks list I would leave out The Mangler, Pet sematary, It and The Shining and watch the following instead:
Cujo, which to me is criminally underrated.
Dolores Claiborne, which I like way more than Misery.
Dreamcatcher, which is a mess I simply can´t escape anytime it´s on TV.
And if I had to pick a TV-movie instead of It, it would be Salem´s Lot.
Love the list but it's missing one of my all time favorite horror movies, Misery. I love how King turns writing into such a horrific scenario and that the main character has to use writing to stay alive and beat one of the greatest on screen villains of all time, Annie Wilkes. Super tense especially considering most of it takes place in a room and that sledge hammer scene never fails to make me cringe. Fantastic movie.ReplyDelete
Check out "Sleeping with Other People," in which Jason Sudekis gives "Misery" it's due respect. ;-)ReplyDelete
There's only one thing I want to check out in sleeping with other people and that's Alison Brie because... good godDelete
I rewatched the IT miniseries not long ago, and it really hasn’t aged well. This is one case where I’m rooting for the in-development-hell big screen remake to get off the ground, because there’s huge room for improvement. (Just don’t cast Depp as Pennywise.)ReplyDelete
For something pure camp in the early a.m. spot, a fitting replacement could be FIRESTARTER, which has similar childhood themes to IT and has George C. Scott hamming it up to match Tim Curry.
Either way, fun list! Who else is salivating for the start of Scary Movie Month?
I haven't paid enough attention to know people think Carrie is dated, but as someone who really just broke into horror last year and went on a mini rampage of classics, I can honestly say that Carrie is the most emotionally upsetting horror movie I've seen. It may not have "scared" me like some others, but I can't remember a more effectively disturbing film I've seen.ReplyDelete
By the way, AC/DC is the pizza and Stephen King of rock 'n roll. I'm not sure how your tastes allow you to not like them. Just sayin'.
I remember seeing Pet Sematary in high school with my girlfriend. I left feeling just kind of entertained by it, but she was devastated and crying. Probably my first real exposure to how movies affect people differently. Fuck Zelda though.ReplyDelete
I found it interesting to learn Kimberly Pierce's Carrie remake was shorn of 40 minutes, which are not on the Blu ray. The cut footage was mainly based on elements from the novel, but when the film got poor test scores, the studio got cold feet and decided to ripoff DePalma's version. The original ending diverted from the novel, but it was definitely extreme.ReplyDelete
Thats a really good list. Congrats on making it through 27 hours. I wish I could do it.ReplyDelete
" I need my sleep. I need 8 hours a day, And 10 at night" Bill Hicks
I go between Twilight Zone and Creepshow back and forth for my best anthology,
Re Stephen King Books, I kind of fell out with him a bit back, I cant remember the book that did it but the plot was going along nicely then King took one of his tangents that left the story for a hundred ish pages! Rather than building tension the tangent just got me frustrated with the new story I wasent interested in and missing out on the story I wanted to continue with, a slight thing maybe but it really frustrated me
1408 is pretty slept on. Yeah, it falls apart half way through, but the first half is fantastic. If that movie would have stayed as classy for the third act, it would be a classic Horror film.ReplyDelete
Are you basing that opinion on the theatrical version or the director's cut or both?Delete
I'm basing that opinion on the movie in general. The alternate takes are fine, it's the third act as a whole that I feel falls apart, not so much from a story stand point but the tone of the film and aesthetic really changes for the worse, in my opinion.Delete
Great list, but Patrick, what of "Storm of the Century?" It has a great claustrophobic feel to it with all the snow storm stuff and the paranoia due to the unexpected visitor to the town in the movie. Listening to your podcast on the movie "Wanted" from a few years back, in which you spoke of the heavy snow in Chicago around the time of its recording, I can't help but think that it would've been a great addition to your "Favorite Snow Movies" list at the time as well.ReplyDelete
This is my kind of marathon. I agree, it's crazy when people say all King adaptations are bad. There are so many good ones. Your list is great. The only one that I'd have to try and also fit in is Misery. King was also my favorite author growing up (think I was already reading him by 3rd or 4th grade). I rarely read any book twice, but I have read the thousand page It multiple times if that tells you anything. :)ReplyDelete