Sunday, January 13, 2008

Regarding King and a question...

A question was posed to me by a friend that got me thinking critically about films I've seen and films that have scared me. Here is the original premise:

So I was down at the bar the other night and having a conversation with some fellow friends and patrons about the movies that scared the piss out of us when we were children. Between the five or six of us we could not agree on a movie that gave us all nightmares when we were kids. However, an interesting similarity did arise. As it turned out the movies that scared us all the most happened to by Stephen King adaptations (It, Cats Eye, Pet Cemetery, and so on). This was a pretty stark ratio (6:6 ) and I, now, want to know how wide spread this is? What is the movie that kept you up the most when you were a kid?

Thinking about this question I became very nostalgic but at the same time a nerve was struck. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. He's probably the most recognizable name in the horror/sci-fi genre. So why have many of his movies been so horrible?

Below I offer my response along with what also flowed out as my mind reeled over the subject of scary movies and King.

By far the scariest movies for me when I was a kid were the Exorcist and Halloween. I saw both on cable (HBO) when I was very young. My parents never bothered with locking the cable converter, which was good most of the time but also would backfire for me. In this case it backfired cause these two films scared the shit outta me! Up until I hit me teens, I could not listen to "Tubular Bells" without getting a chill down my spine. Also, Carpenter's score for Halloween was chilling as well. I think it was the combination of both the visual shockers as well as the sound editing (superior in both films) that left the lasting impression on me as a child. Both films are dead tied as the scariest films of my youth.

As far as Stephen King movies go, I have always been scared by the books more than the films, because most adaptations were/have been truly horrible. Anything that was made for network television: It, The Shining (not the Kubrick masterpiece), The Tommyknockers, The Stand, Storm of the Century, 'Salem's Lot, Sometimes They Come Back, Kingdom Hospital, etc. were doomed cause you simply cannot due his stories justice in that format. On the contrary, some (but not all) theatrical releases have been better due to the fact that in cinema you are given more control over content and the writing is "generally" better.

My favorite film adaptations of King's work are: The Shawshank Redemption, The Running Man, Misery, The Dead Zone, The Green Mile, 1408, Carrie, Christine, The Shining (although Kubrick did weave a bit of a mind-fuck here), Children of the Corn, The Secret Window, Stand By Me, and Needful Things. While some of these are really good you could argue that some fall short compared to others.

However, as is mostly the case, there have been some box office bumblers made from adaptations of Stephen King's best works: Maximum Overdrive, Creepshow (although I admit there is some campy appeal to this one - the cameo appearances are cool), The Lawnmower Man, The Dark Half, Sleepwalkers, Pet Sematary, Graveyard Shift, Cat's Eye, Firestarter, Cujo, Apt Pupil, Dreamcatcher, etc. I think the problem with these films is that for one they try to cram a really good story into 90-minutes plus they really did not try to produce something awe-inspiring. Lots of the powerful "visions" of King's works are made rather run of the mill when placed on screen. Not to say that any of the films I've mentioned weren't at least moderately entertaining. But they do more for people who have never read the original stories than for people who've read the novels and short stories.

So that was my take anyway. What do you think?


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