Oo ee...ugh! The 10 Worst "Based on a Stephen King Work" MoviesAug 7, 2007 Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in MoviesThe Bottom Line For every great Stephen King adaptation such as The Shawshank Redemption or Carrie, there are more movies like Maximum Overdrive or Children of the Corn.
Ever since United Artists released Brian De Palmas now-classic Carrie in 1976, almost every major Hollywood studio has jumped on the Stephen King Adaptation Bandwagon, so that now according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) there are now well over 100 films that bear (for better or for worse) the credit Based on a novel (or story) by Stephen King.
Although no producer, screenwriter, or director ever sets out with the idea of making a bad film deliberately, the reality is that more often than not, the quality of movies based on books not just those by Steve-o tends to veer widely from really fantastic movie-going experiences (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, The Green Mile) to the mind-numbingly awful (Sometimes They Come Back, Children of the Corn).
This mind-numbingly awful label, unfortunately, can be attached to the DVD cases or dusty old VHS boxes of more SK-based movies than the really fantastic movie-going experience one can be applied to their classier stable-mates. This can be attributed to several factors, which include - but arent necessarily limited to - the following:
Something gets lost in the translation from print to film: As many film buffs and screenplay gurus like Syd Field have pointed out, literature and cinema are two vastly different storytelling media. With a book, a writer (say, like Stephen King) has the luxury of developing characters, situations, and settings in a leisurely manner because reading is (supposedly) a leisurely-paced form of information-gathering/entertainment. You can spend up to a month or so depending on how hectic your schedule is or on how fast you can read a 700-page novel reading a tome such as Dreamcatcher or IT, while watching the film version takes anywhere between two hours to eight hours, especially when youre talking about a miniseries on DVD or, if you still have them, VHS tapes.
Problem is, though, that it takes lots of talent to make what works well in what King himself calls the cinema of the mind work just as well in the real cinema or on your television screen. And, lets face it; not every director or screenwriter has the talents of Rob Reiner or Frank Tarabont, the guys who have made such King-based classics as Misery and The Green Mile.
Garbage In, Garbage Out: While in the case of Maximum Overdrive and Stephen Kings The Shining it is actually the authors fault for such disastrously bad dross, in most cases the poor quality of the films/miniseries stem from the adapters end. Either a producer wants to do things on the cheap, as in Graveyard Shift, or a screenwriter decides to make loopy little changes, or a director is simply too inept to realize that his version of a Stephen King story, ahem, sucks. This of course brings to mind one of the earliest computer terms I learned back in the mid-1980s: GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out. Producers often want to cash in on the popularity of Kings novels but, being businessmen, they also want to make big profits without having to spend tons of money. Thus, more often than not, they tend to be stingy with budgets and/or think that more gore is better, so they are either tightwads or demand more blood for their bucks.
Theres a thousand more reasons why most of Kings stories dont work well as films, but thats not within the purview of this modest little Epinion, which is my list of the 10 Worst Movies Based On the Works of Stephen King.
(An odd little trend I noticed: Kings late 1970s anthology Night Shift contains many of the stories on which these Worst 10 films are based. Trust me when I tell you that, as bad as the movies are, the stories are still pretty good as prose stories.)
1. Maximum Overdrive: Steve-Os first and thus far only directorial credit as a filmmaker adapts the story Trucks from, yup, Night Shift and fails miserably to chill or thrill anyone unlucky enough to watch this sorry tale about how all the machines we depend on come to life after Earth passes through a comets tail. Yes, chaos ensues, and a forgettable bunch of humans gets trapped by Christine-like Mack trucks in a diner/truck stop out in the boonies.
2. Sometimes They Come Back: Imagine, if you will, the nastier elements of Stand By Me and IT and cross it with your average back from beyond the grave revenge stories, and, voila! You have this tepid 1991 made-for-TV movie from screenwriters Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal and director Tom McLoughlin.
3. Graveyard Shift: Rats! Really! Tons of em! Based on a short story that was featured in Night Shift, 1990s Graveyard Shift attempts (and fails) to mix elements from Jaws and Ben in a cheesy flick that pits workers at an old mill in Maine versus a huge array of mice, bats, rats, and a huge rodent of unusual size that is only marginally more advanced than the R.O.U.S. featured in Rob Reiners The Princess Bride.
4. Trucks: A somewhat more limited version of the story told in Maximum Overdrive, this Timothy Busfield vehicle focuses on the "trucks" aspect of the "rebellious machines besiege a band of humans at a truck stop" plot. The acting is terrible, and the directing by Chris Thompson makes one long - albeit half-heartedly - for Stephen King's version.
5. Firestarter: Creepy only because it has a none-too-subtle pedophiliac vibe in the relationship between George C. Scotts evil hit man John Rainbird and Drew Barrymores Carrie-like Charlie, this is one of the most inept adaptations of a major King novel ever filmed.
6. Children of the Corn: As incredible as it may seem, this horrible adaptation of the story of a murderous childrens cult that practices a bloody version of that old time religion Christianity mixed with human sacrifice and corn worship has spawned a long-running series of sequels, most of them made straight-for-home video.
7. Stephen Kings The Shining: Given Kings widely-known displeasure with the Stanley Kubrick film based on his novel about a writer/caretaker going murderously insane in a snowbound and haunted Colorado hotel, it was inevitable that hed get a more-faithful-to-the-book version approved by ABC. It wasnt inevitable, though, that the resulting miniseries would be less, well, scintillating than the 1980 theatrical release.
8. The Mangler: Producers must really have loved Night Shift, because this Tobe Hooper film was based on yet another story from that anthology. Funny thing because even though Hooper directed the first version of Salems Lot in the late 1970s, he and lead actor Robert Englund (who is better known as Freddy Kruger) didnt fare so well in this lame adaptation of a demonically possessed laundry machine that comes to murderous life. Oddly, the story works as a prose story, but not on screen.
9. The Rage: Carrie 2: What do producers do when a Stephen King novel and its movie version have a definite, no sequels possible conclusion, yet want to keep exploiting them? Easy, do like Rafael Moreu and director Katt Shea do invent a previously unknown half-sister for Carrie, give her the name Rachel, then place this new telekinetic teen in a similar situation as the late Miss White. Even the casting of the originals Amy Irving as an older, wiser Sue Snell fails to justify the making of this film.
10. Pet Sematary: Had this been directed by Rob Reiner or had a better pair of lead actors (Dale Midkiff? Denise Crosby? Come on!), this film about a young doctors horrible grief over the loss of his two-year-old son and his subsequent meddling with forces too mysterious to understand could have been an effective chiller. It does, of course, have its moments, but not enough to redeem the bad performances and lack of real mounting dread in this 1989 film directed by Mary Lambert.
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