Monday, October 12, 2009

The 5 Best and Worst Stephen King Movies

What? I'm starting with a video? Yes, because this is the Stephen King post (I opened that door last night, might as well close it) and The Talisman is the best King movie that never got made. Based on the novel by King and co-author Peter Straub (who never had luck with film adaptations of his own work - anyone remember Ghost Story? I'm sorry, if you do. It's the scariest book I have ever read, and perhaps the worst adaptation of a novel ever made), that "Demo Clip" by director Mathieu Ratthe looks very much like the images I picture when I read that book. I have read it almost more than any other novel (another Straub, Shadowland is my #1) and it makes me cry every damned time, even though I know what's coming. At this point, of course, Cameron Bright is too old to play the part, but according to IMDb, someone is making a TV version. And my sister and I will be sure to watch it it, albeit 1000 miles apart (unless it airs in May when I'm down there, but I digress).

There are good, bad and mediocre films based on or written by Stephen King. I've been a fan of his since I was 14 (yeah, I was that kid) and have read every book, short story and essay. I've listened to the audiobook-only novel about smoking and seen every version of every film that bears his name (though I can't say the same for their sequels). I am a Loud and Proud Stephen King geek and I am not ashamed to admit it. There! It's out. And I feel so much better. Deal with it, okay?

It's an all clips & links post, folks. The 5 Best and Worst Stephen King Movies. These are my fives, not yours. If I left one or two of yours out, don't sweat it - they're probably in my 10. I just don't want to be up until 2 AM. So, in a "Good News/Bad News" sort of way, let's rip off the band-aid and start with the worst, shall we?

5. Cat's Eye

King's first attempt at a screenplay is an anthology based on two previously published short stories ("Quitters, Inc." and "The Ledge") and an original tale, "The General." Hot off her appearance in the semi-successful adaptation of Firestarter, Drew Barrymore was advertised as it's star, even though she was only in Part 3. "Quitters" and "Ledge" both work on paper and while the "Quitters" piece with James Woods is the most effective of the three, none of them are very scary.

4. Thinner

There was a time when King wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. It took a King fan with a good eye for style to expose him. Most of "Bachman's" works would not have normally interested me, but Thinner was the one that came out after King had been identified, so of course I read it. It was fun and grimy and creepy and I loved it. And you'd think with a cast that included veterans like Joe Montegna, Kari Whurer and Michael Constantine, it would have been at least entertaining. Sadly, no. Just bad. Next.

3. Sometimes They Come Back

Don't feel bad if you don't watch all of that. Tim Matheson and Brooke Adams star in this TV adaptation from director Tom McLoughlin about a man who returns to his hometown, only to haunted by the ghosts of the bullies from his past. The movie does nothing to convey the feeling King's prose brings to the short story.

2. Sleepwalkers

Frequent TV collaborator Mick Garris directed this Feature from King's original screenplay about strange cat-like creatures (which for some reason fear cats - huh?) which once again has a better cast than it desrves. The stunning Madchen Amick, Ron Perlman, "Charmed" alum Brian Krauss and genre favorite Alice Krige all lend their talents to this rather silly 1992 flick that should have been better than it was.

1. Maximum Overdrive

Dear God, someone let King direct a movie. And not just any movie, but the one based on his really bizarro short story "Trucks." Emilio Estevez is the star and King apparently thought that explosions, car-crashes and gore were all it took to make a good movie. Now, that may not always be far from the truth, but "scare the hell" out of me? Maybe a squirt of two of urine if I were incontinent while laughing (which, you will be glad to know, I am not). Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. All the Lysol in the world couldn't cover the stench of this outhouse craptacular.

Dishonorable Mentions: The Langoliers (which just missed being #5); Children of the Corn; Desperation; The Lawnmower Man (which isn't at all his fault); The Night Flier.

OK. No more bashing. On to my 5 Best Stephen King Movies (and remember, these are mine, not necessarily yours):

5. Cujo

One of King's early "Castle Rock" novels, Cujo is the only movie I forgive for changing the novel's original ending. GBIT (Gay Boy in Training) Danny Pintauro was just too cute to kill. And it has Dee Wallace. She was Elliot's mom! Come on! Oh, and a Were-Pekingese.

4. The Green Mile

Damn Frank Darabont for making a movie that makes me cry every time I see it, from a book that makes me cry every time I read it. The Green Mile was originally released as a serial; King's attempt at Dickens, I suppose. I waited to read it until it was published as a complete work. The book is extraordinary and the movie is as close to a perfect adaptation as any.

3. The Mist

Darabont again, making my personal favorite King novella into a terrific movie with a far less ambiguous ending than King left us with. Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher and Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden give some of the best performances in a horror movie since Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum. And that ending? Dev-es-ta-ting!

2. The Shawshank Redemption

I know there's a whole lotta love out there for Frank Darabont's first King adaptation. From this film on, it was clear that Darabont "got" King unlike any other director ever had (even DePalma). It's a good movie, no doubt, with powerful performances from powerhouse actors: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Clancy Brown, Gill Bellows and James Whitmore! Whew - can you feel the testosterone? OK, maybe not as much as in a Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie, but them's some fine acting chops, there, let me tell you what! Much like my #1 pick, even folks who are not King fans love this movie, and with good reason: It's a damned fine film.

1. Misery

Yikes! Why, you may ask, is Misery my favorite King movie? It's because (much like Silence of the Lambs), the images created by director Rob Reiner; the performances created by Kathy Bates and James Caan; the brilliant screenplay by William Goldsmith and the amazing supporting cast of Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen and Her Majesty, Lauren Bacall, watching Misery was like watching the movie that unspooled in my head when I read the book. Bates deservedly won the Oscar (one of the very few awarded to a Horror movie) and every single person in every single audience shrieked in horror during the "hobbling" scene.

Honorable Mentions: Creepshow; Christine; Pet Sematary; Delores Claiborne; Apt Pupil and (God help me, but I liked it) Dreamcatcher.

Of course, for every and any Horror and/or King fan, this is not by any means a definitive list or ranking of movies either written by or based upon works by Stephen King, and maybe some day, I may be bold enough to attempt such a post (it would probably take me all day), but those are my thoughts for this Shocktober. I'll probably first do a post about King films I either like more than I should (Hearts in Atlantis) or the few that are actually better than the book (The Dead Zone; The Dark Half).

By the way, if you should by any small chance be reading this, Stacie Ponder at FinalGirl, I really started using "Shocktober" before I knew you were. Didn't mean to steal it - to me it seemed kind of obvious. I LOVE your blog and voted for "They Won't Stay Fed!" and I encourage my readers to do so, as well. Hear that, Readers? Click and vote for Stacie's movie. Come on! All the cool kids are doin' it!

More terrors, anon.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

1. Carrie
2. The Shining
3.Stand By Me
4.Dolores Claiborne
5. (tie) Shawshank/Misery