Whenever a film is adapted from its original novel form, people can’t help but compare the two. Usually the refrain you hear is that the book is better than the movie, but often times the movie goes in a strange new place and makes the original writing literally come to life. With over 100 film and TV adaptations to his work, Stephen King is one such writer who’s seen his original work flourish and completely bomb when dropped into the moving pictures. We’ve assembled the best and worst Stephen King 80s movie adaptations for your reading and viewing pleasure
The Running Man
Apart from brilliantly foreshadowing the rise of reality TV and its particular blend of schandenfreude, the Running Man was extremely entertaining. The Running Man showcases Arnold Schwartzenegger’s classic “I’ll be back” line and shows him being launched into an epic fight for his life. Though it wasn’t the greatest post apocalyptic vision to come out of the 80s (that honor goes to the Road Warrior), it was a great movie.
Pet Sematary treads similar waters as Chucky in Child’s Play would. This film is a testament to Stephen King’s mastery of the horror genre. This horror flick is about the inability to move on from arguably the worst loss a family can suffer. So much of the movie is banking on the horror of a cursed child single handed-ly killing his family and the horror of being driven to deal with those circumstances. Stephen King makes Gage a metaphor for the grief of losing a child and self-loathing that comes from wanting to avoid the grief. It’s hard to watch most horror movies if you’re not scared, Pet Sematary is an iconic one that is not one of those movies.
The Dead Zone
The Dead Zone is a highly underrated movie featuring Christopher Walken as a man who can see a person’s secrets in the past, present and future. The film is worth it for its great pacing and for featuring Martin Sheen as Greg Stillson running for president and using a baby as human shield to protect him from assassins. It’s fitting considering that Sheen would later play the president on the West Wing. This is one of the movies where King liked the changes the director made to the story to push it along; it shows.
Of course, you can’t reference the 80s and Stephen King without mentioning the Shining. The Stanley Kubrick directed adaptation is arguably his magnum opus with an attention to visual detail that is both staggering and unobtrusive to the story. Both the book and the movie use that almost universal fear about residing in a place with too many unknown, open spaces. That fear that King and Kubrick use is why people that live alone in large houses almost always have a white noise machine or using music to fall asleep.
John Carpenter made his bones on some excellent horror movies but this one had to be a bit of a fluke. Christine the car that kills people, the “fear on four wheels” has a special place in my heart as a thoroughly ridiculous movie. Who decides to destroy a car and thinks it’s cursed right off the bat? Though this car is likely a proxy for a high school kid’s sublimated desire to be accepted and cool despite the consequences, it comes together in a strange way.
Silver Bullet was based on Stephen King’s novella “Cycle of the Werewolf” and it contains several plot deviations. In short the film feels like a more absurd version of other slasher films with a werewolf instead of an expected psycho. If you want to watch a werewolf cartoonishly beat some guys to death and without raising your heart rate this is the movie for you.
This is one of the more ridiculous scenes from Cujo. It mirrors the let down of the whole film which is that it never really made you invested in the characters and so having this gigantic dog attack looks kind of campy. I’d wager that people would be more scared of “the Beast” from movie The Sandlot than Cujo. Maybe the book killed it, but as it lives on in most peoples mind as a movie, it’s a bit of a bummer.
“She has a power that she does not want…” In this film, a little girl has the power to make things spontaneously combust, and you think “wow this’ll be great, it’s gonna be like Children of the Corn or Village of the Damned! I can’t wait to see it.” But then it just turns out to be an overwrought custody battle, just like the fight for Elian Gonzalez except with more explosions. But as a consolation, no one in the film says “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”
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