This week, we honor the undisputed King of Horror and countdown the ten best Stephen King film adaptations from the beloved and prolific author.
Hello ghoulies and goblins. Welcome back to Morbidly Beautiful, the best horror website around! I’m Miss J, and I will be your entertainer for this evening…or morning? I hope you’re deep into the Halloween spirit and that you have kept up with our 31 Days of Horror list. If not, that’s okay, because I’ve missed a couple of days too. Just don’t tell the boss, alright?
Anyways, this week I wanted to celebrate the amazing trailer for the new Pet Sematary. I am truly excited for this movie, and it looks as amazing as the 2017 IT remake. Now, I’ve never claimed to be a big Stephen King book fan, but I cannot deny that the man is a mastermind of horror. I’ve enjoyed some of his work, but a lot has been a miss with me.
However, his movies that are based from his books usually always turn out great and end up as cult classics. Here’s a list of the ten best film adaptations of his horror books.
10. Dreamcatcher (2003)
“This is our twentieth year coming out here to ‘Hole In The Wall’, and fuck me Freddy, here’s to twenty more.”
This movie is technically labeled as a thriller, but the imagery in some scenes are quite frightening and graphic. Dreamcatcher is about a group of men who have been friends since childhood. They get together once a year in the same spot to celebrate the life of a friend. Unfortunately for them, their campsite has been turned into an alien quarantine, and they will have to use their psychic abilities to make it out alive.
The characters come from a town called Derry Maine, which is a fictional place that Stephen created and is also the setting for his novel and film IT. Stephen King sold the movie rights for this movie for a high price of $1. There’s no explanation behind this, but it could be because Screenplay writer William Goldman also wrote the scripts for Misery and Hearts of Atlantis.
Stephen King wrote the book in long hand while recovering from a near fatal car accident. He decided to use it as inspiration for a very graphic scene in the book where a main character is chased down by a vehicle. The movie stars many familiar actors such as Morgan Freeman, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant, Donny Wahlberg and Thomas Jane; who took the role after his mom, who is a huge fan of the king, insisted that he take the role. Thomas also went on to be in Stephen’s The Mist and 1922. I guess you’ll have to keep reading to see if either of those films made the list!
9. Secret Window (2004)
“I’m sure that in time, every bit of her will be gone and her death will be a mystery… even to me.”
This is my all time favorite Stephen King film, but I understand it wasn’t wildly loved by all. However, Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey is my spirit animal. Johnny Depp and John Turturro play enemies who believe each one has plagiarized the other’s work. When Mort fails to play Mr. Shooter’s games, Mort’s almost Ex wife could be in danger.
This movie is suspenseful and has an incredible twisted ending that you won’t see coming. John Turturro took on the role as the farmer from Mississippi because his son was a massive fan of Stephen King! “Secret window, Secret garden” is the name of the novella, and it appears in Stephen’s collection of stories in “Four Past Midnight”.
8. 1922 (2017)
“I believe that there’s another man… inside of every man. A stranger. A conniving man.”
This Netflix original is a must see movie and the second Stephen King adaptation following Gerald’s Game. This is the last will and testament of Wilfred James, and he will tell the story of how in the middle of the night he murdered his wife — she’s haunted and punished him ever since. 1922 is the third movie that Thomas Jane has starred in, Dreamcatcher being the first and The Mist (which we still have yet to find out if it’s made the list or will simply be an honorable mention).
7. Carrie (1976)
“They’re all going to laugh at you!!”
This is the first movie to be on the list that I’ve recently read the book for. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. Like I’ve mentioned previously, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with The King’s writing. Sometimes they are masterpieces and sometimes it’s just toilet paper material. I was actually surprised that the book was so different from the movies. It’s more of an interview and investigation constructed novel based on the events of prom night and any strange occurrences surrounding Carrie White.
I decided to go with the original version over the remake because Sissy’s adaptation of Carrie White is more authentic, even though the 2013 remake is fantastic and visually stunning, Chloe’s performance just isn’t as captivating. This was Stephen’s first novel, and he was paid $2,500 for the movie rights to Carrie. The success of Carrie at the box-office really paved the way for Stephen as a horror writer, and he was actually happy with the way the film turned out.
Though Sissy was 25 years old and playing a seventeen year old high school student, she pulled it off fantastically and dedicated herself to the character by cutting herself off from the rest of the cast and surrounding herself with religious artifacts. The ending of the movie is different from the book…I won’t spoil it for you! You’re going to have to read the book yourself to find out what happens.
6. 1408 (2007)
“Look, I’m not telling you not to stay in that room for your own good or for the profit of the hotel. Frankly, selfishly, I just don’t want to clean up the mess.”
This is John Cusack’s second appearance in a Stephen King movie, the first being Stand By Me (1986). In 2016, Samuel Jackson and John starred in Cell, another film adapted from a Stephen King novel. John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a paranormal writer, who hasn’t been able to connect with the supernatural realm. He ends up at a hotel that has a room that isn’t allowed to be rented due to the fact that every time someone stays in that room, they die.
Mike survives an hour and thinks everything is going to be fine, until the ghosts start to show up. Then he starts to go through the different stages of grief, the room taking his weakness and turning it into purgatory for him. This movie has one of the most heart-wrenching endings I have ever seen, and there are other alternative endings as well.
There are many references to Stephen’s other work, especially “The Shining”. One of the victims of the room is named Grady, and the axe the fireman uses at the end of the film was the exact same that Jack Nicholson used in the film. If you are interested in reading the short story, you can check it out in Stephen King’s “Everything’s Eventual”. It’s the 12th story in the book.
5. The Mist (2007)
“As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?”
I knew this movie would make the list somehow! This was the first Stephen King movie I ever saw in theaters, and I’d like to officially apologize to the people who were trying to watch the film, for being an asshole teenager and for my obnoxious laughter when the old lady threw the can of peas and busted out a makeshift flamethrower in the pharmacy. Now that I’ve purged myself of some sins, let’s talk about the storyline for this fantastic film.
A group of people become trapped in a local grocery store when a thick mist covers the town. The problem is that the mist hides something much more frightening within it, and the people are starting to turn against each other and form groups. They will become faced with a decision to try and make it out there with the alien monsters, or sacrifice something so pure to stay inside with the others.
Stephen King has said this movie actually frightened him, and the director Frank Darabont said that was highlight of his career knowing that; he had also adapted Stephen’s Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile into films. There are also 7 actors and actresses in this film that went on to star in The Walking Dead; Frank also wanted Thomas Jane to play Rick Grimes in the hit TV show, but the role went to Andrew Lincoln instead.
Stephen had the idea for the novel when he was in a grocery store in Maine, noticed the giant plate glass windows and wondered what it would be like to have giant insects trying to break through. The novella was published in “Dark Forces Anthology” by Stephen in 1985 and was also turned into a tv show that I have not seen yet in 2017.
4. The Shining (1980)
“Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in!”
For this movie we are going to go with the 1980 edition starring Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance. There is a 1997 version that didn’t quite make it onto everyone’s watch list, and that’s because of the major success of the 1980 version. However, Stephen King was not happy with Stanley’s methods and casting choice for the character Wendy, who in the book is described as being blonde and beautiful and who hasn’t had many hardships in life. He often describes the movie as a beautiful car without an engine.
Shelley Duvall would go on to play the character with her long time raven hair, given the character a different take. Stephen would ultimately win back the rights to his book and have it made in the image that he originally intended it to be made into.
The movie is about a married couple who have a young son with special gifts, but they are unsure of it until they move into a deserted hotel for the winter season. Jack has to take care of the building and make sure nothing bad happens, even though the previous caretaker went crazy and murdered himself and his family. Jack soon starts to see ghosts and won’t be able to get any of that writing done that he had planned with all those pesky voices in his ears.
To get Jack Nicholson in the proper mindset for the scenes that called for high agitation and aggression, he was only fed cheese sandwiches for two weeks — which he hates with a passion, and poor Shelley suffered from stress and exhaustion due to the director’s excessive amount of pressure and verbal and mental abuse that he put her through.
The Shining was also the first of Stephen King’s books to be banned due to the theme of “Wicked Parents.” Stephen King got the idea for the novel after he and his family were the last guests in a hotel before it closed for the winter break. He watched as a group of nuns left the hotel and thought to himself that the hotel was no longer protected by God.
3. Misery (1990)
“I’m your number one fan. There’s nothing to worry about. You’re going to be just fine. I will take good care of you. I’m your number one fan.”
In 1991, Kathy Bates was the first woman to win an Oscar for Best actress in a horror movie. Stephen King was so impressed by Kathy’s performance of his character Annie Wilkes that he wrote another book with her as the lead character in mind, called “Dolores Claiborne”, and she went on to star in the film adaptation.
Though Kathy might play such villainess characters, she truly is a softy. She would cry before and after every violent scene she had with James Cann, despite not always getting along with him off camera; the actors both had very different acting methods. This movie is about a writer who gets into a car accident during a blizzard and wakes up in a bed with his biggest fan watching over him. He soon figures out that Annie isn’t all there mentally and has different plans for him…and that he’s going to be trapped with her for a very long time.
Stephen King finally admitted after many years that this book was about his battle with substance abuse, and it was so personal to him that he wasn’t sure he wanted to sell the movie rights to anyone. But when Rob Reiner came on board, he finally agreed. I have read this book, and I promise you that it is a masterpiece. It’s even more intense and graphic then the movie, and I highly recommend it.
2. Pet Sematary (1989)
“Sometimes, dead is better.”
How excited are you about the remake? If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, what are you waiting for? The remake looks amazing, but since I haven’t seen the whole movie yet, I’m going to go with the original because it is still frightening after all these years. I have not read the book, but Stephen King himself has said the only novel that truly scared him that he had written was “Pet Sematary”. The movie was shot so close to his home in Maine that he often visited the set.
Pet Sematary is about a family who move to a small town and find a pet sematary behind their place. The legends say that if you bury something dead in the pet sematary, the animal will come back but it won’t be the same as before. After their family cat is hit by a transport, the Sematary will be put to the test and nightmares will be unleashed.
The idea came to Stephen after his daughter’s cat was killed on the highway by their home. Smuckey is the name of the cat, and he was honored by having his own tombstone in the film’s sematary. Stephen even has his own cameo appearance as a minister. Unfortunately, the omen of being hit by cars followed him, and he was hit by a van while walking. I hope that’s the only bad omen that will follow the writer and that he can retire with no more accidents.
Before we get to our number one celebrity on the list, let’s take a look at some important Honorable Mentions: Salem’s Lot (1979), Gerald’s Game (2017), Christine (1983), and A Good Marriage (2014).
1. IT (2017)
“Derry is not like any town I’ve been in before. They did a study once and, it turns out, people die or disappear at six times the national average. And that’s just grown ups. Kids are worse. Way, way worse.”
I know, I’m picking a remake over an original again, sue me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original too, but the remake is a masterpiece and the first horror movie to come along in a while to blow the roof off movie theaters; this being Stephen’s all time highest grossing film to date! The remake was also a better depiction of Stephen King’s novel and his character Pennywise.
Bill Skasgard put his heart and soul into his performance and had nightmares before and after production. His young cast mates were such a talented group that they were given free range to ad lib many of their lines. If you don’t know what this movie is about, it involves a group of children who go after the town’s evil entity and promises to return if it ever comes back. Spoiler alert, it does! And we will all get to see what happens in 2019.