The FlixList: Five BEST and WORST Stephen King’s film adaptations

With second part of Stephen King’s IT (It Chapter Two – check out our review) just hit theaters this past weekend and DOCTOR SLEEP later in November, I thought I should list my 5 best and worst films based on his novels. Now, I haven’t seen all of the films that were based on his books, so I don’t have any opinion on these films: CAT’S EYE, THE NIGHT FLIER, RIDING THE BULLET, 1408, DOLAN’S CADILLAC & CELL. The list contains ONLY films that were based on his novels and short stories, I’m not listing the TV movies or shows that were also based on his books.

Here are my top 5 BEST films based on King’s work:

  1. MISERY (1990)
    A perfect casting of the main leads, Kathy Bates was so frightening as the obsessed fan of James Cann’s Paul Sheldon. This is one of the few films that I thought was better than the book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the book was excellent, but I did not want to see some of the things that King wrote on the pages appear on the screen, anyone who read book knows what I’m talking about. I’m also glad they changed the infamous leg scene in the film, in the book it’s much worse than what was filmed.
  2. THE GREEN MILE (1999)
    One of the few films that actually made me cry when I first saw it. The late Michael Clarke Duncan was perfectly cast as the gentle giant John Coffey, the wrongly accused killer. Of course, Tom Hanks was perfect as Paul Edgecomb and Sam Rockwell was stellar as Wild Bill Howell. Not as good as the novel but one of the best films of 1999.

  3. THE DEAD ZONE (1983)
    I remember reading this book when I was in 8
    th or 9th grade, it took me a while to finish but I loved it. I was hesitant to watch the film version but I’m glad I did. Great performances by Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen. I think the film version was a pretty faithful adaptation.

  4. THE MIST (2007)
    Minus the terrible visual effects, this was a great film about what fear can do to everyday people. I thought Marcia Gay Harden should’ve received Oscar nomination for her role as Mrs. Carmody, one of the best villain roles I’ve ever seen. I think the film’s more well known for its bleak ending. The film deserves to be talked about more as one of King’s best adaptations.

  5. THE SHINING (1980)
    The film wasn’t a faithful adaptation of the source novel but it’s a film by Stanley Kubrick, so you know he’s going to do it his way. According to King, Kubrick would constantly call him late at night to go over the script during the shoot, ironically when the film was released, King has stated that he didn’t like it. Apparently, Kubrick wanted to make a film that would be appealing to general audiences and he needed a box office hit since many of his films weren’t making any money. The film did okay box office wise but it’s now considered one of the best horror films ever made.

Now, the top 5 WORST films based on King’s work:

  1. THE DARK TOWER (2017)
    Ron Howard spent many years trying to get this film to the big screen but studio executives at Universal Studios were nervous about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a film that has mixed genres of western, sci-fi, horror and action/adventure. The rights went to Sony and they decided to give writer/director Nikolaj Arcel a chance to adapt this story based on King’s opus novels to the big screen and the results was disastrous.
    Like many people, I skipped seeing it at a theater but decided to rent it. I was pretty pissed when I finally saw it, I’ve been waiting to see The Dark Tower hitting the big screen for so long and what I saw was something that looked like it’s made by an amateur filmmaker. I wasn’t fan of the cast either, I think Idris Elba is a great actor but he’s not the right choice to play Roland. Mathew McConaughey as Roland’s nemesis Walter aka The Man in Black was a joke. Everything about this film was a disaster and it’s one of the worst films of the decade in my opinion. Now that Amazon has the rights to the novels, hopefully they can finally do a faithful adaptation.

  2. THE RUNNING MAN (1987)

    Besides the title and concept, the film has little to do with King’s novel. If you look as just another silly Arnold’s action film in the 80s, it’s a decent film. But it’s based on one of my favorite King’s novels and I thought it’s pretty bad. With our current political climate, I think this film deserves a remake that stays true to the book. I would love it if a filmmaker like Chris Nolan or Ridley Scott adapts it for the big screen.

  3. CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1987)
    I remember I was pretty freaked out when I read this short story and was excited to see the film version. But the film was so boring and not scary at all. It’s one of the few films based on King’s story that I don’t remember much about.

  4. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)
    The only film that Stephen King himself directed (he also wrote the screenplay) based on his own story and it’s pretty terrible. According to King himself, he’s so high on cocaine while making this film that he didn’t know what he’s doing and it shows on the screen. The film was pretty incoherent, and the cast looked like they had no idea what they were supposed to do.

  5. NEEDFUL THINGS (1993)
    Not one of my favorites of King’s novels but it’s still a good read. I thought it could never translate well into film and I was right. Despite its excellent castings of Max Von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia and JT Walsh, the film has nothing going on for it. The long runtime didn’t help either, I was so bored when I rented it on home video and almost turned it off halfway through.

So those are my 5 best and worst films based on King’s novels. I know I left out some of the more popular films like CARRIE, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, CUJO, FIRESTARTER and CREEPSHOW. I liked those films, but I didn’t think they were the best or worst. 


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How about you? Feel free to list your top films based on King’s novels.

FlixChatter Review: PET SEMATARY (2019)

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Directed by: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence and John Lithgow

A year prior to graduating high school I had seen Mary Lambert’s 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary in the theaters. Yeah – remember those? (I’m looking at you streaming fans). I was on a date and a horror movie seemed like a perfect choice at the time and King’s novels were very popular with the bookish kids in my grade, although I was still wading my way through the first hundred or so pages of The Stand notwithstanding (to pardon a pun). While I recall the slickness of the production, and perhaps a Ramones song or two in the film, it did its purpose but not much else. Scary it was not at the time but I enjoyed seeing Fred Gwynn in a role sans Munster makeup. He was quite good in it.

Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s 2019 adaptation sticks with the original premise: Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz) have moved their family (daughter Ellie and toddler Gage) out to the country to escape the stresses of the big city and in Louis’ case, the pressures of being an ER doc at the city hospital. Once settled in, they discover a makeshift pet cemetery the neighborhood kids created. Apparently, as the film implies, the road that passes through the area takes many pets’ lives.

John Lithgow plays Jud, their amiable, strange and dusty next door neighbor who gives them a vague history of the place and whom Ellie strikes up an innocent friendship. On Halloween, the Creed’s cat Church (after Churchill, funnily one of Lithgow’s famous roles) is killed on said road. Rather than telling Ellie the truth, the couple tells her Church ran away. Jud, conscious of Ellie’s feelings decides to help out by leading Louis to an ancient site in the forest beyond the cemetery and instructs Louis to bury their cat. A day later, Church is reanimated and returns to the house but something isn’t quite right. This is when the story takes a terrifying turn… (I’ll stop there to avoid spoilers).

Now in 2019, as a father of two young kids, I can understand why King considered this novel as awful and terrible and one he was reluctant to publish as “it just spirals down into darkness.” The themes here are familiar: guilt, trauma, denial and grief. However, King’s story and the filmmakers’ use of them with effective means and from a cerebral level is outright horrifying. You could call it a twisted Lazarus or Frankenstein story with dashes of the Golem.

The first 2/3 of the film is all this, effective, dreamlike with a touch of simplicity. It’s a great modern day horror story in the traditional sense with great atmospherics and good performances by Clarke, Seimetz and Lithgow. The last 1/3 of the film settles into predictability but in a sense, it really couldn’t go any other way. When the campiness started creeping in during the film’s finale, I must admit I welcomed it. It gave me respite from the story’s main themes – a sense of relief. While it is a flawed film, the filmmakers’ choice to keep it simple and not inundate it with effects and adrenalized editing is commendable.

At its core Pet Sematary is a family tragedy; loving parents who with their overprotectiveness and good intentions set into motion a terrible chain of events. The worst part is that we can relate to Louis’ actions even in its insanity – above all, when loss is coupled with guilt and denial and not given the right to mourn or grieve thus preventing it from running its natural course. As a horror film, Pet Sematary works quite well. But it is the idea in King’s story that really makes it horrifying at a deep archetypical level.

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So what do you think of PET SEMATARY? Let us know what you think!