In the 80’s and 90’s, the “King” of horror was none other than Stephen King. His novels and short stories were transformed into instant classics that defined a genre for so many years. His catalog is impressive with so many exceptional movies that were the fuel of a majority of every kid’s nightmare. When we reached the new millennium, the movies started to slow down, and films that were attached to King went from releasing classic’s every year to releasing forgettable titles that didn’t get much interest. Then all of a sudden, a few years ago, we see King’s films and TV series start to pop up again out of nowhere.
As I stated above, in the 80’s and 90’s Stephen King was unstoppable, with movies like The Shining (1980), Children of the Corn (1984), The Running Man (1987), Pet Sematary (1989), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Misery (1990), Stand By Me (1986), Thinner (1996), The Green Mile (1999), and the list goes on. Whether it be Horror, Sci-fi, coming-of-age, serious, or was a bit silly, all of the movies have their place. The one film that stood out for me was The Shining. To this day I still consider this film one of my favorites of all time. If you are unaware, which I doubt, The Shining is a masterpiece directed by Stanley Kubrick and Star’s Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall about a family isolated in a hotel for the winter when the ghosts of the past start to influence Jack (Jack Nicholson) to become violent towards his family. I am aware of King’s distaste for the film as he has been quoted saying, “I think ‘The Shining’ is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it. In that sense, when it opened, a lot of the reviews weren’t very favorable and I was one of those reviewers. I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much.” With that said I still feel it to be one of, if not the best King adaptation. In 1997, Stephen King had a more hands-on approach to the Shining with the 3 part TV movie directed by Mick Garris. This movie follows the book very carefully and is also worth watching, it has that 90’s look and feel of other great King’s films.
When we reached the 2000’s, right after the Green Mile was released, it seemed like all King adaptations disappeared except for a forgettable entry here and there. How could this happen after two decades of films that captured the hearts of so many audiences? Later in the 2000’s we got a couple more notable entries from King being Dreamcatcher (2003) and The Mist (2007), but it seems Hollywood had its fill of Stephen King adaptations. Maybe they thought there was no market for it anymore and the stories would not resonate with the current audiences of the new millennia. But then 2016 happened.
2016, the start of a Stephen King Renaissance, 11.22.63 released on Hulu as a miniseries based on a book of the same name by King. The 8 episode miniseries was Executive produced by Stephen King and J.J. Abrams and followed an English Teacher (James Franco) that travels back to 1963 to try and stop the assassination of JFK. It was met with positive reviews and was probably the reason the two would work on the current series release on Hulu, Castle Rock (2018), which is also getting positive reviews from critics. In 2017, he had a couple more entries for the small screen on Netflix being Gerald’s Game (2017) and 1922 (2017). With all of these releases on the small screen, King was still able to get some films to the big screen. He started with The Dark Tower (2017), a movie that was supposed to begin his gunslinger universe but met less than favorable reviews, (16% on Rotten Tomatoes), because of how much the film strayed from the source material. After that hiccup It (2017) released. Directed by Andy Muschietti, It follows the losers club as they try to find out who is responsible for all of the disappearances in their town, especially Bill’s brother, Georgie all while being terrorized by a shape-shifting clown. This movie is much like part one of the 1990 TV movie but with an R rating and a more serious tone. The best way to compare these two would be to watch both opening scenes. Almost a shot for shot opening, both actors deliver their lines flawlessly, but the 2017 IT takes a turn immediately with its disturbing portrayal of Pennywise and gore that was missing in the original, It wanted you to know what kind of movie it was going to be right off the bat. This movie cemented that Stephen King, in fact, does have a place in the current market and justifies a part two, which is coming out in 2019 and is said to be more violent and gory than part one.
With the way things are currently going, King adaptations look to be moving in a positive direction with plenty of entries with his name tied to them in the future. Just by taking a quick glance at an IMDB.com, we will be getting our fill on TV and in theaters with The Outsiders (?), Pet Sematary (2019), It: Chapter Two (2019), Doctor Sleep (2020), and many more. Now would seem to be a great time to be alive if you are a King fan and I would personally like to say welcome home.