The World According To Stephen King
The Master of Horror
To say that Stephen King's writings have given the world a plethora of great literature, memorable characters, and endless plot twist would be a gross understatement. King's work is monumental in the world of both literature and film. His horror stories still frighten and his other tales are equally impressive. His books are as captivating as any classic novel, more so in some cases in my opinion. His work flows as well as a Shakespearean sonnet and terrifies as much as a Jehova's witness at the front door with an arm full of pamphlets. (Just playing)
His words really do flow like a mighty river carving through the mountain of authors who hope to take that spotlight off King himself. I have been a fan since I was about 11, just after finishing the haunting tale of a car with a mind of it's own. "Christine" was my entry into King's madness and I have been trapped in there ever since. No other writer captures fear and creativity quite like the master himself. As a child I imagined him in dark robes with a cult following him offering to sacrifice the weak to his will. I was both shocked and thrilled to discover King was a nerd like myself.
His books are pillars of detail, walls of plot, and foundations cast of pure fear. The roof of this macabre little shed is the story, usually a story that never fails to glue you to his pages. While his books are his greatest gift to mankind, one can not forget the theatrical side of King's never ending library. Below you will find my top 5 picks of Stephen King's movies that came from his books. I know my list may not reflect other people's selections but I assure you they are prime works of horror, suspense and amazing contributions from the mind of a true master of horror.
Written under the name Richard Bachman, "Thinner" was one of the stories that really made people step back and look at the twisted plots that King was known to lay down. The story takes the reader on a ride through many different emotions. I have often heard it said that a story pulled the heart's strings. If that was the real case King refuses to stop there. He constructs an entire orchestra of emotions in "Thinner" and conducts a symphony of emotional magnitude that has you feeling pity, sorrow, and even hatred for the main character all at the same time.
"Thinner" is the tale of a lawyer who suffers from obesity. he unintentionally but at the same time unremorseful kills an elderly gypsy woman with his car. The tragedy unravels even more when he is acquitted of any charges, mainly due to his occupation. While leaving the courtroom and celebrating his victory he is greeted by the elderly woman's husband and the gypsy caravan leader. A gentle brush of the cheek and a simple word start a tale or terror only King could weave. "Thinner." A simple word but the complexity that follows it's very utterance will have you grasping the table as you read.
In any event the last thing any man wants regardless of his actions or lack thereof actions is to anger a gypsy. With each passing day the lawyer loses more and more weight. As he grows thinner and thinner he starts to realize what has happened. The tubby lawyer with the unlawful freedom begins to realize that the road to skinny ends in death and he is not ready to pay that kind of debt so he strikes a deal with the gypsy man. A deal that cost him more than he ever could hope to afford.
He receives a pie. Simple, tasty and fresh. The pie contains the curse of death. The lawyer is urged to do the noble thing and eat of his own pie. Of course this is not always the intentions, and our once tubby lawyer friend is at wit's end trying to figure how to handle the situation. of course King is noted for making the choice a difficult one for his protagonist, although I am not certain our lawyer buddy falls into that category all that much.
He returns home one night to discover the pie is gone, eaten by his own family. Once again we are taken on an emotional roller coaster filled with the pain of a man who lost everything but at the same time the contempt knowing he deserved to lose.
The film is well made. It does not feature an all star cast or any exceptional actor but it's story is conveyed in true Stephen King fashion. My favorite aspect if the authenticity of the gypsies. They really look like a traveling band that would have that curse subculture to wave around. I find myself often recommending this novel and film to new fans of King's work. It reflects a lot of human nature, not necessarily the good part but the part we try to keep hidden and tucked away. It is a scary concept that really played well to the big screen.
4. Pet Cemetery
Losing a loved one is a painful task. It is a task none of us want to know. Losing a child is even worse. The emotional pain and the troubling life left behind is one that breaths sorrow. King's horrific story "Pet Cemetery" is the story of a graveyard for animals that is located in a remote location and held sacred by the natives who once lived there. We all know death is what it is. There is no coming back, but as we will soon learn in the world according to Stephen King there are some things far worse than death.
I have to admit that I felt the film captured my attention a little bit more than the book did. Not that the book was not awesome. It was amazing. We follow a family that move to a new home. The new home proves nice and cozy but the location is a little close to the road and soon the family cat Church gets a little close to the roadway and forfeits his last life to a speeding car. The father could not bear to see how much the loss of the cat would affect his family and he learns that the hills hide a secret. A grave site where the dead animals can return. he is warned that they may not be the same as they were when they were alive.
This warning does not matter and he treks to the hills to lay Church to rest in hopes that a 10th life exists for this cat. Church returns but the cat is not the same. he realizes the mistake that he made. One would imagine he would have learned a life lesson, but once again in the world according to Stephen King, lessons are often learned through mistakes and on occasion a few attempts must be made.
As if the story was not sick enough King tosses a moment that crushes everything wholesome as the young boy Gage is occupied chasing a kite. The road does not know the difference between a cat or a small child and death is no respecter of person. Soon the howl of breaks bears loud and the wheels of a truck claim another life. This time young Gage falls and the dad is destroyed. His guilt and sorrow weigh on his mind so heavy that he knows what he must do. The neighbor, played by Hermin Munster himself, warns him that a town resident once took his child to the cemetery. He did indeed return but his demeanor was gone. he exhibited violence and hatred where before he did not.
This warning would not sway the father. he took his little boy, once full of life and spirit, now a hollow shell to the ground where the earth gave back the dead. Gage returns as well as the cat. Now that little boy was back but it did not take long for the father to see what he had done. gage was evil, possibly pure evil. His murderous wake ended the life of that friendly neighbor whose warning was ignored. In his wake he murders the one person who loved him more than anything. His mother.
The father has no choice but to end the pain his mistake has caused and with a needle full of poison he lays Gage to rest a second time. This time Pet Cemetery would not regurgitate the body of the little boy. One would assume the second lesson would suffice but King never let's us down when it comes to surprise and terror. The mother, now dead from wounds caused by her own child would be scooped up and escorted to the hollowed ground. Again another human being is cast back into the living. Our story ends with her embracing her husband, knife in hand.
The film featured a very talented young actor as the role of Gage but as with most Stephen King films the story was the star of the show.This story is one that really puts a mixed feeling in your gut and a bittersweet taste in your mouth.
3. Green Mile
To ride the lighting on the Green Mile meant to lay your life for crimes against you in the electric chair known as old sparky. As far as innovation goes this book was one that really set a new standard. King's books where notorious skip to the end books to break the suspense of his story. King decided that would not do so he released the Green Mile in segments. Small books containing several chapters each would great those who cared to invest in them. I was one of those investors, and very proud of it.
The Green Mile is a story of a corrections facility, death role to be exact. It is here burdens of the state find life's fleeting light grow even more so fleeting. We find the story fixated on the arrival of a new inmate. John Coffey, like the drank only spelled different. Coffey is a behemoth of a human being, standing at nearly 7 foot and weighing enough to floor the transport wagon. He is here because he was discovered holding 2 dead children. Murder was the case they gave him but as the story flows we learn John is innocent, not only is he innocent, he is a miracle. The boss on the green mile is Paul Edgecomb, a man of great character and good standing. He sees something in John.
Both the book and the film are so moving that either will keep you glued hoping for a outcome that means freedom for God's special man. The story reveals several characters that are each as memorable and vital to the twisting story as the last.Paul, Percy, Brutal and of course John. But perhaps the most memorable character is Mr. Jingles, a simple mouse bred for the show lights of the circus. It is through Jingles that we learn of what John can do. As Percy crushes the tiny rodent beneath a mean spirited foot, John ask to see him. In his hands the light of life flows back into the tiny little frame of Mr. Jingle's mouse body and he springs to life again.
John goes on to cure Paul of a nasty urinary infection and even takes the risk of being shot to cure the warden's wife of a very crippling case of cancer. He truly is a gift from God. Suddenly King gives us a moral dilemma that shakes the cure of his readers. Paul questions if he can pull the switch and send John down the mile to ride the lightning. He questions his day of judgement. Would God punish him for killing John?
As the story goes on we learn that the real culprit responsible for the crime John now is set to die for is a young nutcase named Wild Bill. Bill makes John's life even harder than what it needs to be. In the end John uses the bully Percy Whetmore to end the life of Bill and keep the sanity of the men at the mile. I would love to tell you so much more but this is one you need to read and watch for yourself.
The story is one of love, hope, suffering and life itself. You discover that Paul has lived well over 100 years and may live 100 more. The cost of rolling on 2 with John Coffey in the chair. This is one of King's most emotional and sad stories and I highly suggest anyone who has not gone the way of The Green Mile do so.
The fear of clowns is one that seems to run amok and in many ways King may very well be held responsible for that. It is the story of triumph and unity but at the same time it is the tale of a killer clown that eats children. The book itself was a let down for me because of the underlying story of good vs evil, spider vs turtle. The film however remains one of my favorite movies.
The movie was actually made for TV and featured a cast that defied all ability of that time. Some of the stars where as epic as the fictitious characters themselves. We start with a story of several children, all with problems and baggage of their own, but together they are a force to reckon with. Over time they form a group, The Losers Club and try to make right the wrong in Dairy Maine. One of the members, young Billy has lost his little brother to a serial killer who has slain several small children the area.
Soon this killer takes a physical form, a clown. Despite his cheerful personality the clown can be what ever it is you fear the most. A werewolf to Ritchie Toser, a mummy to Stan, and of course the embodiment of fear to all who come into contact with him.
The children prove more than the clown can handle but every 30 years the creature returns and 30 years has passed. Now once again Dairy plays host to a killer who seeks out children. The Losers Club is once again called on to deal with something. The adult cast of the film was glorious to say the least. John Ritter, Harry Anderson and of course the man behind the clown Tim Curry. In the second part we see the adults not as confident as their childhood counter parts and we see the clown more evil than we could ever imagine.
This story is one that I can not stress enough to horror fans. The story unfolds with twists and turns and in all honesty leaves you guessing, even at the end. As a child I fell in love with how Curry portrayed King's most disturbing villain. he put a humorous twist on the character but kept that very dark evil side as well. It was almost the way Freddy Krueger came to be so popular.
It takes it's viewers down a path where fear becomes more than an emotional state but it becomes a physical reality that you can only escape with the power of belief, and the story reflects a sad human truth. As kids they believed the silver thay had would kill It, they believed the asthma inhaler was enough to save poor Stan. That childhood hope was a strong weapon against a creature bred to devour the soul. As adults the belief is faded and they suffer loss after loss because they can't out believe in the evil that the clown has become.
It is that look at human nature that drives King's stories and gives them the ability to stay fresh after so long. IT plays heavily to our fear but at the same time it displays how fear in the right setting can in fact become our greatest attribute as humans.
1. Needful Things
I realize this may shock and awe some people as this is actually one of those works you just don't hear a great deal about. For me Needful Things was both a book worthy of the King and a film that I was so impressed with I bought it the night I saw it. We meet a simple town, full of simple people, and now a simple little shop has sprung up. There in the center of town Leland Gaunt has opened Needful Things. A quaint and curious little store where your deepest desire can be had at a bargain you will love, or love to hate. That old porcelain keepsake, the letterman jacket you lost in a drunken stupor, and even that Mickey Mantle baseball card you are missing from your collection can all be had for a trade.
That is right, all manor of desire can be completed at Needful Things. Maybe you want that old baseball card I mentioned earlier. Would you be willing to bust some windows or maybe throw some chicken droppings on some lady's sheets as they hang dry in the sun? Of course you would, of course you would never suspect that act alone may lead to death of another city member.
It is through these fulfilled desires that Gaunt gains a list of souls who have gone astray. Each task sets up a war between residents and before long the town is at war with itself. Gaunt stands smiling at the chaos he has created by exploiting one of human kind's saddest traits, greed. As the town falls apart the sheriff springs to action and confronts Gaunt. It is here where the true nature of the man behind Needful Things takes full form. In many ways the man takes on the guise of Satan himself, in others a demon, even darker and more mysterious is how King never really lets on the Gaunt is as evil as he seems.
I fell in love with this book and film combination. It was one of the reasons I grew to love King's work.
I am sure my readers are asking where Carrie, Children of the Corn and maybe just maybe Tommyknockers are on this list. Maybe you wonder where Stand By Me, Shawshank and Dreamcatcher are hidden beneath my short and simple list. Sadly I did not list them. I felt my list was a reflection of me and my personal taste but I do want to give my readers a chance to tell me their top 5 King films. Please leave them in the comments section.