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#148. Stephen King

Seeing as today is Halloween, it seems fitting that today we highlight some film adaptations of the literal King of horror: Stephen King. While most will associate his name with the horror genre, King’s writing is diverse enough that sometimes we can be surprised the same man who wrote about a killer clown (It (1990)), a telekinetic killer prom queen (Carrie (1976)), and a killer cult of Nebraska kids (Children of the Corn (1984)) has written some non-horror works like The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Still, the fact remains that some of the most terrifying films that have ever been made have been based on the literary works of Stephen King. So, as you go out tonight to collect candy from your neighbors, just be glad the works of Stephen King are fictional and won’t be chasing you through dark streets.

                                                   The Shawshank RedemptionThe Shawshank Redemption
Year: 1994
Rating: R
Length: 142 minutes / 2.36 hours

This clever work based on a short story by Stephen King (from his collection of short stories entitled “Different Seasons”) is deep, enthralling, and a definite “must see,” even if you don’t care for his other works. In fact, The Shawshank Redemption is perhaps the most normal story he’s ever written. Even another prison story of King’s, The Green Mile (1999), had elements of the supernatural to it which falls in line with the style that comes naturally to King. And yet, both of these prison stories from Stephen King were made into movies which received nominations for Best Picture, perhaps aligning with something relatable to the audience other than sheer terror, considering that they are the only adaptations of King’s works that have been nominated for the prestigious award. Even if it didn’t win, this film is high on ranking lists for movies, being #1 on the user-generated list on IMDB.

Set in the fictional prison of Shawshank during the middle of the 20th century, The Shawshank Redemption follows Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) as he lives out his double life sentence for killing his wife and her lover. Even though he knows he’s innocent, he makes the best of the situation, occupying his time with some rockwork, courtesy of a rock hammer obtained through his fellow inmate friend, Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman). Andy ends up working in the laundry section of the prison before being transferred to the library, which ends up being a front so those who run the prison can get some free banking advice, some of which is illegal. As a result, the warden wants to keep Andy in prison, which causes him to cover up the eventual arrival of the real killer of Andy’s wife. And yet, Andy has been busy at one other activity: escape.

The ShiningThe Shining
Year: 1980
Rating: R
Length: 146 minutes / 2.43 hours

Considering how prolific Stephen King’s works have been, it’s no wonder some of them have to do with writing. It has often been said you should write what you know, and if you know how to write, why not write about authors? While The Shining (1980) is perhaps the most famous of these adaptations, there have been several other movie adaptations of King’s works with writers as the main character. Works like Misery (1990) and Secret Window (2004) show the torment authors can go through just with obsessive fans and those who have copyright claims against them, respectively. Having written my own novels, I know the madness that can come from trying to get words on the page. Fortunately, I’ve never been driven to the level of insanity portrayed in this film. Then again, I allowed myself to “play” so that it wasn’t “all work.”

While Stephen King liked the adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption, due to some ideological differences between King and Stanley Kubrick, The Shining was the only adaptation of his novels he could “remember hating” (thus spawning a TV movie adaptation). And yet, just like a good scotch, this film has aged well and, even though it received mixed reviews upon its release, is now considered the quintessential horror film. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family are the winter caretakers of the Overlook Hotel, which Jack sees as a great opportunity to work on his writing. Unfortunately, because there is no one else in the hotel, along with the fact that it sits on an Indian burial ground, Jack starts to slowly go insane. Soon, his wife and son are running for their lives, trying to escape the homicidal maniac Jack has become.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Stephen King stories

Bacon #: 2 (Creepshow / Tom Atkins -> Lemon Sky / Kevin Bacon)

2 responses to “#148. Stephen King

  1. Pingback: End of Act Three | Cinema Connections

  2. Pingback: #097. Stanley Kubrick | Cinema Connections

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