There was a period in the 80s and 90s when it seemed like everything Stephen King had ever written was being adapted for the big or small screen. Then we had a lull for around a decade or so as both his written and adapted material slowed a little. In recent years we have seen a resurgence – a thirst for more King material to watch, leading to remakes and new adaptations to the extent that it seems like rarely a month passes without a new release or announcement. 11/22/63 the novel is one of King’s most heralded recent works, a highly personal, highly relevant tale given the current political climate in the USA. It has all those good old King staples – a writer with romantic tendencies, childhood or nostalgia for the past, and just a hint of the supernatural. It’s a long and engaging read, detailing a few years in the life of a man who discovers a portal which can transport him back to the late 1950s. No matter how much time he spends there, only two minutes pass in the present. If he does something in the past it can change the future, but if he subsequently returns to the past all his changes get wiped – any time he goes through the portal, he always returns to the same point and place in time. With some narrative and character changes, the TV mini-series adaptation takes the same central idea and runs with it, creating an interesting, authentic, tense and sometimes tragic tale of one man’s decision to change the course of history.
James Franco stars as Jake Epping (a role he plays relatively straight), a teacher and writer who is recently divorced and drifting through life. When he visits his friend Al, he is shocked to see that Al suddenly looks incredibly sick. Al tells him that he has cancer and will be dead soon and tells Jake about the time-travelling portal in his cafe. This first episode is largely spent explaining how the portal works and in convincing Jake to travel back with a single goal – to prevent JFK from being assassinated – the belief being that the world would be a better place today had he survived. Al has failed in his attempts due to the onset of his cancer and his doubts over who killed JFK – Oswald, the FBI etc etc. On top of that, the past doesn’t want to be changed leading to certain supernatural or deadly events as time seeks to correct itself. By the time the second episode rolls around, Jake has taken on the mission in full spirit, though he has five years to kill before the day of the assassination comes around. During this time Jake must fit in – get a job, research everything he can about the people surrounding the assassination, and work out how to stop it.
There’s a definite nostalgic feeling in these episodes set in the past. I wasn’t around in the 50s or 60s, and I’m not American, and yet the wistful, seemingly carefree nature of those times shines though, albeit with a dark underbelly. The pacing, for such a sprawling tale, is just right and the changes made to the plot are fine (one of the biggest changes being the introduction of Bill Turncotte) – I certainly had no issues with them. If you haven’t read the book and have no interest in doing so, this won’t impact you although I would encourage everyone to read it as it is one of King’s best in recent years. Oswald is shown in a, I don’t want to say sympathetic light, but in a human light at least – a flawed man driven to make his own bad decisions – his wife Marina caught in the middle. The romantic side-plot of Jake and Sadie is rather sweet, but then I’ve always enjoyed these sort of relationships – as seen in other efforts like Back To The Future, Goodnight Sweetheart and a myriad of others. The cast are all in top form, credit going to Franco, George Mackay, Sarah Gadon, and Lucy Fry, and the various directors and writers all craft a relatable tale which begs that always prodding question – what would you do? With a running time over 6 hours it takes a certain commitment to watch, but if you like the premise or indeed the history or the surrounding conspiracies, then this will likely pull you in during the first episode and keep you locked in the past until the credits roll.
Let us know what you think of 11/22/63 in the comments!
Greetings, Glancers! As you’ve no doubt witnessed over the last few years, uber-author and all round good guy Stephen King has been in the midst of a cinematic resurgence. While not the extended universe I was hoping for, we have been treated to a tonne of movies and series based on novels, shorts, and napkin scribbles by the master of horror. Since the release of Carrie in the late 70s, there has been roughly, roughly, fifty eight billion adaptations of his work and neither he, nor those who wish to put his work on the screen, are showing signs of slowing down. Which is terrific for me because he has been my favourite writer for most of my life, great for you because you get to read my lists on the subject, and wonderful for everyone because we are treated to some fun and frightening viewing experiences.
I’ll be writing two posts on King adaptations – this one is purely for movies, and the next one will be for TV shows and mini-series. Within minutes of me posting them, they will probably be out of date as another 10 adaptations will have been made. Here we go then – my favourite Stephen King movies – released on the big screen, straight to video, or through streaming services. I’m going with alphabetical order because I can’t be arsed ranking these. Get busy readin’, or get busy dyin’!
I was originally going to include thirteen movies here – with The Dead Zone and The Green Mile making up the numbers. I cut those two, which left me with Eleven. I decided to cut Carrie over Apt Pupil, because everyone picks Carrie. I love Carrie, as well as the other two I cut, but I feel like Apt Pupil deserves more recognition. The film should have been a hit at release, considering it was Bryan Singer’s follow-up to Who Is Keyser Soze The Movie, but it didn’t land. Now, when it should be getting re-evaluated, the accusations against Bryan Singer have ensured that most people are keeping at a distance from the film. It’s that rare King adaptation which doesn’t feature any supernatural activity. What it does have, is an interest in the heart of evil as young Brad Renfro becomes obsessed with the brutality of World War II and strikes up a relationship with an elderly man in his neighbourhood who he believes to be a Nazi. The short is one of King’s darkest, most riveting reads and the film feeds off this malevolent energy thanks to Singer’s sure hand and two superlative, committed performances from Ian McKellen and the late, great Brad Renfro. Like the best of Horror, it’s an uncomfortable watch.
I covered Creepshow recently in my TTT George Romero movies, so go check that out. Great movie, great anthology.
One of my favourite books, and with the 90s mini-series being a firm favourite, the hype for a big screen It was real. The movie went through a few incarnations before Muschetti came on and finished Chapter One. I’m including Chapters One and Two together as it really is two halves of the same story. Both films are similar enough that you could watch the whole thing in one numb-arsed sitting, even though most fans and critics seem to prefer the first chapter. I’m old enough to remember the same arguments going one when the mini-series first came out – that the kids section was better. In all honesty love them both and would happily have watched four more hours. Sure the de-aging effects are dicey, the CG is at times a let down, Mike is reduced to a quivering weirdo as an adult, and it does feel somewhat repetitive, but I found the charm and banter between the adults just as endearing as the kids. In essence, it’s a scary and efficient horror story featuring a near perfect villain which preys on kids and which adults can’t see. Skarsgard is a great Pennywise – the performances all around are excellent – but it gets the most important pieces of the source material correct – the tone and that sense of binding, unbreakable friendship.
The only King adaptation to win an Oscar – not overly strange if you consider his shlock, but very strange when you consider his ‘more literary’ pieces. When a talented director and cast takes a King text and treats it with reverence, it will strike gold. Misery is a prime example of this and it could so easily have become just another crazy white woman movie. With Rob Reiner on an incredible run, he takes two seasoned performers and allows the film to be almost entirely by their command. The game of wits becomes a game of cat and mouse until the tables are eventually flipped. Bates and Caan have rarely been better and Reiner doesn’t shy away from some good old fashioned, ankle-snapping violence. It has no business being as good as this.
Hands down King’s most devastating and horrifying work, thanks to personal experience it’s not one I would recommend reading while pregnant or with a young child. We all know ‘dead is better’ and we know the film does have a certain reliance on gore and grisly effects, but there are numerous chilling moments and an honestly unnerving performance from young Miko Hughes. What could be worse than losing a child? Pet Sematary delves deep into this question and poses several horrible answers.
Stand By Me
Reiner’s first effort is many fans’ personal favourite. Like It, it features that Band Of Outsiders vibe which is always appealing and a nostalgic quality which reminds us of our own youthful adventures, loves, fears, and mistakes, and how time has a way of glossing over the cracks yet leaving a bittersweet taste of regret. We get older, we change, and we sometimes forget, but once in a while something makes us remember a time we can’t quite return to. It’s so much more than the tale of four friends on a trek to see a dead body – while The Body is not exactly a Maguffin – it’s more about the journey, the relationships, and what the discovery of that body represents to each of them. It’s about growing up, losing innocence, remembering, and it all plays through the eyes of a great cast – Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss, Jerry O’Connell, Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, John Cusack.
Another ensemble, this time dealing with a more direct and present horror. The Mist is one horror, the creatures of varying sizes and types in the mist are another, and the opposing voices in the store they hold up in is another. Another successful film based on a short, the film follows primarily a father and son shopping after a storm when a sudden all encompassing Mist swarms over their town. The store is packed with workers and other townsfolk, and eventually the military, and once the monsters show up and begin attacking and killing, it seems to some that the end is nigh. And when push comes to shove, it turns out they’re right. It’s a great ensemble piece at times let down by the effects, but in terms of efficiently telling a story about society’s breakdown against a horrific backdrop, and an ending which has gone in film lore, it’s one of the best.
The Running Man
They’ve been trying to get a remake of The Running Man up and, ahem, running for decades now. I say remake, but in most cases it sounds like they want to make a film more akin to the source material. Because make no mistake, The Running Man is more of an Arnie movie than a Stephen King movie. Still, he wrote the original and however loose of an adaptation this is, it still is. You can call it silly or smart, it certainly ticks boxes in both categories, but in the end it’s one the better end of the scale of Arnie mowing down bad guys and quipping. There are some bizarre casting choices and some legit great performances – I only wish we could send a few celebs onto this show for real.
The Shawshank Redemption
What else needs to be said about The Shawshank Redemption? It’s already frequently named as one of the best films ever, and it’s one of those rare instances where almost everyone agrees that it’s great. It is.
You know it, I know it. Say what you like about the differences between book and movie – we all know King’s comments on Kubrick’s work over the years. I look at them as the separate things they are – both men are legends and both deserve to do whatever the hell they like when creating. It’s one of my favourite King books, it’s one of my favourite King movies, and both are classics in their respective mediums. I remember the first time I saw this, I was babysitting for some kids a few houses down the road. Free fridge, free house, the dark, and The Shining, and a creepy walk home around Midnight as I pondered over what I’d just seen and what might be creeping up behind me.
Let us know in the comments what your favourite Stephen King movies are, and stay tuned for my favourite Stephen King TV and Mini-Series adaptations!
Creepshow is a mainstay of Halloween viewing for me. It’s that combination of ghoulish fun and macabre humour which makes it endlessly rewatchable and a perfect gateway movie for younger fiends. Plus, the fact that it’s an anthology means you can step away to grab more snacks without pausing, or check that the lady you have tied up in the basement hasn’t escaped; you’ll need her for later.
Creepshow 2 is, obviously, the follow-up and features more grisly tales penned by Stephen King. George Romero steps down from the Director’s Chair and writes the screenplay instead, while his frequent cinematographer Michael Gornick directs. While certain elements remain – the use of effects, the authentic comic book style, the film is not near the same level as the first. The stories, the cast and performances, the humour, and the thrills all suffer, meaning Creepshow 2 is merely a watchable, not essential anthology.
The wraparound is one of the more notable aspects of Creepshow 2, acting like more of a standalone segment than what the first delivers. We follow a boy who eagerly awaits the next edition of the Creepshow comic. It is delivered by The Creep himself and the film switches neatly from live action to animation. This is fairly well done, although now the actual animation is looks dated and cheap. Also, The Creep’s head is clearly nothing more than a giant cock and balls. These animated sequences return between each main segment as we follow the boy’s quest to pick up his venus fly-trap and get home without being attacked by bullies. Added together, these pieces form a long enough segment, but I can’t shake the feeling that this was padding given that two further planned stories by King were removed from production and inclusion.
Out first story eases us in, with a languid, over-long intro to tell of a couple of old-timers living in a ruined shell of a town who are terrorized by local hoodlums. The old-timers are played by the film’s big-hitters – Dorothy Lamour (in her final film) and George Kennedy. They add a touch of class, but it’s a pity the story is a non-mover. The couple are friendly with the local Native Americans, but when the hoodlums cause havoc in their store, the Old Chief Woodenhead statue who adorns the store-front comes to live and hunts down the bad guys. There are some genuinely cool facial effects here, but the story takes too long to get moving.
Next up is the best segment, sadly let down by being shorter and more amateurish than it should have been. The Raft is a favourite among Constant Readers, but the adaptation is another case of ‘what works on page doesn’t work on screen’. It’s still the best segment in the movie, but with a longer running time and better cast it could have rivaled the best offerings from the first movie. Four college aged kids are heading to a secluded lake for a day of drink and debauchery – the major selling point being that there is a large floating raft in the middle of the lake. The only way to get there is to swim, so they strip off, leave their clothes and food behind, and swim over. As they reach the raft, they notice something else floating in the water and it soon becomes clear that the thing is attracted to them. Not long after, one of the group is gruesomely pulled into the water and devoured by the foreign lifeform. The rest of the segment is mostly screaming and not a lot of thinking as the survivors are picked off. The segment lacks the thought and tension of the original story, and it’s one which deserves a modern retelling. Although imagining four modern day kids leaving their phones on the shore takes too much suspension of belief.
The final story almost works – having Lois Chiles talk to herself would be all fine and well if the dialogue was interesting, and ,the idea of an undead hitch-hiker is nifty. The set up is too long and a more ambiguous character would have lent some depth rather than the ‘here’s a self-interested lady who’s having an affair so she’s clearly evil – I hope she gets some ironic comeuppance’. Again, a little more thought, and this could have been a stronger segment. I get the feeling that this one would creep out younger viewers – the thought and the sight of the hitch-hiker, his body getting progressively more battered and deformed, relentlessly chasing Lois is something appealing – both funny and nightmarish, but it feels a little flat. We do get another classic Stephen King cameo as a mumbling trucker which is almost worth the price of admission alone.
I’m not sure what is missing from Creepshow 2 beyond more care and experience behind the scenes. The first and last segment are overlong and the middle is too short – another story could have balanced things, Lord knows there are still plenty of unfilmed King shorts. It’s middling tier Horror Anthology fare, and if it wasn’t for the title and the fact that King and Romero were involved, it’s likely this would have been swept under the rug long ago. There are good ideas here, and potential for a stronger installment, but as it stands it’s really only one for die-hard anthologists, King, and Romero fans. One final personal note – I always loved the poster for Creepshow 2; it was one which stayed with me for the years between seeing the poster and seeing the film.
Rape is arguably the most difficult subject to tackle on screen, never mind in literature. The horrific act is something which has long been used in stories – particularly in the visual medium – as a turning point in the narrative; the character survives and generally seeks vengeance or justice. There is a whole history, mainly in horror, of the rape revenge stories with increasingly, depressingly violent or graphic, or inexplicably titillating scenes of sexual violence which lead to further acts of violence against the perpetrator(s). Stephen King tackles the issue knowingly in his novella of the same name, from a collection which largely deals with issues relating to women or relationships. The written story is done with a level of tact and a lack of detail of the event, instead spending most of its length on the lead character, depicted before and after the event as a strong, singular women who just happens to be led into the wrong place at the wrong time. Indeed, King even acknowledges the cinematic tropes as the lead character refuses to be a victim and seeks out some of the aforementioned movies as part of her recovery, planning, and justice. The film, while it doesn’t linger on the event, shows enough to possibly put off a large section of the intended audience.
Big Driver stars Mario Bello (who is excellent in the role) as Tess – a successful crime writer who lives with her cat and the voices in her head – a device King often employs. She is invited to speak at library fan meeting and is advised to take a short cut, idyllic drive home off the beaten track by the event organiser. If you’ve seen any film in this vein before, you’ll have already connected the dots – one flat tyre and ‘helpful’ trucker later and Tess has been raped and left for dead in a sewage pipe, along with the rotting corpses of past victims. She survives, heads home, and begins connecting her own dots as she seeks vengeance.
If you’ve watched any rape revenge movie before, then you know what you’re going to get here. Thankfully this one didn’t feel like exploitation, at least to me, and the worthy cast give full-blooded performances. It’s a Lifetime TV movie so you have any idea how extreme the content will be. The direction is sound, nothing eye-catching or out of the ordinary here and the story, while attempting to offer some moderate twists in the narrative and contemplation on guilt doesn’t really offer anything new. This will be mainly for King fans, or any fans of the cast – as it stands it’s a worthwhile watch for those groups, but it’s not one you’re likely to remember or watch again.
Greetings, Glancers! I’ve decided to split my final post into two; they will be shorter than the previous posts, but together would be too long and boring to wade through. Full disclosure – I haven’t read Mr Mercedes, Revival, or Finders Keepers yet. I think they are related to one another, but I’m not sure how they connect with the wider Multiverse, Dark Tower or otherwise. You guys are the experts, so take the ball and run – let me know how those works should fit in to the cinematic and televisual landscape.
Best Suited As A: Movie
So many of King’s books would work well as a two part TV movie than a standalone movie for the big screen and Rose Madder is no different. One of the few novels yet to be adapted, it would be a hard sell – a woman, victim of years of domestic abuse, decides to flee from her husband and start a new life. There she learns to trust and love again, thanks in part to a painting which acts as a portal to another world. I think the material works both ways – as a single movie or drawn out into two pieces for a longer whole – two big screen movies wouldn’t work, and there isn’t enough for a whole series. Still, get a stellar actress and strong supporting cast, make the other world believable and the treat and violence palpable, and you’ll have a good movie.
Major Connections/Tie Ins: Desperation, The Regulators. DT Series
I always got the impression that there King originally intended there to be more to the character and world of Rose Madder (and Rose Daniels) but abandoned the idea. Do some of these things link to Lisey’s Story? Probably just a coincidence. The world Rose travels to… for the purpose of the multiverse you could change from the story to make it clearly a part of Roland’s world and have your connections that way. The main genuine connection is through the minor character of Cynthia Smith – one of the women Rose meets along her way. She becomes a central character in both Desperation and The Regulators so make sure it’s the same actress and we’re all good.
Best Suited As A: Movie
We’ve already seen one adaptation of this. What I think would be cool would be having this told side by side in four or six parts, split evenly. One week or night you show one piece from Desperation, the following week or night you show one piece from The Regulators. That may confuse people though. I was tempted to say why not bung it all together as a whole, thought split over different parts, and call it something new, something which references both stories. That would be more confusing, but would allow for some cool creative storytelling and presentation.
Major Connections/Tie Ins – DT series. Hearts In Atlantis.
The stories are completely different, even though they feature a similar cast of characters with the same names. Desperation is a little like Children Of The Corn in that it features a desert and deserted town, home to a malevolent force. The Regulators is the twinner novel, written by Richard Bachman, but also features the creature known as Tak, this time trying to take over a typical suburban street by forcing its way into the hearts and minds of the residents. Tak isn’t actually mentioned anywhere else, but the language he uses pops up elsewhere and his Can Toi are also known as Low Men. Can Tah are mentioned in Desperation too, which will become important later.
Wolves Of The Calla
Best Suited As: A Movie
Lets get back to Roland and chums. We’ve expanded the multi-verse far enough now that we know worlds cross over and collide unexpectedly. This is the beginning of the end as far as The Dark Tower is concerned, but it can be seen as a fast paced action movie with plenty of twists and treachery. The plot will depend heavily on decisions made earlier – those in The Dark Tower series, and in Salem’s Lot. The main action takes place in Calla Bryn Sturgis as our Ka-tet have to protect the town and its children from the Wolves – creatures who comes every few years to abduct and kill – as the names and plot suggest, it’s basically The Magnificent Seven. Elsewhere we have Father Callahan’s re-appearance, trips to New York to see Calvin Tower and protect the rose, and Susannah being taken over by Mia. The Susannah stuff, personally I would downplay most of it as I don’t feel it is overly important or ‘works’, but then again the next book is Song Of Susannah, so something has to be done. We know Mia gives birth to Mordred and Mordred kills Flagg, but couldn’t you skip all of that and have Roland kill Flagg? Hell, you could just say Black Thirteen corrupted her and be done with it.
Major Crossovers and Tie Ins: Salem’s Lot. DT Series. Black House. Hearts In Atlantis.
Obviously Salem’s Lot with Father Callahan now joining the team, again how much of the story he tells in the book that should be show here depends on how much was shown in the Salem’s Lot adaptation. We start to truly learn about Breakers and their purpose – this is why The Wolves are taking the kids, to force them to Break the barriers which hold up The Tower. This is something explored further in Black House and Hearts In Atlantis with several characters crossing over or being mentioned.
Best Suited As : A Movie
One of the few King novels which has been around for a long time which has never been adapted, though I believe something official is in the pipeline. The main argument against this is that most of the book takes place in the head of Jessie as she lies handcuffed to a bed in a remote cabin. Well, there’s always ways around such things, showing the things she thinks of, her fantasies, and memories.
Major Crossovers and Tie-Ins: Dolores Claiborne.
Dolores Claiborne is the obvious connection as both books were meant to form part of a larger work which never transpired, and both feature a lead female protagonist/narrator. Again we can be liberal with connections here and have her mention a childhood where she may have lived near other characters, seen a scary clown, been chased by strangely dressed men in outlandish cars etc, or throw in the odd vision of The Tower.
Best Suited As: A Movie
The already released movie is one of the worst King adaptations. That ending, man… ‘Jonesyyyyy’…. terrible. Still, there’s a decent, shlocky movie in there somewhere while also focusing on the friendship of the main characters and the government/military stuff. I don’t think there’s enough material here to stretch it into a two or three part mini series, but possibly you could get a three-four hour tv movie in two parts out of it, spending more time with the childhood sections.
Major Crossovers and Tie-Ins: IT. The Dark Tower.
The main characters are from Derry and in one section we find ‘Pennywise Lives’ spray-painted on a water tower, while certain names and the number 19 all play a recurring part. I would see this as an opportunity to take things a little further – firstly, why not have the government/military showing up as being none other than The Shop, potentially with same actors from previous movies showing up. Secondly, Duddits somehow learns how to enhance or share telepathic powers – maybe he learned this from a kindly old man named Ted Brautigan. I mean, if we’re going to take liberties, lets at least make them worthwhile.
Best Suited As: A Movie
Like I said for The Talisman, I would like to see this as a mini-series, but I don’t know if there would be enough interest. Basically we should follow suit – if The Talisman was a movie, this is a movie; if it was a mini-series, this is a mini-series.
Major Crossovers and Tie-Ins: The Talisman. The Dark Tower
While much of The Talisman took place in The Territories, Black House keeps its main narrative rooted in our world. Jack Sawyer is now grown up and has repressed his early adventures, though his uncanny abilities have made him something of a super cop. As a Detective he is brought in to investigate a series of gruesome murders involving children and soon finds himself recalling his lost memories and discovering the murders are linked to the Crimson King’s search for Breakers. We have already introduced this idea into the multiverse, but for anyone new it should make sense quickly. Several key players and terms from The DT crop up and we can further connect things by having upcoming settings and characters such as The Devar-Toi and Pimli Prentiss.
One part left to go, I think. As always, please share your thoughts on how you would bring together a Marvel style Stephen King universe and which connections and stories you would like to see done right on the big or small screen!
We’re back it again. Last time I rambled on through various Stephen King works only to realize that a single post was naive. Here we are with part 2!
We’ve already seen two versions of this – David Soul and Rob Lowe – but given how deeply it ties in to The Dark Tower as well as some other works it’s only right that we return to it.
Best Suited As A: Mini Series
It’s another book that you could cover in a single movie, but again you’d lose much of the richness, texture, and character – it’s not easy to get to know an entire town of people and then wipe them out in the space of a hundred minutes. If we wish to expand upon the character of Father Callahan, and we do, then this needs to go further.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: DT Series. Night Shift.
Following Father Callahan’s rise and fall and years int he wilderness can be divided between a Salem’s Lot series and the later DT movies. I never found those parts overly interesting in the books as they took me out of the action and Roland’s journey, but they make for stronger ties to important characters. It’s not an easy one to work out though – in the books Callahan’s adventures continue long after the events of Salem’s Lot – who would want to watch that when Ben and Mark have already slaughtered the vampires and left? Do you create some sort of after story where Ben and Mark are slaying in another part of the country and stumble upon Callahan? Or, do you take some liberties with the overall story and have the events which occur afterwards in the book actually occur before in the series? Like this: Father Callahan is a recently disgraced priest who lost his faith and path… bla bla… seeking both solitude and a reason to keep going he relocates to the sleep town of Jerusalem’s Lot. After a few slow months/years of integrating into the community, a writer called Ben Mears arrives just as a number of mysterious deaths swoop through the town.
I think that honestly works better than some tacked on coda. You can have Callahan bare his soul to Mears and co and show that he still has some way to go on his journey of redemption, which then leads him to In World and Roland. Then in Wolves Of The Calla you can fill in the blanks without spending too much time on them – we would know already that Callahan has done wrong and has been actively pursuing the good fight. This would doubly make his character in Salem’s Lot more interesting – whether or not his faith holds or not in the face of Barlow and Straker remains to be seen. Or of course, just stick to the books – the book does end with Ben and Mark returning to the town, so I guess at that point they could find Callahan and see what he has been up to but again you would need something more exciting to end the series on – more vampire slaughter perhaps, everyone loves that.
That leaves us with the two wrap around stories from Night Shift – one which takes place around 100 years prior to the events of Salem’s Lot and one which takes place a couple of years afterwards. For the first one you could film it as a short few minutes prologue and then reference its events later in the main series as Ben investigates the history of the town. For the second, it could form part of the final stages – a family travelling through, towards Derry or Castle Rock naturally, being besieged by bloodthirsty creatures only for Ben and Mark to show up and kick ass.
Another opportunity to bring in the non-horror audience, this tale has the hallmarks of being another cult hit like Stand By Me.
Best Suited As A: Movie
It’s another big book and should probably be a mini series of split into two movies, but I don’t see it getting a lot of interest outside the King hardcore, so condense into a single rip-roaring adventure and you’re all set.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: Black House/DT Series
The book has a sequel – Black House – where Jack is now all grown up. No chance of using the same actor though for that role, but there’s still potential for some characters appearing in both… The DT references only come into their own for the sequel in the books, but you can easily throw in some connections in the Talisman movie, foreshadowing and otherwise.
There’s really only one way to follow up a heroic tale of childhood adventure, and that’s with the death of a child and the destruction of a family. King’s most horrific story had a pretty good movie outing already, followed by a less pretty good sequel. If you’ve been reading these posts you’ve probably already shouted, like a loon, ‘we don’t need any more remakes’! No-one can hear you, jackass. But you’re right, we don’t really need any more remakes, especially for things like this and The Shining and many others which were done perfectly well first time around. However, this is all just fantasy so you can decide for yourself which books to adapt and slot together. Can I proceed? Good.
Best Suited As: A Movie
While the origin has its fair share of shlock, as you might imagine, theoretically you could remove much of that and have even greater impact. Don’t bill this as some gore-fest about zombie kids and cats, bill it as a horror film about grief and guilt and loss, and show the true human outcomes which such events and torments inspire.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: Misc.
There aren’t too many overt crossovers here, aside from being set near Derry. It should be simple to add in some lines about missing kids in the big city, but it being much safer out in the stick, hardy har. Alternatively, set it near Castle Rock and tie things in, or keep it further separate and tie it to the places and events of The Talisman or The Shining or The Tommyknockers or whatever. One other crossover which only comes later is with Insomnia – one of the bald doctors who works for The Crimson King is said to keep Gage’s shoe. Probably better to reference that once we get to Insomnia.
The Waste Lands
As you will know, I already said we should release Wizard And Glass first. In that series we learned all about Roland’s past and much more about his world and mission. We can reference that here through some quick snippets cut from the Wizard And Glass series, and an impassioned yet stoic speech from Roland. But the majority of The Waste Lands movie should involve bringing Jake over from his New York and restoring his and Roland’s sanity, Susannah and The Speaking Demon, finding Oy, passing through River Crossing, on to Lud, and finally to Blaine (the pain). The frantic riddle contest seems like a thrilling enough way to end things.
Best Suited As: A Movie
There’s plenty to pack in here, but it can be fairly action packed with the Lud and Shardik set pieces prime for big screen thrills.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: DT series.
No need for a lot of crossover here – potentially the New York scenes could contain something – when Jake buys Charlie The Choo Choo from Calvin Tower’s shop there could be a store on the opposite side of the street called Needful Things which makes him uneasy. Too on the nose?
The Drew Barrymore Firestarter isn’t great – it’s just Carrie with a younger girl and less interesting all around. That’s a shame though because at its core we have a decent story about exploitation and shady government types, and parenthood. It’s also a good time to introduce ‘The Shop’, a group underused in King’s works but who apparently have their fingers in a lot of pies.
Best Suited As: A Movie
There’s no reason why this couldn’t be a successful enough standalone movie – it doesn’t need a huge budget and you could always make the star a teen to give it that sort of audience/direction. A short, sharp tale of rebellion and evil dealings and the power of one girl could be just what the doctor ordered.
Major Crossovers: Tommyknockers. The Mist. The Stand. Potential Dark Tower.
As suggested in Stranger Things – messing with portals to other places rarely leads to pleasant results. It’s one of the aforementioned pies that ‘The Shop’ has been fingering. They are really only mentioned in passing in other stories, but why not make them an altogether more widespread and villainous corporation? Why not make them a wing of the Sombra Corporation? In the movie we could get a quick Passover of the experiments they have planned, conducted, and are planning – from work with deadly viruses, to attempting to make contact with alien civilizations, to their work with opening doors to other worlds than these. Their headquarters should be glossy and 21st Century bland, but offer the odd unsettling Crimson sigul or well placed 19. And should it be suggested that Charlie is a breaker, or the shining, or is somehow tied to Jake Chambers, Jack Sawyer, or Danny Torrence? Maybe we should see files or a quick flash on a screen of some of these kids as proof The Shop is looking for them? Maybe it should end with Charlie actively looking for them? There’s potential for tie in here more than what is actually there in the novel, and I think that should be exploited.
The Dark Half
A bit of a meta novel which received and okay treatment thanks to George Romero. A complex one to make successfully, why not treat it as straight as possible as a noir detective novel with supernatural elements. You have sympathetic characters, familiar faces from Castle Rock, and a terrific bad guy who just wants to live – it could be a slasher movie with that thing most slasher movies lack – an interesting, fully realized villain.
Best Suited As: A Movie
Most people will have forgotten the original by this point, and why not even many hardened fans would ask for a new version, if you make it good they will come. Who wouldn’t want to see a young family being terrorized by a cunning supernatural monster who is seemingly framing them for his unspeakable crimes?
Major Crossovers/Tie Ins: The Dead Zone. Cujo. Needful Things.
No major crossovers with The Dark Tower here, but plenty with the Castle Rock world as we catch up with Alan Pangborn and a few of the other cops and citizens of that part of the world. Depending how far you wish to take the Castle Rock side of things, there can be a lot of set up here for Needful Things – why not see Pangborn’s family as they currently are, making the events of that other work all the more potent.
It’s that rarity – a Stephen King book about aliens. I mean, it’s Salem’s Lot all over again with a small town being taken over by an evil exterior force, but you can make it about obsession, about bad men in suits, about anything you want really.
Best Suited As: A Movie
You could have another mini-series sure, but I don’t think there is enough here that we won’t have seen already, not without adding in a lot of unnecessary soap opera elements. Instead, make it an action packed siege/paranoia movie and give The Shop more overt involvement – agency staff arriving in the town and apparently ‘allowing’ things to take a certain course naturally. If they can make fifteen of those Furious movies about stealing cars, they can make a decent 100 minute movie out of this.
Major Crossovers/Tie Ins: The Mist. Firestarter. Potential Dark Tower. From A Buick 8.
Now that we established The Shop as having some dodgy dealings with super-powered kids, we can explicitly show how interested they are in ships from other worlds. We could even hint that it is in fact, their own ship, designed from parts scavenged and discovered by folks who have been travelling to other worlds than these. Another nifty one could be referring Low Men somehow, or at least their modes of transport – cars mentioned in a variety of King books and shorts which somehow have the power to suck you away completely. Lets say they harnessed such a power and created an aircraft – an aircraft which could appear and disappear at any point in space and time, and which could transport any manner of weapon or disease. If they didn’t create it, it’s something they would be very interested in getting for themselves. We wouldn’t need a whole From A Buick 8 movie then, and it would set up the outlandish cars for when we get to Hearts In Atlantis.
Lets head back to Castle Rock again. There’s a new shop in town, perhaps one which recently moved from New York, and one which claims to have exactly what you need. Whatever could anyone need in Small Town America? You’d be surprised.
Best Suited As: A Movie
Another case of the original movie being a mild diversion rather than something truly good, this has potential to work as a minor hit. It’s not going to break box office records, but it doesn’t need a huge budget either. Remember, many of these movies could work just as well as Netflix original type things rather than getting a theatrical release. It’s a big book, but again you can break it down to its most essential parts – grieving cop, mischievous bad guy who manipulates locals, carnage ensues.
Major Crossovers/Tie Ins: The Dead Zone. Cujo. The Dark Half.
Aside from the obvious Castle Rock stuff, which should have sucked the fans in by this point, is there any way we can squeeze The Dark Tower in? Should Gaunt have some connection to Sombra? Could it be made to look as if Gaunt is actually Flagg? We could have him played by a different actor, but in a short scene he could show his true face. That’s probably unnecessary and overkill, and moving too far away from the stories. Gaunt is a Flagg type character though – we know he moves from town to town doing te same thing over and over again – maybe it could end on him moving to a town yet to be featured in our movies? I’m sure more enterprising folks than me can come up with something.
I think that’s more than enough for now. If your eyes and brains can withstand further pain, follow my blog and I’ll eventually get round to a Part Three and as always, leave your comments below!
*As most of you know, the trailer dropped for The Dark Tower yesterday and it’s… good? I think? Anyway, this seems like the perfect time to publish this post and get dem clicks, boy!
Greetings, Glancers! As most of the people who visit and comments on my humble page are movie fans and avid readers, I’m willing to bet a fair few of you are Constant Readers – Stephen King fans. Therefore I’m sure many of you will be aware of the many King works heading to screens big and small in the coming months and years. In my ‘last Dark Tower’ post a couple of years ago we knew that the series was finally being made but had no clue who was going to be involved. At the time of writing (started on 30th March 2017) we know that Idris Elba and Matthew McConnaghy will be fighting for Mid-World and more before the year is out. Viral sites have already been set up, the first official poster has been revealed, a pre-effects trailer has been leaked, and a lucky few have seen some final footage (including Uncle Stevie himself). Beyond that, the trailer for the new It movie has just dropped and a couple of months back King and JJ Abrams also gave us a teaser for a new TV show called Castle Rock which seems to focus on the many famous characters and stories which King has created over his life (something I predicted in my previous post). Neither of these works seem to tie in to The Dark Tower movie, but we might get lucky and get a few connections.
All this got me thinking about something I touched on in my last post – the wish for King’s major works (not just DT related) to be released in a similar way to how Marvel was doing things – with at least one major movie and TV show coming out each year until we were all sick of it. These are the things I dwell on when I can’t sleep and if I don’t write them I won’t sleep again, so I’m expanding on that premise for this post. Here is a suggested timeline for most of King’s books and how they should have tied together Marvel style – as always, there will be SPOILERS so tread carefully, especially for those who have not yet completed The Dark Tower series. Please note that I’m not going to cover everything here – that would take an age and this is already destined to be a long, rambling post. Almost every story King has written connects to others in some way so a few standalone TV series a la Castle Rock, Haven, Nightmares & Dreamscapes could fill in those blanks – hitting a variety of short stories while also connecting to the wider world of Derry, Castle Rock, Jerusalem’s Lot, and along the beam. Use your imagination.
We may as well start at the beginning (end?) of the Tower journey. The movie would obviously serve as an introduction to Roland’s quest as well as touching upon the critical ideas of the multiverse. The only problem I see here is that maybe you would want to start the whole franchise with a more well known story – The Stand, The Shining, or Salem’s Lot. Meh, put enough effort into the advertising and you’d be fine.
Best Suited As A: Movie
It isn’t a huge book and most of the major themes and plot elements could easily be covered in a two hour movie.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: The Dark Tower series, everything.
The Gunslinger obviously ties in with the rest of the Tower series but I don’t think this book specifically has characters or scenarios which link to books outside The Dark Tower. The most problematic piece of the puzzle is the aging of Jake Chambers – these movies are going to be years apart, yet Jake should only age a few months/couple of years over the course of the whole saga.
Sure we’ve already had two version of it already but at least now we can make it part of the expanded universe and set up for the Doctor Sleep sequel. The story is strong enough and has enough history to pull in the crowds. The only problem is that Kubrick’s movie is so damn iconic that any updated version would be compared, probably in an ill light.
Best Suited As A: Movie
Take the Kubrick style and visuals, yet follow the book’s plot more closely like the mini-series, but make it scary! And make it about a boy, a father, and a mother – not just about jack going crazy.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: Doctor Sleep, IT
The Shining has a sequel, Doctor Sleep, which is set around 30 years after. Naturally this causes a problem with casting for any ‘surviving’ characters who appear in both works. For Danny you would clearly need a new actor, but Dick Hallorann, Wendy, and Jack could all appear in the sequel with the same actor in each role. Hallorann is referenced in IT so why not have him cameo there. In the same vein, Hallorann could easily reference the events of IT in The Shining depends on how the time setting works. According to the books, Hallorann saved the life of Mike Hanlon’s dad meaning Mike would be born later and help bring down Pennywise. The childhood section of It could be set either before or after the events of The Shining with Dick referencing one while appearing in the other – a throwaway line about adults not being able to see monsters or little kids being able to see things which grownups cannot would go a long way for all us geeks.
We may as will move to this one now. The teaser trailer looks promising, so I’ll be in the Cinema checking that out in a few months.
Best Suited As A: Mini-Series
IT is huge. Sure they could strip away a lot of the frills and get down to the central story of ‘bad creature kills kids every thirty years in small town – only kids can see It and decide to fight back’ but that would be missing out on a lot of the lore, and the world King created. This would be an opportunity to begin tying together the various other worlds and stories. An eight hour mini series would be best, hell, even run that out to ten. Ten single hour episodes or four two hour shots would do nicely.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: The Dark Tower. 11/22/63. The Shining. Dreamcatcher. The Tommyknockers. Insomnia.
IT. Pennywise. A creature millions of years old which can seemingly travel between universes, IT is referenced in many other King books – more confusingly, creatures which share a lot of IT’s powers and trademarks show up elsewhere. The Dark Tower references could be confusing at this point so it would be better splitting the mini-series into two distinct parts – wait for the DT series to catch up a little before the second part of IT is released. Then all the allusions to Maturin and Turtles can be shown, subtly, and would make sense. For crossovers and cameos, the timing could be problematic given that King sets certain stories in a specific time – It features Derry in the 50s and 80s. That’s not a problem in itself as it would be easy to move each period forward a few decades to bring the story up to date for modern audiences. If you move it up to date though, you lose potential crossovers – in 11/22/63 for example Jake goes back to 1958 and meets Bev and Ritchie who discuss ‘The Clown’. We can’t really have Jake going to a different point in time. Having said that, we don’t always have to follow King so closely and the filmmakers can through in their own cameos and crossovers which don’t occur in the books. Between the release of the Childhood part of IT and the Adult part, drop some references in the other movies and shows which suggest Pennywise returning – news reports of missing kids in Derry, good old graffiti etc.
The Dead Zone
A good time to introduce Castle Rock to viewers, and a story which is ripe for retelling given the current political and social climate we find ourselves in. I haven’t watched a single episode of the TV series, but I do like the Cronenberg movie.
Best Suited As A: Movie
I’ve never felt that The Dead Zone was a good fit for the big screen, but with the right director this could be a potent and intelligent thriller, if not a commercial hit.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: Cujo. Needful Things. The Body. The Dark Half.
This is where things get difficult. People have always stated that King’s novels, especially the more horrific ones, don’t translate well to screen. That’s why I think the idea of the Castle Rock TV show(or something similar) is excellent – you can dip in and dip out of each story as the characters and events crossover. It’s difficult to see any of the above tie-ins to The Dead Zone working as standalone movies in today’s market, but even more so in imagining them as individual series. So I’ll leave it up to you – create a new show which links many of the novels and shorts related to Castle Rock together, or go for the movie option. Either way, if The Dead Zone is a movie, then we still have obvious crossovers – Sheriff Bannerman is a key player in TDZ and would still be Sheriff by the time Cujo emerged from the rabbit hole. Depending on when you set The Body (Stand By Me) Bannerman could be there as a younger actor, with the same actor in current time, or even replaced by Alan Pangborn. By the time later Castle Rock stories roll around, the references to TDZ would be minor, though certain foreshadowing of the later works could be added in TDZ – Pangborn as a younger cop, the town in need of a trinket’s shop, reports of rabid dogs, a local writer by the name of Thad Beaumont becoming successful etc.
The Drawing Of The Three
We never want to stray too far from the DT series so you want to make sure the release of each entry is not more than two years apart. Here the journey truly gets underway as we meet Detta and Eddie and learn about travelling between worlds.
Best Suited As A: Movie
Another epic, this one almost needs to be divided into two parts – how much can you really cover in a two hour movie while also getting to know the new characters? You could push it to three like LOTR but you’d need to confident in getting bums into cinema seats. Lets assume it’s going to be a major success and push for a longer run time – sorted.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: DT series, The Eyes Of The Dragon
Now that we have a few other films and shows under our belt, it’s time to really play with the multiverse. New York is important in the DT canon and in The Drawing of The Three we find out how doors between worlds work. In addition to New York, why not have a door to Derry – even one which takes us to the past so that Roland can briefly encounter some of our other characters/places? This might be too convoluted though – it might be easier for Eddie or Susannah/Odetta/Detta allude to events in movies we have already seen or some yet to be released. The main crossover is with The Eyes of The Dragon as Roland refers to Dennis, Thomas, and Flagg. There should probably be a scene – possibly post credits – which shows our good friend Flagg going through a door leading to a world investigating the first outbreaks of a superflu.
The Eyes Of The Dragon
A story which occurs in roughly the same place and time as the main DT series, this one was aimed at a younger audience but with the movie it could bridge the gap between adults and younger viewers being introduced to the whole King multiverse.
Best Suited As A: Movie
I don’t see enough interest in this to work as a TV series or even mini-series. If you go mini-series it would have to be only 2-3 parts and kept cheap. Go for the movie and you can expand upon the character of Flagg, the setting of In-World, and even give a more concrete ending.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: DT series
That concrete ending could of course link up to the events of Roland’s youth, with Flagg being defeated and angry and fleeing to Gilead for his next adventure – how about a scene with him seeing a baby Roland, or taking on the name Marten Broadcloak, or meeting with The Crimson King and discussing future plans?
This is as good a time as any to unleash the biggie. King’s biggest novel, we get to watch the destruction of the world in the ultimate battle between Good and Evil.
Best Suited As A: Mini Series
Like the Mick Garris version – one of my favourite movies/shows ever, this needs to be told over a period of several hours. There are so many characters and the scope is so huge that a single movie just doesn’t work.
Major Crossovers/Cameos: DT Series, Night Surf.
We learn more about Flagg here, but we need to be careful to focus on this being a standalone story. The actor playing Flagg is the same, but in each world he appears in he needs to adapt to the times, the customs, and fashions so his appearance in the ‘real world’ should be different from how he looks elsewhere – King sees him as a modern Texas cowboy, almost as if he is mocking Roland’s more antiquated look. Aside from Flagg, I would keep references to The Dark Tower to a minimum – the destruction of Earth is really just a little fun bit on the side for Flagg. There is of course evidence in the books that Flagg doesn’t always ‘remember’ the things he has done and places he has visited, suggesting that moving between worlds can be detrimental to one’s sanity. Then again, Flagg is ancient so it is same to assume he has been the architect of the downfall of many civilizations and people never mentioned in any King story. Another aspect to be careful about is cementing the understanding that the world of The Stand is not the same as the world of It or other works. How this is done could prove difficult – a simple solution of course may be Flagg enquiring about Derry or Castle Rock only to be told by a confused cohort that no such town exists in Maine. Maybe he’s friends with Leland Gault and finds out that he doesn’t exist on this level of The Tower and could remark as such with a throwaway line.
We should have some connection though – the obvious one being Night Surf. There are a lot of side stories in The Stand – characters who lived and died – no great loss. Night Surf is a standalone short set in the same world and time of The Stand and is interesting enough to include as part of the mini-series. We could change things up so that one of our characters from The Stand was present during the events of Night Surf before making it to Vegas or Hemingford Home. Actually, Hemingford Home crops (ha) up in Children of The Corn and ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’ is basically Flagg so we could have a potential crossover there… yeah, that’s a fantastic idea, lets go with that. So, either we have a Children of The Corn movie and brings some actors over from it to The Stand or vice versa, or we skip that movie and have some creepy kids joining Flagg in Vegas with them calling him ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’ or Flagg discussing how they took over a small town after the disease landed and killed any adults who passed through.
Wizard And Glass/DT Series
The book which fills in a lot of blanks in Roland’s past. And what is this – I’m releasing it before I’m releasing The Waste Lands? Madness!
Best Suited As A: TV Series
We have another choice – either allow this to be another movie – in which case it should come after The Waste Lands – or as a dedicated mini series which goes beyond the events told in the novel. The series should focus on Roland as an infant with Flagg, Farson, more history on Gunslingers, and take us through his childhood – events mentioned in The Gunslinger, events mentioned in the comics, through his relationship with Susan and the story of Wizard And Glass, as well as killing his own mother and on to Jericho Hill (where of course he lifts the Horn Of Eld). You know what – lets go all the way and throw in The Wind Through The Keyhole too. Given the amount of material to work with, I feel like this deserves to be a dedicated series, not a mere mini series. A full season of 12, or 16, or 22 episodes. Hell break it up into two seasons if you must. The series shows us how Roland came to be the man he is, what set him on his journey, we meet Cuthbert and his original Ka-tet, and we can finish on him as an adult setting out on the beam. And yes, we should also include The Little Sisters Of Eluria. That of course sets us up nicely with the introduction of vampires… For the sake of chronology, what the series should not show is the wraparound story of the actual novel – the conclusion of the Blaine story and the meeting of Flagg in The Emerald City – let’s save those for elsewhere.
Right, any more in a single post and I would be taking the piss. I think this is going to need a Part 2. Stick around for that and leave your thoughts and imaginings for a King Multiverse in the comments!
As any student of any art form knows and fears, the moment you begin to study a particular text, film, or other piece of art is the moment it falls apart and becomes a gaping corpse of functional, practical parts ready to be dissected and reassembled in any Frankenstein manner you wish. Movie fans love to discuss movies, to look for tiny specs on re-watches that you or others may have missed, while critics prefer to cut the thing apart to find any minor details which they can ascribe to their own agenda. Somewhere between or beyond these groups is another breed which goes further, seeking to fuel their own fan-fiction, conspiracy theories, or venomous, stalker-lite love. Room237 is a basement dweller’s blood-written love-letter to Kubrick, an interesting, ridiculous, and beyond believable account of people who have slipped out of fandom and into hysteria. Like any good conspiracy, it’s well worth listening to so that you can either point and laugh, nod and walk away, or think to yourself that maybe these guys have a point after all….
Room 237 specifically examines Kubrick’s The Shining, but also takes reference points from Kubrick’s life and other movies. Movie fans and critics alike will enjoy hearing pieces of information on the director and his movies that they may not have heard before, as well as marveling at the tenuous connections that our wonderfully, creatively flawed minds can make. We hear from general fans and academics, we hear theories which rank from the distantly plausible to the completely ludicrous. It’s easy to make such reaches when Kubrick was such a clever, divisive character with openly dense films. Your appreciation of this documentary will likely depend on how much of a Kubrick fan you are, and how much you enjoy taking an issue to its least logical endpoint or listening to others do the same. Personally I do enjoy this sort of thing but eventually it does become tiresome – Room 237 repeats the same footage, and has the same bland voices rambling on, so your patience may be tested long before the credits are rolling.
I was planning to go into more detail and maybe add another paragraph, but I think it’s best for those interested to go into this with an open mind – it isn’t essential for Kubrick or King fans, but it is made by and features people with a love both dedicated and a little disturbing for the works discussed. Let us know in the comments what you thought of Room 237 and what your favourite movie related conspiracy theories are.
Just a note that this post may contain minor spoilers for anyone has not yet read or completed the Dark Tower series. I won’t be going into in-depth detail on characters or plots, but some of my points will veer into minor spoiler territory.
If you’re a movie fan or a Stephen King fan, then I’m sure you’ll have heard the recent news that Sony and MRC have acquired the rights to Kings epic fantasy Western series. Most of us who have been following King for a while will no doubt be aware of the many similar pieces of news which have been published over the years. Only last year it seemed like it was finally going to happen, with Ron Howard putting himself forward as Director, Akiva Goldsmith writing a draft script, and they put together a plan almost as ambitious as the series itself – multiple movies and an accompanying TV series to ensure the screen adaptation remained as faithful as possible to what Sai King put on paper. For most fans it seemed like a dream come true, with daily discussions on hopes and fears being posted on forums and blogs, and over time various A-list actors began being attached to the series. But it all fell apart.
It’s hardly surprising. Aside from the sheer scope of the series, and the budgets that would be involved, there are many factors involved in creating this project. Sure, some lazy company could make a couple of movies loosely based on a gunslinger chasing a man in black through a desert, and through various worlds in search of The Dark Tower, but what would be the point? Every fan has a will they/won’t they/can they/should they relationship with the series. King fans are a ravenous, faithful bunch, and even such heralded adaptations as The Stand, The Shawshank Redemption, and Stand By Me have their detractors. For some The Dark Tower is the Holy Grail, and many fans are waiting for an adaptation to fall foul of dubious script decisions, removals and/or additions of plot points. When considering ‘will they’ or ‘won’t they’, to me it seems like the answer is an inevitable yes.
Almost everything King has written has made it to screen in some shape or form, with The Dark Tower being the ever more conspicuous gap. Even though King’s films are not always profitable, even though they are rarely both critically and commercially well received, it has never stopped people making and releasing them. Hollywood is so out of ideas that it will turn to what it knows best – big names, remakes, and sequels. In horror there is no bigger name than King, and already many of his previous screen adaptations are being remade. The flip side of this point is that Hollywood hates to take a gamble, and The Dark Tower could end up being a costly flop. Possibly the idea of movies could be abandoned altogether, and the series as a whole could be translated to the small screen instead. Shows such as Under The Dome and Haven appear to be doing well, and Game Of Thrones has proven that the viewer is willing to follow a complex fantasy series with a massive cast of characters – as long as it’s done right, and with quality. TV is in a different place than in previous decades, pulling in the finest writers and actors and budgets – get the right people involved and the rest should follow naturally.
That takes me to ‘can they’? This may be the most complex question. What approach do you take, how do you get a cast and crew to commit to something so huge – it’s a series that will take up a considerable chunk of an actor/director/writer’s life, and there are iconic characters which are sure to stick with an actor for the rest of their life and beyond. Where do you draw the line between what is considered for a movie, and what for TV? What happens if the first movie is a flop? How do you adequately explain Roland’s determination to get to the Tower, how do you cover all of the important imagery which permeates each story? How do you convey The Tower as the apex of all worlds without showing those worlds, and their tie-in stories and characters? How do you film an insane, riddle-loving bullet train racing through a Wasteland towards its own destruction? How do you deal with the meta nature of the last few books? How do you film sex in A Speaking Demon ring… what the hell is a Speaking Demon ring? Every few pages of each book there will be something problematic for even the greatest writer and director. The simple answer is that the best writers and directors simply make things work. Like magicians or silver-tongued liars, they can convince us of anything… but it will never be easy. Can they do it? Ultimately, yes. I have no doubt that a dedicated group could make this a seminal moment in Televison and Film history; I have no doubt that a respectful company could craft something entertaining. However, I am fully aware that it could be a resounding disaster.
And so my final question, and the most vague and subjective of the bunch – should they do it? I’m not a snob. As I sit writing this on my Kindle, I have a bottle of Estrella to my left, and a plate of half-eaten cottage pie to my right. My point is that I’m just a normal fanboy. King has been a massive influence of my life in many ways, a constant nightly whisper in my ear, and a source of entertainment and inspiration since my childhood. I’ve been reading King since I was 10, possibly younger, although I was a late comer to The Dark Tower, tackling it (ironically) for the first time when I was 19. There are snobs though… movie snobs, critical snobs, and alas, even King snobs. Most of the time I know that those guys will never be pleased, so there’s little point in even considering them. It’s us Constant Readers that are the biggest concern. I’m a member of several online King and Dark Tower fan groups, and there is rarely a standard consensus on even the simplest issue concerning The Dark Tower and a possible screen outing, from casting choices to favourite book or character. Once again though, the simplest answer is that it will be impossible to please everyone all of the time. Hell, we even criticise King for certain moments in the series, so what chance will a movie have? Therefore, the best option is to respectfully ignore such opinions and just go make it. Most of us want to see it, many of us will be disappointed no matter how great it is, but there’s that chance, that hope that it could be something brilliant.
As for me, anyone who knows me knows I often speak in highly hyperbolic ways – I feel The Dark Tower is the single greatest piece of art of the 20th Century. The books have been written over the span of decades, and they relate to almost all of the output of the most prolific and important writer of the last hundred years or so. I want to see this series being made, and of course I want to see it be good, and successful. To finish up I’m going to unleash my inner fanboy and explain what I would love to see for the series. I’m not going to mention casting choices, though I do think underused actors such as Ben Foster, Josh Zuckerman, Michael Shannon, and Michael Pitt should be considered. What I would love the most is if the series branched out to encompass the major tie in novels and short stories. Similar to what Marvel has been doing with The Avengers, SHIELD, Thor, Captain America etc etc – they have created a massive living breathing world with familiar cast members crossing over from one film to the next. Every year there is at least one blockbuster related to the overall series, and although each acts as a standalone, there are clear ties to other films and characters which both serve the world, serve the plot, and act as fan service as the nerds recognise some otherwise throwaway comment which relates to some event in a previous or upcoming moment. This is what I would love to see with King’s work – films with ties to The Dark Tower being made as standalones, but like the books, having enough connections to The Dark Tower itself. Actors passing over, character names and imagery dropped, things as minor as a painting of Roland and the Tower in The Mist, up to the true tie ins such as Salem’s Lot, Hearts In Atlantis, Insomnia etc. One of the most important lines in the series is ‘There are other worlds than these’, and what better way to hype up the importance of the quest for The Tower, by having all of these other films and characters directly reference it?
Below I’ll list the books I’d love to see being linked to The Dark Tower series as per the books, but note that I’m aware many of the below are already in the works and the rights to each will cause obvious conflicts. I haven’t read everything yet by King, so there may be some tie-ins I’ve missed. Let me know in the comments what your hopes and fears for the series are, and what you would love to see on screen. Do you have any preferred actors for Roland and his Ka-Tet? Which directors are worthy of the series and could give a movie their own unique vision?
Salem’s Lot: This has seen a couple of mini-series (and a sequel) already, but the world loves vampires, right? The obvious tie-in is Father Callahan, a figure only briefly seen in Tobe Hooper’s adaptation, but given more weight in the Rob Lowe version. A mini series on Salem’s Lot would be cool, given that it deals with the total destruction of the town, and we could also see the wraparound short story prequel and sequel (Jerusalem’s Lot and One For The Road) filmed for added depth. Could we tie in Little Sister Of Eluria here too?
The Stand: The original mini-series is one of my favourite shows/movies ever, even with Molly Ringwold. Although a movie is already in the works, given that it deals with Mr Flagg himself, it’s a chance to have a major actor crossover and explanation of the many beams and levels leading to The Tower. An excellent story on its own, we would get to learn more about Flagg, including the fact that he just won’t go away.
The Talisman/Black House/Sequel: Although King and Straub have dropped hints of a third Jack novel, it hasn’t been written yet. Fans have been crying out for an adaptation for years now, and the first two books alone would make for a stellar movie or TV series. Once again, there are many connections which would answer questions posed in The Dark Tower, but each book stands alone brilliantly.
It: Again, an existing mini-series that I hold dear to my heart, and one which is getting the remake treatment. We could use this opportunity to go into a little more detail about Beams, Guardians, and the fear/emotion sucking demons which inhabit the many worlds.
The Eyes Of The Dragon: Well, why not. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent child/teen oriented fantasy story which is equally suitable for adults. I’d love to see this being handled in the same way as many of the 80s classics by masters such as Richard Donner, Stephen Spielberg, and Joe Dante. It’s Flagg again, and we may meet a few familiar faces along the way.
Insomnia: A terrific book, but one that doesn’t exactly have the dollar sign written all over it. Then again, if it was handled in the style of Cocoon, but with King’s darkness thrown in, it could be a sleeper hit. There’s a whole world of older actors out there, many of which would relish some of the roles encountered in these pages. There is of course the large tie-in of Patrick Danville and The Crimson King himself which would shock and impress those who haven’t read the books.
Desperation/The Regulators: Desperation has seen the screen treatment already, and The Regulators is ripe for social commentary given a lot of the suburban fear and paranoia swirling around the world at the moment. These have the potential for good movies on their own merits, and from a connection perspective we can have the villains using certain words/langauge from Roland’s world, although this would be more difficult to recognise on screen than on paper.
Hearts In Atlantis: The screen adaptation was fine, but left much of the violence and Tower related stuff out. Once again we have a fairly major character crossover, and there’s the potential of confusing matters by having the same actor who plays Jake starring as Bobby from Hearts.
Everything’s Eventual: Aside from Eluria, which should be covered in the main series somewhere, we could have the title story too due to another character crossover. Due to the short length, Dinky’s story could be incorporated into another film as a sub plot.
Cell: Although light in direct connections, there could easily be inserted references and hints that the evil force involved could be siding with The Crimson King.
Under The Dome: Not many connections again, but as this show is already up and running, and going in its own direction from the novel, they could easily drop some Tower references.
Apologies for the lengthy post – hopefully Tower Junkies will find something useful or even entertaining here. Just before I leave, as I was writing the connections, it struck me that a standalone TV series could be created -not as a specific series for one of the DT books, but a unique series based on the tie-in novels, and possibly featuring the main DT players. This could be a Hammer’s House Of Horrors style show with a self-contained episode each time which links to DT or one of the stories above, or have a more serialized approach like SHIELD with both currently existing King stories and characters as above making appearances, but also newly written unique stories – an ongoing struggle against Low Men, vampires, demons, the Crimson King and featuring the recruiting of important Breakers, warriors, and some of the many many lesser characters of the DT books and their connected stories. A man can dream…
Aah, Halloween- the most wonderful time of the year. When even those who wouldn’t usually subject themselves to all manner of terrors decide to watch the odd scary movie or 2. Unfortunately for me, this part of the Spac Hole which I currently inhabit does not indulge in the season as seriously and joyfully as other places, so I have always felt a little deprived. Sure, we had some parties, sure we threw fireworks at Gerry’s house, and yes we would watch whatever limited choice of movies were on over the few days but compared to other places (particularly you festive folks in the US) it just didn’t seem as much damn fun. In my mind, the whole month of October should be a vessel for Halloween activities, from dressing up to trick or treating, to watching scary movies and hiding under the beds of people you don’t know with a chainsaw.
To that end I have helpfully made a few lists of classic horror movies which sould chill you to the bone, and add to the singular atmosphere of this most evil time of the year. This list of 31 movies was created so that you can split the fun over the entire month (alternatively you could wait until closer to the day and have a few marathon sessions) and let yourself tremble ever so slightly in the supposed safety of your own home. Just be sure to lock your doors and windows, close the curtains, and tuck up the kids tightly in bed (checking underneath and in closets for me) before turning off the lights. Maybe check those locks once more, you can never be too sure or too safe. Oh, what’s that? That noise from outside? I wouldn’t worry, probably just the wind. By all means go out and check, but that would mean going into the basement to find batteries for your torch. Really, just relax and watch the film, your paranoia can’t hurt you. The thing outside, yeah- it could hurt you. But you locked the doors, right?
These don’t have to be watched in any particular order, but some would suit the big day (or night) better than others. This is not meant to be a list of the best or even my favourite horror movies (though I love them all) but rather I feel these offer something of the atmosphere of Halloween. Enjoy.
An American Werewolf in London: This one has it all- gore, jump scares, atmosphere, action, humour, and a great plot with likeable characters. WereWolves, like Vampires have taken a rather glossy beating recently. This proves that you can wrap up a love story with horror without being teeny, without being sparkly, without being demeaning to viewers with brains. Classic Halloween scene: The Nazi section.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: Wes Craven, Johnny Depp, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund- lovely ingredients for a tasty Halloween Pie. This is the original and best, before the horrific character of Freddy (Here just Fred) became a snuggleable, bantering chum. What could be better for Halloween than scaring yourself so badly that you can’t sleep- knowing that something terrible may be waiting for you in your dreams. A story with more depth than it gets credit for, dealing with the Craven standard of ill-advised parenting and how the children have to cope with the mistakes of the elders, this is full of genius set pieces and bloody action. Classic Halloween Scene: Nancy gets a bloody post coital surprise- but not what you’d expect. And did they say she was 14??
Alien: Often described as Halloween in space, or a Haunted House in Space, Alien deals with our fears of isolation, of being trapped, of being in s situation way beyond our control and way above our heads. Remove the alien, remove the setting, and this could be any slasher movie from the time. However, that would be taking away the fun, the fear, the atmosphere, and the ingenuity. This is dark, claustrophobic stuff, and the perfect film for Halloween to make you look out the windows into pitch darkness and wonder if something is staring back. Classic Halloween Scene: Dallas goes hunting, but realizes too late that he is the prey.
The Blair Witch Project: Similar to Alien this deals with our fears of isolation and the un-experienced unknown, but spices things up with issues of abandonment, paranoia, and things that go bump in the woods. A classic survival tale for city folk poking their ill-prepared noses where they don’t belong, Blair Witch succeeded because of it’s innovative filming and marketing techniques. It still succeeds today amongst a rubbish tip of similar films because the plot is solid, the acting is real, the rising tension and fear played out between the characters feels exactly like how we would react, the growing dread is almost unrivalled, and the climax is absolutely chilling. Classic Halloween Scene: The search for Josh in the freakshow house at the end will get you tingling and gripping the seat every time.
Creepshow: Halloween isn’t just about traumatizing each other, it’s also about good old fashioned camp-fire tales to warm the heart and soul. This is cheesy at times, but never boring or irritating, it feels nostalgic both for children of the 80s and of the 50-60s. The tales are brief, well written and acted, the effects are still top-notch with an earthy feel, and the scares are tense and fun. Classic Halloween Scene: Trying to convince your abusive wife to enter a box where a monster lives has never looked so enjoyable.
Candyman: Both Cliver Barker and Tony Todd are vital ingredients in any scare-fest- put them together and you’d better have a few spare pairs of pants lying around. An intellegent, sexy, city based horror which merges old world supernatural fears with the modern world of big business, CSI policework, snooping journalists, and end of the century hairdos. Barker at his height was a fountain of invention, bringing a freshness to the genre which made everyone else’s ideas look like old creaky mummy movies. Candyman merges urban myths with ancient folklore, mysticism with science, gore and shocks with beauty and lyricism. Todd’s presence is as powerful as any of the classic monsters, while Madsen gives a refreshing twist on the final girl character. Classic Halloween Scene: Hook through the chest.
Carrie: One for the teens this, though it may have aged some due to being so authentically 70s, the scares and the themes of abuse, loneliness, bullying, and separation are no less relevant or universal today. The story is simple but pumped up by ideas of religion, extremism, and psychotic mummies (not those ones). The acting by the main players is superb, there is something bleak about the whole sordid business, and we manage both to sympathize with and be scared by Carrie. And wish we had her gift. De Palma twists the tension knobs until they break off, though some of the intrusive camera guff is laughable now. Classic Halloween Scene: Everything between the bucket dropping and the school burning.
Child’s Play: The evil doll is a well worn sub genre of horror, but one which has very few, if any, classics. Child’s Play is amongst the best, and the series is certainly the most notorious. Like many 80s horrors, the series was unfairly derided for it’s supposed impact on our youth with some people going so far as blaming it for some grisly murders. As with most of these series, the quality decreased as the sequels increased, but the original remains surprisingly effective given the silly subject matter. If you don’t know the story- multi murdering maniac transfers his soul into a popular doll moments before his death, doll is picked up by young boy, doll begins murderous rampage again until it realises that it needs to sacrifice the boy to become human again. There are sure to be some laughs, some screams of just kick him in the balls and throw hm out the window!’, but maybe a few jumps too. Classic Halloween Scene: Chucky terrorizes the baby-sitter and we all jump when the phone rings.
Dawn Of The Dead: There is something quite special which you may not know about Dawn. If you watch it at Dawn- depending on where you live etc, try to time it where the film will just be ending as the sunrises. Then go for a walk immediately. It’s likely there won’t be many people around. The ones you will see will probably be shambling. The bleak nature of the film rarely hits harder than in these moments and you will surely look around yourself and feel a stark aura fill your being. There are few things more terrifying than waking up to an otherwise beautiful day and not wanting to be any part of it. Classic Halloween Scene: So many to choose from, from funny, to scary, to bleak, but I’ll go for the truck parking section as we realize that paradise can quickly become hell, and a haven can suddenly become a tomb.
Day Of The Dead: Surely the most grim of all the DEAD films, this is perfect Halloween viewing, not only because of the exquisite gore and effects. Claustrophobia and paranoia again play a large part, and you can’t help wondering why all these psychopaths keep getting in the way of your enjoyable apocalypse. Most people would be happily looting and whiling away their days watching DVDs, playing games, reading books, getting drunk, but there always has to be a crazy doctor or maniacal military group to spoil your good times. Halloween is all about good times, stick this on to reap the benefits. Classic Scene: When the Zombies step on the lift and it begins moving downwards- you just know all hell is about to break loose.
Dracula (30s): A classic to chill the bones of all comers, this still has the ability to… worry those who haven’t seen it before. A film that’s almost a hundred years old- how could that possibly be scary? Well, there’s a reason why this is still considered the best version. Classic Halloween Scene: When Harker first meets The Count.
The Exorcist: Now we get into the truly demanding territory. A rarity in the genre, The Exorcist was a massive financial and critical hit upon release, pampered with awards and then…uh, banned. It may not be as hard-hitting these days, but it’s still rough, creepy stuff. Plus it is played extremely coldly, and without a hint of humour. This is as bleak as horror gets, and even the supposed happy ending leaves us with a bitter, fearful taste. Excellent performances, bewildering jump scares, and freaky moments all conspire to chill the soul and ensure you cuddle up to your beloved in bed. Classic Halloween Scene: Spider walk.
The Evil Dead: This was mostly played for scares over the played for laughs sequel, and while there is humour here, the main focus is on sudden frights and wonderful, innovative camera techniques. You’ll have fun watching this one as each character gets picked off, comes back, and gets picked off again. Classic Halloween Scene: Cheryl at the window, not in the cupboard.
Friday The 13th: One of the original slashers and one of the most successful, this one has plenty of ideas and violence, and staples of the sub genre which have now become clichés. It has dated, it is silly and quite tame, but it was made with love and ambition and freshness. The ending is shocking, the performances are ok, and there isn’t a hockey mask in sight. Classic Halloween Scene: Arrow through the neck- don’t have sex kids.
Final Destination: Another rarity- an inspired modern horror film with great ideas which blends humour and genuine frights. We have a series of characters who rather than getting picked off one by one in an uncaring fashion, are shown to be real kids with real lives, fears, and concerns- and then they are picked off one by one in increasingly exciting, tense, and innovative ways. A film which deals with our fear of death, of inevitability succeeds on every level. Classic Halloween Scene: During a heated discussion in his car, one reckless character refuses to accept that his life is pre-destined or that death is stalking his every move. To prove the point he parks his car on train tracks with his friends as the train hurtles towards them. He soon realizes he was wrong.
The Fog: One of the great campfire spook stories, The Fog is still sadly underrated. Carpenter creates a wonderful atmosphere here which suits the season perfectly- even better if you’re near the sea or if there is fog around. Classic Halloween Scene: The introduction with the wizened old sailor sets the tone for the rest of the show, and should set the tone for your night.
Hellraiser: Another British one now, offering something different from our American cousins. We have sex, violence, lots of gore, and some S&M themed fun. This is gritty in an Eastenders sort of way- you don’t really want to look or have anything to do with these characters. Classic Halloween Scene: When Kirsty first meets the Cenobites- what is the finger in the mouth about?
Halloween: What more can I say? This is the movie which should be watched every Halloween- not only is it a genuine classic of the genre and a kick-ass movie no matter which way you look at it, it drips with and evokes that special Seasonal feeling that few things do. Make this the highlight of your night. After you’ve cut some throats. Classic Halloween Scene: Young Laurie runs screaming down her street being chased by a murderous maniac. She clambers to the front door of a neighbour, knocks and begs for help. A light is turned on. Then switched off. Did they think it was just kids messing around? Were they too afraid to help? Welcome To America folks.
Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (70s): Some us like to dress up at Halloween as ghosts, vampires, or our favourite horror movie characters. Some people go further and pretend to be the person that the costume depicts. This definitive version of Bodysnatchers takes the idea of hiding behind a costume to dramatic and terrifying extremes- what if person next to you on the bus, your neighbour, your friend, your wife, or child was no longer the person they once were? In fact, what if some alien creature had taken their body as host and was walking around as an imperfect mockery of that person’s life? What if this alien race had designs on all your friends and everyone you’ve ever known, and what if you were next? This chilling view of a world snatched away from under our noses is all about loss of identity and mistrust, and makes for unsettling Halloween viewing. Classic Halloween Scene: The final moments. I’ll say no more.
Night Of The Living Dead: A staple of midnight viewing, the surrounding darkness makes the black and white all the more stark and cold; There are no easy answers or happy endings here. If you are watching this with a group of people, ask yourself which ones you would trust in a life/death situation. If your cosy home was surrounded suddenly by thousands of undead, who amongst you would come out as leader? Would you sit back, would you make decisions, would you think only of yourself or would you think of the safety of the group? Either way, you’re bound to get a chewing. Classic Halloween Scene: They’re coming to get you, Barbara.
The Omen: So far we don’t trust our neighbours and friends, but what if you thought your son was the Antichrist? The Omen is an apocalyptic film in more than one way and is filled with strong performances, gripping and bloody deaths, and a memorable, frightening score. Music is often pivotal in horror movies, and as you clamber the stairs to bed after this, with infernal monks chanting obscenities in your head, that corner of darkness you can’t quite see clearly may fill with unspeakable evil more readily. Classic Halloween Scene: Damian decides to ride his bike.
Prince Of Darkness: I find this to be Carpenter’s most underrated film mostly because it is awesome and should be mentioned in the same breath as Halloween and The Thing. Sure the plot is messed up with it’s evil green satanic liquid taking over zombies and bums mixed with time-travelling dream messages and psych jargon, but seriously it is awesome. It has more effective jump scares than any of his other shows and there is a creeping sense of dread and atmosphere throughout. In many ways it is classic Carpenter- a group of different thrown together in a building who have to team together or fall apart and stand against an overpowering threatening external force. It is a siege movie, it is clever for the genre though at times it doesn’t know what genre it wants to be. I think that was part of the fun though- like Big Trouble In Little China it is more than just it’s labels instead transcending notions of what it should or shouldn’t be, and is well ahead of it’s time. Classic Halloween Scene: The final survivors holding up behind some furniture while one of the crazies admires himself in a mirror with a large blade.
Ring: Please please please watch the Japanese version, not the abomination that is the remake. Sure the remake has plenty of jump moments, but it also has a deer on a boat, Brian Cox in a bath, and a director who decides it would be clever to cut away from the movie’s most important scene for the sake of a car chase. The original has Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada and if that isn’t enough of a recommendation then please remove thine eyes from mine page post haste. Watch this deep into the night, possibly as the last film, then play the lovely game of phone your friend once they have left to terrify them. Unfortunately the ideas first seen here have been so over-used that these games have become diluted, but the film still has an unflinching power. Not a drop of blood is shed, there are no knives, guns, or people bursting in from behind doors with a loud noise- this is the best horror film of the nineties and goes against everything that decade threw at us. And it’s a damn good story with excellent performances. Classic Halloween Scene: Sadako. TV. Sleep tight.
Scream: The second best horror movie of the nineties is the stuff of parties. By know everyone should have seen it, but many of you will have forgotten it and how good it still is. Plenty of shocks, laughs, scares, and action as well as a script the quality of which horror movies rarely get. And my beloved Neve Campbell is in it. Few horror films provide this much entertainment whilst still being scary, funny, and clever. The nods to horror movies will keep the nerds amongst your bunch happy and you can shout out when you spot a reference. Classic Halloween Scene: The final house chase scene as Neve doesn’t know where to run or who to trust.
The Shining: It’s rare for most people to get snow at Halloween, even more rare to be completely snowed in and surrounded. Try replacing the notion of snow with rain or darkness- would you want to go wandering outside if it was completely dark or hammering down? Anyway, this is another film which plays on isolation, claustrophobia, and paranoia. It’s probably best not to watch this one as a cosy night in flick with your little family- you’ll start wondering what the hell is going through each other’s minds. This is a giant of the genre with heaps of atmosphere and plenty of unsettling moments which deserves to be menti0ned at any Horror Movie Marathon. Classic Halloween Scene: Danny was warned not to go in that room. Prepare to be scared when Daddy goes looking too.
Silence Of The Lambs: The critic’s choice. Don’t invite any critics to your party as they will moan, groan, bore your girlfriends, and likely drink all your wine. There should be wine. This is nasty stuff from start to end as poor Jodie Foster tries to solve a murder whilst hiding her own fears from the unlikely Terminator Anthony Hopkins. This is better suited to smaller group viewing as it isn’t exactly cheery, blood n guts fun but it does the job when you’re on your own. Classic Halloween Scene: Anything with Bill really.
The Thing: In many ways the ultimate John Carpenter film, the ultimate macho man fest, and the number 1 examination of the paranoia which creeps into people during periods of isolation. The effects here still blow me away and they are only part of a long list of quality to describe this film- look at the cast, the performances, the music, the scares, the cinematography, and the way Carpenter drags the tension out of every shot until we don’t know who has been infected and who hasn’t. Great action adds to the great scares, but the special effects and story are kings here. Classic Halloween Scene: When the survivors are tied to chairs and Mac goes through each one by one to test if any are not human. Genius.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: This one still hurts today- it’s just so damn grim, dirty, and repulsive as to make the horror timeless. Sure they scares may be cliché now and the gore is almost non-existent, but the low down atmosphere, the miniscule budget, and the amateur (but good) performances all conspire to make this uncomfortable watching. I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who still think that there could be a family like this in their town, just as much as I’m sure that there probably are still families or people like this in the world- maybe not in your town, but possibly the next one over. And chainsaws are awfully easy to come by these days. Classic Halloween Scene: The entire dinner scene. Truly horrific, the use of sound and various camera techniques make this one of the most intense few minutes in any horror movie.
28 Days Later: A modern classic, and one of the few great British horror movies of the last few decades. Taking riffs from Romero and King this is a post apocalyptic survivalist’s wet nightmare. Empty streets, shops to loot, cars to steal- all great if it wasn’t for the hundreds of thousands of psychopaths charging towards you in search of your blood. This is the 21st century folks, and zombies ain’t got time to amble and stumble about- these are confident, successful, modern big business, stepping up to the plate, corporate bull-shitting zombies, and they won’t take closing a door in their face for an answer. If you can’t run fast, you’re screwed. And just to make things Mega Man 9 difficult- these fiends don’t even have to bite you to kill/convert you- one drop of their blood/saliva entering your body, through a gash, a scratch, a kiss, or a tear is enough it recruit you. And sheesh! They don’t even give you time to grieve for your fallen comrade- within seconds of getting exposed, your best friend will be diving for your jugular too. My advice- kill everyone you see and hide under a pile of coats till it all goes away. Classic Halloween Scene: An abandoned car sitting in the middle of an abandoned London- nothing to fear but technology.
The Wicker Man: Nothing to fear but religion. Look closely enough and all religions begin to look like cults; they all have a figurehead, the followers worship the figurehead unquestionably and offer prayers, thanks, songs, and sacrifices, there are certain rituals usually borne of centuries long since dusted, those involved are usually inviting to outsiders in person, but have a secret hatred, anger, or issue against them once backs are turned. So we have The Wicker Man, possibly the best British Horror Film of the whole sorry lot. Aah, the confusion of two worlds colliding as we watch a upstanding lawman and guardian of his own archaic faith fall victim ever so slowly to a cult even more decrepit than his own. He knows something terrible is amiss, but it isn’t until his toes turn to cinders that he realizes his fate was sealed the second his feet touched the land. Classic Halloween Scene: When we first see Mr Straw and realize our hero’s fate.
Paranormal Activity: Proof not only that horror movies still have the power to scare, entertain, and bring in the mega bucks, proof not only that a good story well executed can be more than a match for buckets of blood, but also proves that in this day and age of $200 million dollar movies that a small group with talent, an idea, and a few months worth of average salary can make a great movie. Romero did it in the 60s, Carpenter did it in the seventies, Raimi in the 80s, Myrick and Sanchez in the 90s, and now Oren Peli has continued the tradition. Using every trick in the book he has made a classic pastiche of the genre and a thrill ride akin to running naked through a field of land mines. The setting of the movie is perfect for Halloween viewing- primarily it is set in the home and most of the scares happen at night- the film invades you with a sense that you aren’t safe in your own house and makes you take a second or third glance at that cup that you swore you set on the table which now sits on the ground. Likely to lose its impact with subsequent viewings this is best served to people who haven’t seen it. The scares (while you sense them coming) are unexpected and rewarding and while the characters are painfully annoying, you’ll still soil your drawers. Classic Halloween Scene: NEVER leave your foot hanging out of bed.
Trick R Treat: Anthology movies have had their heyday- we had a succession of British hits in the 70s, then a slew of bloodier efforts in the 80s. Then for 20 years anthology fans didn’t have a lot to be excited about aside from a few cheap efforts (although Asia did produce some great ones at the turn of the century). Trick R Treat is good enough to kick start a revolution in the genre, or at least it would have been had it been released in any cinemas. Straight to DVD (yet with a decent budget and big name cast) Trick R Treat features four shorts linked by an over-arcing plot and is to Halloween what presents are to Christmas. This one is destined to be shown and loved every Halloween for years to come, possibly as a double header with Carpenter’s classic. Classic Halloween Scene: The creepy opener sets the tone for the movie and features everything we love about the season, dripping with atmosphere, and settling us in for a bumpy ride.
Please leave your comments and suggestions for films you think are best viewed at Halloween, and let us know which films terrified you when you were growing up at this time of year.
As a fan of the more extreme side of cinema, I ask you to join me, as I explore the history of Cinema's most extreme movies with all the sex, violence and symbolism intact. I'm here to reflect on the extreme movies that have come and gone to see what they mean, see what makes them so extreme, and of course, see if they're any good.