Stephen King is the monster master of the written word, and the films based on his books are pretty good too, but surprisingly, the horror maestro still hasn’t got a kind word to say about Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining.
Which is something of a shock considering the pretty near universal acclaim that The Shining commands.
Yet, speaking in a new interview with Deadline, King compares The Shining to a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine.
“I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it.
“In that sense, when it opened, a lot of the reviews weren’t very favourable and I was one of those reviewers. I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much.”
“The character of Jack Torrance has no arc in that movie. Absolutely no arc at all. When we first see Jack Nicholson, he’s in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he’s crazy as a sh*t house rat.”
“All he does is get crazier. In the book, he’s a guy who’s struggling with his sanity and finally loses it. To me, that’s a tragedy. In the movie, there’s no tragedy because there’s no real change.”
With a long and illustrious list of movie adaptations, including the Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, The Green Mile, and Carrie, Stephen King’s books definitely work well on the silver screen. But what about those films you may not have known were based on the prolific and twisted tales of harrowing horror and delirious despair.
What exactly does King make of the following and how does he rate them next to The Shining?
Before he became a hobbit’s best friend, Ian McKellen gave a star turn in Apt Pupil as an aging Nazi war criminal who still enjoyed dressing up in his uniform, killing tramps, and cremating cats in his oven. Based on a short story from King’s 1982 collection, Different Seasons, the film’s director, Bryan Singer, called the movie a “study in cruelty.” The plot revolves around a young boy named Todd Bowden, who discovers that his elderly neighbor is really a war criminal called Kurt Dussander. Instead of running a mile and screaming “Nuremberg”, Todd befriends the Nazi and blackmails him into telling him stories about the death camps. Young Todd spends more and more time with Kurt before the slowly infectious nature of evil takes hold, and it all ends in tragedy.
The Dead Zone
Directed by David Cronenberg, The Dead Zone stars Christopher Walken doing what he does best – acting like someone who’s just come out of a coma. Walken plays Johnny Smith, who is involved in a car accident and spends five years in a comatose state. He awakens to find life as he once knew has moved on. His girlfriend has married and had a child, and to make matters worse, he now finds he has the ability to learn everyone’s past, present, and future secrets through physical contact alone. This is not as great as it sounds, especially when Johnny shakes hands with the future U.S. president, only to discover he’s going to destroy the entire world by waging a nuclear war. So what’s a Johnny to do? Well watch the film and you’ll find out.
When nerdy teen boy Arnie Cunningham takes possession of a rusty red and white Plymouth Fury from 1958 called Christine, he has no idea what kind of trouble he’s getting himself into. You see, Christine is more than just a clapped out old banger, she’s a state of the art psychopath who loves nothing more than killing people in innovative and bloody ways. During the course of the film, Arnie’s relationship with Christine becomes so intense that he turns from a bookish, spectacle wearing geek, to a rock ‘n’ roll loving cock of the walk who struts around the place like Johnny Cash’s lovechild. Of course when a man falls in love with a car and treats her as if she was a woman, it always ends in disaster, just ask Jeremy Clarkson. After Christine systematically kills a gang of bullies who were picking on her man, she accidentally impales Arnie on a shard of glass before she herself is crushed into a cube of metal by a compactor. As such the film is sort of like Romeo and Juliet for the Top Gear crowd.
Children of the Corn
If you’re naturally terrified of farmers and their strange and backward ways, then it’s probably best you don’t watch Children of the Corn. Agriculture has never been creepier than in this tale of a little rural town in Nebraska, where children with such hideous names as Issac and Malachai have ritually murdered all the adults, and why? To ensure they have a successful corn harvest. You see the kids have been told by a demonic entity called “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” to kill everyone who’s voice has broken otherwise they won’t get the sort of bumper crop that’ll get them on Countryfile. Be warned: Farming doesn’t get much fiercer or freakier than this.
Before Drew Barrymore began to act a little freaky in real life, she played a freak called Charlie McGee who could read people’s minds and set fire to things at will. In this 1984 sci-fi flick based on a Stephen King novel, Charlie’s parents, Andy and Vicky, take part in a hallucinogenic experiment when they’re in college to earn a little extra beer money. On the plus side, the experiments leave Andy with the power to make people do his bidding through the power of his mind alone, but it also leaves him with severe nose bleeds and a fire-starting daughter who the American government want to use as a weapon to conquer the world. To cut a long story short, the intelligence services kill the fires-tarter’s mum, imprison her dad, and she then goes on the sort of bloody rampage that would make The Prodigy proud.
So there you have it. Five lesser well known Stephen King adaptations that are definitely worth a watch, but for my money, The Shining is still by far the best adaptation of his work. Sorry Stephen.
[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]