Today we are continuing our look at GEEK’s 10 Favorite Stephen King Adaptations, with 10-6 being covered already. As a reminder, this list was put together by the writers of geek and the order was voted upon to get the final results.
So without further ado, let’s finish off our look at the favorites:
King is known as the Master of Horror, and Misery is a perfect example of why he holds that name. While the supernatural and paranormal often play a huge part in the terror of King’s many works, Misery takes a look at the monsters that dwell inside of all of us, and the dangers those monsters can represent. In the book, writer Paul Sheldon crashes his car in the mountains of Colorado, injuring his legs. he is rescued and cared for by Annie Wilkes, a big fan of his best-selling Victorian romance series featuring the character of Misery Chastain, a series that he recently ended. We soon learn that Annie, upset over the fate of her favorite character, keeps Sheldon prisoner in her house until he writes a new novel for her. The extremes she goes to keep Sheldon a prisoner and the history we learn about her character help propel the fear for Sheldon as he fights for his freedom and survival against his number one fan.
The book itself felt like a cry for help from King, whose rabid fan base could very well have contributed to the character of Annie, with clear impressions of King himself visible in the character of Sheldon. The film adaptation is easily one of the best King books to make it to the big screen, with minimal changes from the source material, and some that even make the horror of the film more real (the hobbling scene is a key standout). The film was directed by Rob Reiner from a screenplay by William Goldman, so already the film was off to a good start. Reiner had previously played in the King sandbox with Stand By Me, which may turn up again…
Misery was released in 1990 and starred James Caan as Paul Sheldon and unknown (at the time) Kathy Bates as Annie, who both helped make the film a clear frontrunner for best King adaptation. Kathy Bates would continue her exploration of King’s work with a starring role in 1995’s Dolores Claiborne, another non-paranormal hit from Stephen King. – Scoot Allan
4. The Green Mile
Yet another story from King’s Different Seasons compilation, The Green Mile is a strong adaptation with the perfect balance of light and dark. This is also another offering from Frank Darabont, who took home an Oscar for his work on The Shawshank Redemption, who seems to really get where King is coming from. Darabont and King are very much on the same page in their collaborations, and the casting of Tom Hanks as the film’s lead, Paul Edgecombe, a death row guard at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, was agreed upon before the two even spoke about the project. Darabont was on the fence about joining the project at first, having already worked on the similarly set Shawshank film, but after reading the novella was all in. Michael Clarke Duncan co-stars in his breakout role as John Coffey, a tender hearted and magically gifted man falsely accused of a heinous murder of two young girls. His massive size and black skin make him an easy target, even though it is later revealed that another death row inmate, William Warton – a small white man played by the ever talented Sam Rockwell in the film – is actually responsible.
This is another example of how good a film can be when the story stays true to the source material, and how the right casting can make or break a film. Hanks and Duncan were born for these roles, and they have a solid supporting cast helping them shine. Hanks thoughtfulness, his slow and steady cadence of speech, and emotionality bring King’s writing to the screen with a deftness that has become his bread and butter. Duncan’s own natural stature makes him look fully capable of causing physical harm, but his range as an actor is evident from the get go as he embodies Coffey’s gentle nature. Having previously worked with Bruce Willis in Armageddon, Duncan avoided being type cast as the big tough guy with this role, showing that he, so much like Coffey, was capable of more than he seemed to be. The role won Duncan the Best Supporting actor award from Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, and the film itself had four academy award nominations, including two for Darabont, despite getting mixed reviews from critics.
The Green Mile is another touching tale of a triumph over the darkness of the world. While Coffey is, indeed, innocent he doesn’t try to fight his unjust fate, and Edgecombe is ever changed by knowing him. King’s exploration of the darker aspects of the human condition, and of the triumph of hope and human kindness make for great reading, and Darabont is an expert at bringing that emotional balance to the screen. – Tabitha Davis
3. Stand By Me
The 1986 film was not only one of the better film adaptations of Stephen King’s work but also a solid geek classic in its own right. Starring a group of actors that would become well known and appreciated by aficionados of 80’s geek culture, Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell. These four actors played Gordie Lachance, Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern Tessio. A band of boys who had it rough, and were sure it was only going to get rougher, who set out on what would likely be their last adventure of childhood. Director Rob Reiner, another staple in 80’s nostalgia, does a wonderful job of bringing King’s darkly heartwarming coming of age novella to the screen without losing its heart. In the 1982 story The Body, King tells the tale of four boys who set off to see the dead body of Ray Brower. King himself said of the film at the time that it was the first time an adaptation got it right.
Reiner’s key to success may have been in his casting. King writes a complex story about boys with real problems, with real fears, and the actors all capture their characters perfectly. Wheaton is the stories narrator and a future writer. Wheaton may often be remembered for his role as Wesley on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but for many geeks, Wheaton was already repping the nerds, though most of us have thankfully avoided leeches. Pheonix was the kid from the wrong side of the tracks, the brooding would be bad boy who had such great potential. The role was so perfectly cast that Phoenix and his screen counterpart Chambers both died tragic deaths at far too young an age. Feldman, a future Frog Brother, was the wise cracking Duchamp, and the parallels between Feldman and Duchamp are beyond tragic. Both faced abuse at the hands of their parents, and to a degree hid their pain behind the humor. Unlike Duchamp, whose life ends in a car wreck (in the novella) while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Feldman has been able to work through his own demons and come out alive. Feldman has said that he believed the Reiner could somehow see the pain behind his eyes when he cast him. O’Connell played the sweet Tessio, a chubby kid who was an easy target for bullies. Unlike Tassio, who dies tragically in a fire (again, in the book but not the film), O’Connell went on to shed his baby fluff and become a staple in Hollywood, not to mention marrying Mystique herself!
The film, like the story, are both solid geek classics. It is a story of kids just like us, the underdogs that were doing the best they could in less than stellar conditions, on the edge of childhood, coming face to face with their own mortality. – Tabitha Davis
2. The Shawshank Redemption
Starring the superb Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins at the top of their game, The Shawshank Redemption, based on the short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, stays close to the source material, but it’s the cast that brings King’s story to the next level. A tale of hope in the direst of places, about a man, Andrew “Andy” Dufresne, presumably falsely accused of murdering his wife and her lover, sentenced to hard time in Shawshank Prison. Tim Robbins embodies the role. He imparts a sympathetic character who may or may not be telling the truth, but who you want to root for anyway, an every man caught in a terrible situation. But Andy’s troubles aren’t the worst thing behind the high walls of the prison, and his troubled journey leads him to an unexpected friendship with Red, played by Freeman, who also narrates the story. Freeman’s strong performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for the film. His velvet voice tells us the story, bringing King’s words to life and adding a depth to the story not often seen on screen, satisfying lovers of the story, and casual film goers alike.
King himself co-wrote the film’s screen play, along side Frank Darabont who also directed the film, which may play into the fact that so little of the original story is changed, with some scenes being word for word from the story. Darabont, who also adapted a few other great King stories, won both the Best Picture and Best Screenplay Adaptation for the film, totaling out the 7 Academy awards the film took home. In spite of its slow start at the box office, the film is the highest grossing King adaptation and is thought by many to be simply one of the best films ever made. The story of a prisoner escaping prison seems an unlikely premise for a story of hope, but given the corruption of the prison system, the audience is glad to have Andy and Red find themselves out, and able to pursue their shared dream. The end of the film has the biggest differences to the story. Andy and Red coming together, and what happens to the crooked Warden Norton. In the story, it is left up to the reader to imagine what happens to Red and Andy, and Norton gets off relatively easy in the story, simply resigning the position, but the film gives the audience the satisfaction of his arrest for his crimes.
Robbins and Freeman are such stellar actors, with this film standing out in both their careers. together with Darabont’s direction, The Shawshank Redemption is elevated from your average movie to a film worthy of praise. It is almost a love story, in the end, weaving through the story. A fraternal bond between two men who, while taking different paths in a world that saw them both in a different light, find themselves in the same boat, facing the same trials and challenges. – Tabitha Davis
1. The Shining
Every time I watch Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, it feels like the first time. Much like the Overlook Hotel, The Shining is a cryptic, confusing, seemingly endless vortex that spits you out on the other side, disoriented and afraid. The film definitely scares me more as I get older, too, and I catch myself noticing new details I’ve never seen before, obsessing over every single frame like the guys that were profiled in that Room 237 documentary. Starring Jack Nicholson at the height of his popularity as a family man already on the verge of insanity, The Shining couldn’t have been made today for so, so many reasons.
In addition to being more than two hours long, Kubrick’s movie isn’t scary in the traditional sense (not a jump scare in sight), and usually isn’t all that effective for people looking to simply be jolted as a cheap thrill. Instead, it’s a movie that requires a certain amount of trust and relaxation as it slowly, subtly hypnotizes and lures you in with plans to dig its claws deep into your brain. Kubrick didn’t want you to just watch a family man slowly lose his mind: he wanted us to lose ours with him. Certain details about the film are so mind-boggling in their insanity – like the fact that someone actually did have to type out Jack Torrance’s “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” masterpiece page by page by page – that it’s almost difficult not to at least feel like your grip on reality is failing you as the film dives deeper into the depraved lunacy of its final thirty minutes.
One aspect of the movie that a lot of people don’t talk about is how great the acting is. I’m probably biased because Jack Nicholson is my favorite actor, but Shelley Duvall’s jittery turn as the film’s mentally scared matriarch is a big part of why I love the movie so much. Kubrick’s stories about torturing the actress on-set still haven’t really been confirmed, but the nervous energy with which she dominates the screen suggests that, perhaps, they’re true. The same is true of then-child actor Danny Lloyd, but for a much different reason. His mostly subdued, wordless performance is so perfectly tempered – more times than not, Danny doesn’t act like the usual demonic horror movie kid but just a young boy going through a phase and coping with his parents’ domestic squabbles – that it gives the entire movie a heart even though it doesn’t necessarily deserve to have such an effective one.
Kubrick’s thematic indecision is prevalent in the film, though I wouldn’t call that a criticism. In fact, I’d say the director’s bravery in not relying on a theme to guide him through the story organically is what makes the movie so great. If The Shining were to be at all predictable or follow the guidelines of traditional filmmaking, the entire experience would lose its value. Instead, Kubrick’s insistence on going off-book and doing something very different from King’s original story (to the author’s continued disdain) signified a new kind of movie that hadn’t necessarily been made before. The Shining didn’t exactly create a new subgenre of horror – it’s too weird and its tone too difficult to replicate – but that’s more a compliment to the film’s uniqueness than anything else. Movies like The Shining can’t exist too often. If they did, movie theaters wouldn’t be a place of respite from the outside world, but a chaotic reminder that we’re in it and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. – Josef Rodriguez
Which of your favorite Stephen King adaptations did we miss? Comment below and let us know. In the meantime, make sure you check out It, when it hits theaters September 8th, and tune into The Mist and Mr. Mercedes, which are airing now.
Images: Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros.