Stephen King: Book to Screen

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With at least 82 books and 86 film adaptations to his name, Stephen King has a very impressive repertoire of films based on his equally impressive collection of novels. King is one of my favourite authors and it’s clear to me why they are so successful as films. There are stories within every genre, from psychological thrillers like Misery to emotional dramas like The Green Mile or The Shawshank Redemption. This already creates a rich ground for a variety of production companies specialising in all genres, not just horror, to want to make films based on his books. In addition, some readers think his novels can take some time to start as most build tension before exploding into drama and horror quite far into the story. For some, this is too slow and so watching a film adaptation would be the better option. There’s usually less set-up and more horror, starting much quicker than the books so viewers can just get into the epic storylines without waiting around. With the cult following King has, it’s also possible to make more money from film by remastering them, remaking them and producing many sequels. A great example is Children of the Corn, a short story that was first published in an issue of men’s magazine Penthouse before being added to his 1978 collection Night Shift. Consisting around 50 pages long, it now has at least two direct adaptations from 1984 and 2009, as well as numerous sequels and prequels to date. According to IMDB, the original 1984 version made a whopping $14,568,989 gross worldwide. Stephen King sells.

Famous directors have made successful adaptations too, with The Shining arguably the most famous of them all. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring acclaimed actors like Jack Nicholson, this 1980 classic about a hotel caretaker who slowly spirals into madness is still discussed within circles. T-shirts, pin badges, phone cases, every merchandise opportunity you can imagine is available with key iconic moments blazoned on them. Despite King openly disliking this version, saying some of the character and story was lost, it still has a cult following that suggests how fans are more enraptured by the plot and not necessarily the name. My favourite novel is also, ironically, my favourite of his adaptations: his 1987 novel Misery. Its story, about novelist Paul Sheldon who’s rescued and subsequently nursed back to health by his supposed “number one fan” Annie Wilkes after a car accident, is fast paced and a genuinely nightmarish tale about psychotic obsession. The 1991 film, starring James Caan and Kathy Bates in the main roles, is almost as good as its source material with the latter deservedly winning Best Actress at the Academy Awards that year. Directed by Rob Reiner, it translates really well as a psychological horror graphics aren’t really needed so it hasn’t really aged, unlike some gory horrors. The prosthetics and effects are still creepy and gross despite how much technology has improved and progressed in 30 years. I still wince at THAT scene now and I’ve seen it three times.

Stephen King’s oeuvre is a varied body of work with fans loving his timeless stories, either having read the books or preferring to watch the film instead. His imagination continues to be an inspiration for TV shows and films alike, and it’s easy to see why.

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Second-year History student, Classic Culture Editor 2021/22. Loves everything theatre and literature but especially horror books and musicals.

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