Throwback Thursdays: The Best, Worst, and BESTWORST Stephen King Adaptations

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

On September 10th, Kendare Blake begins a brand new series with the first book in The Goddess Wars, Antigoddess. With Antigoddess, Kendare brings her talent for horror to a whole new world, so to celebrate, we thought we’d dip into our archives and share an article she wrote in August 2012, for the publication of Anna Dressed in Blood. Enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

Written by Kendare Blake

A couple of months ago, a friend and I were talking about Stephen King adaptations (they were running Stephen King with Story Notes on AMC that week) and got to wondering exactly how many movies had been made from his work. We were able to name so many: Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Cujo, Misery, The Tommyknockers, Hearts in Atlantis; we could go on and on.

“How many books has the guy written?” my friend wanted to know. “I wonder what percentage have been made into movies?”

So I said, let’s count. “And remember, it’s not only King novels, but short stories that have to be tallied. Movies have been made from short stories, too. 1408, for example. And we might want to track which works have been optioned for film without ever being produced.”

“You’re getting too involved in this,” my friend said.

Based on the rough and lazy count that followed, we arrived at this rough and lazy answer: Stephen King writes a lot of stuff, and a lot of that stuff gets made into movies. Pick up a short story collection, and somewhere inside, a film awaits. The novels are probably optioned before they’re even written. When will we see a movie version of Under The Dome or 11/22/63? The answer?

Someday. Probably. Odds are looking good.

This conversation got me thinking about the best and worst Stephen King adaptations, and I thought I’d share my list, including a special category for the BESTWORST adaptation. And oh yeah, there will probably be spoilers. Here we go.

THE BEST

Stand By Me

Raise your hand if you thought I was going to say The Shawshank Redemption. Ha! Well I didn’t. That would’ve been the obvious choice. Instead I say that this tale, adapted from King’s pensive novella “The Body” does all the things that King does best in his non-supernatural work: it studies the transitory nature of childhood friendships; short-lived but often the most memorable of your life. It’s a beautiful, careful film, carried along by genuine good times and undercut with the constant menace of knowing these kids are in real danger.

THE WORST

Dreamcatcher

Raise your hand if you thought I was going to say Maximum Overdrive. Well I didn’t. I like Maximum Overdrive. It’s hilarious.

No, my vote has to go to Dreamcatcher, a big pile of turd of a movie, complete with horrible CGI aliens that go up your butt and I don’t know, incubate until you poo them out again. If Ridley Scott’s aliens had taken this route, we would never have been able to watch Prometheus, because no other Alien movies would have been made.

Right now, Dreamcatcher is whispering in my ear about how good the acting was, by Jason Lee and Thomas Jane and Damian Lewis and heck, even Morgan Freeman. It’s telling me that the strong childhood friendships are back in abundance. But dammit, no, Dreamcatcher! Just, no.

THE BESTWORST

I was tempted to say Riding the Bullet, because it’s laughably watchable on a Sunday afternoon. And I do recommend you see it, because it’s great watching David Arquette try to make those scary faces. But in my mind, the BESTWORST Stephen King adaptation will always be the 1990 TV miniseries of IT.

I love IT. I own IT, and once a year I order Chinese food and watch IT, and eat right at the part where they get to the Chinese restaurant, because the eyeball in the fortune cookie always makes me giggle. It’s terrible, and fantastic, and features a pre-puberty Seth Green, and a just slightly post puberty John Boy Walton. Is it scary? Not exactly. But Tim Curry flashing between those hanging white bed sheets is undeniably one more reason to distrust clowns.

So there you have it. My list. With so many films based on King’s work, I expect that few will agree with my choices. I invite you to make your case for your own.

It’s important to note that this list is reflective of the movies only, not the works on which they were based. While I don’t doubt that these days King could have a lot of input on how his tales are adapted, I also don’t doubt that for many of these films he had little control, just like most authors. Someday, it would be cool if Anna Dressed in Blood was adapted, and I could be one of those no-control authors. But in case it doesn’t, here’s a short Best/Worst/BestWorst list of possibilities:

Best: Anna Dressed in Awesome: Directed by the dream team of Joss Whedon and Tim Burton, from an adapted screenplay by Neil Gaiman, a dark, visceral tale with undertones the book didn’t even think of and visuals to kill for.

Worst: Anna Dressed in a Red Dress: Anna reimagined as a 1940’s crime noir, in which Anna is a deranged socialite who murders her wealthy stepfather. Hard-boiled private detective Cas Lowood must run down the mystery in a dark coat and one of those hats. Starring an undiscovered Hemsworth brother and a rapidly aging Kardashian sister.

BestWorst: Anna Dressed in Blood: The Musical.

This article is originally from the August 2012 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!

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