Nyx Book Reviews

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#SKweek Stephen King’s Movie Adaptations – Not As Good As the Book? (by MaryKate)

sjtievieMy Stand: Why Are Stephen King’s Movie Adaptations Not as Good as the Book?

A guest post kindly provided by MaryKate

Stephen King is a true literary giant who has authored a staggering amount of horror and suspense novels. I’ve been a Stephen King fan since I was about 13 years old and my mother gave me a copy of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, a lesser known (but no less amazing) novel of his (honestly, it’s a great book). I have almost always loved anything I’ve read by King, novels and short stories alike. But I have not always loved movie or TV adaptations of his stories and, despite the usual reasons (I pictured this differently in my head, I would have chosen a different actor for that role, etc.), I think there’s more to why King’s simply amazing stories sometimes do not translate well to the screen.

I’ve had this conversation countless times with fellow King fans and I have come up with my own theory as to why. When I think of famous Stephen King novel adaptations, I think of Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile first, two of his (arguably) most popular and loved movie adaptations. Then I think of classic horror movies/TV series such as Carrie, Cujo, and The Shining. Both genres make you think long after they are over but they do this in different ways. My theory? Stephen King writes psychological novels. Hear me out: you can read about his characters’ inner turmoil and empathize with their fear, but the deep thought King’s characters exhibit are difficult to transfer to the big screen. Take the movie Cujo, for example: I think this adaptation is really well done because rabid dogs are tangible, living, scary animals and this came out very well in the movie. The action is also very visual, such as when the mother tries to open the car door to get some air circulating in the sweltering heat and Cujo lunges at her. That’s some real edge-of-your-seat anxiety to take away from a movie! But there is a whole other storyline in the book about what Cujo is thinking and experiencing while he suffers from rabies and that doesn’t come across as strongly. For a visceral story like Cujo, a movie adaptation works well but for a more psychological story, such as The Stand, the successful transfer from page to screen is more difficult to achieve.

King’s best novel, in my opinion, is The Stand (especially the uncut version, released in 1990). Weighing in at 1,152 pages, there is so much going on in this novel and though the miniseries did a good job keeping up the excitement, there is no way a movie or TV show could ever truly compare to the novel, in my opinion*. In The Stand, there are a number of characters that are dealing not only with a post-apocalyptic, dangerous world but also their own stresses and issues from their personal lives. All of these thoughts and problems that arise make for an unbelievable, unputdownable novel. The miniseries could not possibly capture each and every character’s true essence and, though I think they did a good job, that psychological chaos is much stronger in the novel and what really makes the novel great.

In an interview with Metro in April of this year, King said, “I hope there’s something to think about in the books that I write but I wouldn’t mind it if you read them twice and thought about stuff the second time. I just want to scare the shit out of you the first time, yes.” Well put, sir. I think deep down Stephen King will always be a writer of horror stories, despite the fact that much of his work isn’t necessarily considered jump-out-of-your-chair, I’ll-have-nightmares-for-three-weeks type of scary. I think his is a little more subtle in that he draws on primal fears that many people push to the backs of their minds on a daily basis, such as the fear of being stalked (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Misery), or the fear of being resourceless and alone in a crisis (Under the Dome), or even of having a husband or wife whom you don’t truly know (Dolores Claiborne, short story 1922). These are real fears and though King chooses to place them within the confines of a fictional story, they are scenarios that could truly happen to people.

And that, my friends, is what I think makes Mr. King such a brilliant author. Though his novels will always have a special place in my heart, his movie and TV adaptations are still exciting and leave you with something to think about. And maybe a desire to read the full story? I hope so!

* On a side note, Ben Affleck is supposedly working on a movie adaptation of The Stand (I believe he wants to release three movies total) and I’m excited to see what he does with it.

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