Everyone knows who Stephen King is. The much celebrated author has released hundreds of original stories in the form of novels, short stories, joint efforts or even while writing under pseudonyms. These stories have often led to film or television adaptations. Some of these have been very good and some of these have been terrible. That is where we are looking today. My opinion on what are the worst ten Stephen King adaptations.
2017 is definitely the year of the “King”. It isn’t the first and won’t be the last which is understandable based on how many stories Stephen King has written and how devoid of original ideas the mainstream film making industry is. Gone are the days of story and script writers sitting down and imagining up unique ideas to pitch to film makers in the hope they may have a go at making it. Now, they often just look directly to “what books are selling well”. I guess they assume that if a book is popular, people will come and watch the film and they are probably right.
There is nothing wrong with adaptations. Sometimes it is nice to get a visual representation of what we have loved in text format but they are really hard to get right. The wonder of books is the visions created in your own mind. Something a film director is not privy to so cannot possibly get right. Sometimes they get close though and that can be enough. After all, they already have a ready made script that is proven to be hugely popular and sold millions of copies around the world.
How can they get it wrong? Do they not know the story so cut the book down poorly? Do they ignore important plot points to speed the story up? Are they just stupid? Who knows but what we do know is that they have messed up a whole ton of them and these, in my opinion are the worst ten. So far.
10 – The Tommyknockers
The Tommyknockers is a great book. A science fiction horror with a bit of heart. Even Blind Guardian wrote a song in homage to it. The characters were interesting and well developed, as you expect from this literary genius. That is the biggest failing of this “made for TV” 3 hour long film. The acting is absolutely dire. The effects are terrible too, making use of a green lens to add a touch of “alien” but it is the acting that is almost unbearable to watch. It should have been a nice B movie sci-fi film but is instead an overly long, snooze fest with actors that should be embarrassed of their efforts. You can read our review of it here.
9 – The Mangler
The Mangler isn’t a great story so the film had little chance of success. I like the fact that it takes something ordinary and mundane and tries to make it scary. It just isn’t. I don’t think there is a writer, director or actor alive or dead who will ever make a laundry machine the stuff of nightmares. As time goes by, I have to admit to looking back at this film as a bit of cheesy fun but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it is just stupid. The book, at least, manages to bring a little terror and suspense in by tapping into your imagination. The film fails to do even that despite having Robert Englund and Ted Levine’s best efforts.
8 – Sleepwalkers
Sleepwalkers isn’t a book to film adaptation. Perhaps I shouldn’t include it in this list? It is a Stephen King adaptation though, just from script to film so I will include it. How bad this is can be summed up in this plot explanation. Sleepwalkers is about an incestuous mother and son who are shapeshifting, energy sucking vampires and werecats. They stay alive by sucking the life force out of virgin women. The son then feeds the mother via sexual acts. They have a weakness though. They are afraid of cats who can see through their disguises and inflict fatal wounds on them. A bit like real cats then. The plot is stupid and the acting is lazy. There a couple minor redeeming features in that while it has aged badly, there is a littler bit of nostalgic creepiness to it. I don’t fully know how bad the script is. I do believe that King writes better than this so imagine it is adapted terribly and not written as poorly.
7 – Carrie (2013)
Carrie, the 1976 film, is a classic. You can read our review of it here. It is subtle and uncomfortable and full of suspense. Carrie, the remake, dropped all of that for big budget effects and action sequences. Check out our review of it here. Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek were brilliantly believable as Carrie and her mother in the original but that dynamic was lost, or ignored, in the retelling. Watching Carrie go from bullied recluse to super powered x-man in minutes was uncomfortable. Chloe Grace Moretz, attempting to look ordinary purely by having messy hair was stupid too. It made the bullying seem unreasonable and unbelievable. It isn’t a terrible film but it is a terrible adaptation and lost the message of the book entirely.
6 – Trucks
Trucks is the Canadian version of Maximum Overdrive. Both films being made using the source material, King’s short story, Trucks. Who would have thought it possible that one story could be made into two terrible films? They are both almost equally bad though this one is slightly better then Maximum Overdrive due only to the ridiculous amounts of blood and gore used. A film about possessed/sentient trucks hunting humans with buckets of blood and gore could have been harmless fun. Instead it is a terrible watch with no plot, no talent and no fun.
5 – Dreamcatcher
Dreamcatcher was one of the big budget Stephen King adaptations. It had the acting pedigree in Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane and Timothy Olyphant. It had a script from Lawrence Kasdan and William Goldman, It had a plot from a half decent novel. Once again, how can so many talented people get it so wrong. There in horror here, no suspense. Instead it is a film littered with rubbish effects and CGI rendering it almost unwatchable. The ending becomes an absolute mess which is completely incomprehensible. It is the sort of film that everyone has watched once and nobody has watched twice.
4 – Maximum Overdrive
Maximum Overdrive is really weak. Made worse by the fact that Stephen King directed the movie. You can read our review of it here. It speaks volumes that he didn’t try to direct any more after this one. King has actually said “I was coked out of my mind all through its production, and I really didn’t know what I was doing.” That shows. A comet passes by the planet and turns all the mechanical objects into sentient beings intent on destroying humanity. Emilio Estevez leads a human resistance in what could have been a bit of silly, B movie fun. Instead it is just a mish-mash of nonsense with some of the worst imagery to grace the screen in King’s name.
3 – The Mist
The Mist, the film, wasn’t half bad. The ending was a bit whack in comparison to the book but I liked it. So, we have a good story and we have already had a good film adaptation. Why on earth is there even a TV series made? Surely you are just going to be telling the same story again? Nope – instead they decided to make their own version of the story. What world do writers and producers live in. We fans know that rewriting a successful story is almost instant failure. How do they not know this? Gone are the aliens, gone are the monstrous creatures and gone is the suspense and claustrophobic settings. All the things that made the book/film so good. Instead we have a mist that is giving people hallucinations of loved ones, a mist that shows itself as a figure of sorts that wants to suck your soul out of your body. It is made worse by the fact that a lot of people seem to be just coming and going around the town while under no real threat. If they do get in trouble, it’s fine. Just get in a car and all is well. Bad acting, a poor recreation of an already made film and story meant that this show got cancelled very quickly and it deserved to be.
2 – Cell
Cell isn’t one of King’s greatest books but it isn’t bad. Humanity is being turned into zombies by something in the telephone signal. The book tells the story of Clayton Riddell’s attempts to navigate this dangerous, infested world to find his son. He is accompanied by Tom McCourt and, in typical King fashion, there are no happy endings. The film manages to get John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson in both key roles so that should have been helpful. Generally, the world was already stuffing their faces with zombies via the likes of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead so really, Cell should have been on to a winner. Instead we got a colourless, low budget film with robotic acting. Another great example of misfiring adaptations. The main story plot was bastardised enough to irritate fans of the story while the cheap world and zombies were laughable compared to other programmes efforts. Check out our review of it here.
1 – Under the Dome
Under the Dome is an utter disgrace. The fact that King acknowledges it as anything but that annoys and offends me. Under the Dome, the book is a masterpiece. A long and winding story that is as much about the psychological state of the trapped as it is about the alien dome. I found it mesmerising. Then they made this. I was so excited to see what they would do which probably made me even more upset when I realised how bad it was. How they just put a random dome over a random town with some boring people who had the same names as some of the characters in the book but were otherwise unrecognisable. I get they needed to add in more story arcs to extend the TV series but that shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of core characters and quality. Shame on you. I stopped watching long before it was cancelled. Possibly the worst adaptation of any book by any author ever.
So, there you have it. My worst ten Stephen King adaptations. It is one of those lists where people will probably have different opinions. Perhaps nostalgic fondness for some of these but it doesn’t change the fact that these are all terrible. I strongly recommend you read the books instead and avoid these like the plague. Have you seen any of these? What would you include in this list?