As the highly anticipated new terrifying adaptation of ‘IT’ from horror author maestro Stephen King is now unleashed into cinemas, it presents a reason to look back at some of the films that have emerged from books by the revered writer.
IT taps into the phobia of clowns among many other dark situations that mostly involve children. The new IT is creepy, extremely well made with a beneficial unknown cast, and an uncompassionate delight to scare you silly.
Remaining inevitable that almost any book-to-screen version will be some way different to the source, few are word-for-word or scene-for-scene and in the case of King, he himself has said there are more misses than hits. IT has been filmed before as a 1990 TV mini-series. Tim Curry was the sinister dancing clown Pennywise, relishing in lurking around in the woods and sewers of Derry (Maine), looking for vulnerable children to keep him alive when hibernating. Many liberties have been taken in the new version but old and new clown make-up effects are still on my nerves.
Since the first Stephen King screenplay was produced from his novel Carrie (1976), multiple movie or television transformations have emerged: some terrific, some good, many average or indifferent. To list all, including remakes, would be of novelistic proportions itself. So although difference of opinion may be set, these are the incarnations, as a film critic, that stuck with me over time.
While in no particular order and the exclusion of classics – Firestarter (1984) and Green Mile (1999) – doesn’t mean anything other than below are ‘my king-hits’.
Thinner (1996): Has an obnoxious overweight businessman that is hexed by an ancient gypsy curse then begins unsympathetically losing weight at a rapid rate.
Needful Things (1993): Introduces a devilish old man opening a small town curiosity shop with strange items that may change the lives of all who enter.
Misery (1990): Kathy Bates wins an Oscar as sledgehammer expert and #1 fan.
Cujo (1983): Vicious St. Bernard goes on a rabid rampage against a whole town.
Running Man (1987): Different to the short story it was derived from, retro action spectacular of an innocent man competing within futuristic kill games.
Pet Sematary (1989): Grim story of deadly resurrection, King cameos as a priest.
Shawshank Redemption (1994): An all-time favourite of many for good reason.
Christine (1983): Classic automobile 1958 Plymouth Fury has a mind of its own.
The Shining (1980): Madness prevails at the Overlook Hotel…Here’s Johnny!
Sleepwalkers (1992): Mother and son are really virgin-seeking humanoid cats.
Children of the Corn (1984): Weird cult kids prey on adult sacrifices to burn.
Stand By Me (1986): Excellent coming-of-age tale, perfect cast, narrative style.
Others such as maniacal truck stop thriller, Maximum Overdrive (1986), or deplorable virtual reality thriller, Lawnmower Man (1992), King wanted his name off the film advertisements, and disappearing airplane mystery Langoliers (1995) – incidentally filmed in New Zealand – are all worth a watch despite their deficiencies. Six hour epic, The Stand (1994), deserves praise too.
Forget about The Mangler (1995) or Graveyard Shift (1990), part of a series known as Dollar-Babies, King agreed to give his story to new filmmakers for $1. Despite the recent debacle Dark Half (2017) and the everlasting werewolf aroma of Silver Bullet (1985), or all the unendorsed variable remakes or sequels to King’s work; the Carrie remake (2013) was good. Things may be looking up with the emergence of IT, the superior defined icy adaptation is only Chapter1.
Shane A. Bassett