Stephen King has given us so many unforgettable tales of terror, but perhaps the 1980s was the era in which he had the biggest impact on Hollyweird.
To celebrate the King of Horror’s 73rd birthday we bring you a few of our favourite big and small screen adaptations, as told by our guest contributor Lando.
THE SHINING (1980)
Look, Stephen King hates it and I’m fine with that because Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece of modern horror represents the one and only time that I’ve preferred a film to the novel. Who wouldn’t want to spend a night (or winter) at the Overlook Hotel? Oh, and before I go, THE SHINING works because of Shelley Duvall, not in spite of her. And make no mistake, no one plays terrified like Shelley Duvall.
There’s a reason why everyone is losing their shit over the new Shudder series, and it’s because Stephen King and George A. Romero’s little project is, was and ever shall be the finest horror anthology ever produced. From funktastic Ed Harris to a day at the beach to the incomparable Adrienne Barbeau, CREEPSHOW will never get old.
“Show me” may not be the greatest scene in a King adaptation, but it’s certainly one of the coolest. Beyond that, a few thoughts: we never got enough Keith Gordon, Harry Dean Stanton was the bonus of all bonuses, and just to be safe, regardless of appearance, be careful insulting someone’s car. Just in case.
You’ll recall my statement that THE SHINING was the one time I preferred a film to the novel that gave it life, and that holds true with CUJO. Little Tad didn’t make it in the book, but the movie gave us that happy ending, so yeah, King > celluloid. More than that, however, how in the hell did Dee Wallace not only not win the Academy Award for Best Actress, but fail to get nominated?
THE DEAD ZONE (1983)
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)
“He who walks behind the rows” probably needs to stop making sequels at this point, but Linda Hamilton will always be worth 92 minutes of your time.
SILVER BULLET (1985)
I’m a bit biased here. SILVER BULLET is my favourite horror film of all-time, so I apologies if I come off as a fanboy for the next few moments. I fell in love with Everett McGill in 1985 and my feelings haven’t waned, they’ve only intensified. McGill absolutely killed the part of Reverend Lowe, and as with all healthy relationships, I accept the flaws (aka the werewolf suit). The man’s line readings were deliciously sinister and nothing will ever sway my adoration. And while some contend that SILVER BULLET is a cheesy ‘80s werewolf movie, I disagree for one reason and one reason only – Kent Broadhurst. His “private justice” scene set the stage for a film that focused less on transformation and more on the very real turmoil and pain that a family and town endured, and opened the door for the very human performances of Gary Busey, Corey Feldman, and Megan Follows afterwards. “I wasn’t always able to say that, but I can say it now. I love you too, Marty. Goodnight” still gets me. Every damn time. But without Kent Broadhurst, it would have fallen on deaf ears. SILVER BULLET may be a cult classic, but it is far better than it ever gets credit for.
PET SEMATARY (1989)
Some posit that it hasn’t aged well, and to an extent that’s true, but “no fair,” I choose to focus on what they got right. The truck scene remains one of horror’s hardest to watch, and not just for its heartbreaking result, but because Dale Midkiff nailed it. Running after Gage (Miko Hughes) but losing his footing – who hasn’t had that dream where you’re trying to get to someone but you just can’t stay on your feet? To say nothing of his visceral “Noooooo!” with flashes of his baby boy lighting the screen, which may have inspired Rob Zombie’s choices filming Annie’s death scene in HALLOWEEN II (2009). Brad Greenquist was haunting as Victor Pascow, Church will never not be creepy, Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek) was pure nightmare fuel, and when the dust settles, Fred Gwynne > John Lithgow. PET SEMATARY ruled in ’89 and it rules today.
You can read more of Lando’s thoughts on 80s horror here.
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