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The Dreadful Ten: 10 Underrated Stephen King Adaptations!

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My personal love affair with horror began when I read Stephen King’s novel “CARRIE”. I was in middle school, and before “CARRIE” I’d had no idea that such twisted and demented stories existed. “CARRIE” woke up something potent and powerful inside me. Whether you want to call it a fascination or an obsession with horror, it was the dark ideas of Stephen King that brought it forth.

King’s visions of evil, and of the ghosts and monstrous creatures in which that evil is embodied, have stood as testaments to what brilliantly imagined horror can bring to film. The places which King’s stories brings us to, whether they be a sadistic hotel room or Native American burial ground, satisfies that craving for the horrific with a richness that nothing else does. The eloquence of King’s creativity, including his expansive imaginings of everything from aliens to child cults, is balanced with the brutality he brings to his stories. His range of subject matter is so well imagined it feels almost fantastical, but the horrific events and disturbing circumstances his characters face make King’s works the epitome of horror.

The presences of the unnatural and evil, the beyond sinister settings, and the frequent bloodbaths make King’s stories translate into some screamingly good films. When respective filmmakers are able to translate the monsters from the novel pages into imagery on the screen, a very dark, blood drenched, chill inducing magic takes place. Here are ten films adapted from Stephen King’s novels where that black magic didn’t get the hype it deserved.

 

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10. CUJO (1983)

Leave it to Stephen King to turn a fixture of our everyday lives- the family dog- into a symbol that will forever haunt our subconscious. In CUJO, the contraction of rabies causes a formerly loving Saint Bernard to turn into a ravenously aggressive animal. The dog’s unlucky victims are a mother and her young son who become stranded in the dog’s vicinity when their car breaks down. CUJO is rich in thrills, submerging us in the panicked desperation of a mother who realizes she may not be able to save herself or her son from the four legged horror that’s stalking them.

 

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9. CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)

This is the film that will ensure you never look at a cornfield again without having an anxiety attack. CHILDREN OF THE CORN also demonstrates how wonderfully demented the ideas of Stephen King consistently are. The film is about a fervently religious cult of children tucked away in the farmlands of Nebraska. It follows Doctor Burt Stanton and his girlfriend Vicky Baxter, who stumble upon the strange religious group on their cross country drive. King’s apparent fascination with the dark deities he so unnervingly creates comes out in the storyline. The adolescent cult is not worshipping the same “God” that your local churches are. CHILDREN OF THE CORN gives viewers admission to a town where bizarre rituals and bloody practices are the daily norm, all performed in the name of an entity more demonic than godly.

 

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8. STORM OF THE CENTURY (1999)

In STORM OF THE CENTURY, the demon Andre Linoge comes to a small New England town in the form of a man. The film’s atmosphere creates a wonderfully distilled sense of isolation, as Linoge’s arrival coincides with a fierce winter blizzard. The landscape becomes alien, coated in waist high snow, and the freezing temperature drives the town’s residents running inside for cover. Throughout the film, there’s the impending sense of being trapped, as the towns’ peoples’ homes become spaces of profound claustrophobia. As the malicious presence of Linoge oppresses the town’s residents, making it deadly to take so much as a step outside, protagonist Mike Anderson finds himself at a loss for how to protect his neighbors and family. The film, which is actually a TV miniseries, does feel a bit lengthy in the middle. But with the townspeople frantically trying to survive their visitor’s hostile arrival, the plot is decidedly chilling and has an explosive ending.

 

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7. SECRET WINDOW (2004)

King steps away from the supernatural and forays into the realm of the psychological thriller in SECRET WINDOW. Johnny Depp gives an unsettling performance as Mort Rainey, a writer struggling to stay mentally balanced in the recent stages of his divorce. A bizarre, disheveled stranger suddenly appears, going by the name of John Shooter and accusing Rainey of plagiarizing his work. As Shooter commences to harass Rainey, the film quickens into a pulse pounding thrill ride. It’s another film which boasts one of the draw dropping endings King’s storylines so successfully employ to shock us.

 

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6. DREAMCATCHER (2003)

DREAMCATCHER is an outrageously, wonderfully gruesome take on the alien invasion film. To me, it was a full package, completed by the ominous setting in the woods of Maine. The acting was genuine and convincing, featuring Morgan Freeman as Col. Abraham Curtis. Most important of all, the aliens themselves were frightening. They were not a mindless species, but maliciously intelligent, with the ability to possess people. And yes, the combination of vicious aliens and possession within the same movie works out to be exactly as cool as it sounds. That culmination of horror tropes in itself creates such an intriguing scenario that DREAMCATCHER is not one of the alien movies you want to miss.

 

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5. THINNER (1996)

I personally love the grittiness that THINNER is crafted with. The idea it explores is a curse that makes the victim continuously lose weight, physically wasting away until they die. The unique concept of this curse showcases that out-of-box thinking that makes supernatural Stephen King material so utterly disturbing. It’s also the helplessness of attorney Billy Halleck as he shrinks from overweight to emaciated that it is so unnerving. Once the gypsy man who curses Halleck casts the spell, there’s nothing Halleck can do to remove it. It’s both horrifying and addicting to watch as Halleck struggles to survive, his time running out at alarming rate, measured by his rapidly shrinking waistline.

 

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4. THE MIST (2007)

THE MIST is like a turbo fueled drag race, powered by fabulous acting and monstrous creatures. The thrills start early on in the movie and don’t let up once during the film. The creepiness initiates when a bizarrely thick fog rolls in around a supermarket, alarming the shoppers within. Among the cart pushers is the protagonist, David Drayton, and his young son, Billy. It isn’t long before father, son, and the rest of the store’s patrons realize THE MIST has brought something with it. Along with the predatory creatures lurking outside the store, what makes THE MIST so fascinating is the characters trapped within. Mrs. Carmody, the town’s religious fanatic, is unarguably just as frightening as the alien animals trying devour everyone inside the store. With Mrs. Carmody advocating for human sacrifices, THE MIST cleverly uses the monsters outside to hold up a mirror to the monstrosity in our own species.

 

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3. PET SEMATARY (1989)

I think some of the most frightening imagery that we get from Stephen King adaptations comes from this movie. This comes as no surprise, since the film revolves around a Native American burial ground, setting the stage for a dark tale of death and resurrection gone wrong. The film centers around the Creed family and the horrors that await within the woods that their new house sits next to. What’s bad for the Creeds is good for us, because it turns out there’s nothing quite as interesting as watching the deceased being buried and then coming back to life as dementedly sinister versions of themselves. It’s a hugely enjoyable experience to watch Stephen King’s take on mythical legends translated into film.

 

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2. CARRIE (2013)

It was tragic that this remake of the 1976 film didn’t receive more acclaim. The entire film just oozes with violent, barely controlled emotion that builds an atmosphere of escalating anxiety. Before the film becomes a bloodbath, it is an extravagant display of mentally unbalanced characters. While we feel for Carrie White, the high school outcast who discovers she has telekinetic abilities, we find it difficult not to be seduced by mean girl Chris Hargensen. Hargensen, played by Portia Doubleday, operates with such vengeful aggression that it’s impossible to not get sucked in to her sickness. CARRIE’s delusional, devout mother is played by Julianne Moore in a performance guaranteed to make your skin crawl. Finally, Chloe Grace Moretz breaks our hearts as CARRIE White with her agonized yearning to be accepted by those around her. Her anguish is so catching that you may find yourself cheering when she discovers her homicidal streak.

 

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1. 1408 (2007)

In 1408, Stephen King’s brilliance for the disturbing is channeled to construct the most frightening hotel room on the face of this planet. John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a writer who is cynically skeptical of anything supernatural. It’s without a worry that Enslin checks into room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, despite the hotel manager’s warnings that the room has murdered a shocking number of its inhabitants. My unchecked enthusiasm for this film comes from the room itself, which I feel is one of the most alluring horror habitats created in film. The room itself is a malicious entity, unleashing its disturbing abilities on the unsuspecting Enslin. It’s enchanting how each object in the room- the hanging paintings, the telephone, the bedspread- becomes a channel through which torment is inflicted on Enslin and the audience. Room 1408 is the ultimate chamber of horrors, a living evil that wants not only your life, but your sanity.

And now, here are some honorable mentions that unfortunately didn’t make the cut…

FIRESTARTER (1984)
CHRISTINE (1983)
CELL (2016)
THE RUNNING MAN (1987)
NEEDFUL THINGS (1993)

About the author
Lexi Harrington
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