In Honour of Stephen King’s Birthday, I Have Some Random Thoughts About His Movies
Happy Birthday King. Here are some hot takes.
The name Stephen King is synonymous with horror and for good reason. The guy writes approximately 53 novels/short stories a year and from my understanding, many of them are at least decent, and a majority of them fall into the horror category. He’s insanely prolific and it might seem like people are always adapting his literature into films and television shows.
That’s because they are. For example, the 2010s saw twelve feature film adaptations of his works with four in both 2017 and 2019. I didn’t even count the television shows or anything else since this is a movie website. Basically, the Brink’s truck is parked outside of his home at all times.
So everybody wants to wish the legend a happy birthday and I’m not a unique snowflake in that regard. I was originally going to do something more data driven and write about the best movies using numbers from IMDB, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, but then I took a shower–unimportant information but I’m leaving it in–and decided that I had a more interesting idea. I’ll just give hot takes like the internet loves; or at least opinions that could potentially be hot takes.
Before I begin I must confess that I’ve only read a few of his novels and have roughly ten of the movies based on his books. This would be because up until a few years ago I didn’t really consider myself a horror fan so I’d only watch content within that genre when it looked insanely interesting. I’ve always had great respect for the man’s talent, but didn’t delve too deep into his writing or the flicks using it as source material.
With that said, let’s get on with the show.
The Shawshank Redemption Is Great but Overrated
I’m aware that my social circle is small and I don’t research The Shawshank Redemption daily, but everybody I know swears by this prison drama. I’ve never been able to get on board with the hype despite my sincerest efforts, so maybe I’m the one stuck in the prison.
However, I can see the appeal: Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman–as always–are wonderful, and their chemistry drives the film. It’s directed competently but I would argue Darabont doesn’t bring a particularly unparalleled presence to his story; he has a subtle hand and it serves the story, but when I think of the best movies ever, more often than not it’s in part because the directorial vision is strong.
It didn’t hit me emotionally but at the same time I wasn’t bored at any moment. That’s not enough for me to declare something as one of the best films ever. I understand that a lot of this is anecdotal but if you look at popular movie rating websites The Shawshank Redemption ranks highly. It has a 9.3/10 on IMDB and a 4.73/5 audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Even the aggregate of the critics on both of those sites rate it in the 80s, which is pretty phenomenal since generally critic scores are lower anyway.
Whenever a film reaches the heights that The Shawshank Redemption hits there is a vocal group of people who arise along with that reputation and want to bring it down. So perhaps in that regard this isn’t an especially scorching take on the situation, but I’m not one of those people–I rate it an 8/10 myself. I have respect and on my scale that’s legitimately “great,” I just can’t bring myself to fall in love like many others have.
The Dark Tower Was Okay
In what I consider my biggest and most egregious Stephen King blind spot, along with owning The Stand but never reading it, I’ve never picked up The Dark Tower. I don’t read as fast as I’d like and if I’m keeping it real with you fine folks, I just can’t find the time to indulge in a series, no matter how much I’m keen on the premise.
I rushed to the cinema to watch the film adaptation in 2017 partially because I like
Stringer Bell Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, but partially because I was hoping it would be a quality adaptation of a series I have begrudgingly ignored thus far. What I experienced was… okay.
Seriously, it’s mildly entertaining. Because of my lack of knowledge towards the source material I can’t come at my criticism from that angle, so what I can say is that as just a movie it hits enough to fine, but it does come across as incredibly rushed. I wish it could have found the time to flesh out some of its more engaging features–specifically Roland and The Man in Black–but it’s relatively stylish to make up for its flaws.
Admittedly, the users of IMDB and the Rotten Tomatoes audience rate it along the same lines as I do–the former rating it a 5.6/10 and the latter rating it 3.05/5–so I guess I’m not alone. Critics weren’t havin’ it, though.
My Fondest Memories of Stephen King Films Are Slightly Strange, or at the Very Least Not About the Best Movies
There are three movies that have stuck in my heart, despite me not thinking they are amazing. Those are Gerald’s Game, 1408 and The Mist. They’ve been received well around the internet and I rated them all an 8/10, so I really like them, but there have been better movies that have emerged from the twisted mind of Stephen King and the people who want to tackle him.
If you’re good with years you may notice that two of those came out around the same time. 1408 and The Mist arrived in 2007, smackdab in the middle of the “torture porn”–the critical term for the mash-up of splatter and slasher films–craze that swept the box office in the 2000s.
The reason those two endure in my mind is because I was not a fan of torture porn so to see two films come out in the same year that placed the emphasis back on atmosphere and less on gore was a pleasant surprise for me. Obviously horror movies like that never went away, but flicks like Saw–for the record, I adore the first Saw but view it more as a suspense/thriller–and Hostel–for the record, I do not adore Hostel–were dominating the genre.
It’s a really subjective and unscientific view of things because they didn’t represent a shift in the public discourse or what was made; they didn’t make a real dent in the industry. But to this guy who was in his 20s at the time, it made some level of impact in my conscious. Enough to make me want to write about it thirteen–that’s fitting–years later.
Did You Forget Gerald’s Game?
No of course not! It just inhabits a place of my heart for a couple different reasons. Gerald’s Game was the first Stephen King novel that I read and it’s still my favourite. I don’t imagine that’s a popular opinion because he’s written legitimate classics, but the idea of a woman being stuck to a bed–follow me on this, it gets less creepy, I swear–while someone/something stares at her from the corner is endlessly eerie to me. I found the book at a used book store once and read it quickly.
I was probably more excited than anyone should be for the Netflix version of it. It could never live up to the expectations that I placed on it, but it still satisfied me. Carla Gugino put this on her back, but to be clear that was a necessity for any actress who stepped into that role. So much of it is made up of her emoting and monologuing to herself that Gugino had to dive deep into this and channel something special. She did, she was fantastic.
It also opened me up to the director Mike Flanagan. He made some waves with Hush the year prior, but I never got around to watching it. He released other movies before that as well, but again, I didn’t watch them. To be honest, I pegged him as just another horror director.
To some extent that’s true, and I understand that this is a pretty backhanded compliment. Just let me unpack this: Doctor Sleep was good, and I know he was partially responsible for the success of The Haunting of Hill House as well, which I’ve been meaning to get around to eventually. I think this guy is in a niche where he may never release a classic but he will consistently pump out solid content and build a good-to-great filmography. Look, not everybody has to be Dario Argento to be an appealing name in the genre and the industry.
It (2017) Might Be the Best Stephen King Adaptation but It’s Not Even Scary
If you continue to follow Flickmetic (please?) you will notice eventually that I actually prioritize terror less in horror movies than horror buffs would. I love a horror-tinged atmosphere and spooky visuals, but unless they’re done exceptionally well I don’t care much for jump scares and gore means almost nothing to me most of the time. I’d rather be creeped out than outright terrified, which is part of the reason it took me so long to truly arrive at the fandom of the genre.
It was a buffet of inspired camera work, visual prowess, and beautifully framed horror. Even if almost nothing in it actually spooked me out, I still recall the vivid imagery that I witnessed and it’s always what I talk about. Andy Muschietti put himself on the map with this one.
Perhaps the best part is that I didn’t even care to see this and was dragged along by my friend, who I’ll be nice to and link here. Then after the film I sat across from him and actually considered naming it my favourite film of 2017. It didn’t ultimately come out on top but it was damn close.
Unfortunately the second chapter was a bit of a letdown (NOT ENOUGH TURTLE), but that doesn’t alter the fact that the first one was a welcome addition to that year.
But Also Really the Shining Might Actually Be the Best Stephen King Adaptation and That’s Not Scary Either
I mean, that scene sends shivers down my spine.
The Shining is a great flick even if Stephen King didn’t like how Kubrick manipulated his original story. What Kubrick with the material was exhilarating and unexpected; unpredictable and brilliant from beginning to end. There is much to love about the film that many see as Kubrick’s masterpiece.
It’s just not that scary. It falls into the same category as It for me, but obviously has a higher status in the movie hierarchy. You can list any number of scintillating scenes, such as the blood elevator, or the “Here’s Johnny!” Scenes like that are etched into the public conscious and will be discussed and meme’d for decades to come. It’s deserving of it’s accolades.
Screw it, I’m rocking a tangent and giving a few quick Kubrick hot takes now. This scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey scares me more than anything in The Shining, and as a whole I think Eyes Wide Shut is creepier than The Shining, along with being a better movie. But I still have massive amounts of love for The Shining, so don’t get me wrong. It’s my third favourite of his movies and I consider myself a massive fan of the guy.
Well That’s It, That’s All I Got. I’m Exhausted at All This Hot Takin’. Leave Me Alone, I Must Nap.
I hope that you got some enjoyment out of me making an idiot of myself. This was a last minute idea that I had, as mentioned above in my sexy shower story, so I hammered it out. It’s a bit of an odd celebration of Stephen King and his movies, but ultimately, when all is said and done, it’s an honest assessment of some of the pillars of his career of letting people borrow his ideas in exchange for cash.
What are your hot takes? I want to hear them so leave me some in the comments below.