The man behind some of the best horror films ever made started his professional writing career in 1967 when he sold his first short story. Since then he’s had more than 50 movies, TV shows, and even musicals created based on his books and their adaptations. His devious and dark mind has brought us some of the finest in modern horror. Below is a list, ranked based on my personal opinions, from the least spectacular and enjoyable horror films based on his work to one of my favorite horror films of all time. Select film’s write-ups are presented here as well as in other categories; please click the links to read more.
Thinner (1996): A snooty overweight attorney runs over a gypsy, and is subsequently cursed into a constant state of unstoppable weight loss. An idea with a lot of potential is poorly executed here. Bad makeups, weak storytelling, and flat camerawork are likely the result of an overstretched budget, but cause the movie to be less scary, or even visually appealing.
The Mangler (1995): A policeman (played by Ted Levine) investigating mysterious deaths at a laundromat, discovers that the shop’s demented owner (Robert Englund) is knowingly putting people in the path of a demonic, murderous piece of equipment. The story is as weak as it sounds, but the acting is pretty solid. If you are looking for a campy, gory film with little story development, get your popcorn ready.
Maximum Overdrive (1986): Comet dust brings machines to life. Bent on destruction, they corner a small group of tourist in a rest stop. Moved up from the bottom of the list primarily by its killer Ac/Dc soundtrack, this machines turned murderous movie starts off enjoyably over the top. Like a tongue in cheek kind of humor and seems almost like it should be a parody of the genre, but quickly takes a turn and begins taking itself too seriously to be funny. Filled with more gore and viciousness than needed, comedy moments that don’t connect, and a story that crawls near the end make for a “WTF” viewing experience.
Children of The Corn (1984): The film’s opening is terrifying and lays the groundwork for the rest of the movie as we see children systematically kill the grownups in the sleepy, rural, and very religious town of Gatlin, Nebraska. Later, we meet a couple who discover the secrets of the village including “He Who Walks Behind The Rows.” The children themselves are mostly strong actors and produce a very creepy, lord of the flies vibe with weird, cult-like undertones. The movie loses points for some cheap and cartoony looking effects, and hard to relate to characters. Please go to (Creepy Kids) for more reviews of similar films.
Cujo (1983): A book about a rabid dog seems simple enough, but “Cujo” seems to be more than rabid, almost demonically possessed. The movie moves slowly and is very character driven; usually this is something I applaud, but in this case, it is at odds with the overall storytelling and drags for a large portion of the film. Though it’s a very suspenseful build for a robust and terrifying climax, this movie is a bit inconsistent with the scares, but they are well executed when they happen. The film is much less gory than the book, and that is probably for the best.
It (1990): A story told mostly told in flashbacks, this TV miniseries turned movie is a creep filled bit of storytelling focussed around a group of friends that are tormented by an evil being called “It.” As adults, they hear about a new batch of children disappearing and go back to their former hometown to try to destroy it once and for all. It starts with a good amount of energy and builds well, but kind of falls flat in the end. Tim Curry is amazing, but this film needed more than his epically evil grin to make it a solid horror movie.
Pet Semetery (1989): Finding themselves in a rural country home, that happens to be near a cursed pet cemetery, built on an Indian burial ground, everything is fine for the Creed family, until suddenly… it’s not. Filled with generous amounts of all the horror essentials like shocking jump scares, don’t go in there suspense, plenty of foreshadowing, and dark atmospheric settings, it’s an enjoyable and spooky take on what it means to love something (or someone) grief and the dangers of toying with nature.
Christine (1983): A car possessed by a dark, vengeful spirit takes hold of an unimpressive teen, turning his enemies into ground meat, and him into a lady man. In this high school coming of age meets possessed machine movie the scares fire on all cylinders. Sequences of the killer car running down or otherwise destroying her victims, and then cleaning herself and the scene up are well done, and make the car a character worth fearing. The movie itself is fun to watch and has a fair amount of gotcha type scares.
The Mist (2007): A group of small-town folk is trapped inside a grocery store by an eerie grey-blue mist that contains evil and deadly monsters. Slightly campy but very intense, The Mist has most of the elements of good horror, tension, jump scares, and lightly comedic moments where you can catch your breath, but unfortunately, the pacing and camerawork are just a little off and keep this title from moving any higher on the list.
It (2017): Like the 1990 original miniseries/movie this movie takes place when a group of kids goes into the lair of their fears, to take on the supernatural evil within. The most significant part of this film was the cast of kids, the dynamic banter makes them genuinely engaging and makes them all characters you care about, which makes the peril seem that much more real.
Creepshow (1982): Two of the best-known names in the horror field, author Stephen King and director George A. Romero, have put together a campy, cheesy, and overall funny anthology of short films. The five stories told in Creepshow were inspired by classic EC comics of the 1950’s and 60s like Tales from the Crypt and are shown coming to life from the pages of a discarded comic book. Similar to those old comic books visually and in the story, all of the tales are morality plays in which the greatest fears or weaknesses of the characters involved are realized. My personal favorite is The Crate, it’s darker and gorier than the others, in all the right ways.
Salem’s Lot (1979): This two-part TV miniseries is technically not a film, but it’s my class, and I make the rules. When a writer name Ben uncovers strange happenings in his hometown, he begins to develop suspicions that the vampires may be to blame. This well-told story is surprising light on gore (for a vampire tale) but still manages to keep the tension and produce a fair number of shocking moments.
Carrie (1976): This horror classic is based on King’s first full-length novel. It tells of the horrors of not fitting in, overbearing religion, and high school in general. Brian DePalma has used the source material to create a tension-filled and emotionally gripping suspense thriller. Sissy Spacek plays the title role beautifully, captured the terror, angst and ultimate power of the character with subtlety and grace.
The Shining (1980): Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) takes a job as the over-winter caretaker at the remote and quiet overlook hotel so he can work on his novel. He takes his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (played by Danny Lloyd) to join him. Danny has a bit of a psychic gift that allows him to see some of the more sinister parts of the Overlook Hotels past. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this legendary horror film deviates quite a bit from King’s writings but is still a wonderfully terrifying ride into the depths of the human psyche. Vibrant visuals, taut storytelling, intense acting, and mind-jarring moments, this movie has all the hallmarks of great horror.
It would seem as though Mr. King has a thing for small rural towns, tightly contained groups of people, machines gone bad, and extraordinary kids. This has been my take on the films he’s been a part of, do you agree, disagree? I’d love to hear your opinions; please comment below!