With the horror season on the horizon, everyone’s favourite hair-raising flicks are making their annual journey back into the limelight. While some like to indulge in the gratuitous world of cinematic gore alongside infamous horror villains like Freddy Krueger and Jigsaw, others are more partial to a good mind game. And as we know, one of the grand masters of psycho-thrillers is none other than the legendary author Stephen King. And so, for all the more lowkey thrill-lovers out there, here are some of our favourite novel-to-film adaptations inspired by the works of Stephen King.
Adapted from a novella of the same name published by Stephen King in 2010, Netflix brought us this tremendously chilling cinematic retelling of 1922 7 years later. Arlette, the wife of a Nebraskan farmer, unwittingly signs her death warrant when she expresses her wish to sell her husband’s land. Furious, her husband, Wilfred, conspires to murder Arlette and makes the twisted decision of dragging their young son, Henry, into the sordid plot. When the heinous deed is done, the two attempt to continue on with their lives. However, the more time passes, the more the murderous father-son duo start to feel their own sanity slipping – and this movie is merciless in taking your own mind with it!
For many kids out there, their first heartbreak is the passing of a beloved pet, and at such a tender age, we feel that we’d give just about anything to bring them back. But what if the unflattering drawbacks we associate with the undead apply to pets as well as people? This is the concept that Stephen King’s Pet Sematary set out to explore in 1983, a novel later brought to life by Paramount Pictures in 2019. When the Creed family tragically lose their cat to an inconsiderate driver, they lay them to rest in a nearby cemetery a stone’s throw from their new country house. Little do they know that in doing this, their beloved family pet will soon return to them, but not in quite the same way they remember. An emotionally manipulative rollercoaster, Pet Sematary is guaranteed to make your hair stand on end.
Originally published in 1992 as a thriller suspense novel, Netflix adapted Gerald’s Game into movie format in 2017, and they captured it incredibly. Retreating to their remote lake house in Western Maine, Gerald and Jessie hope to reignite the dimming flame of their failing marriage. However, things go horribly awry when Jessie witnesses Gerald’s sudden death while he is dragging her unwillingly into his kinky fantasy. Handcuffed to the bedpost with no food or water and her husband’s corpse at the foot of the bed, her screams go unheard amid the empty houses of the secluded neighbourhood. Skin crawling and tense, this is one of those films that your head tells you you don’t want to watch and yet, you won’t be able to look away.
One of Stephen King’s absolute classics, Misery was a hit after its publication in 1987 and was subsequently adapted into a film by Director, Rob Reiner, in 1990. And it hasn’t aged a jot. Every bit as terrifying as it was back in the day, it follows the sinister story of a best-selling author who is incapacitated after a car accident during his daily drive home. He is picked up and taken in by an ex-nurse who just happens to be one of his most avid fans. However, things take a dark turn when she purchases his latest book, and she doesn’t like what she reads. An intense, slow-burn psycho-thriller, you will have bitten your nails down to the cuticles by the time the credits roll!
Based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden, this movie adaptation is definitely one of the most underappreciated in the Stephen King catalogue. Following the story of a depressed writer named Mort Rainey, who has retreated to a remote lakeside house to escape the grief of his painful divorce, it plays on a concept that most rational people are quite rightly terrified of – stalking. The problem begins when Mort’s monotonous life is rudely interrupted by a stranger showing up at his door and accusing him of plagiarism. When Mort denies the accusation, things start to escalate in a very alarming way. As well as playing on basic, instinctive fears, The Secret Window also delves into the dangers of disregarding mental health. Brimming with intrigue and mystery, this overlooked Stephen King adaptation is a must-see for every casual thrill-seeker.
From the overlooked to the absolute beloved, we couldn’t make a Stephen King list and not include the infamous It. Remember the killer clown phase? Well, this was most likely its primary inspiration. First published in 1986, the 1990 mini-series adaptation of It captured the intense fright factor of Stephen King’s horror to an absolute tee! Set in the year 1960, it follows a group of preteen underdogs who go on the hunt for a creepy, child-killing clown. Their quest soon devolves into a hellish nightmare that will follow them for far longer than any of them expected. A bizarre, mind-bending trip that will leave you uneasily intrigued, it’s safe to say that this 90s mini-series has earned its cult-classic status.
What are your favourite Stephen King stories? Is there an adaptation we missed that you feel deserves a mention? Let us know in the comment section below, or drop a post on the Wild River Comics Discussion Club. And yes, we did leave out The Shining on the grounds that Stephen King hated it – but feel free to disagree!