The list of film and television adaptations of Stephen King novels is almost as long as the books themselves. Going back to the '70s and '80s, Hollywood has long wanted to play around in his twisted and unusual worlds. It's no wonder that filmmakers are currently tackling The Dark Tower saga and remaking It.
However, as with most remakes and book-to-film adaptations, fans worry about what essential character and plot elements may be left out, and how the production values will hold up. For every classic such as Misery or The Green Mile, there's a bottom-scraping dud such as 2011's Children of the Corn: Genesis.
The recent release of Pennywise's sinister new look for the 2017 It reboot is receiving mixed reviews from some fans. As one redditor posted, "[T]his one is supposed to scare you just by seeing it. Tim Curry made you become afraid of clowns [in the original] because from a distance it seemed safe and it just got more intense and unsettling."
Critics Have Eviscerated The Most Recent King Film Adaptations
The John Cusack-starring, direct-to-video Cell earned a meager 8% Rotten Tomatoes score. 2014's A Good Marriage, scripted by King himself, only impressed 37% of reviewers. Plus, the 2013 reboot of Carrie received a disappointing Rotten Tomatoes score of 49%, following yet another botched 2002 attempt to recreate 1976's universally lauded Brian De Palma adaptation of King's first novel.
There is evidence that whatever turn producers are taking in recent horror films isn't working for King adaptations. It begs the question: which medium brings out the best of his award-winning novels? Would King adaptations do better as television series?
The Binge-Worthy Hulu Series 11/22/63 Is A Hit
The Hulu original program is doing something right, with an IMDb score of 8.3 and a Rotten Tomatoes rank of 79% for its first season. With 880 pages of King's genius pouring from its spine, a television series proved to be the right way to go for this adaptation.
As a series, the writers and producers aren't limited to a two-hour window, allowing the creative characters and plot to really come to life. That, or James Franco's star power does the trick.
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It's The Golden Age Of Horror Television Shows
It seems that the cry for more of the horror genre is at an all-time high these days. Television shows in particular are showing escalating success with American Horror Story, Sleepy Hollow, The Walking Dead and Bates Motel.
Perhaps there's just more room for creativity in television right now. Networks such as HBO and AMC don't have to worry about how PG-13 or R ratings will affect box office, so there's no fear (so to speak) of pushing boundaries.
Bates Motel and Sleepy Hollow have even gained reviewer scores equivalent to their movie counterparts.
...But That's Not Always The Case
The 2013-2015 television series Under the Dome surely didn't meet expectations when it ended after only three seasons. It was initially a huge success, but audiences and critics lost faith after the solid first season.
Even though King's enormous book allowed for plenty of world-building, the show perhaps didn't capture its breakneck pace. As King noted, the producers "plan to keep the Dome in place over Chester's Mill for months instead of little more than a week, as is the case in the book." And that could've cost it much-needed tension. Some stories just work better as self-contained films, with immediate resolutions, than as open-ended series.
In the case of The Dark Tower, though, many fans are worried that the storyline is just too massive for a film franchise. Would the story have had more room to breathe as a long-running HBO series like Game of Thrones, as originally planned? We'll never know, although many fingers are crossed that the upcoming films do the books justice.
And Then There's The Shining...
Jack Nicholson's role as Jack Torrance in the 1980 version of King's novel The Shining, along with Stanley Kubrick's masterful direction, made it one of the all-time great films. Surprisingly, though, King wasn't satisfied with the film version, and took to the small screen in the '90s to flesh out his characters closer to how they appear in his book.
Unfortunately, the 1997 television miniseries didn't receive reviews nearly as high as the film, with a IMDb score of only 6.1. Fans remember it as something between a bizarre curiosity and a near-blasphemous attempt to outdo Kubrick's classic.
Would The Shining Work As A TV Series Today?
It would only make sense, if a reboot is inevitable. The 2004 TV version of Salem's Lot was solid (earning 83% on Rotten Tomatoes), showing that -- over time -- television shows have shown their advancement in both storyline and grander special effects.
What with Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Amazon Prime becoming one-stop shops for in-home viewing, and the theory that the silver screen is becoming a thing of the past, perhaps one of them could adapt The Shining in a way that honors King's vision without stepping on Kubrick's? And if that one is too sacred to touch (again), it's not as if King has any shortage of other stories to adapt.
Stephen King's next big-screen foray will be It, hitting cinema screens on September 8, 2017.