ByDrew Grimm Van Ess, writer at
Horror aficionado/nerd. Follow my blog for film reviews, book reviews, and interviews.
Drew Grimm Van Ess

Looking back at the horror genre, you realize a lot of things. One of them being, how like every other genre, there's ups and downs. It's been a rocky road at times, no doubt. Horror has also had a golden era, where it was "the bees knees" and everyone couldn't get enough of it. Actors wanted to be in them, and everyone wanted to go see them! Horror still has it's highs and lows, though the main thing that's changed is how extreme the genre has become.

When I think back on horror I think of countless classics, brilliant movies that I will carry with me in my mind and heart until death. I think of Vincent Price, Elvira, John Carpenter, Wes Craven and, Dario Argento.

There was particularly a really good era of horror in the 60's through the 70's. I mean, we were hit with some old classics that are still with us. Movies that to us, will never be outdone or remade to be any greater than it is! It was the golden age of exploitation cinema, especially after 1969's Easy Rider . Funnily enough, this was also the same time that had almost solely done nothing but horror films, and dominated the genre.

In the 60's we were hit with films such as 's Psycho(1960), the film that would go on to be one of the greatest American cinema achievements. We also got films like The Brainiac (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Birds (1963), And The Last Man on Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price. The Last Man on Earth was actually the first film adaptation to Richard Matheson's I Am Legend novel, which would later go on to be remade in 1971 and re-titled The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston. It was remade a third time in 2007, and went by the original title of the book, and starred . Other memorable films to be released are Orgy of the Dead (1965), The Black Cat (1966), Eye of the Devil (1967), Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Corpse (1969).

This is an era that I truly am sorry I missed. However, I'm lucky enough to have a loving and supporting family who supplied me with these films growing up. Mostly because they liked them, and already owned them on their own. I may be young, but I've done my history with cinema. I've been there and seen that. Vincent Price has become a hero of mine, and is to me more iconic than Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi.

Vincent Price has helped push horror into a new direction. But, enough about him, that's a whole other discussion for later.

We then hit the 70's, which is arguably amongst almost all film buffs, to be the greatest decade of movies. The classics are not only priceless, they're timeless. In the horror genre alone, the 70's was a huge focal point. We had the films The Dunnwich Horror (1970), Willard (1971), which would be remade in 2003 and star Crispin Glover. Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972), which shocked audiences around the world. And The Exorcist (1973), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Jaws (1975), which are some of the greatest and innovative horror films ever made.

If you're a horror fan, answer this question: Out of the movies listed in the last paragraph, how many do you like?

If you're a genre nut like me, you answered just about all of them. C'mon, that's serious decade for horror. But there's a reason I stopped half through the decade, and that's because in the following year of 1976, The film Carrie was released, and became an instant sensation and classic. The Brian DePalma film still echoes off the walls of the horror genre. Everyone knows what the movie Carrie is.

But let's rewind a bit, because up until this point something very important's been going on. Back in the year 1947, a man was born who would change the horror genre forever. He didn't know it yet, be he grew into not just a forefather of horror, but a God of horror. That person I am talking about is, Stephen King.

Born in Portland Main, Stephen King had somewhat of a rocky start in life. At two years old, Stephen's father left after saying that he was "going to buy a pack of cigarettes", and never returned. This caused financial strain at times, leaving Nellie Ruth (King's mother) to raise Stephen and her adopted son David by her lonesome.

After some moving around, Stephen and his family moved back to Maine when he was 11-years-old. His mother became a caregiver at a facility for the mentally challenged.

While at a young age, King liked reading horror comics such as Tales from the Crypt. He even started showing an interest in writing while he was still in school, though he did it for fun. His first story published independently, was "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber".

In 1970 King graduated from the University of Maine with a Bachelor of Arts in English. However, unable to find an immediate job as a teacher, he started selling stories to Men's magazine's. Some of which are even in his book Night Shift. Eventually King found a job as a teacher, but still proceeded to contribute stories to magazine's and come up with ideas for novels.

In 1973, Carrie was accepted by Doubleday publishing. The irony is that, King actually threw away his first draft of the book after becoming discouraged. Luckily, his wife Tabitha, to whom he married in 1971, encouraged him to finish it. And he did. Just three years later, Carrie would be made into the aforementioned classic by Scarface director Brian DePalma.

The question is, where would we be today in horror if Carrie had never gotten finished, and his wife never retrieved his trashed draft and made him finish? We wouldn't be where we are today, that's for sure!

The thing a lot of people don't know about Stephen is, a lot of people think he got his taste for the darker side of things when he was a child and witnessed his friend get hit and killed by a train. King himself has never written anything about the matter and apparently has no memory of it. Just his family witnessing him traumatized after the event.

Whatever it was, regardless of if it was a tragic death, or something else we don't know about, some spark finally struck flame, and we're very blessed that it did. Because King would go on to be one of, if not the biggest influence on the horror genre as a whole. He changed horrors ugly face to something much more sinister.

After both the book and film success of Carrie, King pushed on and published his second book, Salem's Lot, in 1975, just a year after the release of Carrie. Two years later (1977) came The Shining, which would go on to be the 2nd film adaptation of King's writing in 1980. Though King hates the film and has much disdain for Kubrick (director), the film became one of the greatest horror films ever made. Even if it didn't follow King's book tooth and nail.

After The Shining, Stephen would release 16 more stories and books, most of them would become motion pictures including, but not limited to Pet Sematary, which was published in 1983. His 3rd film adaption (not including his work on Creepshow) would be Cujo, in 1983. The book was released in 1981. Just like King's other stories, they were extreme for the times, very dark and primal. Each one giving us a breath of originality and a new terror. Horror films stepped it up a notch after the impact of his movies. His work eased the genre into a more terrifying, raw, and extreme new level.

No matter how scary his books and films based around his books are, they are and always will be enjoyable. The inner child in_ King_ speaks through his work, and we all experience the fun of being scared. There's always an entertainment value in his work that prevents you from solely being afraid, it's fun.

In the year 1983, more films came out in a more extreme fashion that reminisced Kubrick's The Shining based after King's work. And thus, David Cronenberg's Videodrome was born. Cronenberg is a whole case onto himself, but you can't help but pick up how things have become more open and acceptable after The Shining. Which is funny, because upon being first received, The Shining wasn't praised like it is today. 1983 also dawned Sleepaway Camp, which is one of the cruelest and shocking slashers ever filmed.

Now, one could argue that King's influence on horror had nothing to do with Sleepaway Camp or Videodrome, but you can't help but notice that his shocking stories went right along with the more extreme films coming out. Either he opened the doorway, or he was ahead of the time, ready to make the next step in the genre.

But that's not all, King's works went on to dominate the 90's as well in both the book and movie industry. We were given a goldmine of creative and visionary genius because of Stephen. The horror films in the 90's based off of King's brilliant stories are Graveyard Shift, Misery, which is possibly the best film adaption of a King novel. We also got the television movies of IT, and The Stand. Plus the flicks Sometimes They Come Back, Sleepwalkers, Needful Things, The Tommy Knockers, and even sequels to Children of the Corn and Pet Sematary. Not to forget The Manglor, Thinner, The Night Flier, Quicksilver Highway, and Trucks.

But wait a minute, because that's not all. See, I only mentioned some of the films from the 90's that were based on works of King. I didn't mention how there's still being films and television series' being made to this day such as Bag of Bones and Under the Dome. So as you can see, King isn't a one-trick pony. He's also still conquering the book market with newer releases such as Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining, which is about a grown-up Danny.

All you have to do is look to the films Pet Sematary, Children of the Corn, Christine, Misery, and Sometimes They Come Back to see how he's changed the genre forever. The flicks based after his work are some of the greatest horror films ever and favorites amongst any and all fans of horror, or anyone who can enjoy a good scare. Without King, we'd have none of the films mentioned above. Not to mention that almost any and every great horror book that people to this day are reading is by him as well.

And don't forget films that aren't horror that are from King's work. Such as The Shawshank Redemption, which is one of the greatest films ever, of all-time. And don't forget the classic achievement that is The Green Mile. Whatever King touches goes to gold when it's on point. He does have some flops in both literature and cinema, but you can't deny that when Stephen King swings a bat, he goes for home runs, and a lot of the time he hits it over the fence.

To date, King has over 50 of his stories and books turned into flicks. He's also got around 30 Television shows/movies based on his literature. There's even been five stage plays based after some of his writing, including Carrie, which wasn't well received. His hands are also dipped into the comic realm, and has about 21 comics under his belt. King's son, Joe Hill, who was actually the child in the beginning and end of Creepshow (1982) being punished for reading horror comics, is an author now himself. And Joe is taking the world by storm with his literary achievements.

My favorite book ever is Horns by Hill, which says a lot because it's a newer book, and I'm a book nerd who reads almost 30 books a year. The film adaptation is being released later this year for that very book. On other news, Joe has also released a new horror fiction novel earlier this year called N0S4A2, which is a hit. So again, Stephen King changed the genre forever, because now his son is picking up and taking over. Not saying that Joe will or won't achieve the greatness his dad did, but we're all glad he's around.

So in short, Stephen King changed horror forever, because some the greatest horror films that exist are based after his work, and there's a lot of film. He's also inspired other horror writers by his groundbreaking work, which will be around forever, along with Shakespeare.

To me, as a person, and a horror fan, the work King has done has been both motivation and inspiration. Too many memories of terror to recollect! I've read over 20 of his novels, and have several more lined up to read eventually. He reached the pinnacle of writing! He's both changed the literary, and movie making scenes with his creative writing. He's given me countless stories and movies to be scared of.

I still cringe at the final shot in Pet Sematary, and it wasn't until just a few years ago that I could fully watch that ending and not turn away. As a writer, and a horror buff, achieving the level of excellence King has is a dream come true. He did what so many other writers dream about, and for that we should all be eternally grateful. Thinking of one of my stories becoming an original horror film that scares audiences around the world is an amazing thought, and who knows, maybe one day I'll get there. Even so, I'll still be thanking Stephen King the whole ride, for being a master of horror and a master of everything he touches. Stephen King's work changed my life as it has many others.

I've been a fan since I was a small child, and it never left me. The good writers are the ones that last and that you don't forget. Stephen King will never be forgotten, even by children born today who don't know who he is. Give them a few years on this earth and by the time they die, even if they never read his work, they'll be able to name you several books and films with his name on them.

In short, this article should be titled more properly, 'Where the world would be without Stephen King'. He hasn't simply changed a genre. He changed everything, brought everything to a higher level and playing field. He influenced countless writers, such as myself, and films, and his influence and voice will echo off of the walls of horror forever. A living legend, nothing more, nothing less. He achieved the greatest high of his career and took everyone by storm. He's one of the most important people who has ever lived.

"Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts." - Salman Rushdie


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