Top Ten Worst Stephen King Movies.
King may be the master of horror, but he’s certainly not perfect when it comes to movie adaptations.
Last Halloween we celebrated our favorite adaptations of novelist and erstwhile pedestrian Stephen King. As my father can attest, King has had a prolific output over his career, making birthdays and Christmas a real slam dunk at my house. But as with any crop, if you plant a million seeds, a goodly portion of them are going to be duds. Well, Stephen King has had more than his share of box office disasters, and here we’re going to take a look at our ten favorite, from some cases of questionable casting all the way up to some howl-at-the-moon flops.
10. Cat’s Eye (1985)
When I first saw this film, at roughly 8 years old, it was one of the scariest things my young mind had ever tried to wrap itself around. The diminutive troll that attempts to murder Drew Barrymore every night actually made me run out of the room in sheer terror. In my mind, it grew to be the ultimate movie monster, a murder machine that would terrorize me for the rest of my life. Finally, in college, I worked up the stamina (read: blood alcohol content) to confront the nemesis of many of a sleepless night. On the second viewing, I nearly had to flee the room again…in order to stop laughing at the horrible special effects. Older and wiser, I guess.
The story is actually three shorter films welded together, two based on King’s short stories, and the third (the one about the troll) being a new addition. The first, about a company that is deadly serious about keeping it’s clients smoke-free (Quitters, Inc.) is actually quite good, if a bit over the top. The second, about a man caught philandering with a mob boss’ wife who is then forced to walk on the ledge of a skyscraper’s exterior while the mobster attempts to get him to fall, is a bit dull. It feels less like Hitchcock’s Vertigo and more like Mel Brook’s High Anxiety!
The final film, the bane of small children, focuses on the littlest monster ever, who attempts to steal the breath from Drew Barrymore as she sleeps. A heroic cat battles the creature, and turns him into box fan pie, which is actually awesome. But the monster himself is so wee, I can’t see why Drew didn’t just brain him with a Barbie doll and call it done. Seriously, he’s hardly 10 inches tall. And the knife he carries must be less effective than the bayonets on a GI Joe action figure. Add in some really dubious camera work, and you have more of a giggle fest than a fright night.
9. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Trying to catch the Misery lightning in a bottle twice, Dolores Claiborne features Kathy Bates as an abused woman who has taken control of her life by less than legal methods. After surviving a violent husband who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, Dolores is again under suspicion of murder when her patient, a verbally abusive octogenarian, is found dead under similarly odd circumstances, with Dolores again as the only suspect. A trial by public opinion ruins Dolores’ life, but she is finally able to make amends with her children, who harbor ill-will towards their mother over their father’s death.
Kathy Bates is an amazing actress, and her she channels equal parts Misery and Fried Green Tomatoes here: she’s tough, mysterious, and seemingly capable of very dark deeds when pressed. Unfortunately, the plot is dull as dishwater, and all of the constant flashback scenes make the film a real misery to sit through. Maybe if I was laid up with two bum ankles in a secluded cabin, I might be desperate enough to watch this film…
8. Silver Bullet (1985)
A half-baked Werewolf story starring Gary Busey and Corey Haim in a wheelchair (no, it’s not the prequel to Mac and Me…) The film racks up an impressive body count, but the premise of a boy in a rocket-wheelchair made by his crazy alcoholic uncle fighting a priest who becomes a werewolf sounds exactly like it plays: dumb.
7. The Langoliers (1995)
Criminally stretched out into a four hour TV debacle, The Langoliers manages to ruin both an interesting short story by King, and my love for Cousin Balki from Perfect Strangers. Like a cross between Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone, with just a dash of Left Behind thrown in, the story is appreciably all over the place.
A red-eye flight passes through spooky turbulence, and the passengers wake to find that nearly all of the crew and travelers are missing. Only those who were asleep at the time have been spared. They touch down at an airport, only to find it deserted as well. Has the rapture come? Are these the end of days? Nope. As Dean Stockwell patiently explains, channeling his character Al from Quantum Leap, the unfortunate flight has broken the time barrier: they now are in the recent past. Since the world is still in the present, the past is empty, and creatures with ferocious jaws, the Langoliers, are natures way of conserving space- they come along and eat the past, so only the present remains.
Yeah. How they plausibly deduced this is beyond even my reckoning. The only hope is to refuel the plane and take a direct reverse course from the initial flight, hoping to again pass into the present before the Langoliers can eat them… or Bronson Pinchot can show them the Myposian dance of terror. It involves charmingly backwards folk wisdom, and terror, I assume.
6. The Mangler (1995)
Robert Englund nearly manages to breath some life into this bewildering tale of a laundry press that becomes a terrifying killing machine. While bolted to the floor. I guess nobody decided to, you know, just leave the thing alone? Perhaps buy another machine, one not indwelt by Satan? I don’t know. Robert Englund plays the mysterious and sinister owner of the laundry press, who has 100% jack and squat to do with it being evil or murderous. Talk about stereotyping: just because Freddy Krueger owns the place, they all assume it’s his mess. Sheesh.
The film is a disaster of plotting and story telling, and the antagonist is about a terrifying as a pair of rusty scissors. After tasting blood from a worker, the machine becomes murderous…because obviously nothing soiled with blood EVER goes through a laundry plant normally. Nope, this beast needed it fresh in order to change. Next, the machine eats a man’s Rolaids…and gains super scary secret immunity to exorcism! Because…I don’t know why. It is the silliest thing I have ever seen, and I watched all three Beastmaster movies, back to back to back. Trust me. The climactic battle involves the heroes running like ninnies, falling into a sewer…and that’s it. The machine just kind of stops. No reason given. Wish it had taken an hour less, to be honest.
5. Children of the Corn Series (Endless)
Has anyone ever sat down and watched one of these things? What are they up to, Children of the Corn: 1 Billion? I can understand the terror of children, but corn? The producer does know that corn is fucking delicious right? Grilled, boiled, pressed into chips or tortillas…corn, you know? It’s great! These movies…not great. And that is all I’m going to say about this series.
4. Secret Window (2004)
This movie was so bad that it made me physically angry. I found myself getting up during my viewing, pacing the room, and grinding my fist into my palm, wondering aloud how in the name of all that is holy did this turd get made. It is without a single redeeming merit. This is Johnny Depp from the the early 2000’s, where he is just phoning it the fuck in, every damn movie. John Turturro is his nemesis, in the same way that an aneurysm is the nemesis of normal brain function. He’s about as threatening as narcolepsy, and his corn-pone accent is about as believable as rave reviews on Yelp for The Olive Garden.
At heart, we have another navel gazing, “you have to be a writer to get this”, self involved dog whistle story that King occasionally turns out. The story is of one writer, Turturro, stalking and accusing a second writer, Depp, of plagiarism, but the accuser is *shock and awe!* actually a psychotic figment of Depp’s mind! You see? Terror! Wait, you’re asleep because you could give two bull chips about a writer’s insecurities and his constant need for validation? Well, that makes two, bub.
3. Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Ever seen Night of the Living Dead? Ever wonder what that would look like if you replaced zombies with cars? Ever wish you had more Emilio Estevez in your diet? If you answered yes to all three, then you need to get back to writing Mighty Ducks 7, and stop wasting time reading silly movie reviews. If you answered “meatball sandwich” to all three, then have I got a bargain for you…
A bizarre space phenomena causes motor vehicles to become sentient and turn on their human masters. Think of Terminator, except with more emotive power than Arnold. The vehicles cause murder and mayhem, especially at a small truck stop in the middle of nowhere where Emilio the truck driver is holed up with other survivors. Thanks to the inexplicable cache of heavy weaponry stored in the place, the humans fight back, but eventually are cowed into submission. The cars demand we pump their gas, or else die hammy deaths as a grille mounted camera zooms right up to our faces as we scream in mock terror.
Emilio stages a break, and the humans escape to an island that inexplicably has prohibited electrical equipment. The whole thing blows over inexplicably when an inexplicable UFO is shot down by a Russian weather balloon that inexplicably had a nuclear warhead and laser death ray on it (the balloon, not the UFO…those things are unarmed, inexplicably.) I guess you could say the whole story is a bit…what’s the word…completely stupid. Inexplicably.
2.The Lawnmower Man (1992)
What. The. Fuck? This movie is so much of a mind job that it almost attains greatness. Pierce Brosnan is a brilliant non-James Bond scientist who is using VR (virtual reality, before Nintendo’s Virtual Boy destroyed that whole field of research) to make super smart monkeys. Because nobody takes Charlton Heston seriously, to our own peril. He is frustrated by the lack of progress, and naturally opts to use the mentally challenged groundskeeper (once again, not Bill Murray, for some damnable reason,) Jobe. Jobe gains wisdom…and psychic powers. So it’s a win win…if you’re Jobe and hope to destroy the world. As absolutely nobody saw coming, Jobe takes his revenge on those who tormented him earlier, and then attempts to gain worldwide power by becoming a purely digital entity. Kind of like how I-tunes works. Brosnan attempts to sacrifice himself to lock Jobe out of the world wide web, and nearly succeeds…
Lawnmower man is weird as all hell. The graphics, once top notch, really show their age. It looks like all of the VR scenes were animated with a Sega CD system. Jobe wields godlike powers…but chooses to murder people with lawnmower based attacks. How much intelligence did he REALLY gain from this experiment? You could not design a more basic “science overreaches and then pays for it via lawnmower terror” script if you tried…which is probably why the studio attempted to cover over this aspect by pants-crappingly weird visuals.
If you want to see lawnmower themed carnage and graphics that – exist? -then you owe it to yourself to seek psychiatric therapy. Oh, and skip this film. Now the sequel, on the other hand…
1. Dream Catcher (2003)
This movie is not merely the worst film adaptation of Stephen King’s work. It is the worst film adaptation of King’s worst novel, a double dose of heinous so hideous, I nominate Dream Catcher for the title of worst movie ever made. Plan 9? Call me when you hit the big leagues, kid! League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Oh please, Connery, you wish! The entire Blade series of movies, played at the same time, on the same screen? I like how you think, but Dream Catcher would roll up and smoke Snipes faster than Snipes would roll up and smoke literally any other known substance. This movie is the root of all evil.
Four men head out to the woods in order to rekindle their fading friendship. They once did something totally non-heroic by any basic standard of human decency (defending a helpless mentally challenged kid from a bully,) formed an attachment to each other over it, and now hope that they have not become such colossal losers that they can’t at least bask in the glow of that one non-shitty thing they did as kids before they even knew what sex was. Talk about peaking early! Once in the woods…how can I say this delicately…OK, here it goes:
Aliens arrive, in the form of anal razor leaches. The shit worms kills one guy before we can grow to hate him. He is the lucky one. One friend is possessed by an alien which forces him to speak in the most infuriating English accent you have ever heard. The other two men run away: one is caught by the alien/British fop, and the other returns to the cabin to burn down the shit worm nest. Somehow or other they all realize that the mentally challenged boy is the key to everything, because fuck you, says Stephen King, I’m not going to bother to write a coherent plot. They all arrive at the boys house, where he turns into A FUCKING GODDAMN ALIEN VERSION OF THE HULK! The two aliens fight, and the fucking movie ends.
There. I did it. Now you never have to watch this sack of crap movie.
*sound of crying*
(If you wonder how the book can be any worse, then just imagine that instead of a decently entertaining Hulk-fight between the aliens, Stephen attempts to felate himself by writing a hog-wash metaphor for puberty and acting like that solves the “alien about to seed the Earth with razor shit worms” problem. There. I did it again. Now you never have to read that sack of crap book.)
*sound of more crying, whiskey bottle being opened*