Friday (September 21) and Saturday (September 22) at Midnight
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Inspired by this weekend’s 35 mm screening of Brian De Palma’s haunting adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, we put some thought into some of our favorite King stories to hit the big screen.
The film that put De Palma and King both on the map, Carrie takes a chilling look at what happens when a bunch of mongrel pretty faces torment a girl with problems that extend beyond high school trivialities. Sissy Spacek plays Carrie as a girl whose first period not only leaves her confused and terrified, but also seems to awaken a latent telekinetic power. Forced to cope with her changing body and mind, Carrie is left with nowhere to turn as she’s surrounded by cruel classmates and a mother who fills her head with twisted religious poison.
Though the film stutters at times with some odd music queues and a couple of tone-deaf gags, De Palma’s work is a master stroke loaded with unshakable performances from Spacek and Piper Laurie as Carrie’s psychotically devout mother. The march towards the infamous Black Prom, where Carrie psychically lashes out against her entire school, friend or foe alike, is an amazing piece of tragic horror. De Palma keeps characters motives and attitudes opaque, leaving you to wonder if the characters out to help Carrie are doing it for the right reasons.
The Running Man (1987)
Essentially nothing like King’s novel The Running Man (the last of the novels that King wrote under his Richard Bachman pseudonym), director Paul Michael Glaser essentially took King’s work and loaded it up with a heavy dose of Arnold. One of Schwarzenegger’s most under-rated outings as the ultimate unstoppable tough-guy charmer, the film version of The Running Man sets a wrongfully accused man (Schwarzenegger) in a dystopian game show where criminals are hunted down by hilariously gimmicky Stalkers done up like comic-book super-villains.
Unlike Predator, which shows Scwarzenegger fighting bicep-to-bicep with lovable pro-wrestler-turned-governor-turned-paranoid-conspiracy-loon Jesse Ventura, The Running Man pits the two against each-other in the ultimate battle of unlikely future governors. Hey, Christmas Tree!
For many, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining is the ultimate example of King’s work on the screen, but Kubrick’s numerous changes and shifts from King’s novel opens up the argument that the film’s success has very little to do with the source material. King wanted a warmer actor to play the role of Jack Torrance, feeling that Jack Nicholson’s natural edge would undercut his vision of a normal man’s descent into madness, but ultimately Kubrick won out.
Though Kubrick largely washed away much of King’s story, the results are heart stopping. The Shining is an example of adaptation done right—not so much through painstaking recreation, but through an artist taking the bones of a story and building a perfect version of it for that medium.
Adapted from King’s short story about a cynical paranormal investigator out to debunk an infamously haunted Manhattan hotel room, Swedish director Mikael Håfström’s 1408 is a pure, funhouse horror movie that delights in putting its snide lead (John Cusack) and the audience through the supernatural wringer. The film certainly doesn’t take a subtle approach to horror, and gets bogged down with some silliness here and there involving Cusack’s ghostly daughter, but Håfström’s assault on Cusack’s sanity is like strapping in to a roller coaster and is a refreshing example of mainstream horror done right.
The Mist (2007)
Director Frank Darabont’s adaptations The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile may have garnered generous praise from critics, awards panels and moms across the country, but the director’s fast and grimy take on The Mist, one of King’s lesser known novellas, may be the director’s finest work. A cheesy sci-fi/horror flick made in the vein of late-night Shock Theater sludge, The Mist besieges a grocery store full of small town yokels with an impenetrable blanket of fog that houses an army of twisted hellbeasts. While Darabont sticks to King’s suffocating narrative closely, he wisely ditches on the author’s distancing romantic/adulterous sub-plot and concocted an utterly unforgettable new climax that improves on King’s cop-out non-ending to such a degree that the author confessed to being jealous for having not thought of it first.