Horror’s Icons: Stephen King’s Terrors
Stephen King has been scaring readers for years and soon afterwards his novels were brought to life by Hollywood to scare the movie-going audience. The author has given us many horror classics and also some not-so-scary classics. But here on Horror’s Icons we will look at 5 of the best characters from 5 movies that were based off of King’s novels. While there have been many good movies from King, including Children of the Corn, Pet Sematary, and The Mist, we will look at a girl, a man, a dog, a clown, and …
In 1983, director John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from New York) took his shot at the King classic about a car that has a (homicidal) mind of its own. The movie begins at a factory that is producing the title 1957 Plymouth Fury and one car in particular that injures one man and kills another. We then fast-forward to 1978 and meet the nerdy teenager Arnold (Keith Gordon). Arnold soon purchases a rusty, beat up car from a man and fixes it up. But what Arnold doesn’t know is that this car will change his life forever. And not in the way that a teenage boy hopes a car will.
The car soon starts to injure and kill people that try to get in Arnold’s way and everyone becomes aware that the car is evil. Everyone except Arnold that is. Eventually, during a final battle, Arnold is thrown through Christine’s windshield and dies. The other kids present attack Christine with a bulldozer and appear to kill her. But when Christine starts to fix herself, the couple quickly drive over Christine with the bulldozer, killing her for good.
The next day, the couple watch as Christine is crushed into a cube and believe the car to be dead. But just as the movie is about to end, Christine begins to fix herself again. And we thought that the scariest thing about driving was the cost of gas!
King’s 1974 novel “Carrie” is by far one of his most popular. The novel was made into a movie in 1976, directed by Brian de Palma. This was the first time one of King’s novels was written into a movie and it set a great example for future releases. This movie featured Sissy Spacek as Carrie, a quiet girl with an overbearing and abusive, religious mother and telekinetic abilities. After being outcasted during her high school years, others kids decide to pull a prank and drench her in pig’s blood at the school prom. But when they do, Carrie exacts revenge by trapping everyone in the school’s gym and killing and injuring many.
A sequel was made in 1999 that was not related to the original. A made for television movie was also made in 2002. But in a few weeks, a big screen remake will hit theaters that promises to follow King’s work more closely. The 2013 remake is directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boy’s Don’t Cry) and features an amazing cast including Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as Margaret, Carrie’s mother.
The movie has yet to be released but early previews look very good and I am excited to see the film. It is a basic story but has been one of my favorites since I have been watching King-based movies. I just hope that I am right on this one and it leads to future King releases or re-releases.
JACK TORRANCE in THE SHINING
While King has made it very clear that he does not care for Stanley Kubrick’s version of his 1977 novel, The Shining is viewed as a classic mostly due to Jack Nicholson’s performance of Jack Torrance, the main character. King disliked the movie so much that he would go on to make a TV miniseries of the novel but the movie is still much better.
Jack Torrance and his family move into the Overlook Hotel after Jack takes the job as the hotel’s winter caretaker. Jack’s son, Danny, has ESP and has a bad feeling about the hotel, but they still hunker down in the massive hotel for the long winter. But Danny begins to snoop around the hotel and sees ghosts. And he is not alone as Jack is battling with the belief of what he is experiencing in the hotel too.
Soon Jack snaps and goes after his family. Cabin-fever has set in for Jack and Danny and Wendy, Jack’s wife, have no where to run. The movie ends with Jack giving chase, with an axe, to his family in a snowy hedge maze. But when they manage to escape, Jack ends up freezing to death.
While the film and novel are different, mostly in dealing with Jack’s battle with alcohol, the film is iconic to most and is responsible for many popular references including “REDRUM” and Nicholson’s line “Here’s Johnny!”. There was also recently a documentary, Room 237, released that explored different interpretations of the film.
In 1983, director Lewis Teague took a shot at another King classic with the release of Cujo. Cujo stars Dee Wallace (The Howling) as Donna Trenton, a woman whose life spirals down after her husband, Vic, learns of her having an affair. But just when she thinks it can’t get worse, they meet up with Cujo, the neighbors big St. Bernard dog. As Donna and her son Tad are about to leave, they are attacked by Cujo, who has contracted rabies after being bitten by a rabid bat.
They retreat to their Ford Pinto but the car dies on them, leaving them stuck in the car, with nowhere to go and in the unbearable summer heat. The rest of the movie revolves around Donna and Tad attempting too leave but Cujo not letting them out of his sights. But when Tad starts to suffer from dehydration and is near death, Donna must get them into the house to save his life. She manages to get to the house and Cujo uses the last of his power to attack them. But Donna shoots Cujo with a pistol from the sheriff that Cujo killed. This kills Cujo and the family survives the horror.
For a movie that is set almost entirely inside of a Ford Pinto, Cujo keeps the audience on the edge of their seats as Donna and Tad fight for survival against the huge beast that has nothing to live for. Throughout history, people have tried to create a good killer animal film but many have failed. Cujo remains one of the best examples of how it is done right.
PENNYWISE THE CLOWN from IT
Some people have a fear of clowns. But almost everyone was terrified by this creation from Stephen King. While It was not a movie (it was a TV miniseries), Pennywise the Clown was terrifying enough to make it here. The 1990 miniseries is probably one of King’s most popular miniseries and features a terrific cast, including Tim Curry who played the evil clown.
The series begins in 1960 with a group of friends that meet up with Pennywise and then moves ahead to the same kids in their adult lives. Pennywise finds his way back into their lives and hopes to take their lives finally. But the adults ban together and manage to defeat Pennywise and put their nemesis down for good.
While Pennywise is best known as the creepiest damn clown ever, “It” is actually a predatory life-form that can change into it’s preys worst fears. Doing this allows it to exploit its victims worst phobias and fears and make it easier to kill it’s prey. But for the main purposes here, It took the form of “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”, and I personally believe that was as effective as anything. I remember watching It for the first time and being scared as shit so I know it worked for me.
Chances are possible that It will make its way to the big screen. Rumors are floating on the internet but nothing is concrete yet. Only time will tell on that. But it is definitely a fact that Horror’s Icons will be back next week and we will go back to looking at one person. But instead of looking at a villain, we will look at a different icon. Next week, we look at the greatest heroic icon in horror history: Ash from the Evil Dead series. See you then.