A new documentary about the master storyteller Stephen King is set to shed light on the horror author’s most thrilling storylines.
The ‘King of Horror’ has sold hundreds of millions of copies of his 64 novels – and King on Screen, released on August 11, will give viewers a look into the minds of the directors and producers who have masterfully adapted his writing for theater audiences with their million-dollar Hollywood budgets.
The experts delve into how King placed run-of-the-mill characters in average situations to create some of the most nail-biting, grisly storylines of the last century – including The Shining, It, and Carrie.
And they explain how King not only spearheaded pop culture, but has become an element of modern culture in his own right.
Stephen King, the ‘King of Horror,’ has sold hundreds of millions of copies of his books
Mick Garris, who worked on the Sleepwalker, The Stand, The Shining, Desperation, and Bag of Bones, says King’s star was on the rise from the moment his debut novel was published.
He told the documentary: ‘It all started with Carrie.’
He added that the author’s decision to use rural, mundane US settings for his work made the horror even more tantalizing.
‘It’s an idealized America, but then it’s ripped apart and sent to hell.’
John Harrison, who directed Tales from the Darkside and Creepshow, agreed. ‘Instead of setting everything in big cities, he chooses locations that are identifiable for everybody,’ he said.
And Taylor Hackford, who worked on Dolores Claiborne, said: ‘Stephen King writes human beings and then he puts them in phantasmagorical situations.’
The director of Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist, Frank Darabont, told the documentary: ‘He’s been such a mirror for pop culture, but now he is his own pop culture.’ Mike Flanagan (right) also spoke about how King’s work affected his life
Actor Thomas Jane, Stephen King and actress Marcia Gay Harden attend the premiere of The Mist at the Ziegfeld Theater, November 12, 2007
Mike Flanagan, who worked on Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep, spoke about the way King’s work had affected his own life. Discussing the clown thriller It, he said: ‘It completely traumatized me.’
But perhaps not for the reason you might think.
He added: ‘I remember being shocked that someone who I associated so much with horror was capable of creating something so beautiful.’
The director of Carrie (2002), David Carson, said: ‘Much of Stephen King’s work seems to be about how we treat each other.’
While Dolan’s Cadillac director Jeff Beesley, added: ‘That is the legend of Stephen King. He will perceive things in the future that the average person can’t.’
The director of Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist, Frank Darabont, went even further, telling the documentary: ‘He’s been such a mirror for pop culture, but now he is his own pop culture.’
DailyMail.com dives into Stephen King’s most compelling stories that have made him arguably the most celebrated horror writer of all time.
Creepshow’s budget was $8million and it ended up making $21million
Creepshow was released in 1982, and marked King’s screenwriting debut.
The anthology of five short stories – an homage to the horror comics of the 1950s – was directed by George A Romero and filmed in Pittsburgh, and even starred King himself as a ‘backwoods yokel’ who witnesses a meteorite crash on his farm.
His son Joe, meanwhile, plays the part of a boy named Billy, who gets disciplined by his father for reading a horror comic.
The plotlines include tales of a murdered father rising from his grave and a plague of cockroaches.
The 1982 film’s budget was $8million and ended up making $21million at the box office. It was followed by a 1987 sequel, also written by Romero and based on stories by King. A third movie in 2006 was produced without any involvement from either Romero or King.
Greg Nicotero, the producer of the Creepshow television series from 2018, recalled in the documentary the effect King’s writing had on the horror genre, saying: ‘Creepshow had a massive impact.’
Jack Nicholson in The Shining
King criticized The Shining, saying it had deviated too far from the novel
The Shining, written by King in 1977, was adapted into a psychological horror film in 1980 starring Jack Nicholson.
The story follows an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who moves to the Colorado Rockies to become the caretaker of an empty hotel for the winter, along with his wife and his son Danny, who has psychic abilities – called ‘shining.’
But during a snowstorm, the character played by Nicholson starts to lose his sanity as supernatural forces in the hotel take over.
King actually criticized the film, saying there were too many deviations from the original novel.
Thirty-nine years later, a sequel, Doctor Sleep, was released, without Nicholson in the lead, and with Ewan McGregor playing an older Danny Thomas.
It earned a disappointing $72 million at the box office.
Stephen King on set of a CBS adaptation of his novel Under The Dome
King’s original novel was a hardback bestseller, and firmly established him as a pre-eminent author in the field of horror.
He said at the time that he wanted to move away from writing about Maine, where he lived, so opened up an atlas of the US, and randomly pointed to a location – which ended up being Boulder, Colorado.
King went to stay in The Stanley Hotel to get inspiration for the book. On his first night, he recalled: ‘I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming.
‘He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed.
‘I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in a chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind.’
Pennywise has become one of the scariest clowns in pop culture
One of the most notable opening scenes in film history: Six-year-old Georgie loses his paper boat down a storm drain, at which point Pennywise appears
It was Stephen King’s 22nd book, a spine-chilling horror that tells of seven children who are terrorized by an evil, shape-shifting entity.
The character exploits the fears of its victims, who all live in a small town in Maine, and disguises itself while hunting its prey – often showing up in the form of a clown called Pennywise to lure in young children.
King started writing the book in 1981, and it was published in 1986.
The first adaptation was a two-part ABC miniseries in 1990, with Tim Curry as Pennywise.
It then became a movie in 2017, whose opening scene is one of the most notable in film history – when six-year-old Georgie loses his paper boat down a storm drain, at which point Pennywise appears and starts speaking to him.
Georgie reaches into the drain to retrieve his boat, and the clown rips off his arm, killing him.
It was a box office sensation, garnering critical and commercial success. It grossed over $701 million worldwide and, in the process, made Pennywise one of the scariest clowns in pop culture. It Chapter Two was released in 2019.
The director of Carrie (2002) David Carson, said: ‘Much of Stephen King’s work seems to be about how we treat each other’
Sissy Spacek as a terrifying Carrie in the 1976 movie
There is no shortage of bloody scenes to satisfy horror fans
Carrie is set in Chamberlain, Maine, and centers on the eponymous character, a school loner who has telekinetic powers.
The shy 16-year-old gets invited to prom but is then subjected to a humiliating prank. In revenge, she uses her powers to destroy the town.
King wrote the horror story – his debut novel – in 1974 and it was a paperback bestseller. Two years later, in 1976, a film adaptation was made starring Sissy Spacek in the central role.
The story has been credited with reviving mainstream interest in horror – and catapulted King’s career into the mainstream media.
A modern re-imagining of the tale was released on big screens in time for Halloween 2013, starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her mother.
The movie was the 67th highest-grossing film of the year in the United States.
The Shawshank Redemption is still a fan favorite nearly 30 years on
The film starred Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman and was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture
One of King’s stories that is not in the horror genre, the film was based on the 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which is entirely narrated by the character Red.
The 1994 movie starred Tim Robbins as a banker wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder. and his friendship with Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman), a smuggler serving a life sentence in the brutal Shawshank Penitentiary.
The movie was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, but missed out to Tom Hanks and Forrest Gump.
In a 2016 interview, King admitted that Shawshank was probably his favorite adaptation of his work.
He said: ‘If that isn’t the best, it’s one of the two or three best, and certainly, in moviegoers’ minds, it’s probably the best because it generally rates at the top of these surveys they have of movies.
‘I never expected anything to happen with it.’
The movie’s budget was $25million, but it raked in $73.3million at the box office and continues to be a fan favorite nearly 30 years after its release.