Six Underappreciated Classics From Stephen King…
Understandably, most casual filmgoers this time of year tend to side with the “All-Star” selections when choosing a horror film from the virtuoso novelist. Film’s like Carrie, The Shining, Cujo, It, and Misery, are cinematic staples that have become synonymous with the horror genre, and of course, the sub-genre King has created for himself. Yet, they are undeniably safe choices.
A suggestion if I may? Take the road less traveled this time of year. Lose yourself to the epitome of strange, and the unknown. Creep through the nooks and cranny’s of King’s B-sides and you’ll find a collection of tales that is both riveting and thought-provoking entertainment. Here are my sinister six choices from the macabre of Stephen King
Director: Mark L. Lester
Class of 84, Commando
George C. Scott’s film stealing performance as John Rainbird has to be in the hall of fame of King psychopaths! In Firestarter, Scott’s assigned by a ruthless organization called The Shop to hunt two fugitives that are the result of a secret government science experiment: a father and daughter duo, played by David Keith and Drew Barrymore, who have gained telekinetic and pyro-kinetic abilities.
Arguably the greatest unofficial episode of Stranger Things, Firestarter to this day is an unforgettable B-side in the King collection with an unforgettable score from the mystifying Tangerine Dream.
Needful Things (1993)
Director: Fraser C. Heston
Alaska, Treasure Island
The moment we see the vintage 1958 Benz blazing through the asphalt towards the peaceful town of Castle Rock, you know you’re in for one creepy thriller in Stephen King’s underrated classic Needful Things. Max Von Sydow is stellar as the newest resident, and Antique shop owner, Lelund Gaunt.
When locals start engaging with Gaunt’s antique shop, emotions and terror start to swim through the community as the town folk start to indulge in their deepest most unsettling urges. With one of King’s most reserved and manipulative character creations in Gaunt, you’ll be sure to find yourself returning to this gem of a terror year after year.
Cat’s Eye (1985)
Director: Lewis Teague
Cujo, Navy Seals
Quitters Inc, The Ledge, and The General.
Three twisted tales that play for laughs but won’t cease to provide you with the creeps. You’ll have a blast experiencing these enjoyable fables from Stephen King, with themes revolving around phobia, temptation, and paranoia.
Each short is worthy of its own feature, including a segment featuring James Woods as our lead in Quitters Inc., centering on a family man who unwilfully succumbs to an unorthodox self-help clinic. If the Easter eggs don’t hook you, Jimmy Woods trying to quit smoking will!
The Dead Zone (1983)
Director: David Cronenberg
Videodrome, Scanners, The Fly
Here we follow a local school teacher, played by Christopher Walken, awakening from a lengthy coma only to realize he has gained psychic abilities. Christopher Walken’s performance is possibly one of the better portrayals of a doomed and gifted soul in Stephen King’s masterpiece The Dead Zone. Directed by the fearless David Cronenberg — whose resume spoke for itself as early as 83 with cult-classics such as Videodrome, Shivers, Scanners, and The Brood — it’s safe to say we are in the hands of a true talent.
Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Director: Taylor Hackford
Ray, An Officer, and A Gentleman
Kathy Bates ignites the screen as the title character in the Stephen King film adaptation of Dolores Claiborne.
Written by the ultra-talented Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Bourne Franchise) and directed by Hollywood veteran Taylor Hackford (The Devil’s Advocate, White Knights) It’s truly an embarrassment of riches behind Stephen King’s bone-chilling mystery novel of the same name.
Estranged by death, reunited by murder, we follow journalist Selena St. George (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as she returns home to uncover a rattling murder investigation, where her mother (Kathy Bates) is the primary suspect. Acted to perfection, and effortlessly paced. Dolores Claiborne is a spellbinding title lost in the midst of one of fiction’s greatest libraries.
Apt Pupil (1998)
Director: Bryan Singer
The Usual Suspects, X-Men
Some questions are better off unanswered in the Bryan Singer adaptation of Stephen King’s taut and thought-provoking thriller Apt Pupil.
When all-around athlete and scholar Todd Bowden discovers an old recluse living on his block is a Nazi war criminal (Ian McKellen), tensions and wits are exchanged. After the cocky high-school senior with a menacing curiosity engages in a bleak, and dangerous arrangement involving the wanted fugitive it becomes a battle of “Good vs Evil”? Or is it “Evil vs Evil”? Rooting for a character has never been more troubling.