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Stephen King at the Movies

I wonder if it is mere coincidence that the best films taken from Stephen King's works are ripped from Novellas rather than novels.

Stand By Me (The Body), The Green Mile, and of course The Shawshank Redemption (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) are three terrific movies, the latter often featuring in people's top 3 films of all time. I confess – it is mine.

What about The Shining? I hear fans screaming at the back. Well, for me, that film has one major flaw: Jack Nicholson. Now, before I get stoned for being a Heretic, allow me to explain. First, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film and I love Nicholson. The problem, for me at least, is that the character played by Nicholson, Jack Torrance, is supposed to start off as a normal man who, whilst on the edge and playing his last card in life, has his demons are locked up at the beginning. Yes, he had a drinking problem, and sure he once hurt his son, Danny, whilst drunk. But he is not a madman when the book opens. It was the Overlook hotel that turned him into one. But this is Jack Nicholson. The moment he widens them eyes and flashes that huge crooked grin, right there in the scene where he is offered the job, you know this is a man who waved goodbye to the edge long ago.

Then there is my issue with the topiary. Or, rather, the lack of it. The scenes towards the end of the book featuring the topiary were packed with brilliantly scary stuff. But in the film it's a simple maze. I'm not quite sure how they might have done the topiary scenes cinematically, but I'm afraid the maze just didn't cut it for me. They took the best scene from the book and made it dull.

Other films, like Carrie, The Dead Zone, Firestarter, The Pet Semetary, Christine, Cujo, The Dark Half and Needful Things all fall some way short of being A-movies. Perhaps the two which come closest to achieving the depth of the best three are Misery and Delores Claiborne. Yet they are merely good, as opposed to excellent.

What all the better ones have in common is, perhaps, that they are not drawn from the horror genre. In fact, with the exception of The Green Mile, there's very little dark fantasy to be found, either.

Plain old story telling makes for the best films.

Well, who would have thought that?

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