From Silver Bullet to Desperation
Stephen King’s 1974 novel “Carrie” is the latest in a string of adaptations Hollywood is tackling behind the (somewhat) recently announced “Under the Dome” and “The Dark Tower.” Unlike those two projects, however, “Carrie” has already been brought to the screen.
Brian De Palma’s 1976 feature film – Carrie with Sissy Spacek – was the very first to translate King’s words to celluloid. Later, in 1999, Katt Shea directed the follow-up The Rage: Carrie 2, a laughable mess that wildly spun off from the events in De Palma’s film. Then, a dismal made-for-TV movie re-told the King novel with an inspired cast; Angela Bettis played Carrie White and the always-solid Patricia Clarkson co-starred as her mother (a bit of nerd triva: Battlestar Galactica‘s Kandyse McClure played Sue Snell).
Certainly “Carrie” is not the first King novel to get a “do over.” There was the Salem’s Lot “television event” mini-series with Rob Lowe, same could be said for The Shining. “The Dead Zone” became a popular television series. Firestarter inspired a Sci-Fi Channel sequel and Trucks (a redo of Maximum Overdrive) roared its way onto the small screen in 2000. (Hmm, that’s a whole lot of television projects.) “IT,” “The Stand” and “Pet Sematary,” meanwhile, are in queue to needlessly be re-told as feature films (I still think Fred Gwynne deserved some sort of award for his performance in the latter).
The studio system is intent on revisiting the King movies that were good the first time around when there are plenty of dreadful to mediocre adaptations worthy of updating. Here are five that are not already in-the-works…
â¢ Silver Bullet (“Cycle of the Werewolf”): Nostalgia clouds the mind. I’ve found fans looking back fondly on director Daniel Attias’ adaptation and I still have no idea why. Hokey and miscast – save for Everett McGill – the film, scripted by King, has an awkward pace. Overall, it always screamed of “cheap,” which was always a shame to me because the source material, “Cycle of the Werewolf,” especially Bernie Wrightson’s grisly illustrations that pulsed violence and menace, was what got me fascinated in horror. So, imagine the disappointment I felt when I saw a ludicrous man-in-suit werewolf (designed by Carlo Rimbaldi) chasing around Corey Haim.
“Cycle of the Werewolf” is a story that could be a relevant scare-fest today. Use Bernie Wrightson’s werewolf design as a blueprint. Capture the brutality of those kills, furthermore, the atmospheric passage of seasons. After all, “Cycle of the Werewolf” was born out of an idea to tell a story through a calendar. And set it in the â70s or â80s. I don’t see any reason why the story would need to be contemporary.
â¢ The Dark Half: No disrespect to George Romero, but I wouldn’t mind seeing someone take another crack at this one. Romero does his best to stay faithful to the material, but the results are rather dull and Timothy Hutton as both Thad Beaumont and George Stark (oof) doesn’t work.
Pull in a strong writer to freshen up the mystery and a clever director – perhaps look to Spain or France? – and give this warped Jekyll/Hyde story the adaptation it deserves. Moreover, make sure the leading man feels comfortable in the skins of both Beautmont and Stark.
â¢ The Tommyknockers: The ABC mini-series in â93 was an abysmal mess. The cast was completely wrong across the board and it had John Power – a director whose career is/was founded on television – and let’s just say he lacked vision. Lawrence D. Cohen (Carrie, IT) penned the screenplay, but that doesn’t help matters because he shied away from trimming away parts of the book that don’t work. There’s plenty of material to chisel away at and easily shape into a feature film. And because we’re getting so many big alien invasion films, it might be refreshing to do one that turns inward. Donât be so dear to the material and take a unique storytelling approach. Yes, it’s a kooky kind of story, but one I always had a soft spot for.
â¢ Needful Things: Speaking of batshit zany, King’s 1991 farewell to Castle Rock was a novel I plowed through in a week. A thick read, but it had a breakneck pace and sent me tumbling through a stream of bad deeds and a cycle of violence that I couldn’t pull myself out of. The film? Not so much. While writer W.D. Richter (Big Trouble in Little China) crammed a lot into the story, tonally, I think it missed the mark. More mischievous-cute than mischievous-evil. J.T. Walsh and Max von Sydow were strokes of genius casting, but director Fraser Heston (son of Charlton) couldn’t pull good performances out of the rest of his ensemble. It’s a forgettable experience. This story could be best served as a television mini-series, but at a home such as Showtime or HBO to really deliver on the graphic violence.
â¢ Desperation: Here is where I’m going to cheat a tad and introduce a book that also hasn’t been adapted for the screen. When “Desperation” was published in 1996, King also released “The Regulators” (which I enjoyed more) under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. Again, like my suggestion for “Needful Things,” I say take “Desperation” to television (again, Showtime or HBO), but go experimental and do a full-on double adaptation and find someone who might be able to interweave the stories, or, shoot them back-to-back, as characters overlap. As it stands, the current Desperation TV mini-series by Mick Garris isn’t the director’s finest hour. The actors don’t seem to get what movie they’re in and I recall it being a bit ludicrous and preachy.
There’s my five. Are there any Stephen King movies you’d like to see get a do-over? Use our comment boards below!
Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor