Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: 10 Stephen King Remakes That Need To Happen

March 30, 2017 | Posted by Joseph Lee

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

First things first, guys. I screwed up. The last time I did a TV retrospective, I had a poll for the next one and Masters of Horror was on there. It won the poll. I was fully prepared to start working on it this week when I realized…I did it before. You see, I will have been writing this column weekly for a decade this September and it’s hard to keep up with that many editions of the column. I have to have written close to 500 different editions of ABGT by now.

I’m not saying this as an excuse, I’m just saying we have to re-run the poll again. I’ll keep all the selections that got votes and replace Masters of Horror and the only show that didn’t very many. I’m also keeping the same theme of shows that had short runs.

Meanwhile, if you want to see my look at that series, you can do so here.

So as you may have seen on the site today, the trailer for the remake of IT dropped.

I was excited before, but after seeing the footage I’m more pumped than I thought possible. Yes, there looks to be a larger amount of jump scares, but I truly believe that is just to sell the movie. It is, after all, one big advertisement. The Conjuring had minimal jump scares (and the ones it had were earned), but you wouldn’t know that from the ads. I didn’t care all that much for Mama‘s story but Andres Muschietti does have an eye for establishing a suspenseful tone and I think we’ll get that here. I think the bit with the balloon that only Ben can see floating in a classroom will be more indicative of the movie we get.

But man, outside of that? I’m totally on board. I saw the Black Spot, the house on Neibolt St, what looked to be Patrick Hockstetter and more. The scene of the group looking at a picture book is now updated to feature a slide projector and it’s great. Everyone may love the 1990 miniseries, and I do too, but it’s definitely cheesy outside of the first half (even Tim Curry hams it up) and I’d like something that sticks closer to the tone and story of the book. Although there are parts of the book that are unfilmable so hopefully they get left out. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about.

We’ve moved beyond adapting Stephen King novels at this point (although that still happens) and we seem to be onto remaking previous films based on his work. There was Carrie, which was basically a shot for shot remake of the 1976 movie. Spike TV is remaking The Mist for television, for some reason. It’s nice to see that King is going to stick around in popularity as his books continue to get adapted, possibly long after he’s gone.

But instead of remaking movies like Pet Sematary or making another Children of the Corn movie that no one will see, I’ve got some ideas about stories that could use better translations on the big screen.

#10: Riding the Bullet

I only saw this film recently and I hated it. I’m not a fan of Mick Garris as it is, outside of The Stand or creating Masters of Horror. This is based on a novella of King’s that eventually made its way into Everything’s Eventual. It’s on this list mostly because I hated the film although the story has some potential. It follows some whiny loser who’s obsessed with death as he hitchhikes to go home and see his mom, who had a stroke. He’s also crazy, because he constantly hallucinates even when he’s not being “haunted” by David Arquette (who is especially annoying in this movie). I find it easy to believe that Erika Christensen would dump him, because I can’t imagine anyone could stand being with this guy for more than an hour.

The tone is just all over the place with this movie. Is it a goofy ghost story? A serious character piece about how beautiful life is? A spooky hitchhiking trip where a man must make an impossible choice? It doesn’t know what it wants to be so it decides to be all things. It’s a jack of all trades, adequate at none. I’ve seen some bad King adaptations in my day and this is up there.

#9: The Langoliers

Chalk this one up to having an interesting premise ruined by laughably bad TV visual effects. The film follows a flight that passes through a rip in time to find themselves in the past. The problem is that the past doesn’t mean they get to relive old events. It’s just a dead area. Everything tastes stale, there’s no people around and giant monsters come along to devour everything because it’s not being used anymore.

The miniseries suffers from the bad effects for the monsters and worse acting from some of the leads. Bronson Pinchot seems to be the only one trying, but he’s trying too hard as Craig Toomey is hammy and over-the-top. Still, it’s better than the people who appear to be sleepwalking through the whole thing. This is something that could use a condensed version on the big screen, with better special effects and a less cheesy take on the material.

#8: “Crouch End”

If you don’t remember a movie of this, that’s okay, because it was adapted for the largely forgotten Nightmares and Dreamscapes TV miniseries. It’s unfortunate, because several of the adaptations were well done. This one I didn’t enjoy as well, perhaps because you’re attempting to adapt an homage to Lovecraft for TV. The story, even if it is simple (a couple gets lost in London and stumbles onto horrific monsters), would play better in a film.

The only thing holding it back is that the story itself isn’t long enough for a feature. You’d have to fill in some blanks, but that’s not a problem. Just add some character development and maybe explore a little more with the monsters. As long as you keep the feel the same, it shouldn’t matter. Adaptations have worked that way for years.

#7: Under the Dome

Yes I know, we just had a TV series about this. I don’t care. The TV series was disappointing and expanded too much on the source material. And it’s not like the story is short. It’s a huge novel that rivals IT in length. There was plenty there to use for TV without making stuff up. The TV show never really captured what made the book work. It wasn’t about the dome or why it was there, it was about the town trapped inside of it, tearing itself apart. That’s like the people who get mad at The Walking Dead for not focusing enough on zombies. The best zombie films are about the people and the show is trying to emulate that.

The series changes too much, leaves out important characters or miscasts the characters in the show. I think only Dean Norris really fit the person he was playing. Under the Dome didn’t need teleportation, mysterious eggs and whatever else the show came up with after I gave up and stopped watching. This needs a redo, either as a film or as a more mature series on HBO that gives up the fairy tale nonsense and bickering.

#6: “Quitters Inc.”

Quitters Inc is one of the stories in the anthology film Cat’s Eye, and it also appears in Night Shift. The adaptation is pretty good, actually. James Woods give a fun performance and it manages to play up the menace of the titular company rather well. It’s obvious the producers of the film thought so, because they made sure their movie led wth it. The story, likewise, is disturbing, particularly when you see how far this company will go to make sure people quit smoking.

In the middle of the debate about government overreach, states’ rights and all that (which isn’t new but still a focal point of politics these days), it’d be fun to see this one get a modern take with some political satire thrown in. Get Out has already shown it’s possible to satirize something and still be scary, so a story where people threaten to torture your family if you smoke is perfect for something like this. Hell, that may have been King’s intention when he wrote it.

#5: “The End of the Whole Mess”

This is another good story with a decent adaptation. I generally believe that remakes should focus on bad films that need another shot, but sometimes I just want to see the material expanded upon. This story follows a man who discovers a natural cure for violence. He sees the way the world is going and decides to force his cure onto an unwitting public, but it results in dooming the human race because it gives the majority of people rapid onset dementia.

The adaptation had some great acting, and replaced the diary concept with a video camera. There’s a lot of hate in the world today which makes this one as timely as ever. Beyond that, it would be nice to see more than what the adaptation we got showed us. My only real complaint is that it kind of rushed through the story because it had a shorter running time. Some additional scenes to let things breathe would only help it.

#4: Salem’s Lot

First thing’s first, Salem’s Lot is scary. It’s classic Stephen King and it seems a bit overlooked these days, what with the killer clown and all. The adaptation? Not so much. It’s dull, it’s a chore to sit through and any moments that might be considered scary are brought down by cheesy TV-movie acting. I know it has its fans but I don’t think the 1979 movie holds up at all. The remake from TNT didn’t really work either, although it was a little more watchable than the ’79 version.

I’m not sure why no one ever tried to bring this to theaters. Maybe it’s because Carrie and IT are more recognizable? It’s been far too long since we’ve had a scary vampire film. They’re monsters that feed on people in the middle of the night. That seems like it’s perfect for this sort of thing. Instead we’re turning Dracula into an action movie or doing whatever the hell the Twilight series was. It’s an easy sell. All you need is a great cast and a faithful script.

#3: Cell

I would really just like to pretend last year’s adaptation didn’t happen. I’m not sure what they were thinking, but they had me wishing the Eli Roth version got an adaptation. You may not like Eli Roth, but at least his version wouldn’t be so boring. That’s the biggest problem with the film. It had John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson and yet it felt like everything was so by-the-numbers and routine. There just seemed to be no point to it.

The book wasn’t one of King’s scarier novels but the mystery of it and the suspense kept me hooked. The film was a failure on every level that almost made my worst of the year list. It’s a story that could use a better adaptation of some kind, as whatever got belched out onto home video last year would insult me, if it were my story. I doubt Stephen King cares, but as a fan I’d like to see his stories get translated better to film.

#2: Thinner

Thinner is not one of King’s better books, but it is a brisk and sometimes chilling tale about a gypsy curse that is a little too literal. There are some horrific descriptions of what happens to the people in the story, including the main character. He loses weight at a rapid pace and resembles a ghoul by the story’s end. You get the sense that while he deserved some sort of punishment, he didn’t deserve the kind he got.

The film…tries hard. But it once again feels a little too cheesy. The makeup effects are okay at times although I prefer the skinny effects more than the fat suit. The performances feel off and they’re from people who I’ve seen in better things. I shudder at the thought of a CGI fat person turning into a CGI skinny person, but it’s another story that could use another try as a film.

#1: Desperation

If you’re a long-time reader of this column, then you already know how I feel about Mick Garris’ 2006 attempt at Desperation. If you’re not, just know that I don’t care for it and leave it at that. The novel is in my top ten King books, as it’s King’s take on religion mixed in with a body-hopping demon that loves to murder people. Tak. The only thing the movie had going for it was the cast, because of course I’m going to get behind a movie with Steven Weber, Tom Skerritt, Matt Frewer, Henry Thomas and Ron Perlman.

Even King’s script fails to really capture what I liked about the novel. I realize how blasphemous that is, as I’m sure King thought he did a fine job adapting his own work. But there were a lot of cringe-worthy lines and even at 131 minutes it felt rushed. I blame the pacing more than I do trying to fit in a 704-page book. It felt like King and Garris wanted to squeeze as much as they could in there and sometimes you can leave stuff out if it benefits the visual telling of a story. If I wanted 100% accuracy, I’d just read the book again.

Ending Notes:

That’s it for me. Leave some comments here, on my Twitter or my Facebook.

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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