Welcome to Psycho Drive-In’s 31 Days of Schlocktober celebration! This year we’ve decided to present the ABCs of Horror, with entries every day this month providing Director information, Best-of lists, Genre overviews, and Reviews of films and franchises, all in alphabetical order! Today brings us K is for King! I am a member of a unique generation. My generation has lived in a world in which Stephen King has always been considered a master of horror. If you want something truly terrifying, he is the go to guy. Of course, when I think of Stephen King, my head is haunted by echoing sound bites of quotes from the numerous film adaptations of his works. Whether it be Jack Nicholson’s grin proclaiming, “Heeerrre’s Johnny!” or Carrie’s Bible thumping mother warning “They’re all going to laugh at you” Stephen King’s name has become synonymous with iconic horror movies and characters. Maria Von Trapp taught me to start at the very beginning and any discussion of Stephen King movies has to include the first film adaptation of a King novel. In 1976, Brian De Palma’s Carrie introduced a timid and backward teenage girl named Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) to the big screen. Carrie was abused and made fun of by everyone at school and it only got worse when she got her period in an infamous shower scene. Carrie’s mother (Piper Laurie) never explained menstruation to Carrie. Carrie thought she was bleeding to death and ran out of the shower stark naked and bloody, seeking the help of her classmates in the locker room. The other girls laugh and pelt her with tampons and pads as they chant for her to “Plug it up!” The 1976 version of the film is classic. It is a case of the stars in the universe aligning with just the right mixture of talent and Hollywood magic to make a solid film. The cast list is made up of an all-star list of talent that included Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta, William Katt, Amy Irving, and P.J. Soles. Basically, you take the Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Greatest American Hero, Danny Zuko, and scream queen P.J. Soles and voila! A classic is born! By now, they clothing is outdated and the hairstyles are hilarious, but Spacek proved herself as she transforms Carrie from a meek and quiet victim to a telekinetic exploding bomb! By the way, 80s kids like me will spot a young bespectacled Edie McClurg playing Helen, one of the bullies that taunts Carrie, years before she became Mrs. Poole on The Hogan Family or Mr. Rooney’s secretary Grace on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I always felt bad for several of Carrie’s victims. The well-meaning gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) had always encouraged Carrie and tried to protect her, but she becomes just another faceless victim when Carrie finally loses it and kills everyone at the prom. As the horror genre goes, there has been a sequel and remake made to Carrie. 1999’s The Rage: Carrie 2 is at times laughable, but is as a whole forgettable. The story line and acting are mediocre, but it has some fun 90’s moments. Even though Amy Irving reprises her role as Sue Snell, the movie itself is pretty terrible. Kimberly Peirce directed 2013’s adequate remake of Carrie which starred Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular character while Julianne Moore took on the role of Carrie’s mother. To be fair, the movie itself is pretty good as a stand-alone horror movie, but the original is so beloved and classic, it is hard not to compare the two while watching. The entire time, I found myself thinking, “But that isn’t how Sue looks” or “Carrie wouldn’t react this way or that way.” Overall, I was fairly pleased with the modernization. Spacek was a stronger actress and portrayed Carrie better than Moretz. The best film version of Carrie would be the original 1976 film, but with Julianne Moore as the mother and with Alex Russell playing the evil Billy Nolan instead of John Travolta. Travolta is of course a legendary actor, but his boyish face and goofy grin portray Nolan as stupid instead of menacing and criminal. It is hard to take him seriously as calculated and evil. Plus, the remake has Carrie saving the gym teacher (Judy Greer) instead of grouping her in with all of the other victims. This adds humanity to Carrie and implies that she is in control somewhat during the prom slaughter. The idea of Carrie being pushed to her breaking point and finally teaching everyone a lesson is more powerful and terrifying if she is out of control. The 1980s were basically a blitzkrieg of Stephen King movies and the decade started out strong in 1980 with Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. Jack (Jack Nicholson) and Wendy (Shelley Duvall) travel to the isolated Overlook Hotel where they will work as caretakers during the winter. Jack can spend this time working on his writing while spending time with his wife and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). An evil spirit slowly whittles away at Jack’s sanity, eventually turning him mad and violent while psychic Danny is haunted by images of deaths that occurred in the past at the hotel — as well as his father’s homicidal attack in the future. If there was ever a film that captured complete terror, it would be this. Jack Nicholson delivers an uncanny performance as he slowly loses his sanity throughout the film. Danny Lloyd proved to be a surprisingly talented and strong child actor who managed to maintain his own against Nicholson. The only weak link in the film was Duvall who maintained an annoying presence and whose performance was static. She seemed terrified throughout the entire film, but, at the beginning of the movie, her relationship with her husband and son did not seem believable. At times, I found myself rooting that Jack would finally get her with the axe just so I would not have to see the same shocked expression on her face. I did not see her as a wife who lost her husband and was left with an alcoholic, raving lunatic in his place. Her performance did not make her a believable wife and mother, but, instead made her a believable victim. Nicholson and Duvall have both reported that working with Kubrick was grueling and a nightmare worthy of the Overlook Hotel. Although this is a great and classic horror movie, Kubrick often strayed from the source material and this is one of the film adaptations that does not follow the book very closely. If a viewer was hoping for closer interpretation of the book, it would be better to watch the 1997 television version of The Shining that starred Wing’s Steven Weber. This modernization is met with the same criticism I have for the remake of Carrie. The original version was too iconic and too strong for there to be a remake. Jack Nicholson IS what makes Jack Torrance who he is. Nicholson must be a troubled mad man because he plays it too well on screen. Somewhere down deep a part of him must be the Joker and Jack Torrance. No one can fake that level of insanity. My mother, an avid reader of Stephen King, describes 1984’s Children of the Corn as “one of the scariest movies ever.” I must include it in my list of must-see King movies or I fear that she will disown me. I watched this film for the first time in 1998 and again recently. As an adult, I find the idea of a town populated by a cult of children who believe everyone over the age of 18 must be killed or sacrificed to He Who Walks behind the Rows much more frightening than I did when I was 14 years old. The film was directed by Fritz Kiersch and starred Peter Horton and John Connor’s mom, Linda Hamilton. Once again, King explores religious fanaticism. The children are led by Isaac (John Franklin) and one of the most terrifying Gingers ever, Malachai (Courtney Gains) who believe they must ritualistically kill all of the town’s adults in order to ensure and maintain a bountiful corn harvest. Unluckily for Horton and Hamilton, their characters (Burt and Vicky) are passing through a nearby town when one of the children has escaped the cult and they run him over. No matter which direction they travel in, they keep ending up headed to Gaitlin, the home of the cult. At first, the idea of angry religious children is itself fairly terrifying. Once Burt and Vicky keep being tricked to traveling to Gaitlin, you quickly realize that something supernatural is really controlling things. Much like with The Shining, the building up of suspense is really what makes this a great movie. You experience paranoia and fear along with Burt and Vicky as they slowly realize that they are not in control and are being stalked and hunted by the children. The worst part of the movie is near the climax when you actually see the monster in the corn fields metastasized into a fiery smoky image. The special effects of the time just did not age well and makes the ending fall a little flat in an age of CGI and perfect zombies, but, at the time the movie was released, the effects were terrifying. Children of the Corn led to an eventually eight sequels to the original film, but they were mere imitations and could not capture the horror of the original. It is hard for me to think of 1980s horror films without 1989’s Pet Sematary coming to mind. The Creed family moves to Maine where Louis (Dale Midkiff) is a doctor. The family befriends their neighbor Jud (Fred Gwynne) and soon settles in. While his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) and children Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes) are gone during Thanksgiving, the family cat, Church dies. Jud leads Louis to the Micmac burial ground behind the Pet Sematary [sic] and explains that anything buried there comes back to life and that everyone must bury their own. The rest of the family returns home and does not suspect that their cat has returned from the dead. Later in the movie, Gage is hit by a truck. Remembering the burial ground, Louis exhumes Gage’s body and reburies it. Jud tries to convince Louis that the soil is sour and that Gage will not come back the same. Of course, heartbroken Louis does not listen and Gage returns back from the grave only to kill his mother, Jud, and to try to kill Louis. Louis has not learned his lesson and cannot face life without Rachel and buries her in the burial ground as well! Even as I type a brief synopsis of the movie, I find myself cringing and flexing my feet as I remember how Gage takes a scalpel and slices Jud’s Achilles’ tendon right before he slays him! That is one of the things that make this a great horror film. It is not gore for gore’s sake, but it is gore that helps evoke fear and a feeling of discomfort. The movie tells a great story and we can relate to Louis. No one wants to tell their kids a pet has died and no parent can stand the idea of a child’s death or the loss of a spouse. The viewer is struck by Louis’s heartache and is in inner turmoil as they try to decide whether or not they would make the same mistakes as Louis. If you knew someone you loved and would sacrifice everything for would come back alive, would you bury them on the Micmac burial ground? Would you be determined to try everything to bring them back to life even if good ol’ Jud warned you? The 1990s brought about a whole new list of King movies, but few would measure up to the intensity of Rob Reiner’s Misery which starred James Caan as novelist Paul Sheldon and Kathy Bates as his biggest fan, Annie Wilkes. Where do I even start with this cock-a-doodle film?! Paul Sheldon has just finished working on his latest novel at a remote lodge in winter. He is heading to town when his car slides off the road and into the woods. Lucky for him, Annie Wilkes sees the crash, goes down to his car, and pulls an unconscious Sheldon out. Of course, Wilkes is a trained nurse and takes Sheldon to her home where she intends to nurse him back to health until the snow thaws and he can safely be moved to a hospital. Sheldon comes to and sees a doting Wilkes starring down at him and she gushes that she is his biggest fan. Around this time, Kathy Bates was a newcomer for most film audiences. She had played parts here and there on television, but she was a theater actress. When she came on the screen as frumpy and drab Annie Wilkes in her grays and browns, you did not realize the level of insanity that this character contained. The audience slowly realized that rescuing and nursing Sheldon was not an act of kindness. At first, you just having a nagging feeling that something in her story does not seem right, but you cannot quite put your finger on it. When she reads Sheldon’s latest book in which he kills off the main character of his series of novels, Wilkes completely flips out and is exposed as the mother of all psycho hose beasts! From that moment on, the audience and Sheldon realize that she will never, ever release him from captivity. Of course, Wilkes insists that Sheldon writes a new book that will bring the heroine back to life. She keeps him drugged and imprisoned in a locked room. She has outbursts and punishes him by leaving the house and not feeding him. Sheldon escapes the room and finds a scrapbook that reveals Wilkes is actually a serial killer and has murdered before. Of course, Misery contains the infamous hobbling scene when Wilkes creams Sheldon’s foot so he cannot escape. With Moonlight Sonata playing in the background, this is one of the most chilling scenes in cinema. Every viewer cringes when that scene plays out. It is hard not to imagine King and some of the terrible “biggest fans” he much have encountered over the decades. Of course, Bates stole the show with her portrayal of Annie Wilkes. This led to Bates having roles in two other King based movies The Stand (although she was uncredited) and Dolores Claiborne. Each year, I look forward to marathons on television that will air hour after hour of Stephen King films. There is a laundry list of movies based on his writing that is entertaining and thrilling. Carrie, The Shining, Children of the Corn, Pet Sematary, and Misery are just a few examples of films that really were done supremely well. They are examples of great cinema and great story telling. A combination of talented writing, acting, and directing really allows these films to shine and convey a nice scope of King’s tales of supernatural entities haunting the world, but also King’s insight to how people can be some of the scariest monsters of all. These films slowly build suspense until the viewer’s neck hairs are standing on end. They bring about feelings of fear and dread, and that is what horror is all about. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.