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Stephen King Adaptation Appreciation

carrie

  Carrie opens today in movie theaters across the US and perhaps this updated film version of Stephen King’s 1974 novel will bring a new generation of fans to King’s work. Carrie (1999 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) tells the story of a high school girl who is bullied at school and at home, and who fights back with her telekinetic powers. The 1976 movie version was a success, but the 2002 TV version was not critically acclaimed. The buzz about today’s Carrie film is good, and fans are hoping it will join the ranks of the many solid Stephen King adaptations. King is incredibly prolific, and many of his books and stories have been turned into well-received movies and television shows.

The Green Mile, a story about a death row inmate who has remarkable, almost magical, healing and empathetic powers was released in serial form in 1996, coming out monthly in six small volumes before being collected in one book. The 1999 movie, starring the late Michael Clarke Duncan and Tom Hanks, was both popular and nominated for three Academy Awards, including best picture.

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King’s 1982 book Different Seasons was a collection of four novellas, including Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. This was the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who goes to jail for the double murder of his wife and her lover. Andy maintains his innocence throughout the almost thirty years he is in Shawshank prison. He befriends another prisoner, Red, and works to make his life “inside” bearable. The film made from this novella, The Shawshank Redemption, came out in 1994 and remains a favorite of both the critics and the general public. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards.

DiffSeasonskingDifferent Seasons also contained the novella The Body, about four boys who decide to find the body of a boy from a neighboring town who went missing. They think that if they find it, they will be famous. In the story, they trek along railroad tracks and encounter mean dogs and freight trains, and after finding the body, they also encounter a gang of teenagers who menace them. Rob Reiner’s 1986 film Stand By Me was based on this novella. It launched the careers of Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman, and the late River Phoenix. The film was popular and nominated for a best adaptation screenplay Oscar, and Stephen King has been quoted as saying it was the first successful adaptation of his work.

King’s 1987 novel Misery tells of a successful romance novelist who wants to break out of that genre and start writing crime novels. After being injured in a car accident, he ends up being kidnapped by a crazed fan. The woman holds the writer hostage and keeps torturing him until he writes another romance novel. Misery the movie came out in 1987 to much acclaim. It did well at the box office and actress Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for her role as the crazed fan.

DeadZonekingThe Dead Zone was a 1979 novel about a young man who gains psychic powers after a car accident. When he touches someone, he can foresee their future, even if that future is dark and horrific. He realizes that a rising politician will cause nuclear Armageddon and he must decide whether or not to assassinate the man. The 1983 movie The Dead Zone starred Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen and while it garnered no Academy Awards, it did well at the box office. This novel was also made into a television show that ran between 2002 and 2007.

Perhaps the best known adaptation of King’s work is the 1980 film The Shining from the 1977 novel of the same name. King has always been vocal about his dislike for how director Stanley Kubrick adapted his novel, and critics have called it more a Kubrick film than a King story, but it certainly has its fans. It is the story of a haunted resort, and how the caretaker of the place is driven so mad by the spirits that haunt it that he tries to murder his family. His young son has psychic abilities that he is able to use to bring help.Under_the_Dome_King

Under the Dome (2010 Alex Award nominee), a novel from 2009, tells of a small Maine town that is literally placed under a dome that cuts it off from the rest of planet Earth. While the rest of the world tries to dig under, fly over, or otherwise get into the dome to save them, the townspeople show the true horror of this tale by how terribly they treat each other while trapped and cut off from the world. Just this summer, CBS turned the novel into a television show that did well enough to be renewed for a second season.

These adaptations are a fun way to see Stephen King’s work, but they also show the breadth of his writing – those who dismiss him as “just a horror writer” are missing out on a great many other works by this master storyteller; works that touch on love, friendship, dreams, politics, bullying, redemption, and much more.

~Geri Diorio, currently reading The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

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