It’s a big year for King adaptations, but the movies only tell part of the story.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate how influential Stephen King is. For the past four decades, no single writer has dominated the landscape of genre writing like him. To date, he is the only author in history to have had more than 30 books become No. 1 best-sellers. He now has more than 70 published books, many of which have become cultural icons, and his achievements extend so far beyond a single genre at this point that it’s impossible to limit him to one — even though, as the world was reminded when the first trailer for the film adaptation of King’s It smashed records for most-watched trailer in a single day earlier this year, horror is still King’s calling card.
Out this week, It is an attempt to corral a cultural juggernaut and one of King’s most ambitious works — a sprawling, 1100 page novel which spans three decades and hops back and forth between the past and present — into a single movie focusing on only one half of the story, with the second half to presumably follow, depending on the film’s success. And given that this is one of Stephen King’s most famous stories, success is probably a given.
In fact, between recent or upcoming adaptations of It, The Mist, Mr. Mercedes, and The Dark Tower, 2017 is a banner year for Stephen King horror adaptations. That means if you’re a King fan — or looking to become one — there’s no better time to rediscover why he’s such a beloved cultural phenomenon.
After all, without King, we wouldn’t have modern works like Stranger Things, whose adolescent ensemble directly channels the Losers’ Club, King’s ensemble of geeky preteen friends from It. Without The Shining, and Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece film adaptation, “Here’s Johnny!” would be a dead talk show catchphrase and parodies like the Simpsons’ annual Treehouse of Horror would be bereft of much of their material.
Without Carrie, we wouldn’t have the single defining image of the horror of high school: a vat of pig’s blood being dropped on an unsuspecting prom queen. Without King, we wouldn’t have one of the most iconic and recognizable images in cinema history — Andy Dufresne standing in the rain after escaping from Shawshank prison — nor would we have the enduring horror of Pennywise the Clown, Cujo the slavering St. Bernard, or Kathy Bates’s pitch-perfect stalker fan in Misery.
This is but a sampling born from a staggeringly prolific writing career that’s well on its way to spanning five decades. King has effectively been translating America’s private, communal, and cultural fears and serving them up to us on grisly platters for half a century.