On September 6th, 2019, IT: Chapter Two will arrive in US theaters and Andy Muschietti will join an extremely small and elite group; when The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep hits US theaters on January 24th, 2020, Mike Flanagan will also qualify for entry. They’ll become the newest filmmakers who can boast having directed more than one film adaptation of a Stephen King novel.
While King holds the record as the author with the most cinematic adaptations of his literary works (over 100 and counting) few filmmakers have taken more than a single stab at adapting the Master of Horror. This poses a question: Are directors who have helmed more than one King adaptation better at tapping into the inherent horror of the author’s work? And, if so, which filmmaker has proven him or herself the best at translating King’s stories from the page to the screen?
While it’s ultimately a matter of personal opinion, these prolific Stephen King moviemakers deserve some recognition for their efforts. Read on for a list of which directors can claim to have taken on King adaptations on multiple occasions. Then ask yourself: Who did it the best!
Craig R. Baxley
Though he can boost having directed over 30 films, Craig R. Baxley is actually best known these days as a stunt coordinator having worked on hundreds of movies and TV shows. As for his Stephen King adaptations, they’re all made-for-TV affairs, the first being the Storm of the Century miniseries that aired in 1999; that was followed by another mini-series, Rose Red in 2002. His final King-adaptation to date is the prequel to Rose Red, the made-for-TV movie The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, which aired in 2003.
I may be splitting hairs with Mary Lambert’s inclusion; while her first adaptation, 1989’s Pet Sematary, remains one of the most terrify King-inspired films ever produced, her follow up, Pet Sematary II (released in 1992) is an expansion of existing mythologies in name only. As opposed to Doctor Sleep which is an official sequel to The Shining, Pet Sematary II involves characters and situation King had no part in constructing. Still, Lambert and Craig R. Baxley (above) are the only ones to have directed a King-adaptation and its direct sequel or prequel. These days, Lambert is working on a restoration of 1989’s Pet Sematary with Paramount.
Lewis Teague directed a couple of early Stephen King adaptations in rapid succession: First, he helmed Cujo in 1983 and, two years later, he released Cat’s Eye in 1985. Though he also directed the urban legend-themed Alligator in 1980 (not a Stephen King story), these are pretty much the only horror films Teague have ever been involved in. I guess he was the go-to guy for horror movies featuring animals!
You win some and you lose some. While Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play) produced a cult classic with the harrowing body-horror Thinner (released in 1996) he also helmed the much-maligned miniseries The Langoliers a year earlier. While The Langoliers is, in many ways, a product of its era (suffering immensely from a shoe-string budget and extremely dated special effects), even a talented ensemble cast couldn’t give this airplane-horror any significant lift.
Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot was such a successful miniseries in 1979, it was recut for a theatrical release overseas. Though often forgotten, Salem’s Lot includes some powerful scares that still carry significant weight today (specifically, the vampire child floating outside his brother’s window and the awakening of the undead Mr. Barlow). As well-known as Salem’s Lot is, The Mangler, released in 1995, isn’t. The story of a possessed laundry folding machines (no, seriously) isn’t even bolstered by the appearance of two bona fide horror icons: Robert Englund (who plays Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and Ted Levine who played Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs). Even hardcore Stephen King fans (like myself) have never bothered giving The Mangler the time of day.
While Bad Robot Studios founder J.J. Abrams hasn’t directed any Stephen King adaptations per se, he’s served as executive producer on two Hulu series based on the works of Stephen King. The first was 11.22.63 which aired in 2016; it’s the story of a high school history teacher who goes back in time in an attempt to thwart the assassination of JFK. The second Abrams-produced series is this years’ Castle Rock, which he developed with King himself. Though not based on a specific novel or short story, it pulls from the mythos of Castle Rock, a fictional town in Maine where many of King’s stories take place. Parts of the series took place at Shawshank Penitentiary and we’re even introduced the niece of Jack Torrance.
George A. Romero
Creepshow (released in 1982) remains one of the best horror anthologies ever produced, and much of the film’s success comes from George A. Romero’s impeccable direction. The fact that “The Godfather of the Modern Zombie” collaborated with Stephen King at all is a thing of beauty and Creepshow shines with the duo’s combined creative energies. Romero’s second film adaptation was 1993’s psychological slasher The Dark Half. While few horror films produced in the 1990s have aged well, The Dark Half has nonetheless amassed an enviable cult following in the decades since its release.
Rob Reiner is a cinematic treasure who launched his career with hysterical comedies like This Is Spinal Tap and When Harry Met Sally. But the mainstream director wasn’t squeamish or reticent in his harrowing adaptations of Stand by Me and Misery. The first was shocking for it’s penetrating portrayal of the horrors of youth while Misery was an exercise in relentless suspense with explicit body horror elements. None of us will ever forget the infamous “hobbling” scene, a moment that that helped Kathy Bates nab her Best Actress Oscar in 1991.
Before he became an early writer and showrunner on The Walking Dead, Frank Darabont was (and perhaps remains) the King of Stephen King adaptations. Between 1994 and 2007, Darabont directed three of the most emotionally devastating movies—ever. First came The Shawshank Redemption in 1994 (a film that found fans in connoisseurs of just about every genre) followed by the socially-conscious The Green Mile in 1999. 2007’s The Mist is regarded as one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever produced and one of the best horror movies of the 21st Century; the gut-wrenching climax is infamous.
While we’ve got to tip our hats to Mick Garris for directing a whopping seven Stephen King adaptations, far more than anyone else on this list, none of them are amazing. But Garris helmed 1997’s The Shining miniseries, one that King himself hailed for being much truer to the source material than Stanley Kubrick’s iteration from 1980. Other King properties in Garris’ filmography include Sleepwalkers, Riding the Bullet, The Quicksilver Highway, and Desperation in addition to the miniseries The Stand and Bag of Bones.
So, which of these 10 directors did Stephen King best? Sound off in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram!
The post Who Did It Best? These 10 Filmmakers All Directed Multiple Stephen King Movies appeared first on Dread Central.