The Top Five Most Underrated Stephen King Adaptations

Stephen King is one of the most famous writers in the world, best known for horror and the supernatural. His massive library of works has spooked and terrified generations of readers, many of which have received adaptations in the form of movies and TV shows since 1976’s Carrie.

While several of these adaptations are great and iconic (The Shining, Shawshank Redemption, etc.), some are just downright awful or meh. With so many movies and TV shows adapted from the works of Stephen King, some great ones do slip through the cracks of obscurity and are sometimes overlooked.

5. Apt Pupil (1998)

1998’s Apt Pupil is more of a thriller than it is a horror movie, as it doesn’t exactly feature ghosts or supernatural elements. What it does have loads of is how cruel and evil people can be when they’re manipulated or indoctrinated. The movie stars Sir Ian McKellen as Nazi war criminal Kurt Dussander who builds a relationship with high school student Todd Bowden (played by Brad Renfro).

Bowden gets more and more obsessed with Nazism and the Holocaust as McKellen’s Dussander continues sharing his personal stories of World War 2 atrocities he had witnessed and participated in. While the movie omitted the book’s violent shooting spree climax, it still explores disturbing and uncomfortable subject matter.

I would probably equate it closely with the recent Joker movie in terms of how it twists the human psyche and how the characters justify their acts of evil. This movie is not simply meant for light viewing or just a harmless horror movie you can boot up for a night of thrills.

4. 1408 (2007)

As a kid, I read many stories of haunted hotel rooms, which is part of the reason why I was so scared of being left alone in one at night. Stephen King’s 1408 is essentially that, as a writer named Mike Eslin rents a famously haunted hotel room for the purpose of research as material for his next book while at the same time being sceptical of the paranormal.

The 2007 movie stars John Cusack as the protagonist, with Samuel L. Jackson playing a smaller but significant role as the hotel’s manager. The movie as a whole is basically just an excuse to cram in all the haunted hotel room cliches in one story, though that doesn’t make it all any less frightening.

The psychological state of Cusack’s character worsens throughout the movie, with every bizarre happening gradually getting worse. There are supposedly four different endings for the movie version of 1408, but I’ve only ever seen the theatrical version so I can’t say how different they are to each other.

3. Creepshow (1982)

A 35-year-old Stephen King (at that time), if you can believe it.

Many horror fans tend to forget that the genre isn’t limited or exclusive to being overly-serious. Horror can still be campy and cheesy, but also great. There was a time when horror comics and anthologies were all the rage, which thankfully is returning with the likes of Netflix’s Black Mirror and even the AMC Shudder’s new Creepshow TV series, which only recently debuted last month.

The original 1982 Creepshow was directed by George A. Romero (AKA the legend who created the concept of zombies in popular culture) and written by Stephen King. It consisted of five different short stories in an anthology format, one of which King infamously starred in himself.

The movie was pretty much a tribute to the horror comics of the 1950s, and thus retain the same campy violence and cheesy vibes. Though it’s not for every horror fan, Creepshow is a must-watch for King fans and proves that horror can be just as fun as any other genre.

2. 11.22.63 (2016)

Why so serious, Harry Osborn?

This is the only TV series (or specifically, miniseries) on this list, as well being the most recent to be released. It’s also likely one of the most overlooked Stephen King adaptations ever made, due to it being exclusive to the Hulu streaming service, which should be considered a crime seeing as how excellent it is.

11.22.63 is rare amongst King adaptations in that it is not horror, but science fiction. Its premise is an intriguing one, as it tells the story a teacher named Jake Epping who goes back in time to 1960 in order to prevent the assassination of then U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

I was pleasantly surprised by James Franco’s subdued and layered performance as the protagonist since I’ve always seen him as the dude from stoner comedies. Who knew the guy who played Harry Osborn from the Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies could have dramatic range? I definitely didn’t, before watching 11.22.63.

The predicament of a modern man in 1960s U.S. is rife with potential, as themes of racism, political conspiracies and even romance are explored throughout 11.22.63. What would you do (or wouldn’t you do) to change the future? Consisting of only eight episodes, this is a miniseries I would recommend to any fan of King’s.

1. The Mist (2007)

Director Frank Darabont is best known for having directed 1994’s award-winning The Shawshank Redemption and 1999’s The Green Mile, both of which were notable for being adapted from Stephen King’s non-horror novels. Darabont his unofficial Stephen King trilogy with 2007’s The Mist, which largely went ignored amongst critics and audiences alike.

The premise of The Mist is simple but terrifying all the same. A mysterious mist descends on a small town, bringing it with mysterious monsters and eldritch horrors. The surviving remnants of the town take refuge in a small supermarket, where most of the movie takes place.

While being at siege from creatures like giant insects and spiked tentacles, the sense of palpable paranoia gradually increases as the movie progresses, making for an intense watch. Perhaps the single best thing that makes the movie great is its deliciously bleak and dark ending.

King himself praises the ending of 2007’s The Mist, which is completely different than the one in the book. I won’t spoil the movie’s twist ending here, but let me leave you with what King had to say about it in a recent 2017 interview with CinemaBlend:

“When Frank said that he wanted to do the ending that he was going to do, I was totally down with that.

I thought that was terrific.

And it was so anti-Hollywood — anti-everything, really!

It was nihilistic. I liked that. So I said you go ahead and do it.”


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