Stephen King Adaptions: The Ultimate Horror Story

In light of the recent release of the Doctor Sleep trailer, a film based on the 2013 Stephen King book of the same name and sequel to his beloved masterpiece The Shining, we need to talk about the resurgence in Stephen King adaptions.

King’s works have always been a hot commodity; from Tim Curry’s horrifying 1990 portrayal of IT’s child munching clown Pennywise to, well, Bill Skarsgård’s grotesque 2017 portrayal of again the murderous Pennywise. So, despite what Hollywood may lead you to believe, King’s work does range outside of murdering clowns, the depressing Shawshank Jail, and The Shining.

Speaking of, although The Shining may be King’s most memorable work and adaption, it’s well known King has been incredibly vocal with his disgust of the adaption. From changing the famous room number from 217 to 237 (Kubrick moon landing conspiracies to be discussed at a later time), to the misogynistic portrayal of Wendy Torrence, 30 years on it is clear that King is yet to forgive Kubrick for mutilating his work, no matter how successful the film, and Jack Nicholson’s performance in it, were. The on going spite can be seen in this casual jab in his 2018 novel The Outsider:

“Not really. I’ve seen Paths of Glory at least a dozen times. Its one of Mr Kubrick’s finest. Much better than The Shining…”

The Outsider by Stephen King

Oof. You mad still bro?

So hopefully this new Doctor Sleep adaption will please King enough that he, unlike The Shining, isn’t forced to again personally fund another production of it…

But statistically? It’s not looking good for Doctor Sleep.

Coming off the back of some truly vomit worthy King adaptions including Spike’s The Mist, CBS’s crapfest Under The Dome (please see my upcoming Ted Talk on why this is the most offensive adaption of all time), and the second underwhelming reworking of Pet Sematary, all I can do is pray that Ewan McGregor’s back is strong enough to carry Doctor Sleep to a box office blitz.

But why do we have so many poor adaptions of such detailed source material?

It’s possibly because writers are unsure of how to condense 1,200+ pages of writing into 90 minutes of film, though they don’t seem capable of doing it in 10 50 minutes episodes either. Maybe its because Hollywood continues to not understand the underlying themes of human connection and good vs. evil relayed in King’s work, choosing instead to give the audience just enough jump scares to ensure there’s too much adrenaline pumping through their brains to realise the sheer number of plot holes. Possibly it’s because a great deal of his writing just doesn’t translate to the screen. But my overarching theory is that it will remain one of life’s greatest mysteries that The Green Mile and Maximum Overdrive (which is holding strong at a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes), are both films deriving from the same writer. God only knows at this point.

As a long time Stephen King fanatic, I have experienced too much heartache when it comes to adaptions. My partner can attest for the sheer distress that was caused after watching no less than 10 minutes of the Under The Dome television series, after adoring every word of the 1,000 paged epic novel. So you can believe me when I say, I’ve been reading and watching and searching for something that lives up to the images King helps me to concoct in my head, and the chest thumping fear of not just his science fiction monsters, but the monstrous humans he creates too.

So I am so glad to say there is hope for us hopeless King fans.

Of course there is the 1994 Shawshank Redemption film, based on one of King’s novellas and shorter pieces of writing that we already know and love. The 90’s also blessed us with a tear-jerking adaption of King’s novel The Green Mile. Hell, even recently we have had an incredibly to-the-book adaption of the Mr Mercedes trilogy which takes the already popular crime drama genre and flips it on its head with a science fiction twist. But there is one adaption that comfortably stands alone as its own King work, and that is Castle Rock.

So what makes a King adaption a success both as a stand-alone piece of art and a retelling of his fictional world? It’s kind of like asking what makes a Tim Burton movie so… Burtonesque. He’s created his own genre, tone, and story telling style.
And though it’s not a direct adaption from any one novel, Hulu’s Castle Rock is one of the few works that honestly portrays that Kingesque quality.

Set in his fictional town of Castle Rock, the series takes us into,

“the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland.”


In a town where the evilest events occur, and the worst humans imaginable inhabit, Castle Rock manages to tell a compelling story capable of drawing in both thriller novices, and even the most dedicated fans. Littered with Easter Eggs, references, and callbacks from a butt load of King’s 88+ books, Castle Rock is given the creative freedom to construct a story around the best tropes, story lines, and characters King has to offer.

The town is also brought to life (exactly how I always imagined the hell of a desolate, Main hick town to be) by a devoted cast led by the ineffably talented creep-master Bill Skarsgård. Despite his lack of creepy clown make up, Bill was able to create a character that I both adored, and had weekly nightmares about, solely with his facial expressions, body language, and restraint.

If you haven’t seen Castle Rock and are a fan of even one of King’s books, bloody strap on in because it gives you everything a fan could want; from complex characters, overgenerous details, a whole bunch of who dunnits, and of course a supernatural twist.

So to all directors and producers looking to come within a ten-foot-pole of adapting a Stephen King work, could you please, pretty please, refer back to the Kingesque of Castle Rock, and not slap together a cheap and nasty film that is confused about whether it is a jump-scare nightmare, or a dramatic journey of human emotion that has been savagely condensed into a confusing whirl of static performances and un-relatable emotions?

At this point, I am just looking forward to an adaption that hasn’t been rinsed and repeated a billion times. Bring on Doctor Sleep.

Watch the trailer for Doctor Sleep here:

– Courtie

P.S. can we please get a Stranger Thing’s style adaption of Firestarter? It’d be hella binge-worthy content. Who doesn’t like a government drug conspiracy?