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A Passionate (if Incoherant) Ramble

So I was reading a review of the new Stephen King movie The Mist, right, and as usual there was all this bullshit about how it's cliched and crappy and not scary enough/too gory/not gory enough/blah blah blah. And I suddenly realized that there are very very few really GOOD King movie adaptations. Really, there's just The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Stand By Me, maybe The Shining, and if you want to stretch, Carrie. I've also heard good things about Misery, though I have never seen it. Most of the rest are just terrible, and I have always had a hard time figuring out why. I mean, I've read some books and articles about translating King's work from the page to the screen, and no one has adequately explained to me why there are so many bad bad bad interpretations. Then, when I was sitting there reading this review, I finally figured it out--the people who make movies do not actually understand Stephen King's books. (Well, either they don't understand them or are too lazy to understand them properly.) The thing I find about King's work is that it is NOT actually about monsters. I know that's hard to believe, when you take into consideration the works he's more well-known for, but even those are not actually about monsters. For example:

1. 'Salem's Lot is not about vampires. It is a story about the kind of corruption and evil that can occur unnoticed in small towns. About the people who live in those towns, and the way apathy can take over a place that the young won't stay in and the old won't leave. The vampires are not REALLY vampires, they're a metaphor. Okay, yes, you could argue that the book is "about" vampires, but I think that's only the surface.

2. Christine is not about a demonic car. Once again, the car is a metaphor--this time, it embodies the change that happens in teenage friendships. The way that even best friends can be driven apart by changes in interests, changes in social standing, and general changes in attitude. Dennis may be fighting against the car, but what he's REALLY fighting are the changes that have taken place in the relationship with his best friend. Those changes just happen to be personified by a car that kills people.

3. The Stand doesn't contain monsters like the previous books do, but it does feature a devil character. The Stand is really about human nature--what would happen to people if government, authority, society...everything that keeps us tied together were suddenly gone? Would it bring out the best or the worst in everyone? The plague that kills most of the population is not the focus of the story, it's merely a catalyst.

5. IT may be famous for the evil clown that lives in the sewers, but the more important themes are about friendship, child abuse, and once again that small-town apathy (seemingly one of King's favorite themes).

6. Carrie has more to do with teenage isolation and rebellion than it does with telekinesis in the end.

I could go on and on. My point is that--aside from Frank Darabont--most directors/screenwriters don't really understand this when they try to make a King movie. Or maybe they do understand it and just find those aspects too difficult to work into the script, when they could easily focus more on the giant rabid dog or slavering monster. Thus you end up with complaints about the script being dull, or cliched, or heartless. It's much easier to make a scary movie about an evil hotel then to work in the connections to child abuse and alcoholism. And I feel like if you peel away those metaphorical layers of meaning, you end up with nothing more than a brainless Godzilla movie. I guess the real issue is that Stephen King is my favorite author, and it pisses me off when people blame on him the fact that most movies made of his work suck. The fault lies with the directors and the writers, not with the original author.


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