How Many Really Good SK Horror Movies Are There ?

In announcing a screening of  The Dead Zone, Ken Hanke of Mountain Express asserts this:
Let’s be honest about it. There are only three film adaptations of Stephen King’s horror stories that seriously qualify as really good movies: Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976), Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and this film, David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone (1983). (There are quite a few other film adaptations that are entertaining enough, but…) And, yes, Cronenberg’s film is the least of the three.  (
 Wait a minute. . . there's only three really good  horror movies from King's work?  I assume we are not counting Shawshank and the like as "horror."  Still, doesn't The Green Mile count as a horror flick?  Well, if the Dead Zone counts as a horror film, Green Mile certainly does!

Here are some of my favorite King horror films -- and there are more than three!  In fact, here's ten:
  • Cujo
  • The Shining
  • IT
  • The Mist
  • Carrie
  • Creepshow (1-2)
  • Salem's Lot (1979)
  • Misery
  • The Dark Half
  • 1408
That's 11 if you count Creepshow 1 and 2.  I liked 2 better than the first.  I also thought the 1979 Salem's Lot was flat out creepy!  And IT, though it is not consistent, has some scary moments.  The Dark Half is scary, especially in the beginning.  

1408 I have my own issues with.  They are genre issues mostly.  It seems that once in the room anything can happen -- thus the story has no framing or rules of its own.  If oceans  need to fall out of pictures, so be it.  Never mind oceans don't fall from pictures -- all reality is suspended without explanation.  That means the viewer is held hostage to anything the writer can think of.  Still, it's a scary flick!

My list didn't even include a few like Dreamcatcher and Maximum Overdrive.  I liked Maximum Overdrive a lot!  But, I'm not sure it would be listed as a "really good" horror movie.  

Here is the screening information for those of you in the Ashville NC area:
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Dead Zone Thursday, Jan. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
So tell me: What are you favorite Stephen King horror movies?   


  1. I'm the odd one out, as a lot of my King favorite are (gulp!) the miniseries, even including (ominous roll of thunder) the Garris Shining (cue wailing and gnashing of teeth).

    My favorites are:

    The Shining (Garris, and no won't recant)
    Stand by Me
    Green Mile
    Storm of the Century
    Kingdom Hsopital
    Rose Red
    The Night Flier
    Riding the Bullet

    The Green Mile certainly contains elements of horror, I guess, although in what way I can't say.


  2. Chris,

    I have not yet seen Storm Century all the waythrough, or Riding Bullet.

    Horror in Green Mile. . . how about people being sent to old sparky? And the guy taking the pain on himself! Or the two dead girls.

    I like a lot of Garris' work, too. No gnashing ofteeth from me! I thought the Shining was just fine, if not compared to Kubrick's.

    NIGHT FLIER is awesome. Not in a "great horror" film kinda way -- but in a awesome tone way.

    Stand by me is not horror, my friend.

    1. I'm not a wailer and teeth gnasher either, though know many can't stomach Garris, though I've never seen a fully convincing reason.

      I think one reason I'm not bothered by Garris is I'm fundamentally not a visual moviegoer. To me a films visuals and even acting are secondary to the whether the story holds up. Case in point, if given a choice between Peter Jackson's films and the Rankin Bass Return of the King, I'm going with R & B. To me the nimated hits more nails on the head than Jackson, not to call it flawless or anything (thank heaven for whoever came up with the mute button) it just gets the story more right, and better written a story, the better a performance you will get with it.

      As for Stand by Me...Anyone got a Kick Me sign?


    2. The animated "Return of the King" has no redeeming qualities of any kind, as far as I'm concerned.

    3. Well, either way, and feel free to disagree on this as well, however I think it can't be denied that the visual style of the Rankin-Bass pics has had an influence on how people think of Middle Earth, even Jackson's take.

      I will admit I'm not so much a fan of R & B's "Hobbit." That said, there are two sequences where the visuals could use some work and yet the performances are pretty good, i.e. the Gollum and Smaug sequences.

      In both scenes, it's like holding a conversation with mentally unstable people and and wondering when they're going to finally go off. Those scenes at least strike me as good and effective.


  3. I think that Garris moves stories slower. So his story telling often plays well with King's books. Hollywood does a lot of cutting and spicing them up; so the movies don't always look like the books.

  4. It sounds like he means this in a pretentious way, i.e. not just a good entertaining film but a "Good Film" that can stand the test of time and be held up and appreciated. Carrie and The Shining are easily on that list, but I'm not sure if The Dead Zone is. But in all fairness I haven't watched it in over 10 years, so it may be that I just don't remember enough about it.

    I'd say that Misery definitely also belongs on that list in that it holds up as a good film and good horror film whether you're a King fan or not. I also really liked The Dark Half and Creepshow, but I'm not sure how universal they are or if they are mainly for King fans.

    I have some problems with 1408 in regards to the fake out it pulls toward the end of the movie, but I think it's excellent in terms of scares.

    The ending of The Mist leaves a bad taste in my mouth but up until then I think it's a great horror film.

    Still making my way through a lot of the others you guys mentioned.

  5. Misery? No one?
    Hmmmmm. I consider that a really good movie with horror elements. Not the best but forgotten?
    I love Storm of the Century but it's ending is terrible. There is a better ending somewhere for that one but the one that exists is bogus. Great quality as far as of sets and acting.

    I'll have to agree with "good quality horror flicks" listed but adding Misery and The Mist.


  6. I think the main problem with Steve's horror stuff is that sometimes it becomes schlocky or hokey when taken literally. While I read some of the cheesy stuff I tend to ignore it or change it in my mind so it's not a cheesy. But for directors like Garris that our too faithful to the material it just ends badly.
    Creepshow is cheese but it's cheese on purpose. Desperation has some elements that are just terrible that Garris shoots per word that could have been left out to make a better movie.
    Same with many others.

    1. I don't know if it's possible to take such symbolic approach with King's imagery, not only because all fictional imagery is symbolic in the first place, but also because I think schlok has it's place, as long as it's not too over the top.

      To give the two perfect examples of scholl done right, check out Joe Dante's Matinee and Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein. I think anyone who is okay with these films will be okay with most of King's film output, or at least more forgiving.

      To be fair, symbolism is hard to achieve, Return to Oz being one of the few that seem to pull it off.

      BTW, does Return to Oz count as horror?