King Unadapted Works: Desired Remakes

Introduction



One of the most fallacious complaints in film fandom is the “we don’t need a remake of such and such.” When you look at such statements with merciless logic you realize we don’t technically need any movies. Modern man survived in excess of 1,800 years without them. Another piece of that logic is that a remake or sequel can somehow expunge the immutable. There’s an inherent inclination in humanity to embrace the current and the new, which I believe is why nostalgia exists, in part, because those old enough to remember different times want to embrace part of their experience.

Older films should be seen and studied but the societal emphasis on classicism is as archaic as classics themselves. Those with long cultural memories, longer than their time on Earth even, will always be a niche.

One way in which remakes can be of service is to update the imperfect, flawed, and terrible films of the past. This can be especially useful in adaptations, in which fans of the written work are over-sensitive or when the adaptation is truly painful. Here are the five Stephen King properties that could most benefit from a new take:

Apt Pupil

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When I wrote a post about seeing the movie before reading the book I wrote this of Apt Pupil:

This story as written is outstanding. Yes, the cast remained the same but the story delves into the psychology of the situation in ways the film scarcely attempts. You should read it.

The Nazi/kid stand-off never gets the payoff here that it does in Singer’s take on X-Men. That’s a great motif that this movie hinges on, and it is kind of flat. As is the whole aside from Ian McKellan.

Not to mention that this particular film has with it two associations that make it distracting. The first being Bryan Singer’s first on-set controversy and the second being one in hindsight as its star, Brad Benfro, would die of a heroin overdose about 10 years later.
Gramma

Mercy (2014, Universal)

When I heard that Gramma was going to be adapted into a feature length film, I wrote a whole post about it and performed a rare re-read. The cast was well in place and it had potential, but, as is too often the case when the premise was expanded and externalized things got a bit stupid towards the end, as evidenced by my review.

When taking those factors into consideration, it’s not a wonder I want there to be another go at this story, even though I find it unlikely that it’ll happen.

The Langoliers

The Langoliers (1995)

When I wrote a post about seeing the movie before reading the book I wrote this of The Langoliers:

Augmented by having seen it first in part because I love the mini-series up until the very end. It’s like King says, the story just falls into place so smoothly and that translates on to the page and the mini-series is great until one of the worst third act blunders, and effects shots ever.

It’s a lot to remake a whole mini-series for one shot but it’s literally all the movie is leading up to, and even by standards of when it was made the shot, was crap. Sure, Bronson Pinchot won’t really be replaced but the whole of the cast and the story may be upgraded by a fresh take and a shorter running time.

Christine

christine-013

I had the honor of meeting John Carpenter at Monster-Mania when he went and I took this picture with him:


His Q & A panel was humorous, insightful, inspirational, and as appears to be the case with Carpenter when speaking very forthcoming. He confirmed what I suspected in my gut when I saw Christine. He was assigned the script, not quite knowing what it was, was disappointed it was about an evil car, but he took it because it was a job and he needed work. He never really liked the movie. And neither did I, not by a long shot. There wasn’t a hint of subtlety in Keith Gordon’s Arnie and the car as accurate and gorgeous as it was didn’t work on screen as it did in the book. A book wherein I was beside myself as I found it brilliant and captivating even while feeling the premise ludicrous, and it is until you read it. All the talent in the world won’t translate that intangible to the screen if you’re not chomping at the bit to transform that tale and it never saw an adaptation like that.

Desperation

desperation_3

As mentioned in my Bachman books post, I’d love to see Desperation remade only for the fact that I’d love to see it and The Regulators come out as a tandem in a similar fashion to the books. As for the version of Desperation that exists I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Ron Perlman in the film, and I liked how humorous it was, though it read as more terrifying to me. The only true disservice in the writing of the screenplay is in its treatment of David Carver and his religious inclination.

Horror Films and Stephen King (Part Seven)

De Laurentiis was the sole production company involved in the making of this film. They gave this movie a budget of $10 million dollars, which may have been risky considering their spotty past varying from Conan the Destroyer to Blue Velvet. Of their 22 productions four were released in 1986. The fact that they spread themselves so thin may have lead to the variance in the quality of the films and their financial success.
    

The distribution of this film is what really sunk it, as in almost no one saw this film. DEG didn’t have the distribution power even of a New World Pictures thus not many theatres ran the film. Even if they did get a decent amount of screens there was still the problem of bad timing. 
 

Maximum Overdrive got slammed financially and here’s why: it began slowly in June, (AIP would have called it I Was an ‘86 Blockbuster) and they rolled in: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to School, The Karate Kid Part II and Ruthless People. Then on July 2nd and 4th Disney attacked with The Great Mouse Detective and Flight of the Navigator. OK, so there are a lot of comedies and family films what’s to worry … (gulp) … Aliens, the follow-up to the original blockbuster comes out and becomes the dominant film of the next few weeks beginning on July 18th. With the horror market cornered a small unassuming film directed by a writer involving trucks comes out, what do you expect to happen? Well, as that dude Murphy would say, if he had lived in the 80s, “Yo, it gets worse!” 
 

A fortnight after the truck expedition Rob Reiner released one of the finest King adaptations to ever hit the screen, Stand by Me. It was a film that caught everyone by surprise, including Stephen King, who later remarked, “It seemed to me that Stand by Me was the first really completely successful adaptation of my work.” (Stand by Me). I believe part of that comes from a true filmmaker who wasn’t afraid to involve himself in the text in handling the film. It wasn’t just a studio picking up his latest offering, or struggling writer maxing his credits cards to get a shot or a no-name director getting his one chance. 
    

Ironically, the marketing of Stephen King is only an issue when it’s a horror film. When The Green Mile came out he was the author of The Shawshank Redemption, with Hearts in Atlantis  he was the author of The Green Mile. Dolores Claiborne was probably also thrown in the mix at one point. It’s as if they think he’s only good when he writes something other than horror.

I’d seen Stand by Me as a child and had always liked it. It was one of those things I came to later rediscover in adolescence/early adulthood and when I found that King had written that tale it confirmed his genius in my mind. King and Reiner seemed to have come from similar upbringings and it lead to probably one of his most fruitful collaborations. King commented in 1990 that “Rob Reiner, who made Stand by Me, is one of the bravest, smartest filmmakers I have ever met. I am also amused to note that the company Mr. Reiner formed following the success of Stand by Me is Castle Rock Productions … a name with which many of my long time readers will be familiar.”  (Midnight, xiii). 
 

   

Often the relationship has not been as chummy. King is said to have had many a feud with Kubrick and has publicly aired his sentiments about The Shining over the years. Yet, he is quite an admirer of DePalma’s Carrie, as am I, while he finds no real amusement in his own book which he once threw out, I agree with that instinct but am so very glad his wife saved it from the wreckage. While I know it’s true that it’s usually the studio/distributor that makes the decision to plaster a movie poster with “Stephen King’s” or “From the producers of Independence Day” I sometimes hope that he stipulated that it be removed if he was unhappy with something, like Christine.
    

John Carpenter’s Christine is a galumphing piece of crap about an unsympathetic nerd that never should have been made. The book, however, is a fascinating, ominous, well-developed masterpiece told from three separate points of view and you can sympathize with all the characters. And like the master he is, you believe this scenario somehow because he makes you. 
 
   
To successfully adapt a book one must realize what makes each medium unique in order to capture the book’s essence on film without ruining it like millions of misguided dorks have done in the past. Ira Levin author of Rosemary’s Baby commented on Roman Polanski’s adaptation in a letter to King stating “There is a reason for his fidelity to the book, incidentally…His screenplay was the first adaptation he’d made of someone else’s material; his earlier films had all been originals. I think he didn’t know it was permitted – nay, almost mandatory! – to make changes.” (qtd. in King, Danse Macabre, 296). It is always wonderful when a film can be made that follows the book as faithfully as Levin feels his was followed. However, it’s not always a success like a Harry Potter or a Rosemary’s Baby the words ‘slavish,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘boring’ often come up in reviews. People who want drawn out movies that give you two to two-and-half hours to really examine the characters and the situation their in are rare, more and more studios are reverting to the 90 minute film length as opposed to the 120 and above.
  


 
The issue of time is one reason that Stephen King has found such a comfortable home on ABC writing mini-series’. In 1999 and 2002 he made two originals called Storm of the Century and Rose Red. In the latter he had the luxury of waiting 100 minutes before sending his protagonists into a haunted house whereas, in a feature film most producers would’ve already wanted the story to be over.
    

In the end, making Maximum Overdrive was a valuable experience for Stephen King. Since 1986 it seems that he’s taken a more active role in some of his productions and has ultimately learned to pick his battles. He’s since found a medium in which he can write long screenplays filled with rich, rounded characters and he has since become a producer. Thanks in part to Reiner’s success more accomplished filmmakers have since been attracted to his projects. The high-end Kingflicks are more frequent and there isn’t as much junk inbetween. He’s been involved with Frank Darabont on two occasions on The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile and Darabont has optioned the rights to a short story entitled “The Mist” [It has since been released], William Goldman has adapted three of his novels into films Misery and Hearts in Atlantis and the forthcoming Dreamcatcher. King wrote an episode for Chris Carter’s X-Files and is shopping an adaptation of Patrick McGrath’s novel Asylum to be directed by Jonathan Demme [This never came to fruition]. He’s also developing a television series based on Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom for which he will write pilot [This did happen].
    

Many readers who like to be scared by King, when they’re not going to court with Grisham or seeing the turbulence in Steel’s world, have fallen out of favor with King’s work. Stephen King is a writer who is constantly honing his craft. He is writing richer, more complex novels and has mastered other mediums along the way. A little over 36 years after his career in film began King’s legacy is only now beginning to show his true potency.