Monday, March 16, 2009

Enough with the adaptations already

The twins from The Shining: Before

Another Stephen King novel is being adapted to the big screen -- It. I read the novel when I was in high school and found it brilliant, scary, and unsettling, all in equal measure. Despite the clown on the novel's cover, It is actually a monster novel. In the 1950s, a group of adolescents that dub themselves as the Losers Club. These kids confront a terrible creature which has been striking fear in the residents of Derry. Several years later, when they're all grown up, the monster is still very much alive, so the group decides to head back to their hometown to kill the monster once and for all.

Because of its doorstop proportions (my paperback was around 800 pages thick), the first adapation of It was a miniseries, which came out in 1990. The miniseries was lambasted by critics and the viewing public. I just saw one episode and I gave up immediately. The plot was too stretched out and the dialogue was laughable. Yes, the King novel was long, but the miniseries was terribly so. Perhaps the people behind the TV show was attempting to be faithful to the novel. This is a bad idea. A novel cannot be 100% duplicated into the small or big screen. What works in the novel (such as the permeating dread and sinister presence of supernatural forces) may not necessarily translate well into a different visual format.

Take, for instance, The Shining. Both the novel and the movie starring Jack Nicholson were really good and scary. The movie really worked despite not having to include every horror element in King's terrifying novel. King was at his best in his early career, the time when he churned out Thinner, Carrie, Salem's Lot, The Shining, Cujo, and Christine. Carrie -- there's another good movie based on the novel. Sissy Spacek's casting as Carrie was pure genius; she's beautifully weird, flawed in just the right places. You'd take her to the prom, but you wouldn't want to make out with her afterwards. Christine was campy, but it was scary campy.

I've already talked about Salem's Lot, my favorite King novel and the TV series that was inspired by it. If you read the novel and then you read Twilight, you'd realize that Meyer's vampires are sissies. For goodness' sake, Meyer's vampires don't even have fangs! If you're going to read just one vampire novel in your life, read Salem's Lot. You may want to read the short story the novel is based on -- Jerusalem's Lot, which appears in King's wonderful short story collection, Night Shift.

Most of the recent adaptations of King's works have been disastrous. The TV series The Stand was so weak in all aspects that you just want to check out Leprechaun 1, 2, and 3. 1406 could have been not as bad if they toned down on the apocalyptic special effects and focused more on the hotel hauntings. The Dead Zone was forgettable. The Running Man (yes, the movie with Ahnold Schwarzenegger) was based on a King novella of the same title. The movie lacked the claustrophobia and paranoia that the novella had.

No one has been cast yet for the It movie. Hopefully, we won't see Tim Curry reprise his role as Pennywise the Clown/Monster in the movie. And I'm wondering whether that particular bit in the end will be included in the movie. (That particular chapter in the novel is just so uncomfortable in so many levels.) The Invasion's Dave Kajganich is reportedly on board as the scriptwriter. I saw The Invasion starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman last year, and I now know why Kidman is the most overpaid actress in Hollywood. That movie, including Kidman's acting, was a mess.

The twins from The Shining: After


fantaghiro23 said...

Hi. I'm a big fan of Salem's Lot, too. Freaked me out, both the book and the mini-series. Though, I must admit, I did buy in to the Twilight mania.:)

Great blog, by the way. Found it by searching for fellow Filipino book bloggers.

Shoshana said...


i hated the miniseries.