Daily Archives: February 10, 2010

Book #4 – Stephen King Goes to the Movies

Book #4 – Stephen King Goes to the Movies by Stephen King

This book was fairly disappointing.

As I was browsing around PaperBackSwap or maybe Amazon, I caught sight of it. Ooo, I thought to myself, right up my alley. I love it when writers talk about movie adaptations. The interplay between the two types of story-telling intrigues me. Unfortunately, King doesn’t have much to say on the subject. Each of the five stories in this anthology are accompanied by only a page of commentary. Really, this book seems to be an excuse to anthologize five disparate stories.

I’m not a huge King fan, but I can’t deny that he deserves a hard look due to his popularity. Two of the stories were rereads for me.  "The Mangler" and "Children of the Corn" are from Night Shift, the first King I read back in high school. They’re decent stories though during this reading I was amused  by King’s interpretation of Nebraska geography. (From the northern most point of Highway 17 to Grand Island is 165-ish miles, to North Platte (which I could see being the author’s choice, but not an editor’s choice) about 80.) The movies are not good, though it’s mildly amusing to watch Robert Englund chew the scenery in The Mangler.

"1408" is the gem of this book. It’s a tight, unsettling short story. It’s King at his best. Unlike Carrie, this story has "found footage" that is only alluded to instead of shown. Ambiguity lends itself well to horror. In many ways, this story feels like a brief version of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. In fact the more I think about it, the more parallels I see. Not a bad thing, in my opinion. I haven’t yet tired of good solid haunting stories. The movie is good too and this project is on King’s favorite adaptation list.

While I own Different Seasons ("The Body" is my favorite Stephen King work), I had not read "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption." I’d seen Frank Darabont’s movie adaptation which, while good, is slow and methodical. (Darabont has also written-for-the-screen and directed The Green Mile and The Mist. I haven’t seen the former, but the latter is one of the bleakest horror movies I had seen in a long while. Well worth a watch.) The story is slow and methodical as well, maybe too much so. As a writer I’m at the stage where lean writing is my friend, and it seems that there could be areas of "Shawshank" that could be left out.

Which brings me to the last story of this anthology: "Low Men in Yellow Coats." I did not read more than the first section of this story because it had no hook for me. Nothing compelling happened in the first 24 pages. The movie Hearts in Atlantis works better, but is somewhat unfocused in its structure. Unfortunately, "Low Men" takes up half the book. Too bad "The Mist" wasn’t included instead.