The strange and ever–changing horror genre seems to currently be dominated by names like Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, and John Krasinski—and rightly so. Their works are inventive, terrifying, and challenge viewers to redefine what they believe to be the typical horror film. But no matter how much time has passed, we can't overlook the classics—and no one does classic horror better than Stephen King.
Since 1974—when his first novel, Carrie, was published—King has created countless literary works that have inspired many of the cultural icons we know and love today. These works are often adapted into films— the latest of these being Pet Sematary. In lieu of its recent release, I've compiled a list of five Stephen King classics that are sure to scratch your itch for horror and thrill.
1. 1408 (2007)
John Cusack stars as Mike Enslin, a writer who enjoys debunking supernatural tales as a means of coping with the death of his daughter, Katie, and his estrangement from his wife, Lily. One day, he receives a postcard with an image of The Dolphin, a hotel in New York City, with a cryptic message—"Don't enter 1408." Naturally, he makes a reservation at The Dolphin and enters room 1408, despite pleading protests from the hotel's manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson). What ensues is a series of mind—bending events that show Mike the true meanings of terror and evil. Fun fact: four different ending were filmed for the film as to keep with King's intentionally ambiguous conclusion.
2. 11.22.63 (2016)
Hulu has become a hub for Stephen King adaptations with titles like Castle Rock, The Shawshank Redemption, and Children of The Corn—all great King adaptations. Additionally, we have 11.22.63, an eight–episode miniseries executive—produced by J.J. Abrams. James Franco stars as a divorced high school teacher, Jake Epping, who is called for a seemingly impossible task by his friend, Al Templeton (Chris Cooper). Al can time travel and he enlists Jake to go back in time, help him stop the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and answer one of history's longest–standing questions—what would happen if JFK lived? This series is incredibly entertaining, easy to devour in a week, and perfect for anyone interested in (very loosely based) historical and science fiction.
3. It (2017)
The highly anticipated remake of King's classic novel It had a lot to live up to upon its 2017 release—and it definitely did not disappoint. It's the same classic plot—seven outcasts, affectionately known as the The Loser's Club, of Derry, Maine are plagued with an evil, shape–shifting entity that lives in sewers and feeds on unsuspecting children. But an expert cast—including Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, and Finn Wolfhard—and a focus on The Loser's Club's relationships with each other, as opposed to their relationships with the terrifying clown, make It the perfect example of a revamped classic.
4. The Shining (1980)
Quite possibly the most epic haunted house story of all time, The Shining follows writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their son, Danny as they are holed up in the isolated Overlook Hotel in snowy Colorado. As the movie progresses, Danny experiences creepy psychic premonitions, strange occurrences plague the hotel, and Jack becomes delusional to the point of no return. But be warned—the only thing scarier than Danny's iconic line "Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance", is Shelley Duvall's experience on set at the hands of director Stanley Kubrick.
5. Carrie (1976)
Regarded by many as the best Stephen King adaptation of all time, the 1976 film tells the story of high school outcast Carrie, as she's ostracized by bullies at school and abused by her fanatically religious mother. When Carrie starts to notice she can move things with her mind, she starts to break from the shell both her mother and peers have kept her in for so long. Carrie attempts to live a normal life, despite her growing supernatural powers, but is met with a violent and disgraceful end. Carrie is as classic as it gets—bloody, sad, and uncomfortable to watch—it will evoke within you conflicting sensations of anger, pity, and possibly even nausea.
These five adaptations can either be your perfect introductions to the wonderful genre of horror, or a nostalgic refresher before you check out Pet Sematary, in theaters now.