The Horror Adaptation Weekend Watchlist
In honor of the upcoming release of It (9/08), our Weekend Watchlist for this week will be focused on horror film adaptations. For the purposes of this list, we are considering "adaptations" to include films based on books, comics, video games, and so on, as well as reboots, remakes, and revivals.
Editor's Note: A big thank you is owed to DeShawn Dillard, who helped us brainstorm the films featured in this week's watchlist!
It (1990) - This television miniseries managed to do what few Stephen King adaptations before and since it have: the absolute terror and loneliness of childhood, which is a common theme across King's prolific career. Although it is hard to imagine a more terrifying villain than Tim Curry's Pennywise, the early images of Bill Skarsgard in the same role look promising.
Available to rent on Amazon Video.
Misery (1990) - Continuing with Stephen King adaptations, it's clear that 1990 was a banner year for the horror author and his fans. Rob Reiner's tense adaptation of a story in which an author (played by James Caan) is "saved" from a car wreck by a homely nurse who is a superfan of his work (Kathy Bates) is the kind of horror that is simple but profound, focusing on the darkest parts of humanity and the psychological torture that we inflict upon each other. The "hobbling scene" is one of the most disturbing and difficult-to-watch scenes ever committed to film.
Available to rent on Amazon Video.
The Lawnmower Man (1992) - I genuinely feel bad for suggesting this dumpster fire of a movie, but there is something about it that I find infinitely re-watchable. I don't know if my magnetic attraction to this film is due to the nonsensical plot (involving mind control, virtual reality, and in true King style, an abusive zealot) or maybe to Pierce Brosnan's odd turn as a depressed, desperate scientist, but I'll admit that I've watched both this film and its somehow worse sequel - Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War (1996) - many, many times.
Available to rent on Vudu, Youtube, iTunes, Amazon Video, and Google Play.
The Mist (2007) - My last, and probably darkest, Stephen King suggestion is the 2007 film The Mist, which starred Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laurie Holden. Although I can't say anything about how the film compares to the newly released television series based on the same premise (which premiered on Spike in June), I will say that this film is one of my favorite King adaptations because it does something that the books from him generally do not - it leans into the dark and depressing ending. Although King usually lets his characters - at least the important ones - live at the end, director Frank Darabont isn't quite so kind.
Available to rent on Vudu, iTunes, and Amazon Video.
The Thing (1982) – John Carpenter’s brilliantly tense thriller is both a remake of the 1951 film The Thing from Another World and an adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There? and features Kurt Russell’s most-restrained (and I would argue, best) performance of their collaborations. Set in an isolated Antarctic research station, the crew is infiltrated and infected by an alien that can take their form. Suspicion and confrontations ensue, executed effectively by a supporting cast that includes Keith David (They Live), Wilfred Brimley (Cocoon), and Richard Masur (It).
Free to stream on Hulu, or available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play Movies.
The Monster Squad (1987) – Director Frank Dekker (who co-wrote the film with Shane Black) brought together the Universal Monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon) in a horror comedy that’s equal parts 80's Speilbergian boy’s adventure film. It’s way more fun than it has any right to be, super-unpolitically correct, and features one of the greatest lines ever written – “Wolf Man’s got nards!”
Free to stream on Vudu and available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play Movies.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) – Seth Graeme Smith followed up the blockbuster success of his novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with the book upon which this film is based. There’s so much about the film that shouldn’t work, from the slave trade/vampirism allegory to the sight of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, engaging in bloody battle against the forces of evil with an ax. What especially should not work is tackling that material with the seriousness of an actual historical drama, and yet that’s what’s so compelling about it. The movie should be ridiculously campy, and in a way it is, but it never winks or nods to the audience that it’s in on the joke.
Available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play Movies.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992); Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994); Sleepy Hollow (1999)
The movies above comprise an unofficial 90's gothic, auteur-driven, horror subgenre that I kind of miss. Directed by Francis Ford Coppolla, Kenneth Branagh, and Tim Burton, respectively, the films feature all-star casts, big budgets, and incredible set designs and costumes. The films don’t always work (it’s easy to argue that Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in Dracula and Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow are badly miscast) and none of the films are especially faithful to the source material, but there’s an ambition to all of them that I admire. And, for each of them, there are strong performances at the center, whether it’s Gary Oldman’s Dracula, Brannagh and Robert De Niro as Viktor Frankenstein and his Monster, or Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken as Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula - Available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play Movies.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein - Free to stream on Hulu and to rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play Movies.
Sleepy Hollow – Free to stream on Hulu and Netflix and to rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play Movies.
New in Theaters This Week...
[Click the posters for more information]