Stephen King has written 64 books and many novellas and short stories, and while many of them have been adapted for film and TV, fans of his work know that only some adaptations are worth it. While King’s characters, storylines and horror/science-fiction elements are brilliantly plotted, fans are often disappointed in the movies and TV shows that result.
When thinking about well-crafted horror movies based on books, fans immediately think of King since he is so profile. But there are some films worth checking out that did a great job with their scary source material.
The 1975 film The Stepford Wives was based on the book by Ira Levin, which was published in 1972. When Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) moves to Connecticut with her family, she realizes that the housewives seem like clones and then learns that there is a science-fiction element to life here. While the 2004 remake starring Nicole Kidman is one of the worst horror movie remakesthe original is a fascinating look at being a wife and mother and the pressure that society puts on women.
The Stepword Wives is a great example of sci-fi done right and also has a smart political and social message.
Paula Prentiss, who played Joanna’s good friend Bobbie Markowe, told Entertainment Weekly“It’s the first of the women’s-lib kind of movies. It isn’t pounding you on the head. It’s doing it through horror and comedy, and that’s a good genre.”
The Japanese film Ringu, which was released in 1998, is adapted from Koji Suzuki’s book, which was published in 1991. The American version, The Ringwhich was released in 2002, follows the same story, one that horror fans know and love.
In Ringu, Masami Kurahashi (Hitomi Sato) and Tomoko Ōishi (Yuko Takeuchi) are best friends who talk about the videotape that is cursed. Tomoko is the first to die, much like Amber Tamblyn’s character Katie in the US adaptation. Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima), Tomoko’s aunt, is a reporter who begins looking into the tape. The Ring is a timeless 2000s horror movie And the original version is incredibly well-done. Both films have a terrifying figure who comes out of the TV and kills people. While she is called Samara in the US version, she is called Sadako Yamamura in Ringu.
Stir Of Echoes suffered from bad timing as it was released soon after The Sixth Sense and the movies have similar ghost stories. The film was based on the book A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson, which was published several years before in 1958.
Kevin Bacon’s main character, Tom Witzky, is a relatable protagonist, just trying to live his life to the best of his ability, working hard and taking care of his wife and son. But when he begins having visions, he starts looking into the disappearance of a girl from his neighborhood, and he starts thinking that he has psychic powers. The movie feels literary as it is powerful, meaningful, and full of well-drawn characters who feel real.
Candyman is based on the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker and according to Bloody Disgusting, the movie kept its story and characters. The publication notes that the Candyman makes their appearance on page 31 and since the whole story is 37 pages, the focus is on Helen, a student who learns about the Candyman myth and legend.
Candyman is a “woke horror” movie that treats the man at the center of the legend in a respectful and sympathetic manner. Daniel Robitaille was a slave who was killed for falling in love with a white woman. It is a horrifying story and as Virginia Madsen’s character Helen Lyle learns more, she becomes part of something she never expected to. Candyman has a sequel which was released in 2021, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy.
The 2010 horror movie Let Me In is based on the 2008 Swedish movie Let The Right One Inwhich is adapted from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s book. Let Me In is a great remake and vampire movie, following Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who becomes friends with Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz), soon learning that she’s actually a vampire. The book was published in 2004, a few years before each film adaptation.
Both movies do an incredible job with the source material, telling the story of a young child who is struggling with feelings of pain and loneliness and wondering if they will ever fit in. Both films are dark and bleak, but there is some hope, as Owen feels glad that he has connected with someone, even if they are undead.