I recently watched the film ‘Cell’ based on Stephen King’s novel. It had a lot of interesting ideas, was slightly baffling, and like so many movies based on his stories it gave the overwhelming feeling that it had probably made a better book than a movie. Yet there’s ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, ‘The Green Mile’, ‘Stand by Me’, ‘Misery’, and other examples of great films that started as King’s text. What’s the diference?
As indistinct CG zombie ghosts swirled around John Cusack it came to me that the difference is usually supernatural. King is a master of mixing real people and their relatable lives into something absolutely beyond that, making it seem like the surreal and terrifying isn’t very far beyond us either. This doesn’t translate well to film. For example, the nuances of a society succumbing to technology addiction end up boiled down to swirling CG zombie ghosts and look just as ridiculous as you’d expect.
One exception that challenges this theory is ‘The Shining’, containing more than a little supernatural but still well received and continues to be appreciated. Frankly, though, after director Stanley Kubrick got away with the Star Child at the end of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, he probably could have put anything in ‘The Shining’ and people would have eaten it up.