The Year of the King


By Emily Hyatt

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Stephen King: author of over 60 novels, countless short stories and screenwriter for some of his own adaptations. His title of “King of Horror” is not simply a pun; he lives up to his reputation. King’s stories have been terrifying audiences for over 45 years. Many of those stories have been adapted into films and television series, such as “Stand by Me,” “Creepshow,” “Misery,” “The Green Mile,” and many more. 2019 has been an especially busy year for Stephen King adaptations. These included sequels, remakes and television shows (oh my).

Pet Sematary

Film release date: April 5th, 2019

Book release date: November 14th, 1983

Plot: A young family moves into a house with a mysterious graveyard hidden in the woods behind it. The father is warned to stay away from it but after tragedy strikes, he finds himself turning to it in order to bring back what was lost.

King has gone on the record as saying that out of everything he’s ever written, this is the story that scares him the most. King originally got the idea for the book when he and his family were renting a house that was opposite of a major road. The road constantly hosted fast-moving cars that killed unfortunate dogs and cats that got too close. After burying his daughter’s cat, King started to wonder what would happen if the cat came back to life but was “wrong” somehow. Then he wondered what would happen if it was a child that was killed instead…

The 2019 film adaptation of “Pet Sematary” is the second one to be released. The original adaptation was released in 1989 and the screenplay was written by King himself. It received OK reviews and is one of King’s lesser loved adaptations. The same fate awaited the 2019 remake; it opened to great box office numbers but the reviews remained mostly mediocre. Audiences and critics reacted positively to the new changes that were made for this revival and the cast is certainly spectacular (Jason Clarke from “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and John Lithgow from “3rd Rock from the Sun” star) but maybe it’s time to put this story to rest…and let it remain dead.

It Chapter Two

Film release date: September 6th, 2019

Book release date: September 15th, 1986

Plot: Seven friends in a dreary Maine town are tormented by a malicious clown in their childhood and, eventually, their adulthood.

This is undoubtedly one of King’s longest works. Finishing at 1,138 pages, the novel took King four years to complete it. His hard work paid off because over 30 years later, it remains one of the most popular horror novels of all time. The book received mostly positive reviews but it did stir up controversy because of that one scene. If you know, you know.

“It” was adapted for the first time in 1999 as a TV mini-series. Tim Curry shined as Pennywise and it was praised for being faithful to the novel. As for popularity, it kind of slid under the radar. However, “It” was one of the top-grossing films of 2017. Personally, it’s one of my favorite horror movies. Because of its undeniable success, it came as no surprise that there was plenty of excitement around the release of “It Chapter Two.” As someone who has read the book and loved the first film, I was a big fan of the casting. Instead of relying on the descriptions of the characters in the book, the filmmakers found adult actors that looked like older versions of the child actors. The director and writer took advantage of creative liberty and changed some plot points with this adaptation but overall, audiences were not as thrilled seeing the Losers Club the second time around. The reviews were not as great as the reviews for the first one. Personally, I thought the changes were nice but I was disappointed due to the lack of loyalty to the book and the fact that the writing didn’t make me care for any of the older Losers.

Mr. Mercedes

TV premiere (Season 3) release date: September 10th, 2019

First book release date: June 3rd, 2014

Plot: A retired detective works to take down a psychopathic serial killer who started his crime spree by driving a stolen Mercedes into a crowd.

King has forever been known as the master of horror so it was a pleasant refresher when he wrote this gripping crime novel. When King started writing “Mr. Mercedes,” he was originally going to make it a short story. However, the plot kept growing and growing and eventually became the novel that it is today. Although the book was started before the events took place, King was uneasy about the terrorist themes hitting too close to home when the Boston Marathon bombings took place. Despite his reluctance, he continued with the novel and it was accepted with wide praise once it was published in 2014.

The television adaptation of the book premiered its first season on August 9, 2017. It featured Harry Potter’s Brendan Gleeson and Legally Blonde’s Holland Taylor. The series is named after the first book in a trilogy that revolves around the “Mr. Mercedes” protagonist. The series itself is based on all three of the books, the other two being “Finders Keepers” and “End of Watch.” The series has received mostly positive reviews, particularly from critics. Although the show belongs to the crime genre, fans are said to be fond of the creepy narrative and strong characters that live in this King world. Depending on the reception of the third season, which was released just last month, and the amount of source material they have left, the show will likely be renewed for a fourth season.

Castle Rock

TV premiere (Season 2) release date: October 23rd, 2019

“Castle Rock” first appearance: August 30th, 1979

Plot: An anthology series that intertwines Stephen King’s stories and characters in the fictional town of Castle Rock.

This show is…interesting, to say the least. There’s no particular source that it derives from. Instead, the show pulls from a plethora of King content. For instance, there is a character in the first season that is named “Jackie Torrance,” a play on the name of the main character in “The Shining.” The show is full of fun easter eggs like that. “Castle Rock” is a fictional Maine town that is referred to in a multitude of King’s works. Sometimes the town is the setting for a story and sometimes it’s simply mentioned. Regardless, the town is integral to King’s world of storytelling. It was mentioned for the first time in the 1979 novel “The Dead Zone” and has existed ever since.

I’m going to start by saying this is one of my favorite shows EVER. I have to get that bias out of the way now. The first season made its Hulu debut on July 25, 2018. It centered around a mysterious man found in the bowels of Shawshank State Penitentiary (Yes, THE Shawshank) and the strange connection he had with the town’s outcast, Henry Deaver. The first season was welcomed gladly by King fans, people much like myself that squealed every time a reference to a famous King story was made. In addition to numerous easter eggs, the show also stars several actors who have acted in previous Stephen King adaptations, such as Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise in “It” and “It: Chapter Two”) and Sissy Spacek (Carrie in “Carrie”). The series is an anthology, which means it will focus on a new storyline with each new season. The second season revolves around the troubled nurse from King’s 1987 novel “Misery,” Annie Wilkes, as she gets stuck in Castle Rock with a quickly deteriorating mental state.

Doctor Sleep

Film release date: November 8th, 2019

Book release date: September 24th, 2013

Plot: A now-adult Dan Torrance, the only child of the infamous Jack Torrance, must work to protect a young girl with powers much like his own from a mysterious cult seeking to prey on her power.

Forty years after its publication, “The Shining” remains one of King’s most popular stories. The need for a sequel was only a matter of time. In 2009, King let his readers decide what they’d rather read next from him: a new “Dark Tower” book or a sequel to “The Shining” that follows an adult Danny Torrance. “Doctor Sleep” won by a meer 49 votes. “Doctor Sleep” follows the grown son of Jack Torrance, the main character of the 1977 novel “The Shining,” who works in a hospice care center, guiding terminally ill patients calmly to death with his powers. The story was partially inspired by Oscar the Hospice Cat, a special cat that is known for his ability to supposedly predict when a hospice patient is close to death.

If anyone is a big fan of Stanley Kubrick’s version of “The Shining,” they are likely also familiar with the fact that King was not a fan of that adaptation. King was openly critical of the film and was so disappointed that he decided that he himself would right the wrong that Kubrick did. King wrote and executive produced his own adaptation of the book as a TV miniseries, one that was not as widely acclaimed as the film. The filmmakers of “Doctor Sleep” have juggled the contention well. The director of the film, Mike Flanagan, has been quoted as saying, “It is an adaptation of the novel ‘Doctor Sleep,’ which is Stephen King’s sequel to his novel ‘The Shining’. But this also exists very much in the same cinematic universe that Kubrick established in his adaptation of ‘The Shining.’”

Anyone who has seen the trailer has undoubtedly noticed the multiple odes to Kubrick that were featured, including the doorway where “Here’s Johnny” was born and the bathtub from room 237. Fans of King and critics alike are eagerly awaiting the next addition to the King universe, hoping to see it live up to the reputation that the original novel has set.