Stephen King’s storytelling skills lend themselves exceptionally well to cinematic interpretations — so well that, like Shakespeare and Dickens, many of his novels and stories have been adapted more than once (or expanded with sequels, prequels and spin-offs). His sixty-plus books are a garden of horrors that never seems to stop throwing up shoots. The latest double-dip is a new version of his first published novel, Carrie, directed by Kimberly Peirce. This new “Carrie” stokes curiosity mainly because this time we’ll see the story — about a shy, teenage girl hitting puberty and suffering the cruelty of both her peers and her sexually scarred mother — told from a female perspective. This invests the remake, which opens Friday, October 18, with a genuine reason to exist, as a potentially enlightening contrast to Brian De Palma’s 1976 split-screen masterpiece.
Not all of King’s work cries out for multiple treatments, though. Below, we take a look at some of the duplicates that have been produced, plus others in development, to determine which are worthy efforts and which should get thrown under Christine.
’Salem’s Lot, 1975
Very worthy: “’Salem’s Lot,” 1979. Directed by Tobe Hooper, this CBS TV miniseries was the second produced adaptation of King’s work, and it’s a slow-paced, spooky, and successful take on vampires.
Unnecessary: “A Return to ’Salem’s Lot,” 1987. “It’s Alive” writer-director Larry Cohen made this middling big-screen spin-off for Warner Bros., but it has little to do with King’s original.
Unnecessary, but effective: “’Salem’s Lot,” 2004. TNT went back to the original material for this TV movie and fared pretty well with a strong cast led by Rob Lowe.
Very worthy: “Carrie,” 1976. De Palma’s terror-filled adaptation of King’s debut coming-of-age tragedy was original and effective, and it gave the author’s film career a solid launch.
Egregiously unnecessary: “The Rage: Carrie 2,” 1999. Sure, Amy Irving returns as a grown-up Sue Snell, but otherwise this widely panned sequel-of-sorts merely creates another young girl to suffer through the same scenario.
Unnecessary: “Carrie,” 2002. NBC tried to turn Carrie White into the protagonist of her own TV series with this ill-advised pilot.
TBD: “Carrie,” 2013. TV writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa co-adapted this new take on the original with Peirce, so here’s hoping it’s more “Boys Don’t Cry” than “Glee.”
The Shining, 1980
Very worthy, a classic: “The Shining,” 1980. Stanley Kubrick’s version of King’s third novel is famously reviled by the author, but it remains a masterfully terrifying tale of one man’s creeping madness.
Necessary: “The Shining,” 1997. King penned his own, more faithful adaptation of the book for this ABC miniseries, but it was too late to overcome the iconic Nicholson version. Worth a watch because King got to play out the third act as he originally imagined it.
Unnecessary, but fascinating for fans: “Room 237,” 2012. Rodney Ascher’s documentary explores the Kubrick film’s lasting legacy through complex interpretations of its perceived subtext.
Unnecessary: “The Overlook Hotel,” TBD. Warner Bros. has been developing a feature prequel with writer Glen Mazzara, former showrunner of “The Walking Dead.”Let’s just wait for the adaptation of King’s just-published sequel, Doctor Sleep.
The Dead Zone, 1979
Worthy: “The Dead Zone,” 1983. King kindred spirit David Cronenberg directed this adaptation of his fifth published novel, and a plenty moody feature starring Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen was the result.
Necessary: “Stephen King’s The Dead Zone,” 2002-2007. USA Network spun six seasons of suspense from the blessed-cursed life of psychic Johnny Smith. It’s a worthy expansion of an intriguing King protagonist.
Worthy: “Firestarter,” 1984. A post-“E.T.” Drew Barrymore embodies pyrokinetic child fugitive Charlie McGee in a reasonably gripping adaptation of King’s sixth novel.
Necessary: “Firestarter,” TBD. Producer of the first film, Dino De Laurentiis Company, reportedly had “Vacancy” writer Mark L. Smith work on a screenplay recently for a remake. Worthy, if only to see what thirty years of special effects advances could do for the visuals.
Pet Sematary, 1983
Unworthy: “Pet Sematary,” 1989. King penned the screenplay for this ineffective treatment of one his most frightening novels, which wastes sublime Fred Gwynne line readings and a disturbing killer toddler in an otherwise cheesy film.
Necessary: “Pet Sematary,” TBD. Paramount has been developing a redo using “1408” co-writer Matt Greenberg and Dave Kajganich, who has also worked on scripts for new versions of “It” and “The Stand.”
Unworthy: “It,” 1990. ABC produced this two-part TV movie of King’s epic coming-of-age novel about surviving the horrors of childhood, but it didn’t have the cast, the budget or the running time to do it justice.
Very necessary: “It,” TBD. Warner Bros. intends to produce a new version, potentially to be divided into two movies directed by “Sin Nombre” filmmaker Cary Fukunaga.
The Stand, 1978
Worthy: “The Stand,” 1994. King wrote the four episodes of this TV miniseries for ABC, and he considers it a successful translation of his biblically inspired epic about humanity’s decimation by a man-made plague.
Necessary: “The Stand,” TBA. Warner Bros. had Oscar-winner Ben Affleck developing a new take, but now “Crazy Heart” filmmaker Scott Cooper has the reins. The Stand needs today’s budgets and effects to really bring out its scale and scope.
Which is your favorite Stephen King adaptation? Let us know in the comment section below.