Film Editor Jess Parker reviews the work of the ‘King of Horror’, tracing King’s successful career and his influence on the horror genre on the big screen
There is no doubt that the vast majority of people will have encountered the works of Stephen King in some capacity. Known by many as the ‘King of Horror’, King’s literary career spans over 40 years, having penned 65 novels and over 200 short stories so far. King is a juggernaut of the modern horror genre, his name becoming synonymous with supernatural, science-fiction, and fantasy horror. King has also written many suspense thrillers and crime stories.
Stephen Edwin King was born in September of 1947 in Maine, USA. King worked as a High School teacher before establishing himself as a writer with Carrie (1974), his first Horror Novel. Carrie was a huge commercial success, paving the way for King to dominate the genre with his recognisable literary voice and flair.
King’s personal life has been fraught with multiple struggles which can be seen in the content and style of his works. As he describes in his memoir, On Writing (2000), King suffered with severe alcohol and opioid addictions throughout the 1980s. It is well-known that King was struggling with his addictions for most of his directorial debut, Maximum Overdrive (1986), and he admits in his memoir that he does not recall writing Cujo (1981), one of his most successful novels to date. King has been clean and sober for many years, and continues to write his signature tales.
As can be expected with such a vast collection of stories, it is hard to define what novels would be regarded as King’s best reads. Speaking on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2021, King divulged that his two favourite Stephen King works are the novel Misery, and the short story Survivor Type. Misery is a psychological horror that follows author Paul Sheldon as he is held captive by a deranged fan, and forced to write a book just for her. The novel is tense and thrilling, proving that King is talented at much more than just supernatural horror. Survivor Type, a part of the Skeleton Crew (1985) collection, is a gory survivalist horror. Disgraced Surgeon, Richard Pine, finds himself trapped on a deserted Island. Pine has very little supplies to keep him going, and has to resort to extreme measures to sustain himself. Both of these texts exemplify the genius of King, creating visceral horror that is so anxiety-inducing, that it becomes difficult to turn the page.
Many of King’s works have been adapted for the screen, resulting in some of the most iconic film and TV productions of recent history. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) is probably the most notable King adaptation to date. Receiving nominations for both ‘Worst Director’ (Razzie Awards) and ‘Best Director’ (Saturn Awards) in the same year, the movie is now regarded as a cult classic of the psychological horror genre. Although the plot strays fairly far from King’s original source material, Kubrick’s movie retains the grit and intensity of the 1977 novel of the same name.
King’s brand of horror is one that many creatives seek to take inspiration from. One of Netflix’s most popular shows, Stranger Things (2016), owes a great deal to the Master of Horror. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, the Duffer Brothers stated that King’s ‘DNA is written all over the show’. King’s legacy as a horror icon is also seen in the approval that creatives seek from him. Recently, King took to twitter to praise the recent feature film Terrifier 2 (2022), stating that it was ‘Grossin’ you out old-school’. Director Damien Leone raved about the tweet, stating that it was ‘such a tremendous honor from the master’, displaying how influential King is on today’s emergent horror scene.
There cannot many authors who boast the kind of longevity and success that Stephen King has maintained. Even to this day, King is churning out stories of exceptional quality, and growing his ever-present cultural impact. From older cult classics to modern-day adaptations of his most well-known novels, it is hard not to find a story worth getting your teeth into when it comes to the masterful works of Stephen King.
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