THE KING – STEPHEN KING’S AMERICA, a breeding ground for fear

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The documentary THE KING: STEPHEN KING’S AMERICA of Cedric Davelut opens a reflection on the impact of the works of the famous author adapted to the cinema. Also, on their recent comeback …

For any lover of the genre, this is a must. Read a Stephen king, see a Stephen king… Film a Stephen king. In the documentary by Cedric Davelut, Tom mc loughlin, director of the TV movie adapted from the short story Run, Jimmy, run, admits that from the mid-1970s, it was necessary “Go see the famous author to be able to make his next film”. So much so that stamped terror King will be overexploited ad nauseam, even if it means creating clichés … in small ordinary American country towns, where the nightmare comes, again and again, to intrude surreptitiously.

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The Guinea Pig (1992)


Until the early 90s, many horror productions actually relied excessively on the tagline : “From a novel by Stephen king“, Exhausting the vein to the point of absurdity. Evidenced by The test-subject, a 1992 film, whose initial ambition was to exploit the concept of virtual reality. However, to be able to make his film, Brett leonard, at the request of its producers, had no other choice but to shoehorn in a short piece of news from King, titled The Lawnmower man. This, with the sole aim of being able to market the feature film on this name: Stephen King’s The Lawnmower man.

Thus, beautiful works signed From Palma for Carrie at the devil’s ball in 1976 or Carpenter for Christine in 1983, we came at the same time to exploitation films without soul, like the saga The demons of the corn debuted in 1983, even in TV films deploying many laughable special effects, such as The Langoliers in 1995. As for the That of 1990, let’s stop lying to ourselves: only the charisma of Tim curry prevents the ship from sinking into the depths of the abyss of the author’s worst adaptations. As concedes Tom mcloughlin in THE KING: STEPHEN KING’S AMERICA : “There have been too many adaptations. The quality of the productions deteriorated. And so, the phenomenon has subsided. “

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Stephen King on the set of Maximum Overdrive in 1986 © Everett Collection

So much so that the only achievement of the master himself, Maximum Overdrive, adapted from his short story Trucks and released in 1986, looks like a parody of a Yankee-style anticipation work. The whole, heavily sprinkled with cocaine. In the discharge of King, – and as underlined Mick garris, director of The Torn Night – the author had found himself enrolled in an Italian production system which he did not understand. And this, while he continued to struggle with alcoholism. So, Stephen king was himself a victim of the industrial machine that his work had created. Hence perhaps this pronounced disgust for achievement. Indeed, if he remained close to the world of television and cinema as a screenwriter and / or consultant thereafter, we never saw him pass behind a camera again …

” He is back

However, it cannot be denied that in recent years the adaptations of King on screen are once again attracting the interest of the general public. From That from 2017 to Doctor Sleep in 2019, passing by the honorable but underrated remake of Simetierre, the popular craze seems to be there again. King’s adaptations, however, never completely disappeared from the screens, notably thanks to ” Dollar Baby Program“. Initiated by the prolific author, this operation allows young directors to acquire the exploitation rights of one of his works for a symbolic dollar. However, the return to grace has only recently taken place. Proof of this is: the exclusives acquired by Netflix over the past four years – The mist, 1922, Jessie and In the tall grass.

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THE KING: STEPHEN KING’S AMERICA does not fail to emphasize that this comeback is strongly linked to the current wave of nostalgia for the 80s. Years “marked by the work of Stephen king“, Affirms Mick garris. Years when “Hollywood was obsessed with this author … This inevitably results in an impact”, adds David Carson, author of the TV movie Carrie broadcast in 2002. And indeed, the works born from this nostalgic return to the eighties, from Stranger Things at least known Summer of 84, all carry with them this heritage. Whether they are aware of it or not, the codes of the labeled film Stephen king invariably show through. The collective imagination remains deeply marked. If only by the phobia of clowns …

The essence of the King

Fundamentally readable and accessible codes. So that it is easy to parody them, as in the ultra-referenced You can’t kill Stephen Kill, released in 2012. In these very codes lies all the genius of Stephen king. The author has always known how to use fear as a metaphor for reality, like all the great masters of the genre. However, he also knew how to transpose this metaphor to a part of the American population that he knows inside out, to an ordinary to which Americans can easily relate. The teenager bewitched by Christine, for example, reflects in every way the greed of the middle class of the early 1980s. Stand by me are the reflection of a childhood spent in the countryside of fifties.

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The Undead Cat from the remake of SIMETIERRE (2018) – Credits: Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. / Kerry Hayes

In the documentary film by Cedric Davelut, David Carson said to see in Stephen king an ability to “personify feelings”. So, Carrie symbolizes the passage to adulthood. The father in Simetierre, the insurmountable grief of mourning. The mother, her acceptance. So many universal themes that make the work of King timeless. To the point that it becomes “prophetic” for Mick garris. And one can indeed detect in Carrie a societal critique of America, on “its bigotry and its repercussions”. This, fifteen years before a David Koresh did not lead to the death of nearly 100 people by devotion to Waco in 1993. We can also read a reflection on the school bullying and the violence contained by the victims … twenty-one years before Columbine. So much foresight in a package that is easy to open and pleasant to skin: sure that the work of King has not finished haunting us.

Lily nelson

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