01 Apr ALL HAIL THE KING!
The Greatness of Stephen King
Apologies for taking a few weeks away, I’ve been especially busy with the guitar, but I know exactly what I want to talk about, and that is the greatness of Stephen King.
Because let’s face it; Stephen King is a pillar of modern horror.
Since 1976 he has been incredibly consistent, always bringing new stories, new content, and new experiences to the genre, not to mention really really well-written stories which beg to be taken to movie form.
I am so appreciative of his enormous commitment to the genre – don’t forget, he has Richard Bachman too! – and the thing of it is that his commitment is bigger than any horror fan’s commitment, which is just amazing.
I’m not just talking about his own work, but his dedication to the genre in general! I read his great memoir Danse Macabre, and he’s a horror fan through and through. Some people make the change from fan to artist, some people make the change to fan-artist (which I believe I am) and some people simply remain fans while others remain artists. But for me, King has always proudly kept his foot in the fan category, and his work is absolutely more for a fan’s eye than a critics. That’s another cool thing about Stephen King, he doesn’t care about that stuff, he writes for fans and for himself, which as I just established are the same thing. He’s not a ‘force of nature Hollywood’ guy, like, say, Michael Crichton, he is literally one of us, doing it from such a pure place, which is one of the highest accolades I can give. He is totally invested in the pure art of horror.
My earliest memory of reading a Stephen King story was Carrie, and of course there was the movie which I think was the first ever adaptation of a King story. Then when Salem’s Lot came out on TV as a mini-series I thought it was brilliant, all the trappings of a gothic vampire tale, and those gothic elements all came through in the TV adaptation despite the fact it was not a typical gothic scenario. And then after that, I read The Skeleton Crew and The Shining.
The Shining is probably the most famous screen adaption of a King novel, and I’ve always said that the book and the movie are two different entities altogether. I don’t remember ever looking over my shoulder as much as I did when I read that story! It’s one of the best-written horror stories I’ve ever experienced, and the ending of the story is apocalyptic, yet most decidedly not the same as the ending in the movie. With all due respect to Kubrick’s masterpiece, I’d really like to see someone do a faithful film version of King’s story.
There are stories of his which were translated faithfully and really well, Misery is just great. And Dead Zone is another, it’s one of the more accurate depictions of his stories and we need Johnny Smith-Christopher Walken in the movie – to come and scope out some of today’s political candidates so as we can formally identify the bad guys. I love dark horror comedy, but this presidential campaign is going to top anything that genre could produce! No screenwriter could’ve written this, it is pure entertainment in the worst possible way. Hey! Dead Zone shows Stephen King to be remarkably prescient, right?!
One huge thing about my personal connection with Stephen King occurred when I was reading a chapter in The Stand. The chapter had a guy in prison who was waiting to ‘Ride The Lightning’ and I just thought ‘oh my God, what a cool collection of adjectives and nouns that is!’ I told James, he thought the same and the rest is Metallica history! Pick up a copy of The Stand if you’re obsessive enough and find the chapter about a guy on death row where King actually writes the words.
Over the years I’ve been aware that Stephen King is a fan of Metallica, he was a fan club member I know. In the late ‘80s we spoke about something to do with his band The Rock Bottom Remainders, and as a token of my appreciation I ended up giving him a piece of art, a Famous Monsters cover painting. That’s about as much as I know of him, although I wish we knew each other better because I think we’re two peas in a pod except he writes words and I write music.
And the reason why I think Stephen King is so important is that he is our author for these times. He’s not like Lovecraft or Poe, who reflected their eras and what was going on, he’s not even like Peter Straub and all these other writers. King writes about what is going on currently, and he writes about what we’re all experiencing. He’s constantly cross-referencing pop culture, our culture, American culture as whole and injecting a large amount of fantasy/sci-fi into that, which is something we can ALL relate to! He gets it! Stephen King finds empathy with his audience and readers more than any other horror writer, and he continues to find familiar, shared landscapes in the sense of scare-ability.
He’s so prolific that we sometimes take his genius for granted. Don’t do this. Take time to cherish the gift of his words and brilliant mind!
Before I go, let me finally get back to answering some of your thoughts and questions over the last few blogs.
Thanks for taking the time to make comments, and sorry I haven’t answered any for a while. Better late than never though! Damary Pagan and Phil Earles both responded the Oh!Scars column by saying ’no Linda Blair? No Exorcist?’ I completely respect what they’re saying, and I am on record as saying The Exorcist is one of the scariest movies of all-time and Linda Blair’s performance is excellent, exactly what it needed to be. But I’ve spent a lot of time talking about both in the past, and with the Oh!Scars I tried to get rid of my obvious choices. So, yes, I totally agree, and so I’ll give The Exorcist an Oh!Scar for being the Scariest Movie I have Personally Seen – a personal Oh!Scar!
Camila Alves wondered if I’d seen Shallow Grave by Danny Boyle, as she felt it had something in common with Fargo Noir, and I have seen it, yeah. Look, while we’re back at Fargo Noir, The Shining has elements of that whole ‘genre’ too! I’m going to make sure I see Shallow Grave again now! Mike Benedict asked if my book is still available, you bet it is, right here bro: Too Much Horror Business. And Heath Clark says I should ‘come back to Torquay for a surf’ and of course I will! Torquay is one of the most popular surf spots in Australia and I like it, so yeah, of course but what’s that got to do with horror??? Finally, Kelly Dotson asks me what sort of films I like to watch if not horror films? I like sci-fi of course, and I also watch a lot of documentaries. One film I like that might surprise people is The Scarlet Empress, starring Marlene Dietrich and made in 1934, it’s just a really amazing fucking movie about Russia at the turn of the century, and there’s gothic elements to it I really enjoy. I also like a good comedy now and again, I loved that film from the 60s The Great Race, which is more of a fantasy film to me than a racing film, I mean come on! Most of the cars would not be sensible to have in a normal race.
I’m also a sucker for that film Point Break, yeah, the one starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze (I always identified with Swayze’s character by the way!!!!) and I don’t know why. Probably when they started diving out of the plane, because the surf footage is laughable. They try to make the waves look really really big by filming at night, really up close and turning up the soundtrack so as the waves sound huge…but they really aren’t. So being a surfer has nothing to do with liking that film because the surf footage is total crap, I just love the scene where they’re jumping from planes without a parachute!
But I’m also always on the look-out for weirdo stuff, like horror-comedy that’s actually good and genre-bending stuff like Bone Tomahawk and Amigo Undead…in fact hey! I’m going to stop now because that might be what we can discuss next…genre-bending movies! Yeah!