Patricia Clarkson as Margaret White? Yes please.
Stephen King publishes, on average, about three hundred books a year. And, at age 74, he isn’t really showing any signs of slowing down. But when your output is as extraordinary as his—and as well-loved as his—you’re (leather)bound to be facing plenty of cinematic adaptations.
Of course, there are the classics. The Shining, Misery, Carrie, Pet Sematary and The Mist all come racing immediately to mind. Then there are the infamous missteps: Graveyard Shift, The Dark Tower and The Lawnmower Man, I’m looking at you.
But what about all of the lost film and TV adaptations in between? What about the dozens of entries into the Kingdom that were neither classic nor catastrophe? What happens to the titles who, maybe for no reason of their own, have been destined to collect dust?
Here are five Stephen King film adaptations we just don’t hear enough about anymore:
SALEM’S LOT (2004)
Back in 2004, we were privy to TNT’s sleeper adaptation of Salem’s Lot, this time starring Rob Lowe in the lead role of Ben Mears. This TV adaptation stayed fairly true to its source material and even earned itself a Primetime Emmy nomination for its killer score. It’s too bad this version was destined to be overshadowed by another miniseries, the 1979 Tobe Hooper version we all know and love. Check this one out if you’ve got the time. Lowe and Donald Sutherland alone make it worth the price of admission.
Widely considered to be one of Stephen King’s greatest late-career novels, 11.22.63 seemed all but destined to receive the J.J. Abrams treatment. The book concerns an English teacher sent back in time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and was gripping from start to finish. By 2016, Hulu and Abrams crafted a nuanced eight-episode mini-series adapting this excellent 2011 novel. While well-received, this version of the historical drama is rarely mentioned, a mere 6 years after its initial release.
Let’s face facts, Desperation and its shadow novel The Regulators are some of the strangest works Mr. King has ever published. Desperation is one mean SOB of a novel with one of the best King villains of its generation: Tak. In 2006 Master of Horror Mick Garris braved the mantle of directing a TV miniseries based on this outrageous novel. Armed with a teleplay by Stephen King himself, this lost adaptation is definitely worth a watch for a true King fan. It also happens to star Ron Perlman as Tak which is beyond genius casting.
Stephen King’s first novel has been adapted countless times now. She’s seen stage, screen and everything in between. This generous output of Carrie iterations could be part of the reason this 2002 TV movie has been all but lost to the sands of time. The Bryan Fuller (creator of Hannibal) vision of Carrie had inarguably incredible talent on both sides of the camera. With Angela Bettis (May) in the title role and Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects) as Margaret White, this version of events could have easily been a classic.
LISEY’S STORY (2021)
This past summer Apple TV+ released a visually stunning eight-part television adaptation of Stephen King’s most personal story. Cited as one of his own favorite novels, Lisey’s Story starred Julliane Moore as the titular Lisey, the wife of a famous novelist who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. This story goes places you’d never see coming and the novel is based on has some of the most chilling scares in the history of Stephen King. It’s just too bad that a lukewarm response has left this recent adaptation out of the conversation.