31 Days of Horror: Enter the Stephen King Universe with Creepshow and The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film
2017 will go down as a massive year for the king of horror, Stephen King. A bestselling novel (Sleeping Beauties), multiples television shows (The Mist, Mr. Mercedes), film adaptations on both Netflix (1922, Gerald’s Game) and the big screen (It, The Dark Tower) – the list goes on and on. Here to add to it are two books tied in to the Stephen King Universe – one a blast from the past, the other a look at what should have been the beginning of a bright future.
Originally published back in 1982 at the same time as its cinematic release, the classic Stephen King graphic novel Creepshow has been reprinted for the first time in decades by Simon & Schuster. The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate, as the artwork for Creepshow comes from the pencil of the great and now sadly gone Bernie Wrightson. The co-creator of Swamp Thing, and a regular illustrator of King’ work, including his contributions to King’s Cycle of the Werewolf, Wrightson died this year after a long and continuous battle with ill health. His influence on generations of artists has never been in doubt, and it’s wonderful to have his and King’s tribute to the EC comics of their youth readily available for a new generation of horror fans eager to dig in. The graphic novel features the five stories that made up the original film, which was directed by another master who left us this year, George A. Romero.
Thursday night, in front of 1,100 excited and devoted fans gathered in Toronto’s Koerner Hall, Stephen King and his son Owen King read from their new collaboration, Sleeping Beauties.
Published by Simon & Schuster Canada, the novel, about a sleeping epidemic that affects women around the world, is the first time the two have worked together, thought they did do a book tour back in 2013, when Stephen was promoting Doctor Sleep and Owen his first novel, Double Feature. I was in the middle of a battle with pneumonia that had actually sent me to the hospital, but that didn’t hold me back from making the event when it hit Toronto. That night, I had the chance to talk to the elder King, probably my greatest inspiration as a writer. He signed my Marvel Comics Dark Tower Omnibus, and I showed him the outline of the Michael Whelan-inspired art that would soon become my second tattoo.
This night at Koerner Hall had no autograph session, but it was still exciting to be in the room with both Kings. Owen was noticeably more comfortable in front of a crowd than he was back in 2013. He started the evening reading from Sleeping Beauties, a book that’s humour becomes surprisingly evident when voiced by its authors. As expected, while Owen received a great ovation, the audience was clearly there for his legendary father, who was clad in a shirt that he gleefully informed us carried a caption that read “If you go home with someone and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”
Today, Thursday, September 21st, 2017 marks Stephen King’s 70th birthday. I think it’s fair to say that for many of us at Biff Bam Pop!, we wouldn’t be writing words regularly if not for the inspiration of King and his incredible work. To celebrate the monumental occasion, the writers of Biff Bam Pop! have banded together to share our favourite books from Stephen King’s catalogue, and say thank you to the man for all the nightmares.
Name: Andy Burns
Favourite Stephen King Book: The Stand
Why: The Stand is epic storytelling, full of wonderful characters and stunning set pieces. It was the first apocalyptic novel I can remember reading, and I was thoroughly gripped by the end of the world scenario King crafted. Though The Dark Tower as a whole is my favourite work by King, as a standalone novel, The Stand is the author at his finest. The Complete and Uncut version also contains my favourite King moment from any of his books – Stu Redman’s recollection of meeting the long dead Jim Morrison at a gas station. Happy birthday, Stephen King!
Name: Glenn Walker
Favourite Stephen King Book: The Stand
Why: It was his first magnum opus, his first truly epic novel, with a huge cast of characters – characters that on multiple readings became more and more real. Everyone in the book lived and breathed in my head as I read, and I followed them all from their lives in the old world to the reconstruction of the post-Captain Trips world. It was a tale of ultimate good and evil, introducing concepts like the Walkin’ Dude that would resonate with later works, and a story of survival and seduction, and at times unspeakable horror, touching on everything available to the writer at that moment. It’s not perfect. It was also the first of King’s disappointing cop-out endings, in my opinion, the rest of the book was so good I didn’t care. I love this book so much, it’s one of my top five favorite books ever, and I have revisited it dozens of times since first reading it in paperback fresh off the shelf. Like a good vinyl album (yeah, I’m that old), you play it so much, you have to replace it because it’s so worn down – I have been through three copies of The Stand, I love it that much. Read the rest of this entry
It’s so nice to be wrong sometimes. This weekend was absolutely massive at the box office, as one new release over-performed in the biggest of ways. Here’s what went down:
Stephen King’s It broke box office records this weekend, as it debut in first place with an estimated $123 million. Along with critical raves, It had the best first day showing ever for an R-rated film ($51 million), and the best ever Thursday night preview for an R-rated film ($13.5 million). It is the second-biggest R-rated opening ever, only trailing behind Deadpool’s $132.4 million record, set in 2016. It is the biggest horror story of the year, and bodes more than well for the 2019 release of It: Chapter Two of the saga.
Without It, we wouldn’t have Stranger Things, but without Stranger Things we wouldn’t have It – at least not quite the version of the film that hits theatres today. The Duffer Brothers, creators of Stranger Things, have cited both the Stephen King novel and the 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of it as major influences on their hit Netflix show – “probably the biggest,” noted Ross Duffer in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Years ago, before It helmer Andy Muschietti took over from Cary Fukunaga in 2015, the Duffers approached Warner Brothers about mounting the remake but were turned down because they weren’t considered established enough to take on King’s epic tale of children banding together to take on the evil, sewer-dwelling, child-eating clown-entity Pennywise. So the siblings created Stranger Things instead, which also features a close-knit group of small town misfit kids (one of them played by Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard) facing an incredible supernatural evil.
It’s a weekend horror fans have been dreading (in a good way) for years, as one of the genre’s greatest icons gets the big screen treatment. How will it perform? No clowning around – here’s our prediction:
Thirty-one years after it arrived on bookshelves, and twenty-seven after scaring up an audience with Tim Curry and an ABS mini-series, Stephen King’s It comes to movie theatres. Anticipation is high, and reviews for the Andy Muschietti-directed film are through the roof. Bill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise the Clown, who is behind the disappearance of children throughout the town of Derry. Luckily, it appears as though the poor North American performance of The Dark Tower this past August has done nothing to dull the excitement for Stephen King or this classic horror tale. Look for It to arrive in first place with a massive $65 million.
As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. As many of you may also know, I’m the author of the book Wrapped In Plastic: Twin Peaks (ECW Press, 2015). Previously, I never would have imagined that there would be any connection between two of my greatest loves, but following last night’s conclusion of Twin Peaks: The Return, I can’t help but think about how both series confounded expectations of their followers.
Read along with me, but be advised, there will be massive spoilers for both The Dark Tower and Twin Peaks: The Return.
Last night on Showtime brought the resolution of the 18-episode limited event series, Twin Peaks: The Return. As co-written by show creators Mark Frost and David Lynch, and directed solely by Lynch himself, the series was essentially about the return of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) to the town he first visited some 25 years ago when he was tasked with investigating the murder of high school student Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).
I’m not going to get into deep analysis off the series as a whole (you can wait for the follow-up to my book), but it’s worth nothing that the real story for this remarkable piece of art Lynch and Frost created is ostensibly that of Cooper’s return to Twin Peaks, and a final confrontation with his evil doppelgänger that has roamed free for decades while Cooper himself has been trapped in the series’ supernatural meeting house, The Black Lodge. And in episode 17, that’s what Lynch and Frost deliver – moments that fans have dreamt of for 25 years themselves. Cooper, clad in his black suit and craving his cup of coffee, back in the town, surrounded by familiar faces and some new ones. The evil doppelgänger vanquished, seemingly for good. This was fan service at its finest, and for many, shutting things down with this conclusion probably would have been just fine. Read the rest of this entry
It was a lacklustre weekend at the box office, with the highest profile debut performing below even the many low expectations. Here’s what went down:
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower debut in first place at the box office with a disappointing $19.6 million (though with the number 19 significant in the novels, maybe this isn’t so bad?). Prior to reviews, estimates were that the film, which Sony hoped would be the debut of a new franchise, would hit in the mid-20’s, but the crushing reviews and fan backlash wound up giving The Dark Tower an underwhelming opening. The fact that neither of its stars can actually open a film didn’t help either. There’s just nothing good about that number, no spin that anyone can really use. The likelihood of the movie getting a cinematic sequel is virtually nil, unless it manages to perform well overseas. There is hope with the announced prequel television series, though, as many believe that tv was where this series should have been in the first place
I had really debated about not writing anything personal about The Dark Tower. I’m so close to it, as a fan, and there’s part of me that figured that if I liked it, I’d be writing to defend what showed up on screen. However, the truth is, I did like the movie. Very much, even with all of its obvious flaws. Having followed the film’s journey to the big screen, I knew very well that what would eventually arrive would be quite different from the books that left an indelible impact on me. This wasn’t going to be an obvious adaptation, verbatim. And fans, mostly those with little imagination, couldn’t accept that Roland would be portrayed by Iris Elba, regardless of his acting chops. Read the rest of this entry
Will an adaptation of a cult favourite series from one of the most popular writers on the planet be able to stave off fan skepticism and critical blows to debut at the top of the box office? Here’s our prediction:
Let’s just get this out of the way: I loved The Dark Tower books. I’m a massive Stephen King fan. I am predisposed to enjoy the film that arrives in theaters this weekend, regardless of its quality. But, realistically, this is a hard road for The Dark Tower, based on the scathing reviews its receiving and a fan base that feels let down by many of the decisions that surrounded bringing Roland and the Man in Black to life. There was so much working against this film prior to the horrible reviews, and it appears so many fears are actually being realized. Regardless of how good or bad the performances from stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are, neither actor can open a film, let alone one that was supposed to be the beginnings of a brand new franchise. While there are die-hard fans of The Dark Tower who will venture out this weekend to see the film, reviews be damned, the crossover appeal is going to be limited, and unless there’s a severe difference between critical and audience response a la Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Dark Tower is going to underperform below even the initial light projections. Look for a first place debut with $26 million.
For me the release of The Dark Tower as a major motion picture is a countdown. I’m on the clock, literally, as I want to finish the book series before the film comes out on Friday. I don’t know if I’ll make it. While you wish me hopeless luck, meet me after the jump to find out why I’m doing it, and my re-read thoughts.