The King of Scream

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THE name “Stephen King” is ubiquitous with images of horror, carnage and gore both on the big screen and on good old-fashioned paperback books. Throughout the decades, King has entertained the world both young and old with his limitless imagination for creating characters that both frighten and repel, but also intrigue.

So many well-loved Hollywood superstars have been tied to his stories in some way or another — Jack Nicholson (The Shining), Sissy Spacek (Carrie), Kathy Bates (Misery), Tom Hanks (The Green Mile) — that it’s difficult to untangle the author from the movies. While most of us would have watched or at least heard of these horror flicks, only a handful would know that the original ideas came from King, and were first published as books and not as movie scripts.

Born in Portland, Maine, King rose to fame after the publication of his first novel, Carrie in 1974. To date, his books have sold a staggering 350 million copies, and have been adapted into countless feature films, television movies and comic books. In addition to his 55 published novels, King has also written 200-odd short stories that can be found in book collections.

It isn’t surprising then that he has received so many accolades for his achievements, although he is most fondly remembered for his contribution to the horror fiction genre. Indeed, our world would never be the same had it not been for the likes of crazy Carrie, bloodthirsty Cujo and psychotic fan Annie.

This Halloween, in tribute to King’s literary genius in the horror genre, perhaps pick up some of his books or watch some of the movies that Hollywood has made from them… and revel in how much those who came after him have taken ideas and inspiration from him and went on to create blockbusters of their own.

Here are some of Stephen King’s best-known and most well-loved works:

Carrie (1974)
Made into a movie in 1976 starring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, the story revolves around Carrie White, a victim of bullying who finds that she has telekinetic powers and uses them to exact revenge on her tormenters, only to have everything backfire. The entire town gets massacred in the process, and the gory bloodbath that dominates the movie is sure to race the hearts of horror flick fans everywhere.

The Shining (1977)
Made into a movie in 1980 by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining centres on the life of Jack Torrance who takes a position as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. When he and his family move to the hotel though, they begin to witness strange happenings and Jack’s son, Danny, begins to possess “the shining”, psychic abilities that allow him a glimpse into the hotel’s gruesome past. These supernatural forces soon overtake Jack’s sanity, and the whole family find themselves at the mercy of the forces that inhabit the property.

Cujo (1981)
Made into a movie in 1983, Cujo is a simple, straightforward story about a lovable St Bernard pet dog who turns rabid after sustaining a bat bite. Follow the characters running for their lives, trying to save themselves from the bloodthirsty canine throughout the film. Dog lovers had better stay away from this book and movie for there isn’t a pretty ending for fluffy Cujo.

Pet Sematary (1983)
Mistakenly spelled on purpose, Pet Sematary is a sinister examination of lost love and longing. The title of the book refers to a pet cemetery where the children of a town, where Louis Creed lives, bury their deceased pets. One day, Louis has a dream that shows him how to get beyond the Pet Sematary to another burial ground that supposedly has the power to reanimate the dead. Things go awry when Louis decides to bury his son’s pet cat there after a car accident in order to avoid discussing the topic of death with him. The cat comes back, but it is obviously not the same cat that it used to be.

Misery (1987)
This novel follows Paul Sheldon, a famed writer who finds himself injured and unable to walk after a car accident. Unfortunately for him, his “saviour” turns out to be a maniacal fan who’s bent on making sure that she finds out what happens to Misery, the lead character in his latest book. Instead of accepting the author’s version of the story, she tortures him into rewriting the novel so that the ending is acceptable to her. It might sound like a straightforward story, but the entire novel is filled with suspense and psychological scares as a reader follows Paul’s quest to escape imprisonment.

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 31, 2014.