It is now on Blu-ray, and if you’re craving more Stephen King thrills and chills that are most reminiscent of Andy Muschietti’s adaptation, have I got a list for you! As /Film’s resident Stephen King expert, I combed the King archives and put together a list of 10 Stephen King movies to watch after It.
Andy Muschietti’s blockbuster take on It is one of the best King adaptations in recent memory. As a result, some of the films on this list won’t measure up. Then again, some of the movies on the list are even better – in other words, there’s a wide-ranging selection to choose from here.
Here’s something else worth noting: literally every Stephen King novel is connected, in some way. Before movie studios latched onto the idea of a shared universe, King was painstakingly dropping hints and clues in all his novels to make them all part of one, large, overarching universe – a universe that connects directly to The Dark Tower books. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that every Stephen King story is connected to It.
But the films compiled here are titles that have a more direct connection to King’s clown-based tale of terror. Large or small, major or minor, these are the Stephen King films that are most reminiscent of It. As a result, these are the movies you might want to engross yourself in after you’ve watched the It Blu-ray a dozen times and start craving more.
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but let’s get it out of the way. The 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It terrified an entire generation of people by going farther than most TV miniseries dared to go. There’s some real nightmare fuel here, including winking photographs, torrents of blood, and of course, Tim Curry’s iconic take on Pennywise the Clown.
That said, 1990’s It is very a much a TV movie. Director Tommy Lee Wallace, who also helmed the highly underrated Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, does his best to make the film as cinematic as possible, but It is still hampered by TV-style blocking, with shots that were clearly designed to fit within a TV frame. Also, while the adults playing the grown-up Losers’ Club are fine, the kids are…not so great. Some of them (particularly a young Seth Green) do well, but a lot of the younger actors come across as showy child actors, who only really know how to go big with their performances and not do much else. They’re pale shadows of the kids in 2017’s It, who are all phenomenal across the board.
Still, for all its flaws, 1990’s It is an enjoyable King adaptation. It also expands the story a bit beyond what the 2017 film, so if you’re craving more of the doomed town of Derry, look no further than this miniseries.
Stand By Me
Stand By Me is the trial-run for It. Based on King’s novella The Body, the story of Stand By Me is almost a mirror image of It: a group of young friends come together during the summer on a quest; one of the kids is haunted by the death of his brother; and along the way, they’re pursued by violent bullies.
While there’s nothing supernatural in Stand By Me, it still has the same tone and message as It: it’s ultimately a story about friendship. Director Rob Reiner faithfully recreates King’s novella, but also softens the edges a bit – the source material is a bit darker; a bit meaner. Reiner occasionally goes to dark places, but he’s much more interested in the friendship between these kids (Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell). “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12,” one of the characters thinks, years later in his adulthood. “Jesus, does anyone?”
Hearts In Atlantis
Absolutely no one talks about this 2001 adaptation of King’s novella Low Men In Yellow Coats, which is a shame, because it’s rather lovely. William Goldman, one of the best screenwriters in the business, takes King’s story and weaves it into a poetic, somewhat melancholy tale of youth. Anthony Hopkins plays a man with supernatural abilities who rents a room in a house occupied by a young boy (the late Anton Yelchin) and his mother (Hope Davis). Yelchin and Hopkins become fast friends, but their friendship is endangered when government agents come looking for Hopkins’ character.
Underneath all of this is a story about a childhood, and anyone who wants another It-like story of youthful innocence clashing with dark, otherworldly forces will find a lot to like here. The sweet-natured crush that blooms between Yelchin and a fellow classmate, played by Mika Boorem, is very reminiscent of the Bill/Bev affection in It.
One of the ideas that Stephen King wanted to explore with It was that of an entire town that’s haunted. But here’s the thing: King had already done that with his creepy vampire novel ‘Salem’s Lot. Much like It, ‘Salem’s Lot involves a story about a town that seems willfully oblivious to the supernatural forces raging just out of sight. Also like It, there’s a big, creepy house at the center of it, where the evil emanates from.
There are two different adaptations of Salem’s Lot, both of them TV miniseries: a 1979 adaptation from Texas Chainsaw Massacre helmer Tobe Hooper, and a 2004 adaptation for TNT. The Hooper film is hands-down the better of two, and it contains the terrifying, iconic image of a vampire boy floating just outside the bedroom window of one of his schoolmates. That said, the TNT adaptation, which stars Rob Lowe, isn’t half-bad. It’s better-produced than the ‘79 film, for one thing, and it updates a lot of the dated story elements with great success. Check them both out, I say!
Another King adventure into the “haunted town” trope is Needful Things, adapted into a 1993 film by Fraser C. Heston (aka Charlton Heston’s son). Much like It, Needful Things has a story about a malevolent being (here represented by Max von Sydow as a devilish shopkeep) who proceeds to make the town folk behave like absolute monsters.
Much like It, Needful Things succeeds at setting up an entire town and making it feel like a real place. The film adaptation is a little long in the tooth, and in the last half hour it goes completely off the rails. But the wonderful cast, which includes Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia, Amanda Plummer, and J.T. Walsh, keep it afloat.
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