He's the sultan of screams, the head honcho of horror, the duke of disgust -- whether you measure by the sheer metric tonnage of his output or the harder-to-quantify level of his influence, Stephen King bestrides modern American horror like a colossus. And with horror film interpretations like Carrie, The Shining, Christine and The Dead Zone, some of King's books also found a grasping, vulgar and vital second life thanks to the stewardship of some great horror directors. With Halloween upon us, though, I thought I'd take a look at some of the less noteworthy King adaptations -- and name the 7 worst page-to-screen projects taken from King's work. I set myself a few ground rules (only theatrical releases, nothing shot for TV, nothing that wasn't feature length) and dived in to the plethora of projects that have sprung from King's work to go looking for the trash, not the treasures. Some of these films are here because they deviate wildly from the source material; some are here because the source material wasn't that good to start with; all of them kinda tick me off in one way or another. Again, the list below is highly subjective -- because really, aren't they all?
1) Sleepwalkers (1992)
Do you recall this big-screen tale of feline shapeshifters and small-town terror? Probably not -- Sleepwalkers died at the box office, even with Ron Perlman and Madchen Amick in lead roles. Revolving around a mother-son duo of hungry shapeshifters who can only be sated by the flesh of a female virgin, Sleepwalkers was directed by Mick Garris -- who would go on to helm the small-screen adaptations of The Shining and The Stand. Based on an unpublished story by King, Sleepwalkers is so tedious that even the presence of scene-stealing creep-out queen Alice Krige (Habitat, Star Trek: First Contact) can't snap the movie out of its torpor.
2) Cujo (1983)
This is a specific case where, yes, the problem's not necessarily with the movie but rather with the source material, pitting a family against their beloved dog -- who's gone insane with rabies. King himself has admitted that Cujo was written in pretty much one beer-fueled sitting -- which he himself has almost no memory of. Dee Wallace Stone and Danny "Who's the Boss?" Pintauro play the mother-son combo facing the death-dog in the finale -- but, even beyond the low-wattage cast, as far as premises go, this "Old Yeller in hell" tale may be the thinnest one King ever committed to paper, and it shows on screen.