Being born in 1971, I’m just the right age to have experienced the dawn of Stephen King. My middle-school love for his books extended to the movies based on those books, and I have fond memories of so many of them, including:
• renting George A. Romero’s CREEPSHOW over and over (on big-box VHS!) from Sound Warehouse,
• lining up at the Northpark Cinema 4 for the opening weekend of the anthology CAT’S EYE
• and catching Brian De Palma’s CARRIE one weeknight on some local UHF channel, only to be jolted into fright by that last scene — one of the rare times a film genuinely has scared me.
All these memories and more came flooding back while reading STEPHEN KING FILMS FAQ. It’s the first in Applause Theatre & Cinema Books’ ever-growing FAQ series for author Scott Von Doviak, but not his first for the publisher; he wrote the best-so-far entry in its other pop-culture series, IF YOU LIKE, so my high hopes here were not dashed.
Let’s get my one problem with the book right out of the way, because it resides at the beginning: The first 40 pages offer a brief history of the horror-movie genre at large. If this were HORROR FILMS FAQ, that would be fine, but it’s not and that book already exists, so here, it just seems like stalling, like those advertisements that run in theaters before the real fun begins.
And the rest is real fun for fans. Von Doviak covers the wide territory chronologically (saving sequels and spin-offs for later chapters of their own), weaving a well-researched narrative that’s informative, thorough and not lacking in his own opinions. As shown in his two prior film books, especially 2004’s HICK FLICKS: THE RISE AND FALL OF REDNECK CINEMA, the author exhibits a boisterous sense of humor, and I don’t think I laughed louder than his summation of the made-for-TV miniseries IT: “The cast could have been confused with that of a 1990 HOLLYWOOD SQUARES episode. … How seriously can we take an ensemble comprised of Jack Tripper, Venus Flytrap, the wacky judge from NIGHT COURT, and John-Boy Walton in a dorky ponytail?”
I love that Von Doviak isn’t blindly fawning over King, as I can see lesser writers doing; he loves what he loves, hates what he hates, and isn’t afraid to share those thoughts, no matter to what degree they are shared by the collective audience. (While we’re on the subject of objectivity and bias, I should note that one of my pieces of film journalism — an interview with CHILDREN OF THE CORN director Fritz Kiersch — is quoted on page 88, of which I had no prior knowledge and alters my opinion of this book not one iota.)
One of the greatest chapters finds Von Doviak hosting an all-night CORN marathon, painful sequel by painful sequel, and the book deviates from the King features to include looks at the “Dollar Baby” shorts, adaptations that never made it out of development hell, the Marvel comic books and the occasional Broadway fiasco. The paperback comes packed with photos and poster art, although not as fully as Stephen Graham Jones’ enjoyable CREEPSHOWS: THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE GUIDE, a 2002 release in serious need of an update it’s unlikely to get, so consider this FAQ that. —Rod Lott