Stephen King often wrote about people who somehow became special and powerful. Try to address whether they use their abilities for good or evil and the moral dilemmas associated with a superpower. Dead Zone, Firestarter And silver bullet All are movies about these people.
Dead Zone (1983): After a car accident puts Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) in a coma for five years, he wakes up to find that the love of his life has married and is now a mother and that he can also see a person’s future when they do physical labor. Connect with them. At first he’s not sure if the future can be changed after he sees it, but when he saves a young student from drowning after seeing the boy die, he realizes that there is a “dead zone” in his visions that allows the future to change. When he sees a catastrophic event caused by a future politician, he struggles with the moral dilemma of whether or not he should stop this man before he has a chance to destroy the world even if it means his own demise.
This is one of my favorite movies. The direction and performances were done really well, with a particularly strong and meticulous performance by Christopher Walken. Directed by David Cronenberg, he expertly fused the real world into a fictional one making the film easier to connect with on an emotional level. No real flashy special effects, just really good story telling. I’m not sure what King actually thought of the movie, but he wrote an on-screen play that Cronenberg eventually rejected for various reasons.
Firester (1984): Two college students meet while participating in an experiment called “Group Six” conducted by DSI’s Department of Scientific Intelligence, also known as The Shop. Most of the participants in that experiment die, but Andy McGee (David Keith) and Vicki (Heather Locklear) survive, fall in love and marry. Experience gave both of them special abilities. Andy can “push” people, which means he can control their actions (mental dominance) and Vicki can read minds. The couple has a daughter, Charlie (Drew Barrymore) who has an ability called pyrokinesis, who can create and control fire. Because of her great power, Shop wants to study Charlie, perhaps to use her power as a weapon or find a way to replicate her. This puts Andy and Charlie on the run. Once captured, a cat-and-mouse game begins when Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen) manipulates Charlie to test the limits of her power. But they soon learn to regret their treatment of her and Andy when Charlie is pushed to her limits and takes revenge.
I feel this movie is getting a bit of a bad reputation from the critics. It is often thought that they are a bit boring and that the characters do not look real or original. Even Stephen King, after seeing a rough cut clip, thought it was “one of the worst of the bunch” talking about other adaptations of his books with the movies, and when doing research for this article, I found that this movie is often off movie adaptation lists. And while I see what they mean about the shows not being real, there is a connection and a tenderness that David Keith and Drew Barrymore share. Drew thought he did an excellent job of being a little girl. She was naughty at times, sweet at times, and suitably afraid of their situation. The story of an innocent little girl who harbors the power within her to destroy the world but doesn’t know how to control it, is a very interesting story and I’ve always thought it delivered so well. Martin Sheen is a bit overdone as Hollister and George C. Scott as killer John Rainbeard were wrong. The text does not delve into the motivations of the Rainbirds as it should. Also, the score was made by Tangerine Dream which was an odd choice and the movie could have benefited from a soundtrack by a real movie author.
Silver Bullet (1985): A werewolf terrorizes a small town in Maine over the course of several months. Locked up in a wheelchair, Marty Coslaw (Cory Haim) discovers who the killer is, he, his sister Jane (Megan Follows) and their Uncle Red (Gary Busey) try to set a trap and stop the terrifying wolf’s reign. Who is a werewolf and his justification for who he kills calls for a focus on who is really wrong based on perspective.
The script for this movie was written by Stephen King himself and has a different tone than many of the other adaptations. The movie is intentionally funny and corny and almost a parody of itself. Most of the critics were so harsh on this movie that I think they tried to take it seriously instead of appreciating the dark humor and the best performances which makes it a fun and interesting movie. The movie has some scary moments with some tense scenes like the battle of Marty and the werewolf. There are some interesting moral topics that are touched upon quite a bit, but basically the movie was made to be just mindless entertainment.
Stephen King is truly a king of horror, often creating scary and terrifying stories with complex characters and exciting situations that intertwine real life with fantasy fiction. Not every film adaptation was a hit with critics, but they were usually pretty entertaining. The 1980s was a fruitful decade for movie studios to make some amazing versions of his stories.