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Movie remakes are a touchy subject, especially when a beloved storyteller like Stephen King is involved. Not all remakes are bad, though. Sometimes remakes can improve and bring a new take to an old movie, like It and It Chapter 2. And, let’s be honest, while many of Stephen King’s novels are great, his movie adaptations haven’t had the best track record. Plus, many of his good adaptations were made over thirty years ago. It's time to bring them to a modern audience. Here are some Stephen King movies, I think need to get the remake treatment.
Cujo, starring E.T.’s Dee Wallace hit theaters in 1983 and became a moderate success, earning roughly $21 million on a $5 million budget. It’s about a farm dog that gets bitten by a bat, contracts rabies, and eventually goes on a murderous rampage. Cujo made a huge impact on modern culture. Do you know anyone with a dog named Cujo? Still, I think the movie has a number of flaws that could be rectified in a remake.
While Dee Wallace’s diamond-in-the-rough performance and Cujo’s dirty, grizzled, and bloody complexion heightens the terror, Cujo too often reeks of a TV movie. From the direction and production to the first and second act dealing with a soap opera level affair, the movie’s first half leaves a bad taste in your mouth and the only thing that rinses the palette is the third act.
With the right director and screenplay, Cujo could sink its teeth deeper into the character development and setting a more horrifying tone throughout rather than just the end. It would also do well to be faithful to the book, where Cujo is a demon-possessed dog rather than a rabid one.
The Running Man
Released in 1987 and based on the novel of the same name, The Running Man is a fantastic 80s dystopian thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; it’s also hopelessly campy and ridiculous. It’s about a convicted policeman forced to be in a TV game show where he’s hunted and must battle his killers to survive. If he survives, he earns his freedom. So, yeah, it’s basically an R-rated version of The Hunger Games before those books were even a thing.
For some, The Running Man is a classic Schwarzenegger film. Despite being cheesy, the movie’s legendary status can still be tough to overcome, like Schwarzenegger’s equally dorky Total Recall that got a horrible remake with Colin Farrell. But, if you think about it, this movie could still seriously use a refresher. Put it in the hands of the right filmmaker, like say Jordan Peele, and this dorky 80s action movie could become something truly terrifying.
Released in 1983 and directed by John Carpenter, Christine is one of the better Stephen King adaptations to come around. About a demon-possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury purchased by young teenager Arnie Cunningham, Christine feels a lot like Stephen King watched The Love Bug one night and thought, “but what if it was a serial killer?”
Considering John Carpenter’s task was to make an old hot rod scary, I’d say he overall does a decent job; admittedly, Carpenter’s iconic music and visual style do the heavy lifting. However, it only goes so far; some scenes, in particular, are hopelessly boring and a little too cheesy.
Christine is a good story, though, and covers some interesting themes. If it were to be remade, they’d need a throw everything at the wall and go truly bonkers with it, lest it becomes white noise. With that said, I bet Panos Cosamtos, director of Mandy, could make one truly terrifying Christine remake.
I know I’m going to get an atomic bomb of eyerolls on this one, but hear me out. Released in 1986, Maximum Overdrive was adapted from Stephen King’s short story Trucks, about cars and trucks taking a life of their own and killing everyone around them. Stephen King himself wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. The result was an unmitigated disaster with some scathing critical reviews. Even Stephen King has called it a “moron movie.”
Maximum Overdrive doesn’t work because Stephen King had no business in the director’s chair. It’s just a mess of AC/DC worship, bad acting, and trucks trying to kill people. It’s that last part, though, that might actually have legs (wheels?) and should be explored more.
Maximum Overdrive tries to tap into that mythos of machines suddenly turning against their masters. Of course, the idea of using homicidal trucks as a vehicle to talk about man versus machine isn’t exactly high-brow. But, it’s still an effective and fun horror story idea. With the right director, I think there’s a real possibility this could work. I say give this to Guillermo del Toro and see the magic happen.
The Dead Zone
The Dead Zone released in 1983 and is about Johnny Smith, played by Christopher Walken, who ends up in a coma and wakes up five years later with a mysterious ability to see the future when he shakes someone’s hand. Besides The Shining, The Dead Zone is probably one of Stephen King's more highly regarded 80s adaptations. It ended up spawning a TV show that might be even more popular than the movie. But, I think the movie deserves a second go.
The Dead Zone is dreadfully slow and boring, Johnny Smith’s character is bland, and the movie mostly neuters what makes the book scary—the villains. In the movie, the villains barely exist at all (whereas in the book you get a far darker and disturbing picture of them). Greg Stillson, played by Martin Sheen, plays a prominent villain by the end, but it’s too little, too late.
The Dead Zone could easily be revamped and improved with a faster pace and a laser focus on Johnny Smith as he hunts down Castle Rock’s villains. I bet if you put this in the hands of Denis Villeneuve, he could pull off something incredible.
Released in 2016, Cell is the most recent of Stephen King’s adaptations on this list and also, I’d argue, one of the most tragic. Starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, it’s about a singular incident where people turn into zombies after using their cell phones. Clay Riddell (Cusack) goes in search of his son as the world falls apart around him. It’s a perfect story for all you technophobes out there, but it fails to deliver.
Cell is painful mostly because it feels like there’s a good movie in there somewhere, but it’s buried by bad execution. The story has teeth, but the production puts in a mouthguard. It struggles to find the heart and soul of the story. It’s so bad, conceivably, all a new director would have to do is watch Cell and do the exact opposite of everything they did. And, I think, given the subject matter, it’s the kind of story that would do well if done correctly.
Stephen King stories can be tough to remake. They’ve tried to reimagine them in other forms, like the TV series Castle Rock, but I’d argue the books still deserve a faithful adaptation to the big screen with a visionary filmmaker at the helm. These are just a few I think should be remade, but what do you think? What Stephen King movies would you want to see remade? Let us know in the comments!