Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #232

Stephen King News From the Dead Zone

It’s hot. Oh, so hot. Ever so effing hot. As many of you probably know, I live in Texas. Some years we get by without a single day with a temperature above 100°. This year, we’ve been “blessed” with almost nothing but triple-digit days, with “feels like temps” over 110°. It’s relentless.

So, while the world is melting down, what else should a person do but stay inside, with the A/C turned up high, reading and writing and watching television?

We’re still nearly a month out from publication day for Holly (I’ve read it already and will have a review in early September). You can watch King reading from his forthcoming novel on YouTube. The audiobook will be narrated by Justine Lupe, who played Holly in the Mr. Mercedes series.

On the Talking Scared podcast a few days ago, King revealed that his 2024 book will be a 600-page story collection called You Like It Darker. The stories will be mostly new, he said, and mostly longer. He said he wanted to include a poem, but that was vetoed by his publisher. He talked in detail about a story in the new collection, called “The Dreamer,” a cross between Lovecraft and Cormac McCarthy (to whom the story is dedicated). Listen to the podcast for all the gory details.

King also revealed that he’s working on a long novel called We Think Not that is “nominally about Holly Gibney,” but there are a lot of other characters in it, too. He also has, in what he called the “active file,” a letter from Peter Straub with a cool idea for a third Talisman book, but he hasn’t started working on it.

King reviewed S.A. Crosby’s novel All the Sinners Bleed for the NY Times and was asked for his thoughts about the passing of Cormac McCarthy for The Guardian. In something of a change of pace, he was one of several authors who responded to Dear Prudence letters for Slate, playing it straight as an “agony aunt” (a term I love but rarely hear any more).

Stephen and Tabitha King were the keynote speakers of the 2023 Maine Library Association pre-conference fundraising dinner back in May, discussing their role as authors, philanthropists, and library advocates. The audio recording of their interview, conducted by Sonya Durney, just became available.

There aren’t many adaptations in the works, either. The WGA and SAG strikes would likely have put a halt to production and preproduction on any of those projects anyway, but after a flurry of activity in recent years, things seem to have entered a slow period. The most recent releases (The Boogeyman, notably) came and went without making much of a splash. I haven’t seen The Boogeyman yet, although I’ll probably check it out when it becomes available for streaming rental on August 29. Blu-ray and DVD will be available on October 10.

The only confirmed adaptation on the release schedule is Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, the prequel that will drop on Paramount+ on Friday, October 6. Synopsis: “In 1969, a young Jud Crandall has dreams of leaving his hometown of Ludlow, Maine behind, but soon discovers sinister secrets buried within and is forced to confront a dark family history that will forever keep him connected to Ludlow. Banding together, Jud and his childhood friends must fight an ancient evil that has gripped Ludlow since its founding, and once unearthed has the power to destroy everything in its path.”

Welcome to Derry, the It prequel, was in production for a 2024 release on Max, but that schedule is no longer certain given the aforementioned strike. The theatrical adaptation of ‘Salem’s Lot, given two different release dates, is now totally MIA and I’m beginning to doubt we’ll ever see it, even on streaming.

Mike Flanagan had already completed his script for The Life of Chuck before the WGA strike, and Tom Hiddleston and Mark Hamill were announced as cast members but, you know…strike…so who knows when production will start and whether those actors will still be available.

Flanagan is still interested in adapting the Dark Tower series for a streaming platform. He gave Entertainment Weekly an update on that project and talked about it on the KingCast podcast:

I feel really good about where we are…we had a wonderful spring with it and we’re making enormous progress on it. And I have every reason to believe that on the other side of the strike, it’s gonna be priority #1…we’ve got some really exciting actors circling on it that I can’t talk about, and we have some potentially groundbreaking approaches to the filmmaking of it that I just can’t really talk about … but what I can say is that my fears that any momentum we had developed was gonna be obliterated [by the strike], well, I don’t really worry about that.

An adaptation of “The Monkey” starring Theo James was also announced at Cannes, but nothing more has been hear since then. And André Øvredal, who was attached to direct an adaptation of The Long Walk, announced recently that he’s no longer on that project.

One thing fans of adaptations of King’s work have to look forward to is King on Screen, which will have a limited run in theaters starting August 11 before hitting OnDemand and physical media release on September 8. Here’s the trailer for the documentary.

The opening credits section is for fans of Easter eggs. Eggs come in cartons of twelve, but according to the end note there are over 300 objects and references to King’s work in this approximately seven minute segment. That’s a lot of eggs.

This segment shows the movie’s director, Daphné Baiwir, traveling to a small town in Maine and visiting a convenience store (which features a cameo by Mick Garris as a blind man with a white cane reading a book!) and ultimately ending up in a place called the Creepshop (all your Needful Things since 1974) absolutely festooned with King references, some obvious — some extremely obscure. Do you remember who Martha Rosewall was? That’s the kind of esoteric detail we might have used in The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book.

Other cameos include Bill Phillips, who wrote the Christine script, Carel Struycken from Gerald’s Game and Miko Hughes from the original Pet Sematary.

Once you get past this prolonged Easter egg-a-thon, the documentary features over two dozen directors who have adapted King’s novels and stories. Among the topics they discuss are: how they were introduced to King’s work, why they think King is so widely adapted, the overall attraction of horror as a genre and King’s impact on it. Many of the names will be familiar (Frank Darabont, Mike Flanagan, Craig Baxley, Josh Boone, Taylor Hackford), others perhaps less so (I couldn’t have told you who directed Needful Things to save my life: Fraser C Heston), but the movies they’ve made will all be readily recognizable to readers of this column.

Daphné  Baiwir interviews Tom Holland, director of Thinner and The Langoliers

The bulk of the documentary consists of “talking heads,” although there are deeper dives into a number of adaptations, including The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and Doctor Sleep. The interview segments are illustrated with clips from movies or TV series, as well as the occasional behind-the-scenes segment, including video of King’s visit to the set of The Green Mile. At 1 hour 45 minutes, there’s no shortage of time, but they do spend more time discussing Night of the Living Dead than perhaps might be warranted.

Mike Flanagan discusses the influence of women on King’s work

The interviews are, on the whole, laudatory, perhaps because no one wanted to speak negatively about a movie from a director who might also be participating in the documentary. The sole exception is Kubrick’s The Shining, which takes quite a bit of heat. There’s not a single mention of King’s visit to the director’s chair for Maximum Overdrive. Directors conspicuous by their absence include Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter and Rob Reiner. I was pleased to see my pal James Douglas (The Doctor’s Case), representing the Dollar Baby contingent. I found it interesting how many of the directors confessed to having discovered King at a very early age — perhaps too early!

Darabont’s tribute to Tom Hanks’ generosity as an actor when working with Michael Clarke Duncan was particularly nice, and Mikael Håfström reveals an interesting bit of trivia about the axe one fireman carries when rescuing Mike Enslin at the end of 1408. One of my favorite quotes came from a guy who worked on the final segment of Creepshow, who said, “A roach does not take direction.”

It’s entertaining but not all that substantive. The directors rarely talk about the actual process of adapting King, or the films they made at any length. That would have required a much longer film, of course. But fans of the adaptations should enjoy hearing from all of these various directors from around the world who’ve had the chance to translate King to the screen.

Signed copies of my most recent book, Stephen King: A Complete Exploration of His Work, Life, and Influences, are still available from Village Books in The Woodlands, if you’re interested. Be sure to specify if you’d like a dedication and/or inscription on the order form. Croatian and Italian editions have already been published, with German, Czech, Spanish, Hungarian and Japanese to follow.


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