The Dead Zone

On the surface, The Dead Zone is far removed from It. Other than the Stephen King connection, and the small-town setting, this tale of precognition has little to do with a killer clown. But it does contain a story element that was likely borrowed for the 2017 It: an abusive, psychotic cop.

In Andy Muschietti’s It, the father of school bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) is revealed to be a drunken, unhinged cop – the type of guy who isn’t above firing his gun at his son to prove a point. While King’s novel also portrays Bowers’ father as an abusive lunatic, the character in the book is actually a farmer, not a cop.

The Dead Zone, however, has an entire subplot devoted to a cop who is also a serial killer. This leads to one of the most memorable scenes in David Cronenberg’s film adaptation: the scene where the killer cop, finally about to be captured for his crimes, kills himself by setting up a pair of scissors and ramming his open mouth onto them. It’s unpleasant!

Making Henry Bowers’ father a cop instead of a farmer in the 2017 It was likely done for narrative purposes: the film needed to portray an inept police force who aren’t handling the outbreak of missing kids, and what better way to do that than by making one of the cops an abusive drunk? That said, there’s a also chance the decision to make the character a police officer is a throwback to The Dead Zone.

Dolores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game

Stephen King sure does love his storylines about abusive parents destroying childhoods.

Dolores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game are two-sides of the same coin. In fact, King wrote both books as companion pieces: there is a deliberate reference to Dolores Claiborne in Gerald’s Game and vice versa. Strangely enough, when Mike Flanagan adapted Gerald’s Game for Netflix, he kept the Claiborne reference intact.

Again, on the surface, these films have little resemblance to It. But at the center of both are storylines involving the loss of innocence at the hands of an abusive parent. Just like It’s Bev must constantly avoid the advances of her creepy, monstrous father, so, too, must young female characters in Dolores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game.

Taylor Hackford’s 1995 film adaptation of Dolores Claiborne is one of the very-best King film adaptations, with a phenomenal performance from Kathy Bates at its center. Flanagan’s 2017 Gerald’s Game adaptation is fantastic as well; the book is not one of King’s best, but Flanagan found a way to turn it into a compelling film.

Carrie

Stephen King loves writing about bullies. If your favorite characters in It are Henry Bowers and his gang of burping, sociopathic creeps, and you’re in the mood for even more Stephen King bullies making their fellow classmates feel like garbage (and really, who isn’t?), look no further than Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of King’s first novel, Carrie.

Here, poor telekinetic teen Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is consistently tormented by the mean girls at her school, including Halloween’s P.J. Soles. Many of us have suffered the wrath of school bullies, but King’s bullies are almost always on the most extreme end of the spectrum – they traffic in sadism, and usually meet violent, bloody ends. 

There are actually three adaptations of Carrie: the De Palma film, a 2002 TV movie, and a 2013 remake directed by Kimberly Peirce. The De Palma film is the best of the bunch; the 2002 TV movie is a complete snore, and the Pierce film, while somewhat interesting, was ruined by studio interference.

Dreamcatcher

Sigh. I almost didn’t put this on the list, because it’s terrible. But for the sake of completeness, here it is! Dreamcatcher was the novel King wrote while he was recovering from a near-fatal accident involving a van that plowed into him while he was on an afternoon walk. Hopped up on painkillers, King wrote this messy, goofy novel that involves aliens who are lovingly nicknamed “shit weasels.”

The Big Chill’s Lawrence Kasdan adapted King’s novel into a film, and like the book, it stinks! So why mention it here? Well, Dreamcatcher just happens to be set in good old Derry, Maine, the same town from It. In fact, the story even borrows It’s format, of kids from Derry going through an experience together in their youth, then reuniting as adults. The book (and movie) even use some of the same locations from the It novel, including a truck depot lot where the kids play baseball.

The Derry connection might be enough to draw It fans to Dreamcatcher, but be warned: it’s a mess. There’s a scene in this movie where Thomas Jane holds a gun up to his ear like a telephone, and then proceeds to have an entire conversation. It’s really dumb, folks!

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