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Derrick Dunn

King On Screen is an insightful look at the master of horror

Legendary author Stephen King gets his flowers from director Daphné Baiwir in King on Screen from Dark Star Pictures. In 1975 a filmmaker named Steven Spielberg perfected the summer blockbuster with the iconic Jaws. One year later, another Stephen would become a mainstay among moviegoers when an adaption of his first novel, Carrie, hit movie screens.


Over 80 films and series based on the horror books of Stephen King have been created by over 50 different directors, making him the most adapted author in the world. It’s intriguing to consider what draws filmmakers to his works, and King on Screen brings together these directors who have adapted King’s books for both the big and small Screen. Directors interviewed for the film include Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption & The Green Mile), Tom Holland (The Langoliers), Mick Garris (The Stand & Sleepwalkers), and Taylor Hackford (Dolores Claiborne).


King On Screen begins with a framing device in the first fifteen minutes. A fictional reporter takes us on a journey through a small town setting reminiscent of many of King’s works. The film cleverly includes numerous references to his body of work, providing an enjoyable experience for fans who can spot them all. Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing this idea explored more in another project.


Even if you’re not a fan of horror, it’s probable that you’ve watched a King adaptation on Screen, particularly one of the dramatic movies directed by Darabont or the classic coming-of-age film, Stand By Me. When I was growing up, my mother was a big Stephen King fan, so I recall watching Cat’s Eye and Silver Bullet during the early days of HBO, seeing Misery in the cinema, and asking to stay up late to finish The Tommyknockers and It on ABC.


Daphné Baiwir’s documentary is commendable for its unwavering focus on the themes that pervade King’s work. These themes encompass the loss of innocence, familial discord, the eternal battle between good and evil, substance abuse, and the darkness lurking within people and places. The film suggests that King’s relatable writing style, which hinges on small-town horror, is the reason for his immense popularity. Moreover, King never belittles his readership, which adds to his appeal.


As a film enthusiast, it was a delight to listen to numerous directors recount their experiences working on film adaptations of King’s works. One interesting detail shared by Frank Darabont was that Tom Cruise was initially considered for the lead role in The Shawshank Redemption. Still, he declined the offer as he didn’t want Darabont to control the movie completely.


Overall, King on Screen is an enjoyable documentary, but I have some grievances. Sans archive footage, we don’t hear from King himself. In addition, I would have liked to hear from the directors whose films received a negative reception and where they felt they went wrong. Finally, the doc has a short runtime, and die-hard fans may want more.


Nonetheless, King on Screen is an engaging and informative documentary that caters to a broad audience, including those who may not be familiar with the works of Stephen King.


Final Grade: B+


King On Screen is IN THEATERS Friday, August 11, 2023. It then arrives ON DEMAND AND BLU-RAY, Friday, September 8, 2023

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King On Screen is an insightful look at the master of horror

King On Screen is an insightful look at the master of horror