Wherein you realize that Stephen King kinda loved the remake of The Hitcher.
One of the great things about Stephen King is that, in addition to providing us with tons of his own horror, he’s also been known to comment/spread the word on the horror stories other artists are out there telling. In fact, King wrote an entire book about horror fiction in 1981, titled Danse Macabre, and he often writes mini reviews of new horror films on Twitter.
Given that King is the man behind so many of the most iconic horror tales in pop culture history, it’s always interesting to know what he thinks of the horror movies he watches. After all, who knows horror better than one of the genre’s true masters? Back in 2010, King wrote a new forenote to Danse Macabre wherein he listed off his favorite horror films that had been released in the past 15 (or so) years, which provided a wealth of insights into King’s views on modern horror. And you can’t talk modern horror without talking remakes.
Using Danse Macabre as our main source of insight, along with various tweets and things he has said over the years, here are 5 horror movie remakes that King approved…
DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)
In the aforementioned 2010 forenote to Danse Macabre, King wrote what is essentially a mini essay on Zack Snyder’s remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, agreeing with many horror fans that it’s one of the best horror remakes of them all. King went so far as to refer to Dawn as “genius perfected” when it comes to zombie movies, writing that it “begins with one of the best opening sequences of a horror film ever made.” He further praised the subtext of the remake, replacing Romero’s commentary on consumerism with what he perceived to be James Gunn and Zack Snyder’s post-911 commentary on the American fear of terrorism.
“By 2004, only three years downriver from 9/11, rampant consumerism was the last thing on our minds,” King wrote. “What haunted our nightmares was the idea of suicide bombers driven by an unforgiving (and unthinking, most of us believed) ideology and religious fervor. You could beat ’em up or burn ’em, but they’d just keep coming, the news reports assured us. They would keep on coming until either we were dead or they were. The only way to stop them was a bullet in the head. That’s exactly what Snyder’s zombies are, it seems to me: fast-moving terrorists who never quit. You can’t debate with them, you can’t parley with them, you can’t even threaten their homes or families with reprisals.”
King continued, “Yet some of the terror in Dawn transcends subtext and goes straight to the id. The movie’s most frightening moment has nothing to do with politics. One of the mall survivors, Ken (Ving Rhames) has been communicating with another survivor, Andy (Bruce Bohne) who is stranded on a nearby roof. After being bitten by a ghoul, the dying (or already dead) Andy flashes one final sign: not words but a jagged smear of blood. In that single three-second shot, Snyder tells us all we need to know about the insatiable hunger that lives in the decaying interior of an undead brain.”
THE HITCHER (2007)
Not only is Stephen King a fan of the original 1986 version of The Hitcher, personally selecting the film last year for BFI’s special “King on King” screening event, but he was also won over by Dave Meyers’ 2007 remake; one of the few fans of the film, it would seem, as the remake has largely been forgotten over the years.
King wrote in the 2010 Danse Macabre forenote, selecting The Hitcher as one of only a handful of horror movies he dug in the previous fifteen years, “Rutger Hauer in the original will never be topped, but this is that rarity, a reimagining that actually works. And Sean Bean is great in the role Hauer originated. Do we really need this film? No. But it’s great to have it, and the existential theme of many great horror films – terrible things can happen to good people, at any time – has never been so clearly stated.”
ROB ZOMBIE’S HALLOWEEN (2007)
Many horror fans are glad David Gordon Green’s Halloween is picking up after the events of the original film rather than Rob Zombie’s remake, but Zombie’s two Michael Myers films certainly have their fans. You can count me among the fans of Zombie’s Halloween, in particular, and you might be surprised that King is a fan as well.
Again, in the 2010 version of Danse Macabre, King briefly touches upon Zombie’s Halloween, offering up only a couple passing thoughts during an otherwise unrelated series of paragraphs. King refers to the 2007 film as “Zombie’s excellent reimagining of Halloween,“ while also noting that the pair-up of Zombie and the franchise was “an inspired collaboration.”
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009)
Out of all the modern horror movies Stephen King praises in Danse Macabre, none of them get more love than Dennis Iliadis’s The Last House on the Left, which King devotes several pages to. He calls the Last House remake, at that time, “The best horror movie of the new century,“ as well as “the most brutal and uncompromising film to play American movie theaters since Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer.”
Slamming Wes Craven’s down-and-dirty original (“…so bad it rises to the level of absurdity,” he says), King writes, “The Iliadis version is to the original what a mature artist’s painting is to the drawing of a child who shows some gleams of talent. I maintain that if Last House hadn’t come trailing the baggage of its infamous predecessor – and if it had been a foreign film that came equipped with subtitles – it would have been a critical success on the level of Repulsion, Diabolique or An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”
King also praised the performances of Garret Dillahunt, Sara Paxton and Spencer Treat Clark, as well as the overall brutality of the 2009 remake.
He writes, “The murder of Paige and the rape of Mari in the woods are particularly excruciating, because there’s a sense of filthy reality about these crimes that the depredations of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees can’t match. There’s zero audience-rooting going on for the bad guys here; when Mari finally loses the struggle to keep her plain cotton underwear on and we know it’s really going to happen, we are filled with rage and sorrow. Our identification is all with the victim. The villains are bad people, and they deserve what’s coming to them.”
You could certainly accuse Stephen King of being biased when it comes to adaptations of his own work, as he naturally has a financial stake in their success, but King has over the years made no bones about the fact that he hasn’t been a fan of several of those adaptations. Most notably, King *hates* Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which deviated from his novel.
On the other side of the coin, King seems to have absolutely loved Andy Muschietti’s IT, as most horror fans did. Before the film’s release, King hyped it up…
“I had hopes, but I was not prepared for how good it really was,” King said in an official featurette video. “It’s something that’s different, and at the same time, it’s something that audiences are gonna relate to. They’re gonna like the characters. To me, it’s all about character. If you like the characters… if you care… the scares generally work.”
He added, “I’m sure my fans will enjoy the movie. I think they’re gonna REALLY enjoy the movie.”
King also tweeted around the same time, “Andy Muschietti’s remake of IT (actually it’s Part 1–The Losers’ Club) succeeds beyond my expectations. Relax. Wait. And enjoy.”