In 2017, Stephen King’s The Mist received its second adaptation, this time as a television miniseries. Although most adaptations of King's tales have had theatrical releases, Spike’s The Mist is not the first TV version. In fact, there have been some 20 television adaptations of King’s work—and that's not counting Hulu's eerie new Castle Rock, which creates a shared meta universe out of King's twisted characters and narratives. Today, we're talking about the creepiest of these adaptations, from as early as 1979 to today.
Salem’s Lot, King’s second novel, was first adapted as a two-part miniseries in 1979. The special effects are incredibly effective in inducing pure terror, despite being somewhat dated. Many people who saw this adaptation as a child still can’t rewatch the film due to how thoroughly it frightened them. Also notable: Salem’s Lot was remade for television in 2004, this time starring Rob Lowe and Andre Braugher.
Related: The 6 Scariest Stephen King Books
The Twilight Zone: Gramma
In 1985, the first revival of The Twilight Zone began. Episodes of the first season included stories penned by Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and King. King’s short story, "Gramma", became the basis of the 18th episode of the new season. This hour long episode ratchets up the horror quickly.
One of the most famous King adaptations, It began as a TV miniseries, not a film. Tim Curry’s terrifying turn as Pennywise makes It well worth the watch, despite some cheesy effects. Go with the movie cut rather than the full episodes to get to the scares faster.
Molly Ringwald and Gary Sinise star in this miniseries adaptation of King’s post-apocalyptic novel The Stand. After 95% of the world is killed by a “superflu”, survivors are drawn to Nebraska by the same dream. Another group of survivors has gathered in Las Vegas around Randall Flagg, a man with supernatural powers. The Nebraska group must defeat Flagg to save the world. But is Flagg even human anymore?
This 1997 miniseries was adapted for the screen by King himself. In order to get the rights to make a new adaptation of The Shining, King had to promise Stanley Kubrick that he would stop criticizing the 1980 film. Unfortunately for Kubrick, King's enmity toward the film has lasted longer than Kubrick's life. The Shining miniseries is much more faithful to the book than the film—although detractors will say that is to the series' expense. Although this adaptation has fewer iconic images than Kubrick's, King's finds the horror in smaller moments.
The 1976 horror movie Carrie was the first Stephen King adaptation to appear on film or television and, like The Shining, it has in some ways surpassed the original novel from which it draws its inspiration. This 2002 TV movie was meant to be a backdoor pilot for a show based on the novel, but the series never happened. Although the series wasn’t made, Carrie is worth a watch. Bryan Fuller, creator of Hannibal and Dead Like Me, adapts King’s first novel with a focus on popular girl/tormentor, Chris, played by Lost’s Emilie de Ravin.
Children of the Corn
The original 1984 Children of the Corn movie may not be a great movie, but it is certainly beloved by fans of campy horror. In 2009, SyFy premiered its remake of the child cult story. Hewing more closely to the plot of King’s original short story, the 2009 adaptation has a shocking amount of death and gore for a made-for-television film.
Bag of Bones
James Bond takes on Stephen King. Pierce Brosnan plays a widower haunted by his dead wife in this series inspired by King's novel, Bag of Bones. After befriending another widower, mother to a young daughter, Brosnan realizes that he is literally being haunted—and not just by his wife. Although the miniseries itself teeters on campiness, Brosnan is spectacular as writer Mike Noonan.
Hulu may not quite qualify as television, but we’re counting it. James Franco stars in this time-traveling tale as a high school teacher who attempts to stop the assassination of JFK. The eight part series inspired by King's 11/22/63 combines aspects of science fiction, crime novels, spy fiction, romance, and conspiracy theories. If you’re a fan of King’s steps into non-horror, this adaptation is for you.
Whatever you do, do not go outside. This spooky adaptation of Stephen King short story from his classic collection, Skeleton Crew premiered in summer 2017. The ten-episode miniseries centers on a small town enveloped in a mysterious and foreboding fog, one that puts the community's survival instincts to the test. Grab your popcorn and get your binge on.
Promotional still from "Children of the Corn" via SyFy