I am no fan of Stephen King.
I have read a bunch of his books, though admittedly, not the really long ones. I read Carrie and The Shining and Gerald's Game and.... oh, I don't really remember all of them. What I do remember is that I was disappointed by almost every one of them. Stephen King is a terrific writer of the middles of stories. They are compelling and inventive. The writing is decidedly descriptive. One can almost picture the events unfolding on a movie screen.... which, I believe, is King's intention. The "meat" of King's tales are truly engrossing. However, he has a hard time wrapping things up and arriving at a satisfying ending — especially after such epic plot lines. After investing quite a bit of time reading King's indulgent, often intricate, novels, I have felt cheated by the so-called "pay-off" of most of them. (The one exception is Thinner, his 1984 book released under the "Richard Bachman" pseudonym.)
My literary relationship with Stephen King ended when I completed The Regulators, which I read after finishing Desperation, its companion piece meant to read at the same time. When I turned the final page of The Regulators, I closed the book, dropped it to the floor and sighed. It was then that I decided to never waste my time reading a Stephen King book ever again. That book should have ended at several different points, but it stretched on unnecessarily for countless pages of mystical back-story nonsense. I could wait to be through with it.... and with Stephen King. I decided right then and there, never to entertain another Stephen King-penned volume again. (Don't start recommending this book or that book... because I am not going to read them. I'm just not!)
Funny thing.... I enjoy some movies that are based on Stephen King books. I love The Shawshank Redemption (based on Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, one of four novellas included in the 1982 collection Different Seasons), although the ending of the movie is way more satisfying as compared to the ambiguous conclusion of the original story. Stand By Me is another of my favorite Stephen King book-based films. (It, too, is based on The Body, a selection from Different Seasons.) Again, there are differences between the book and the movie. And, again, the film is more concise in its message. The majority of Stephen King movies are just as disappoint as their source material. (I won't include The Shining in this comparison, because they, essentially, tell two completely unrelated stories.)
Just this week I was scanning the offerings under the "horror" category on Netflix. After scrolling past countless, blood-splatters posters for obscure slasher films (I love horror movies. I hate slasher movies), I stumbled across a film called Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe. I like Daniel Radcliffe. My wife and I just binge-watched the TBS ensemble anthology comedy series Miracle Workers. The show was hilarious (Season two was better that season one) and Daniel Radcliffe was a delight. The synopsis for Horns looked intriguing, so I watched. It was tedious. It was a non-linear, overly — and unnecessarily — atmospheric mess. Radcliffe and the supporting cast (familiar screen faces like Kathleen Quinlan, Heather Graham, James Remar) were all good. Too good for the script. They all looked as though they were trying their best, but were being dragged down by the heavy-handed premise. At just a hair under two hours, I felt like I had invested an entire day into this disjointed adventure that couldn't decide what exactly it wanted to be.
Horns, I later discovered, was based on a highly-touted novel by one Joe Hill. Joe Hill — it turns out — is the nom de plume of Joseph Hillström King, the eldest son and middle child of Stephen King. And let me tell you... the poison apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I should have known immediately, as the entire set-up of Horns smacked of a Stephen King story. There was the close knit group of misfit friends depicted in flashback sequences. There was the camaraderie that can only be experienced in a small New England town. There were dark secrets of youth that smolder and eventually manifest to weigh heavy on the lives of the now-adult friends. There was an awful lot of slow-motion and unexplained, other-worldly manifestations. And there was plenty of gratuitous gore. It was the kids of It and the kids from The Body and the quirky formulaic townspeople of Derry, Maine all rolled together in Daddy's signature style. Did Joe rummage through the wastepaper basket by his father's desk looking for castoffs to crib for his own career?
Eh... what difference does it make. I was sucked in. But, as The Who once warned — I won't get fooled again.