In 1993 two ten year old boys murdered a little 2 year old boy James Bulger in England…an unspeakable crime. Some say the boys were influenced by a film Childs Play….about a murdering toy, a doll named Chucky. The terrible influence of the media carries on. A film based on another horror story: It is about to burst onto our screens. Will this horrible story taken from the book by Stephen King influence any other vulnerable children? I have never been a fan of Stephen King’s, clever writer though he is. But his stories are so horrific, so lacking in any humanity, that they seem to be designed only to make us think of the worst of our own human nature, without any respite. The only film I think that worked from a story of his is The Shining. This is largely because it was directed by a great Director Stanley Kubrick, with a wonderful performance by the brilliant Jack Nicholson . It is a terrifying film….but never pretends to be more than that, a film….an extraordinary piece of entertainment. We don’t believe it’s reality. I know Carrie has been made several times…but there is something chilling about Stephen King’s work, that leaves me cold. Even the great horror writers of the past …..Shakespeare, Poe, Lovecraft, MR James etc had some element of humanity to them. I think most horror films are great entertainment. I have done a couple myself. But there had always been the slight element of “nudge, nudge, wink, wink”….don’t really believe this….its only a story…a story designed to give you entertainment…don’t be fooled into thinking its real life. King’s stories seem to go beyond that and have an element of disturbing reality, which I find worrying. We are story tellers, for goodness sake, not purveyors of documented truth.
If you want that, watch a documentary…you will find plenty of horror there, in many real stories. As entertainers I believe we have a responsibility to stay within our boundaries as story tellers and should beware of corrupting and influencing young and vulnerable minds.
Yesterday I saw Baby Driver, an unapologetic piece of complete entertainment. Really enjoyed it. It did have a lot of violence and killing, but never once did you believe it, nor suddenly have the urge to grab a machine gun and go out and shoot a bunch of policemen. We live in an unkind and sad world, where people are starved, persecuted, are without homes, countries, where abuse is rife in the real world and on social media, where madmen threaten each other and us with nuclear anihilation. We need to have a little more humanity, be good to each other and for us in the media business, stay within the limits. In the entertainment business, we have enormous power, the power to reach and influence millions, let us use that power with responsibility and compassion.
I do think that you’re being a little unfair to King. It’s a long while since I’ve read one of his books, but all of them seemed to be safely in the realms of fantasy rather than real-life horror. SALEM’S LOT (Vampires) THE SHINING (Ghosts) THE DEAD ZONE (Second sight) CHRISTINE (Haunted car). In IT the terrifying clown is actually a shapeshifting demon rather than a human being.. The human characters tend to be flawed but ultimately heroic types who overcome their weaknesses and defeat supernatural evil. There is a warm and upbeat feel to a lot of his stuff, and the short story THE REACH is rather poetic and about as far from gruesome horror as you can imagine. He does attempt to give his stories a certain feeling of ‘reality’, but so do the other writers that you mention. Some of the film adaptions of his work have been pretty dreadful, but that’s hardly his fault (and everyone forgets that THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, which must have one of the great feel-good endings in cinema, is closely adapted from King’s novella RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION)!
How far is the media responsible for the misbehaviour of the public? It’s an endless debate, but I don’t know of any responsible psychologists or psychiatrists who believe that CHILD’S PLAY was responsible for that dreadful Bulger murder. To misquote Shakespeare ‘The fault lies not in our movies but in ourselves’.
I understand what you are saying and no doubt Stephen King is a talented writer…”The Shawshank Redemption” is a favourite of mine…did not know he wrote it. However I do find his work often bleak and I still believe that young people may be influenced in a negative way and good writer though he is … Dostoevsky he is not and if one wants to read about wickedness, redemption and humanity I think “Crime and Punishment” is better.
I see what you mean, too, and I think that we will just have to agree to disagree. However, I do have to tell you about a little moment from an interview that he gave. He was cornered by a woman who was not pleased with his horror output…
Woman: Why do you have to write all of that horror trash? Why can’t you write something like THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION?
King: But I DID!
I am not a fan of King’s novels in general and used to dismiss them as novel ‘fodder’. Written simply to appeal to the masses and as a money making exercise.
However, I read his book ‘11.22.63’ and found myself totally engrossed. Here was a writer who could tell a fascinating tale alongside a beautiful love story. Well written and on a par with any modern author.
As an aside. Just watched you, Jane, in an episode of ‘The Saint’ stealing the Angels Eye! Loved it and loved seeing you on screen xxx