Based on the excellence of the previous documentaries produced by Turner Classic Movies, my expectations were pretty darn high for their latest. Just in time for a month of scares, a feature about the master of horror, Stephen King, sounded exciting. The Horrors of Stephen King features a lengthy interview with the bestselling author, and delves into his love of horror movies and why they appeal to the public in general. King is a lively man whose intellect and love of the genre make for an interesting hour and a half. Unfortunately, the program falls way short of past specials by the cable network and fails to provide much insight into the mind of King.
The Horrors of Stephen King is divided into chapters that discuss subjects ranging from King’s earliest scare, to the different subgenres of horror films (monsters, vampires, slashers, etc) to a look at the film adaptations of King’s most popular books. Each section features all too brief discussions and when each chapter comes to an end, you’ll be left wanting for more. This is just one problem that hurts this documentary,
Another major shortcoming of The Horrors of Stephen King is the lack of actual film footage in the special. More times than not, on screen is a still image from a film being discussed with generic captions giving the movie title and year of release. The few times we do see film footage, it’s usually just a background image that plays while King provides voice over. A project like this, especially one produced by a film network, demands moving pictures. You’d think that someone at Time Warner (who owns TCM) or at Amblin (Steven Spielberg’s company produced the special) could have worked on some kind of licensing agreement to get film footage used.
Because of the shortcomings of The Horrors of Stephen King, the special feels more like an A&E Biography special rather than the classy documentaries that TCM has become known for in the past years. I’m thinking of last year’s remarkable Moguls documentary, or the wonderful specials that looked at the careers of Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood. Really, a documentarian could spend two hours with King just discussing the adaptations of his books into films- so far there have been over 40. While hearing King tell us his honest opinion of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining was great to hear, I wanted to hear his insight into all of his films, including the ones he wrote and/or directed.
I’m sure longtime Stephen King fans will check out The Horrors of Stephen King. However, to get a better idea of how the man thinks and operates, better to read his excellent memoir, On Writing, than to rely on this program.