The last house on the left (2009)
This movie should have a tagline reading: The film Stephen King has called “The best horror movie of the new century“.
The author has stated that the 2009 version directed by Dennis Iliadis “is to the original what a mature artist’s painting is to the drawing of a child who shows some gleams of talent”.
But he had more praise to give: “The most brutal and uncompromising film to play American movie theaters since Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer.”
The remake of the 1972 exploitation classic directed by Wes Craven received mixed reviews from critics when it first came out but apparently King loved it and it shows.
The Blair Witch project (1999)
One of the most successful independent films of all time, it’s also received a lot of praise from the master of horror:
“One thing about Blair Witch: the damn thing looks real. Another thing about Blair Witch: the damn thing feels real. And because it does, it’s like the worst nightmare you ever had“.
The mist (2007)
It’s not his favorite adaptation of one of his works (there have been so many!) but King was definitely awed by Frank Darabont’s new ending for his novella.
“The ending will tear your heart out… but so will life, in the end. Frank Darabont’s vision of hell is completely uncompromising. If you want sweet, the Hollywood establishment will be pleased to serve you at the cineplex, believe me, but if you want something that feels real, come here.”
Darabont’s adaptations of King’s works are some of the best out there (both the films and the books they’re based on): The mist, The Shawshank redemption, and The Green Mile. The Mist has also been turned into a much lower quality TV series.
Stir of echoes (1999)
We’ve all heard of King’s devotion towards Richard Matheson, one of the most important horror writers in the history of American literature. Apparently, the film adaptation of one of Matheson’s stories, Stir of Echoes starring Kevin Bacon, is a favorite of his:
“Writer/director David Koepp should be declared a national treasure. His adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1958 novel is an unsettling exploration of what happens when an ordinary blue-collar guy (Kevin Bacon) starts to see ghosts, thanks to a hypnotic suggestion.”
Evil Dead (1981)
Now a franchise including several movies, remakes, and TV adaptations, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead is definitely a horror fan favorite.
King has included the first one -the scariest, least funny one– in a few lists of favorites and mentioned it in interviews throughout the years. Wonder what he thinks of the 2013 “soft reboot”.
The changeling (1980)
Allow me to say that The changeling is a horror masterpiece. No, not the Clint Eastwood film starring Angelina Jolie (that’s just Changeling). This one is a Canadian psychological horror movie starring George C. Scott that Stephen King has mentioned in interviews and included as one of his ten favorite films in an introduction to Graven Images, a book published in 1992 that focused on the best of film art from the macabre.
If you’ve watched it, I bet you remember the words “Don’t go into the attic”, and you’ve never looked at a bouncing ball the same way since.
King’s list also featured all-time classics such as Psycho and The Texas chainsaw massacre.
Dawn of the dead (1978 and 2004)
Of course. King may worship Richard Matheson but he worships George A. Romero even more.
Fans of the late, great director and of zombie flicks might be surprised with King’s choice: he enjoys both the original film and its 2004 remake.
“Genius perfected would be Zack Snyder’s Dawn remake, which begins with one of the best opening sequences of a horror film ever made.”
Bonus: Stand by me (1986)
Even though King included the adaptation of his Pet Sematary in a 1992 list of his ten favorite horror films (remember, he didn’t like Kubrick’s The Shining), that’s not his favorite movie based on one of his books. Stand by me is.
Based on King’s novella The Body from 1982, the 1986 movie isn’t horror; it’s a coming-of-age drama directed by Rob Reiner, also responsible for awesome adaptations such as The Princess Bride and King’s own Misery.
This is what the master had to say about it:
“I thought it was true to the book, and because it had the emotional gradient of the story. It was moving. (…) When the movie was over, I hugged him (director Rob Reiner) because I was moved to tears, because it was so autobiographical.”
Kubrick’s Shining might be the only one he hates: “‘Stand By Me’, ‘Shawshank Redemption’, ‘Green Mile’ are all really great ones. ‘Misery’ is a great film. ‘Dolores Claiborne’ is a really, really good film. ‘Cujo’ is terrific.”