‘Made in Maine’ film festival honors American horror-master Stephen King

Known for such hits as ‘It’ and ‘The Green Mile,’ the famed writer who some compare to Dickens was gifted a special screening of films based on his works in honor of his 72nd birthday.

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September 18, 2019 16:17
4 minute read.
‘Made in Maine’ film festival honors American horror-master Stephen King

STEPHEN KING, whose books have sold more than 350 million copies, is also popular here in Israel.. (photo credit: MARK RAIN/FLICKR)

The works of American master of horror fiction Stephen King were at the focus of the “Made in Maine” film festival, which took place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, honoring the 72nd birthday of the world-famous writer, who was born on September 21, 1947.

Maine is King’s home state as well as the location of many of his fictional works. The fictional town of Derry, where the plot of the 1986 novel It is set, is located in Maine.

The hit novel was recently adapted to the big screen by Andres Muschietti, who made two films depicting the two parts of the book. The first film was released in 2017 and the second was recently released in Israel.

Focusing on a group of teenagers who call themselves “the Loser’s Club,” the two movies depict their confrontation with, and eventual defeat of, an evil entity known as “It.”

Taking on the form of a murderous clown, It has the power to alter reality, invade the private lives of his victims and prey on children.
One reason the book is so popular is that It is presented as intimately involved with the history of Derry, making him a stand-in for real horrors that inhabit American history and modern society such as racism, antisemitism and misogyny.

Other films featured in the Made in Maine festival included the 1990 film Misery, for which Kathy Bates won an Oscar for best picture; 1994’s beloved The Shawshank Redemption; the 1983 John Carpenter adaption of killer car Christine; and the 2013 remake of telekinesis teen Carrie, based on King’s first published novel.

King, who is not Jewish, wrote about Jewish characters not only in It but also in his 1982 Apt Pupil novella in which a young all-American boy realizes his next-door neighbor is an aging Nazi war criminal. The young man is drawn to the evil the older man represents and gradually morphs into a deeply dark and disturbing figure.

King is a popular writer in Israel and, in a turn of events that might be surprising to those who reject the literary merits of the horror novel, was adapted to the theater twice in recent years, when a stage adaptation of The Green Mile was produced by the Beersheba Theater and an adaptation of Misery was produced by the Cameri Theater. The latter show is still ongoing.

KING, A writer famous for his work ethic and ability to produce books spanning a large amount of pages, took on the pen name of Richard Bachman in 1977 to release a series of horror novels to examine if his success was due to luck or talent. The novels sold well and inspired film adaptations 1987’s The Running Man and 1996’s Thinner.

In an introduction to one of his collection of short stories, King shares how a woman at a supermarket recognized him and told him that she hates his scarier work and prefers uplifting tales such as The Shawshank Redemption. When he informed her he wrote that movie too, she huffed and walked away in disbelief.

King is something of an anomaly in the world of American literature. Unlike other American writers such as Paul Auster or Jonathan Franzen, who are hailed in Europe as being essentially American without gaining household name-recognition status in their own country, King is seen, both outside and inside the US, as a writer with a special insight into American dread and myth.

This will become apparent to anyone who reads his Dark Tower series of novels. Published from 1982 to 2004, the series encompasses the Kennedy assassination, the Western literary form, racism in American society and brings together many of the characters that inhabit other works he wrote. King himself admitted The Dark Tower was meant to serve as his own Gormenghast, referring to a series of fantasy novels published by British writer Mervyn Peake, a magnum opus for the Maine master of blood-chilling tales. The 2017 adaptation of the series to the big screen only touches upon the complexities in the original work.

In his 2000 book On Writing, King addressed those who view his work as the literary version of junk food and explained that, as a former English teacher and a writer of fiction, he is aware of the difference between his own work and that of other writers. Yet, he points out using the food analogy, there is nothing wrong with making the best sandwiches, from the healthiest ingredients one can find, and being proud of it. In the book, King offers a very simple definition of who is a writer – anyone who gets a bill and pays it from money he earned from writing. When he taught creative writing, he insisted his students read the 1972 novel First Blood by David Morell, a work much better known by its film adaptation Rambo, to show how good writing is not confined to the literary canon.

King makes no bones about his deep displeasure with current US President Donald Trump and has tweeted about it often – in fact, Trump even blocked him on Twitter, making King that rare writer the current president registers. King likes to refer to Trump as “Blabbermouth Don,” and that’s the master of dark fantasy going easy on the guy.

Returning to It and the Loser’s Club, it is perhaps telling that this American leader, so connected in the public mind to using the world “Loser” as an insult and sharply dividing the world into “Winners” and “Losers,” is so detested by the author who penned epic novels about the evil lurking in America – and how it can be defeated.


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