By Andrew Blumetti
WARNING! BEWARE OF THE NORTHEAST UNITED STATES!
When the red, yellow, and orange leaves begin to swiftly flutter to the ground and crunch under the weight of your shoe, and jackets make their way out of the closet faster than Liberace, things begin to get especially eerie up in the beautiful and quaint New England area.
No, you goofball, I’m not talking about the cackling Salem witches, and I am somewhat sure I’m not referring to Bill Belichick attempting to crack a smile and thus cracking a black hole in the nexus of the universe.
Nope, it’s the ever-ghastly presence of the morose master of the macabre, Mr. Maine himself, Stephen King.
Since the horror author first put spooky pen to paper, and began writing in the early 1950’s, libraries and bookstore shelves haven’t been safe thanks to King’s devilish novels and stories of blood-thirsty vampires, deathly plagues and killer cars.
Don’t think for a second this phenomenon is limited to only the written word, as the film adaptations of his wicked works have infamously become a part of classic American cinema history. He’s crafted a wealth of terrifying tales that have scurried their way into our collective nightmares for decades and will surely continue to do so for years to come, long after King has hung up that same pen.
Part of King’s appeal is that he’s more than ready to delve into the seediest and darkest parts of our psyches, stirring up the pot and unleashing sinister and malevolent characters very few could imagine and even less would want to cross paths with.
That just raises the question– For all these years, how does he do it? Why is he such a master at this bone-chilling craft? Is Dracula his pops? Too many Universal Monster marathons as a kid? Perhaps a dark childhood could be the reason?
What leads someone to have such a natural knack for giving us the heebie-jeebies up our collective spine? Is Stephen King really the most nightmareish creature to ever walk the earth?
Well, eight rounds with a handful of his own created brutes oughta answer that question for us…
ROUND ONE: “NO BEER AND NO TV MAKE HOMER SOMETHING SOMETHING…”
THE CHALLENGER: Jack Torrance
STORY: The Shining
STRENGTHS: Sinister smile, friendly with fiends, heck of a swing with an axe
WEAKNESSES: Not so speedy in the freshly-fallen snow, ghost bartenders say he’s a lousy tipper
Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic on the King favorite, The Shining, has the honor of creating a veritable buffet of some of the most infamously creepy scenes in Hollywood history, often centered around Jack Torrance, in a role that was practically made for Jack Nicholson. In the film version, Jack takes on Jack, a caretaker influenced by the evil spirits of a giant empty hotel (Devil Tree? Holiday Innsane? Motel 666? Scaryiott?) closed down for the long winter.
…and when he isn’t busy trying to turn his family into his former family, Jack spends long snowy days in the middle of nowhere lending a hand out on Extreme Home Makeover.
Say it with me… MOVE… THAT… BUS!!!
…and not to be outdone themselves, as an added bonus, the classic “soil-your-pants-in-fear” Grady twins who hang out in the hallway of TACKY WALLPAPER!!
Sure, they’re unsettling, but aren’t the Olsen twins too?
Now, they might be permanently etched into your dreams tonight, but don’t tell me this guy’s any better…
RESULT?: Jack’s just a queen compared to this king. Steve takes home the early victory.
ROUND TWO: THIS IS RUFF
THE CHALLENGER: Cujo
STRENGTHS: massive angry pup who’s as big as a Buick, vicious bark, fetches only the obituary section of the newspaper
WEAKNESSES: constantly wasting time to lift his leg on hydrants, can be distracted with Milk Bones
He certainly doesn’t put the “saint” in Saint Bernard…
Many unfortunate folks became Alpo for Cujo, the rabid homicidally playful pup who single-
handedly pawedly terrorized a peaceful Maine neighborhood, and was kicked out of Petco more times than I can count.
Stephen King, on the other hand, has been kicked out of Starbucks like four times. Geez, just let everyone enjoy their Pumpkin Spice Lattes in peace, Steve.
RESULT?: Hot dog! We have a weiner! … and it’s King.
ROUND THREE: HELLO NURSE!
THE CHALLENGER: Annie Wilkes
STRENGTHS: facing a nearly immobile victim, playing on home turf, shops in the “Murder Aisle” at Home Depot
WEAKNESSES: homebound weirdo, frumpy dresser
Now, haunted chambermaids and misunderstood pooches, that’s merely child’s play. Here’s a real challenge: Annie Wilkes, the batcrap crazy nurse with a heart of poo in King’s classic, Misery, is nuttier than a Snickers bar and quite the menace with a sledgehammer. After her favorite author in the world, Paul Sheldon, seriously crashes his car in the snow near her remote home, Wilkes rescues, cares for, traps, and tortures him, all in one heartfelt tale.
But… keep in mind, this is how Stephen King acts when the crowd sings “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway Park. Uncalled for…
RESULT?: King surprisingly hobbled the nurse for the win.
ROUND FOUR: CLOWNIN’ AROUND
NAME: Pennywise the Clown
STRENGTHS: being a terrifying clown, which is basically all you need here
WEAKNESSES: big goofy shoes make it awkward to walk, clown suit provides no fly to go to the bathroom
One of King’s all-time classics, It, is a long, long book with a long, long miniseries that starred Tim Curry as the infamous clown college dropout, “Pennywise”, a terrifying transformation of a malevolent force which exploits its victims’ worst fears, and is probably the reason your girlfriend is terrified of clowns.
He also went on to eventually went on to bang on tin drums on stage for Slipknot. Or something…
Clowns, schmowns, say goodbye to your balloon animals, cause Stephen King’s here, to sell you crappy kitchen knives, door-to-door!
RESULT?: A big red nose, and a big red loss for the clown. Halfway through, and we add another in the win column for King!
ROUND FIVE: THIS ROUND “SUCKS”
THE CHALLENGER: Kurt Barlow
STORY: Salem’s Lot
STRENGTHS: head vampire, which luckily doesn’t include much paperwork
WEAKNESSES: says, “fangs a lot” too much
In a book that King has referred to as his favorite in several interviews, Salem’s Lot tells the story of an writer who returns to his small Maine hometown, to find the residents are turning into bloodsucking vampires who fall in love with Kristen Stewart. Word is, she didn’t smile once through the whole relationship.
Kurt Barlow (not to be confused with his cousin, Lou Barlow, who fronted 90’s lo-fi darlings, Sebadoh) is a master vampire, who notoriously terrorizes the town, and avoids all meals containing any trace of garlic, simply cause of bad breath. In the novel, Barlow is depicted as a human, but is given a ghastly Nosferatu-esque appearance in the film adaptation, as seen here:
Stephen King, well, he just looks like a slightly thinner, less-fun version of Fat Mac from season 7 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
RESULT?: Back to the coffin, it’s King by a country mile, again.
ROUND SIX: YOU DA PROM!
THE CHALLENGER: Carrie White
STRENGTHS: a mean case of telekinesis, bug eyes
WEAKNESSES: extreme shyness, unstable nut mother, ruined prom dress
Many believe King, like many famous authors, loves to cloak his blood-soaked tales of terror heavily in metaphors.
Sure, Carrie may be the tale of a shy, bullied high-schooler who exacts her revenge on her tormenters at the prom, connecting bridges to areas of isolation, religion and the troubled youth of our society. But really, Carrie, one of the most notorious banned-books in high schools across the country, is much more straight-forward; it’s really the story of a shy high-school girl who is really bad at pouring ketchup:
But even if you didn’t find a date to the prom, an encouraging word to all the single readers out there spending wakeless hours a day on Match.com… Don’t lose faith, this guy found a wife!
(I almost take it back, this picture is kinda awesome.)
RESULT?: The win goes to the prom king.
ROUND SEVEN: “DON’T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME”
THE CHALLENGER: Randall Flagg
STORY: The Stand
STRENGTHS: pure concentrated evil, a love for demin
WEAKNESSES: bossy, kind of a jerk, and let’s face it, way too much denim to be honest
Look what the cat dragged in… It’s Randall Flagg, King’s self-proclaimed “best villain”, who was featured in a number of his works, but most notably as the antagonist of the apocalyptic magnum opus, The Stand.
After 99% of civilization takes a swan dive thanks to a released superflu, the wicked Flagg begins an arbitrary society of some survivors in Las Vegas of all places. Not only do you not want to run into Flagg at the craps or poker table, you just don’t want to run into him period. Just ask Wayne Newton.
He’s super-duper evil and has maraschino cherries for eyes. He killed a lot of people, but most significantly of all, he killed Laura San Giacomo’s career.
…and Stephen King has a fantastically creepy Dwight Schrute-ish face.
RESULT?: Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica. King for the win!
ROUND EIGHT: EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS
THE CHALLENGER: Evil giant spider
STORY: The Mist
STRENGTHS: speed, shoots acid, stronger webs than Spiderman, there’s a billion of little ones crawling around
WEAKNESSES: none, this thing could kill me in a second.
The Mist, a novella by King which was turned into the feel good film of the century by The Walking Dead series developer, Frank Darabont, featured a bountiful bevy of freaks, monsters and deadly oddballs in an unnatural evil fog engulfing a small town and closing in on a group of its trapped townspeople.
..and if you hate spiders, oh man, they had spiders. They broke into millions of little freakin’ spiders and had webs of acid too, unlike regular spiders, which make webs Gwen Stefani walks into.
Ok. The spider wins. Sorry King.
and the winner is…
Well, dang-it, 26 outs is close to a perfect game, and King came pretty close in his own right today. In a landslide, there’s no question on who’s the creepiest of the creepies, long live the…. yep… King.