Friday, 8 November 2013

Cool Title, Shame About the Movie: You Can’t Kill Stephen King (2012) Review

Stars: Monroe Mann, Ronnie Khalil, Crystal Arnette, Kayle Blogna, Kate Costello

When a group of six stereotypical and highly insufferable twenty-somethings visit the lake in Maine where horror writer Stephen King is rumoured to live, they find themselves being killed off one by one in ways taken straight from Stephen King’s works.

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Stephen King is one of the most successful and influential writers of our time. His name is synonymous with “horror” and it is virtually impossible to find someone who hasn’t been exposed to at least one of his works, even if only through the numerous film adaptations. His stories have permeated the collective consciousness of our society so much so that at the mere mention of his name, you can guarantee certain images will immediately spring to people’s minds: Carrie White drenched in blood on prom night; Jack Torrance chasing after his family with an axe; It in the form of a razor toothed clown; and Annie Wilkes with her sledgehammer; to name but a few. As such, a film about a killer who is killing people in ways inspired by King’s works should be a great opportunity for fans and casual readers alike to play a big 90 minute game of “spot the King reference”. Unfortunately, it’s not.

Intended to be a horror-comedy homage to Stephen King, You Can’t Kill Stephen King fails on all three levels: it’s not scary, not very funny, and in spite of the film’s poster, which references five of King’s best known works, barely touches on King’s contribution to the horror genre at all. There are only four King-inspired deaths in the entire movie and all of them are based on obscure short stories that have never been turned into movies (three from Night Shift and one from Skeleton Crew). To date I’ve read 21 of King’s books and watched 50 movies/mini-series based on his works (not to mention The Dead Zone, Kingdom Hospital and Haven TV series), and were it not for one of the characters explaining the significance of these deaths, I wouldn’t have even spotted them as being King-inspired. It’s as if the writers of this film only bothered to read two of King’s short story anthologies and then said to themselves – “There. I’ve read King. This is what he’s all about.” If I was making this film, I would have, at the very least, re-read all of King’s most iconic works (for example, It, The Shining, Cujo, Christine) and worked from there, and I can’t figure out why the writers didn’t do the same.

The only really good things I can think to say about this film are (1) it’s short, and (2) the ending twist is kinda cool, although not really all that surprising and not cool enough to redeem what went before it. Nevertheless, much like with the similarly themed and similarly disappointing The Raven (2012), which featured an Edgar Allan Poe-inspired killer and also focused on Poe’s lesser known works rather than his best known classic, by depriving the audience of the opportunity to spot the references themselves, the makers of the film take away the very reason for the audience showing up in the first place. Early on in You Can’t Kill Stephen King one of the main characters is described as a “black hole of fun.” By focussing on the obscure works of King, the makers of You Can’t Kill Stephen King have created their own black hole of fun that is only likely to be fully appreciated by the most die-hard of Stephen King fans.

Verdict: What could have been an awesome homage to the most successful horror writer of all time never fails to disappoint from beginning to end. There’s a reason why you’ve never heard of this film.


  1. I understand your complaints-I'm only just watching the film now so I can't say one way or another whether its good or not. Seems a bit corny but I think that is done on purpose- kind of like the people who wrote/created the film love the horror genre and Stephen King but aren't afraid to poke some fun at it at the same time. I came across this article because I was trying to figure out all the reference to King's work.
    I just wanted to point out that you say the people who made the movie use King's short stories for all the murders and that they should have used his most iconic works-but people who really love the genre and horror fiction usually do read the short stories, and some people like them more than full length novel. So that said, I believe this movie is more for fans of his books than fans of the movies other people made his books into. I know that Stephen King loves the short story because that's how he started out before he was famous. I think I have to disagree with you about the idea that the filmmakers should have read all his most iconic works and gone from there. Partly because it's been done before...horror movie spoofs have been done so many times and of course his most popular books turned into movies have been spoofed before. Mostly I just think that this movie wasn't made for fans of his movies, which technically aren't even his (King didn't even like the Shining movie), and I appreciate that someone who made a movie called "You can't Kill Stephen King" actually has read his writing, and not just his most popular stuff.
    I'm not trying to insult anyone at all, but if you watched the movie and couldn't tell most of the King nods because they're not from the movies you listed, then yeah you may kind of be a King fan, but there are a lot of people out there who are huge fan- and there's nothing wrong with not reading everything he writes, but I don't think the makers of the movie were wrong in making this movie a little less obvious with the nods to King's work. His short stories are awesome, and to anyone who hasn't read them, you should check them out. If you haven't read King at all then they're a good place to start - I know some people are daunted by the length of his novels.
    A lot of people don't even realize he wrote the Green Mile (because it's not horror) or the Shawshank Redemption or The Stand...the latter two are novellas from Different Seasons. I'm just saying, if you don't know his short stories, it's definitely worth it to give them a chance.
    And props to the makers of this film for catering to fans fans (or Constant Readers) of King's work- his writing, not the movies made from them. Acting like it isn't an homage to one of the greatest horror writers of all time because it doesn't only reference his big name books...I'm not sure what work I'm looking for, but it almost seems hypocritical. I probablu sound like a book snob now, but imagine if you had a favorite band you'd loved for a long time, and their fifth album in they made a single everyone loved, and after that a few more. Now imagine if you constantly talked to people who said they love the band, but they've never heard of all the albums you've loved for years. You would probably suggest they check out earlier stuff they did. But then imagine someone made a movie about them and acted as if the only songs that mattered were the ones that hit the pop charts, even though they had a huge fan base for years before they did those songs. The people who had loved the band for years..don't you think they, and you, would hate if someone did a movie about them and made it only about the songs that became popular? I think they're paying more homage by showing they've actually read what he's written, and read his short stories which I know he has a soft spot for, than if they had just watched Carrie and the Shining and Cujo and done a movie based off those.

    1. I wanted to point out again that I haven't watched the movie yet (some, but not much) so I have no idea i the movie is good or bad. I'm just saying I think it's cool that thw writers reference works he did that most people wouldn't think of, and that it could, if done right, amek the movie much less predictable. I wonder about this movie though...they keep playing sound effects that seem to be like the ones in Friday the maybe this movie isn't so much about spoofing Stephen King, but instead it's just spoofing horror. In that case, I could see how it would make more sense to use the books and movies everyone knows. Anyway, I wanna say thanks to the author for your review. My comment above was probably longer than the article you wrote =)

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