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.