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King of Horror

by Colin McMahon October 30, 2012
King of Horror

Can words on the page be truly scary? While some choose to read the classics like Lovecraft, and others enjoy the pulp of Clive Barker, there is only one King.

It is hard to argue the impact that Stephen King has had on the horror genre. For the past forty years, King has contributed dozens of works to the realm of horror, including such influential classics as Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Misery, and It. If you haven’t read King, you’ve heard of him, and even if he isn’t your cup of tea, you still have to respect his talent.

“Stephen King has done a tour of just about every horror concept that you can imagine. He might be kind of a dirty word in the world of ‘literature,’” says Jessica Marcotte, a graduate student at Concordia. “But when you write as much as he does, you’re bound to write something good – he’s a master of the short story and novella. Different Seasons is one of the best collections of novellas I’ve ever read.”

What Marcotte points out is arguably King’s greatest strength. His sheer prolific nature has forced him to be recognized. While much of King’s work is still outside the realm of academia, he has become such a presence in the world of fiction that it is impossible not to encounter his work, whether it be in their original literary form or in the film adaptations.

Many authors are lucky if they can have one book or series become a successful film. King has enjoyed so many quality adaptations of his work that even his short novellas like The Mist and Secret Window have become major Hollywood films. Currently, King’s Dark Tower series is undergoing the film treatment, which has the possibility to set him alongside the likes of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien.

While King’s reputation is unquestionable, how did one author from Maine become an international name in horror? The answer is that his novels and consequently his movies employ three techniques of horror that never fail to frighten; the gross-out; severed body parts, mysterious green goo dripping on someone’s arm, the horror; huge spiders, zombies, something grabbing you in the dark, and atmospheric terror; “when you come home and notice everything you own has been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…” BOO! you jump a foot in the air.

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