These days, it’s easy to feel like everything’s Nineteen. Fortunately, The Beat staff has a solution. We’re sharing our favorite Stephen King novel, short story, collection, movie, comic, or song by The Ramones.

King has a body of work as varied as there are horror genres but as familiar as his main terror hub, Maine. There’s a reason why King’s so widely recognized as the Master of Horror. He’s just tried to scare us in every narrative format available and he has succeeded in doing so repeatedly. From Carrie to his latest book, Holly, the work quite simply possesses an iconic quality that guarantees everyone will be scared by something he created at one point or another.

Choosing a favorite King isn’t easy, but it’s only because there’s so much to choose from. It’s an enviable position to be in, don’t you think?

Did we include your favorite? Be sure and give us a shout-out in the comment section and let us know!

AVERY KAPLAN: Rather than choose my very favorite, a decision that would take until next Halloween to complete, I’m going to share my most recent favorite: Holly, the novel which was released in September. Following the irresistible private detective as she investigates a particularly harrowing case, I enjoyed the way King honestly depicted the experience of living the COVID-19 era. Better yet, the book’s antagonists are a clever thematic exploration of the psychological underpinnings of those who live in COVID denial, including the lies they tell themselves and the desperate lengths to which they’ll go in order to preserve their belief in those lies. While King’s informative afterword explains why this story’s continuity doesn’t quite line up with the Gibney story that preceded it in If It Bleeds, that explanation is unnecessary. It’s obvious that this version of “If It Bleeds” simply takes place on a level of the Tower where COVID didn’t happen. Now that’s a world I’d like to visit – say true, and say thankya.

REBECCA OLIVER KAPLAN: Picking my favorite King work is hard, so I chose my favorite adaptation instead: the comic book version of The Stand, originally published by Marvel Comics and now out of print (in fact, I believe Marvel no longer holds the license). In my experience, the easiest volume to find is the first volume in the series, The Stand: Captain Trips, adapted by noted playwright and screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Riverdale) and illustrated by Mike Perkins (Captain America) and Laura Martin (New Avengers), with lettering by Chris Eliopoulos.

The Stand by Stephen King

CY BELTRAN: I’ve spent the better part of the past year learning about and reading more King (and documenting it in Weekend Readings!), and I have to say, choosing a single favorite is quite hard. So I’m gonna pick two: ‘Salem’s Lot (and the short One for the Road) and The Stand – Complete and Uncut Edition. ‘Salem’s Lot was the first of his titles I read, and while I’m not sure it’s his best written book, it’s definitely the one that sticks in my mind the most. The book, ostensibly a modern retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, has some of the best pacing of anything I’ve ever read, gradually building up into a fast moving monstrosity that takes over the eponymous Lot. The horror and worldbuilding are top notch, and hint at the way King destroys the world in my other favorite, The Stand. My favorite chunk of King’s post-apocalyptic behemoth might be the first few hundred pages – watching the world fall apart after the effects of Captain Trips is terrifying, but it’s a trainwreck I can’t look away from. King’s characters are always amazing, and he spends so much time fleshing them out here that it becomes nearly impossible to book the book down

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

JUSTIN GUERRERO: Been a while since I read King’s works, but one that always pops up in my mind whenever I think of him and the first book I ever read and seen the film adaptation for will always be Pet Semetary. Just this idea of a cursed burial ground acting as this sort of lazarus pit for the deceased meant for animals, to quickly spiral into this snowball effect of even deceased humans being involved just haunts me. Even more so when children are shamelessly involved in this dark story that shows that unlike most horror stories, no one of any age is even safe from death and the curse of being brought back from it. But it also is a cautionary tale when you think about it, and one I have pondered for many years. That death should not be something to be afraid of, what we should be afraid of is denying that individual’s right to rest in peace by bringing them back from the dead without their consent. In doing so, they will most likely never be the same as the person we once knew who passed away. It is haunting, and I owe that to the way King writes his stories. It just sticks with you. 

The Shining

TAIMUR DAR: I’m probably not the biggest Stephen King aficionado compared to others here, but I’m no slouch either. That said, my go-to Stephen King adaptation will always be The Shining from filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. I know it’s a bit of a controversial choice given that King has famously voiced his dissatisfaction with the film. While it certainly deviates from the source material in significant ways, most notably the redemption of Jack Torrance at the end, it’s a chilling examination of the human psyche. I think it’s safe to say we all at some time during the pandemic and lockdown likely had similar experiences to Jack Torrance, with hopefully less murder involved. Between The Shining and The Stand, there’s probably many King works that resonate more than ever now. 

King on the Simpsons: "It opened the gates of hell!"
“Insane Clown Poppy,” season 12 episode 3.

AJ Frost: I’m with Taimur. Horror hasn’t been a genre of choice for me ever, though I’ve been warming up to it over the last several years. The best bit of King-related to me is the reboot of It (Part 1), which scared the heck out of me. Everything about it was designed so well, and the scares were truly excellent. (I still think about the projector scene, but only when going to sleep. Go figure.) I also really enjoy HBO’s adaptation of The Outsider, which has the perfect amount of creepiness with good noir vibes. But how could I ever forget my favorite King moment: his cameo on a little show called The Simpsons.

Church the Cat in King's Pet Sematary

KRISTINA ELYSE BUTKE: My very first horror movie was Pet Semetary (1989). I was at a slumber party and it was time to dive into the scary stuff and the movie freaked the crap out of me. I have a soft spot in my heart for it because it was so formative to my lifelong love of horror. And I’ll always remember the line, “The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis.” I’ve since rewatched Pet Semetary as an adult and while some of the special effects don’t hold up, I think the acting and creepy atmosphere does. After all these years, it prompted me to get off my butt and finally read the novel…which, despite knowing everything that would happen, still frightened me. The scenes in the forest are particularly eerie. Have you ever been to the woods late at night when you can’t see very well, footing is dangerous, and there are all sorts of creatures around? It can be terrifying, and Stephen King did a tremendous job describing the scenes where Louis and Judd make their way to the forbidden burial ground through the treacherous forests. The book and the original film will always stay with me, and I highly recommend you check either one (preferably both) out!

ADAM KARENINA SHERIF: “You don’t know this, but beneath your feet lies the pet sematary!”, snarls Joey Ramone in his live intro to the late-period Ramones classic and theme to the movie adaptation of King’s Pet Sematary. The music video’s great, campy fun, but the live versions from the final tour are where it’s at – CJ on bass has everyone playing slightly faster for a heavier, grungier sound, and Marky’s unusual drum fills get a great spotlight in the outro. Now I kinda wish they’d done a song for It as well..

RICARDO SERRANO: As great and popular as the Creepshow movie is, I do feel the comic gets relegated to second place whenever we talk about this particular King story. That shouldn’t be the case. The comics adaptation boasts some of the best sequential horror in the medium’s history, with the film’s homages to the EC Comics of old carrying a different quality here thanks to the terrifying visuals put forth by master illustrator of horror Bernie Wrightson. The adaptation is a faithful one, but Wrightson’s signature faces of fear (present in every character) and macabrely textured monsters and terrors make the Creepshow comic a different experience in its own right. I’d go as far to argue the ultimate Creepshow experience requires both watching the movie and reading the comic. Wrightson adds extra detail to the monsters and reanimated corpses from the movie, but it’s the “Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill” segment that truly showcases the artist’s ability to create an entire universe of fear from a very intimate story. The transformation of Jordy hits different and goes into details sometimes the camera can’t go as deep into. Both versions of the story as impressively told and developed, but I give the comic version the edge because of Wrightson’s art in it. 

Another King book that deserves attention is Cycle of the Werewolf (1983), a vicious story about a werewolf structured around the twelve months of the year. One month, one full moon. It features Bernie Wrightson art as well. One gnarly image per chapter that grows increasingly terrifying with each werewolf sighting. The movie adaptation, Silver Bullet (1985), takes some of the Wrightson images and manages to give them life on celluloid to great effect. King’s narrative, though, makes the novella become something entirely different. It’s lyrical and seasonal, tuned to the specificities of each month and the colors, sounds, and smells that come with them. It’s a beautifully written book that never fails to be both terrifying and poetic at the same time. Also, it’s a great companion piece to Creepshow given Wrightson’s art and how it so perfectly captures King’s sensibilities. It’s curious enough for me to say that Stephen King imagines the world as a Bernie Wrightson comic.

KYLE PINION: I’ve been on a King tear over the last year, basically reading everything he’s written in order of publication, and while Salem’s Lot will always be the platonic ideal of a Stephen King novel for me, I think it’s impossible to talk about King and not highlight his magnum opus: The Dark Tower. There’s so much about that series that has set my mind ablaze as I’ve been working my way through it (finishing the journey to the Tower was my big New Year’s Resolution along with reading Moby Dick). The Dark Tower is the compass rose for King’s entire career and each time out featured his id on glorious display. But of all the entries, none have stuck with me more than Wizard & Glass. While its present day sections with the Ka-Tet are tremendously enjoyable as always, it’s the flashback that comprises the majority of the book that knocked this reader on his ass. Not only does it give Roland a more fleshed out background, but it also plays to King’s strengths, finally pulling the narrative toward the kind of small town ensemble cast that he excels at. There’s one particular event that as I was reading it (and often listening to Frank Muller’s beautiful narration of the same) that caused me to audibly say “oh f*ck!”. No book has ever done that to me before, so it holds a special place in my memory for that alone. Long days and pleasant nights, friends!

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  1. They keep remaking King movies (or do multiple sequels like Children of The Corn) but they have never remade Cycle of the Werewolf (aka Silver Bullet). The film is good and clearly could be redone and would probably be quite different if made now as Silver Bullet came out in 1985, almost 40 years ago! I’d much rather see that than one of the multiple versions of Pet Semetary (the original is too disturbing to watch again as they kill a cat on screen).

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