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Relive 13 intensely scary scenes from Stephen King's many film adaptations

Contributed by
Oct 23, 2013

Though he's a legend of horror literature, Stephen King might be even more famous for the sheer volume of films Hollywood has churned out based on his work.

Since Brian De Palma adapted Carrie for the big screen in 1976, more than four dozen films have made been based on King's novels and short stories, and that's not even counting all the television work that's been produced. Sometimes King has a very direct hand in these adaptations, and sometimes he's nowhere near them. Sometimes they're classics, and sometimes they're classically bad, but filmmakers the world over keep coming back to King for big-screen inspiration. He's a master of horror in print and in celluloid, and today we're celebrating the latter.

For the 23rd in our 31 Days of Halloween series of features, we've gathered some of the scariest moments from the many, many Stephen King adaptations out there (the ones that we could readily find on the web, anyway) and assembled them here. From spooky clowns to killer cars to one relentlessly violent St. Bernard, here are some of King's most frightening cinematic moments.

Misery, 1990 - The Hobbling Scene

Everything about writer Paul Sheldon's captivity at the hands of crazed nurse and fan Annie Wilkes is terrifying, but everyone who's ever seen Misery undoubtedly remembers this gruesome scene, when Annie does her best to prevent Paul from ever walking out on her.

The Shining, 1980 - Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!

There are a number of legendary sequences in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of King's haunted-hotel novel, including a very NSFW bathtub scene, but this sequence featuring a very terrifying Jack Nicholson is undoubtedly the most famous.

IT, 1990 - Georgie Meets Pennywise

The "scary clown" trope is a common one in horror these days, but few have ever executed it more powerfully than King. Here, in the TV miniseries version of IT, we see King's clown villain, Pennywise, for the first time.

Salem's Lot, 1979 - A Vampire at the Window

King's classic vampire tale has plenty of creepy moments, but a boy seeing his now-vampiric friend floating up to his bedroom window is particularly hard to shake.

1408, 2007 - Waving

This scene, featuring writer Mike Enslin as he makes a terrifying discovery about the hotel room he's staying in, is one of King's best haunting moments ever.

Desperation, 2006 - Spiders and Snakes

Sure, creepy crawly things are a cliche by now, but that doesn't stop Desperation from exploiting them to great effect.

Pet Sematary, 1982 - Jud's Death

 Pet Sematary is still regarded by many King fans as one of the scariest things he's ever written, and this scene is a big part of why.

The Mist, 2007 - Tentacles

 The Mist, adapted by Frank Darabont, is one of the more relentless King films ever produced, and this scene exemplifies that.

Creepshow, 1982 - Cockroaches

Creepshow is one of King's earliest attempts at writing for the screen himself, and one of his most successful. It feature plenty of scares, but this scene is the one that will keep you up at night with a can of bug spray in hand.

The Dead Zone, 1983 - Scissors

Director David Cronenberg certainly made The Dead Zone one of the more memorable King adaptations ever produced, and this scene -- featuring one of the most gruesome suicides in cinema history -- is one that continues to stick with viewers.

Cujo, 1983 - The attack

Cujo is an example of real-world horror from the often supernaturally-tinged King, and this scene -- in which a rabid St. Bernard suddenly charges a car -- is scarier than anything a lot of monster movies could ever hope to deliver.

Christine, 1983 - Moochie Welch's Death

So much of Christine could've turned out silly on the big screen, but director John Carpenter delivered the scares. One of the film's most memorable scenes is this one, not because it's particularly unpredictable, but because of the sheer relentlessness of the car.

Children of the Corn, 1984 - The Children Rise Up

Because Children of the Corn was adapted from a King short story, the big-screen version had to fill in some of the missing pieces. Among the most frightening additions was this one, chronicling how the children took over their town and came to serve He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

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