I was browsing through the premium channels on Dish Network last night when I happened upon an old Stephen King movie on Cinemax. I decided to watch The Dead Zone because I've never seen it. It was almost time for bed, so I knew it wouldn't kill me to shut it off should it turn out to be a flop. I actually started to get into it and ended staying up way past my bedtime. The Dead Zone was probably more intriguing when it first came out back in 1983 but whatever, it was week night entertainment so I couldn't complain.
Watching The Dead Zone brought back memories of how much I used to love Stephen King's movies. I was never an avid reader, and I have to admit I have never read his books, but when it comes to horror movies, you could say I've seen them all. There was nothing like those high school days when I would get together with friends and watch his nail-biters with one eye open. Some of my all-time favorites are The Shining, Pet Sematary, Misery, Cujo and Carrie. There was usually a parallel story within his horror movies that most people could relate to, making his movies more interesting and the horror more believable King wowed us with the release of The Green Mile. Many of us do not connect King to the drama genre, so it was certainly a pleasant surprise that he could step outside of his element and still bring us a winner.
I always wondered what goes through Stephen King's mind on a daily basis and whether or not he has ever been haunted by his own thoughts. I would assume there must be a thin line between creativity and driving yourself insane when your full-time job is conjuring up the most unthinkable scary stories possible. I also assumed that King might have been involved in a traumatic car accident at some point in his life. Take into consideration the speeding trucks in Pet Sematary, the infamous car Christine, the driving accident in Misery and in The Dead Zone and much more. I decided to dig around a little and learn more about horror master Stephen King.
Single mother Nellie Ruth raised Stephen King and his adopted brother David. Their father went out for a pack of cigarettes some time around 1949 when Stephen was two-years-old and never came back. The family went through tough financial times and moved around a few times from state to state but eventually returned to Maine where King was born. His mom had no choice at this time but to take care of her sick elderly parents until they passed away. This time in Stephen's life reminds me of Pet Sematary. The mother in the movie thinks back on the times she was haunted as a young girl who was responsible for taking care of her ill sister and her penned up feelings of anger and resentment were building throughout her life causing her to become extra cautious with her children.
I was proud of myself, in a way, that I was correct in assuming King actually did witness a few traumatic events in his day, not that I would wish that upon anyone. As a young boy, he came home in shock one day after going to hang out with a friend. He would not talk to his family about what was wrong, and then the family discovered that King saw his friend get hit by a train. This sparks up old memories of best friends walking along train tracks in Stand By Me and of the meetings the kids would have in the woods with their friends in the movie IT. It would not be surprising if I found out that the scene with Gage in Pet Sematary and the tanker truck wasn't taken from subconscious memories of King's traumatic experience.
King had his own brush with death back in 1999 when he was accidentally struck from behind by a minivan while walking along Route 5 in Maine. The blow sent him sailing about 14 feet off of the side of the road. He almost needed to have his leg amputated and he could sit for just a mere 40 minutes at a time before encountering excruciating pain from his shattered hip. He needed to undergo five operations as well as physical therapy to overcome some of his injuries. King, his lawyer and a few friends chipped in to buy the minivan so it could not be sold to the highest bidder on Ebay. King told everyone how upset he was that he didn't get a chance to destroy the van himself before it was sent to be crushed. Apparently, he fantasized about taking it out with a pick axe.
Think about Annie Wilkes standing at the top of the basement stairs in Misery with an axe in her hand. This film seems very similar to King's own experience after his accident. He wanted to write but was prevented by the unbearable pain in his hip. In the movie, Paul gets a sledgehammer to his foot by Annie and this could be symbolic of the fear that King had of losing his leg before the doctors were able to save it. The feeling of wanting to break free from the pain and confined surroundings could have been shared by Paul in Misery and King himself.
King had not only witnessed his share of traumatic events, he also developed a drinking problem back in the early 70's after he was married and landed his first job out of college. I wonder if his feelings of frustration, anger and fear coupled with his addiction could have contributed to Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining. King's alcoholism was going full-fledged during the time his mother died, right around the release of Carrie. He has admitted to the public that he delivered his mom's eulogy while under the influence.
Drinking was not King's only vice but he was eventually able to confront his demons with the help of his family. By the late 80's, King chose to become sober. This is when his family dumped everything he had been using; marijuana, cocaine, pain-killers, cigarettes, beer, even cough medicine, in front of him and helped him to admit he had a problem. King has been sober ever since. He has three grown children, grandchildren and not only is he still writing but he has also contributed to many causes throughout the years, mostly in the state of Maine where he and his wife Tabitha still reside today.
Stephen King has developed The Haven Foundation to support freelance artists, mostly in the writing industry. The goal of the foundation is to provide limited financial aid to individuals in this field should they become ill or injured and not be able to work. King was inspired to start this foundation when he was out of work after being struck by the mini van in 1999. He and Tabitha give college scholarships to deserving local high school students. Stephen King received The National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2003, retained the title of 1992: World Horror Grandmaster at the World Horror Convention as well as many other awards for his achievements as one of America's most famous authors.
By: Francis David