So Sayeth the Odinson: The Odinson’s Top 10 Favorite Stephen King Horror Stories

Greetings from the Odinson,


Tis the Odinson’s favorite time of year.  That crisp autumn breeze rolls in.  The leaves begin to change color.  And, the pumpkins begin to smile.  It is time for Halloween!  And what better way to celebrate All Hollow’s Eve than to do a macabre weekly countdown?


The subject of my first countdown is none other than the Master of Horror himself – Stephen King.  Mr. King has had quite a resurgence lately with adaptations of The Dark Tower and It both having hit theatres this summer.  Though I’m not sure resurgence is the right word?  How can a writer who has been in the lexicon of pop culture for the better part of four decades truly be said to be having a revival.  The man’s greatness has never gone away.


Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers in modern times.  His works can be seen in everything from novels to comic books to television to, of course, movies.  Everybody has their favorite Stephen King stories and the Odinson is going to take this opportunity to tell thee his.  But first, a couple of rules.  My choices have appeared in book or comic book format.  So original screenplays like Maximum Overdrive and Sleepwalkers, though both fun B-movie horror, are eliminated.  Lastly, I am picking only from the horror genre so King’s great fantasies like The Dark Tower and  The Eyes of the Dragon, his thought-provoking sci-fi like The Running Man and Under the Dome, and his unparalleled dramas like The Body (Stand by Me), Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile will not be eligible for this list.  NOTE: Maximum Overdrive was based on King’s short short Trucks, but it still doesn’t make my list of Top 10.


Let us begin.


The Odinson’s Top 10 Favorite Stephen King Horror Stories


10 – Carrie (1974)There’s no better place to begin then at the beginning.  In the year ole Odinson was born, King’s very first novel was published.  Right off the bat, he was a force to be reckoned with.  Growing up, not everybody’s life is Leave it to Beaver, and not everybody’s social experiences at school is Saved by the Bell.  King really captures young Carrie’s plight as she must endure an overbearing mother with less than cosher means of punishment while at the same time suffering through the daily attacks of school bullies.  Well, in true King fashion, Carrie also just so happens to be a telekinetic of Jean Grey proportions and once she is pushed to her breaking point, everybody will pay.


9 – Creepshow (1982)This truly horrifically great anthology is an adaptation of the movie of the same name that was also written by Stephen King.  There are three reasons why this graphic novel makes my list.  This is Stephen King’s love letter to the classic horror genre of the pre-code era of comics when titles like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear were at the height of their macabre powers.  It features the artwork of the late, great Bernie Wrightson.  And, the film sees worlds collide as my horror heroes Stephen King and George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead) team up for a frightfully good time.


8 – Heroes for Hope (1985)To be fair, this was an ensemble effort.  Many of the industry’s best writers and artists teamed up to make a truly inspiring piece dedicated to the starving in Africa.  In fact, King’s contribution to this issue was only 3 pages, but boy, what a 3 pages it was.  In just 3 short pages, King poetically illustrates to Kitty Pryde, and the reader, the horrors of starvation.  Less than a year later, King would return to comics, this time providing a must read introduction for DC’s centenary Batman #400.


7 – The Long Walk (1979)Set in a dystopian, militant world, this story features an annual contest where 100 young men start walking and keep walking until there is a winner, the only one left alive.  They cannot stop or even slow their pace for long or they will be put down, permanently.  This extremely grueling contest continues until there is only one contestant left alive and to him goes The Prize – anything he wants for the rest of his life.  As you can imagine, there are many avenues for drama in a set-up like this and King explores them all.  How this King tale has not been made into movie yet is beyond me.


6 – Misery (1987)Woof!  This story is so good and so terrifying at the same time.  When a famous writer of trashy romance novels gets into a car accident on a remote icy road, he is luckily pulled from the wreckage and nursed back to health by his “#1 fan.”  However, when she learns that in his latest story, the writer is killing off the title character of the series, his #1 fan quickly begins to show signs of being unhinged.  Suddenly, the writer’s #1 fan has turned into his most dangerous and deadliest adversary.  Misery is a page-turning read and in both the book and the movie, though slightly different, the hobbling scene is one of the most shocking and cringe-worthy moments in pop culture history.


5 – It (1986)There is a reason why children are the protagonist of so many of Stephen King’s best stories, the man is a master of writing dialogue for kids.  This tale features The Losers Club, a group of kids living in a town where something is just off, something with the town’s history and with the residents as well.  As the mystery unfolds, they learn that there is a creature that reappears every few decades to terrorize the residents of this town and feed on the children.  At over 1,000 pages, It is an epic horror story that sees the Losers face down this immortal monster once when they are children, and again several decades later when they are adults.  It has been adapted twice now, both as a TV miniseries and a Big Screen production and both adaptations are fantastic.  It came about because King wanted to write a story that featured all the monsters so he came up with a shape-shifting creature that could be anything that its victims feared.  King’s It gave us Pennywise the Dancing Clown, one of the scariest and most beloved monsters in horror history.


4 – Cycle of the Werewolf (1983)This novella works great as just a straight forward horror story.  It takes place over the course of one year, each chapter representing one month, and on the full moon each month, the town is besieged by a werewolf.  Only a brother and sister know the truth behind the attacks, but what chance do two teenagers have against this unstoppable beast?  This novella also features another collaboration with Bernie Wrightson as the legendary artist provides amazing and haunting chapter illustrations for the book.  Cycle was adapted into the film Silver Bullet and I would argue that it, to this day, is a Top 5 werewolf movie of All-Time.


3 – The Stand (1978)The 1st edition was over 800 pages, but in the 90s, King went back and reworked an already epic story into a 1,100-plus-page masterpiece.  When a pandemic wipes out nearly 99% of the world’s population the survivors left behind are forced to choose sides in the final battle between good and evil.  This remarkable tale features ole Randall Flagg as the main antagonist.  He is King’s #1 bad guy who appears in many of King’s other stories including The Eyes of the Dragon and The Dark Tower.  It’s a hump of a read, but boy is it worth it.


2 – Salem’s Lot (1975)This was the very first Stephen King novel the Odinson ever read.  I was eleven years old at the time and I can say, without a doubt, that this is the scariest book I have ever read.  It probably had more to do with my age at the time and my overactive imagination, but I can still remember looking down the dark hallway, peeking into the closest, and checking under the bed in-between chapters of this grisly tale of a small town being invaded by the undead.  Here’s a funny note.  Even though the second television miniseries adaptation in 2004 remained truer to the source material, I always prefer the original TV miniseries from 1979.  The first adaptation captures the dark mood and feeling of isolation and dread that the book conveys far better than the second adaptation did.


1 – The Shining (1977)King really relishes in the motifs of isolation and cabin fever as his seminal story unfolds.  Take all the supernatural elements and put them on a shelf for a moment and this story still works on so many levels.  At its heart, it is a story about a broken family trying to hold on to each other and a father who is a flawed man struggling with alcoholism and events of his past.  It’s a horror story that truly resonates with its audience because it’s a horror story that could really happen.  Now, add back in the haunted location, a boy’s clairvoyance and visons of ghosts and specters of the past and now you have a horror story that is truly one of the All-Time classics.


I would like to take a moment to address the movie adaptation of The Shining.  I am quite aware of King’s disapproval of the film, but Stanley Kubrick’s vision of King’s novel, even with all the deviations, is a masterpiece of cinematic storytelling.  If you ever have a chance, watch the documentary Room 237 and it will become quite apparent that the late director Stanley Kubrick was working on a level few others can even comprehend.  I cannot comment on the TV miniseries from 1997 because I have not seen it, but I can say, without a doubt, that the 1980 film The Shining is my favorite horror movie of All-Time.


Stephen King is such an amazing storyteller with such an extensive list of material that it is almost impossible to narrow them down to just ten titles.  I would imagine that some of your favorites did not make my list, but I am willing to bet that some of them did.


I think what we all can agree on is that Stephen King was, is, and will always be the Master of Horror and this was the perfect way to start off our countdown to Halloween.


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell


NOTE: Looking for a good scare this Halloween?  Check out the Odinson’s love letter to the slasher-horror genre of the 1980s – The Survivors: A Glen Haven Tale.


About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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