Stephen King Laments One Of The Best TV King Adaptations Not Getting A Second Season, And I'm Right There With Him

 Cynthia Erivo in The Outsider The King Beat.
Cynthia Erivo in The Outsider The King Beat.

Seven days have passed since the last edition of The King Beat, and there is once again much to discuss out of the world of Stephen King. For example, Lewis Teague’s underrated anthology film Cat’s Eye celebrated its 39th anniversary (having been released on April 12, 1985), and it was announced by Paramount Pictures at CinemaCon 2024 that Edgar Wright’s adaptation of The Running Man is moving forward with Glen Powell set to play the lead. But in the words of every infomercial ever… that’s not all!

This week’s column has a trio of interesting headlines – including Stephen King lamenting that we didn’t get more of The Outsider, Abigail directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet sharing their thoughts on King’s legacy, and the author advocating for Marvel and/or Star Wars to develop a scary, adult-centric horror film. Without further ado, let’s dig in.

Ben Mendelsohn on The Outsider
Ben Mendelsohn on The Outsider

The Outsider Deserved A Second Season, And Stephen King Knows It

In early 2020, three months before the world began shutting down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the best ever small screen Stephen King projects aired on HBO. Developed by The Wire and The Night Of writer Richard Price, The Outsider adapted King’s 2018 novel of the same name as an intense and dark supernatural mystery featuring an outstanding cast – the ensemble including Ben Mendelsohn, Jason Bateman, Cynthia Erivo, Yul Vazquez, Bill Camp, Mare Winningham and Julianne Nicholson. Despite earning critical acclaim, the show ended up being a one-off, running only 10 episodes – and four years later, the author has expressed disappointment that we never got to see a Season 2.

The subject of The Outsider arose online this week thanks to King’s novelist colleague Linwood Barclay, who has recently been rewatching the series. Appreciating the experience, Barclay took to his personal Twitter account saying that the show “SO deserved a second season,” and King endorsed the message with a three word Quote Tweet response:

In the book and the show, a man named Terry Maitland is arrested when DNA evidence and witness testimony suggests that he is responsible for the brutal rape and murder of a young boy… but the case isn’t as clear cut as it initially appears. While Detective Ralph Anderson is certain that Maitland committed the atrocious crime, the reality is that the suspect has an unimpeachable alibi, and it would have been impossible for him to be involved. As the case begins to inspire even more local tragedy, Anderson – a stubborn realist – is forced to recognize that there may be something otherworldly at work, and frustration and confusion eventually sees him reach out to Holly Gibney: a young private detective with a unique world perspective.

The HBO series isn’t what could be called a perfectly faithful adaptation, as there are some major changes and deviations from the source material (the most significant being the characterization of Holly Gibney), but it is shocking and gripping from the very first episode, and while staying true to the core mystery and themes of the book, its ending successfully packs a big punch. This very much includes the last shot of the finale, which suggests that the evil supernatural entity at the heart of everything hasn’t been destroyed… but we’ll never know where that cliffhanger would have led because the premium cable network cancelled the show about 11 months after it premiered.

Constant Readers are encouraged to keep hope alive that we’ll eventually get to see Holly Gibney on the small screen again, as producer Jack Bender has been developing an adaptation of King’s latest book with the character, but it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get to see more of Cynthia Erivo as the oddball detective. While hoping for more is probably too much to ask at this point, fans can join Linwood Barclay in rewatching The Outsider, which is available stream with a Max subscription and is a must-have on Blu-ray for anyone aiming to build the ultimate Stephen King collection.

Alisha Weir attacking Dan Stevens in Abigail
Alisha Weir attacking Dan Stevens in Abigail

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin And Tyler Gillett Talk The Influence Of Stephen King

This is a big month for celebrating the legacy of Stephen King. It was 50 years ago that Carrie first arrived on bookshelves, and there is an argument to be made that no single person has left a bigger impression on pop culture than the author in the time since. His influence is massive – and being the fan that I am, I’ve been asking about his impact a lot in recent interviews.

The previous edition of The King Beat featured quotes from Chucky creator Don Mancini about his love of Carrie and the inspiration he’s taken from The Shining, and this week I have commentary for you from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett – directors of Ready Or Not, the last two Scream movies and the new vampire horror feature Abigail. Sitting down with the filmmakers at the press day for their new film, I asked for their personal perspective on King’s legacy, and Bettinelli-Olpin began by talking about first watching adaptations when he was younger and being particularly freaked out by the 1990 TV miniseries version of IT. Said the filmmaker,

I remember watching all the TV versions of his movies when I was a kid, like that Christopher Walken one, The Dead Zone. The one that really like just messed me up was the IT TV series. I mean that, my sister and I watched that endlessly on VHS and it just got under our skin.

From a big picture perspective, Tyler Gillett added that the influence of the author is practically inescapable. He has had an outsized hand in shaping modern horror fiction and helping us understand what scares us:

Yeah. I think that there's no way to not associate like any sort of modern day fear and not also talk about Stephen King, because it feels like he's woven the fabric of that. I think that we're all making movies like on the foundation that someone like him has built.

It can even be seen with Abigail. There are a number of horror influences on the new film, including Dracula and The Lost Boys, but genre fans everywhere think about vampires and think about the slow boil vampire infestation that takes over the titular town in Salem’s Lot.

More than just one of the greatest fiction writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, Stephen King is also widely recognized as a tremendous advocate for artists. When he sees a small movie that he likes, he makes a point of sharing his appreciation with his wide audience. In Bettinelli-Olpin’s words,

He's also such a big supporter of horror and horror movies. Very vocal, and I think it's so special.

Abigail, which stars Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Angus Cloud, Alisha Weir and Giancarlo Esposito, arrives in theaters this Friday, April 19 – and be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interview with the directors and stars.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Zombie Doctor Strange in Multiverse of Madness
Benedict Cumberbatch as Zombie Doctor Strange in Multiverse of Madness

Stephen King Wants To See Marvel Studios And/Or Star Wars Make An R-rated Horror Movie, But He’s Not Optimistic

Later this year, Marvel Studios will be breaking new ground. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been built on family-friendly blockbuster entertainment going back to 2008, the franchise will soon be releasing their first adults-only film in the form of the R-rated Deadpool & Wolverine (which just showed off some absolutely filthy footage at CinemaCon last week). From a macro perspective, it’s creative exploration that makes one wonder what other ways the canon may end up expanding in years to come – and one avenue Stephen King would like to see explored is the development of an in-canon horror movie made specifically for mature audiences.

The author promoted the idea this past week on Twitter in response to a post from director Scott Derrickson. At a time when superhero movies appear to be in a rut (with the disappointments in 2023 outnumbering the successes), the Doctor Strange filmmaker suggested that a hardcore horror blockbuster could be an effective “palette cleanser” for pop culture – adding that it could be a healthy thing for the Star Wars franchise in addition to the MCU. King didn’t share optimism that such projects will ever get made, but he does see how they could be beneficial:

Stephen King has previously expressed that he doesn’t “care for” MCU movies – but the perspective shared here is one that any obsessive or outsider can understand. Few things bring death to a franchise or genre faster than staleness or repetition, but that can be combatted with big creative swings. If you show audiences something exciting that they’ve never seen before, curiosity will instantly be piqued for what’s coming next, and that’s the lifeblood of both Marvel and Star Wars at this point.

It should be noted that we have seen elements of horror in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with monsters and the macabre explored in the Doctor Strange movies and the Halloween special Werewolf By Night, but none of the films have made a specific effort to inspire nightmares. A Blumhouse-sized project from Marvel full of gore and mayhem could be an unexpected but welcomed treat that shakes things up for the future.

For now, the slates upcoming Marvel movies, upcoming Marvel TV shows, and developing Star Wars projects are without any R-rated horror titles… but we can keep our fingers crossed that may change someday.

James Woods held at gunpoint in Cat's Eye
James Woods held at gunpoint in Cat's Eye

Recommendation Of The Week: “Quitters, Inc.”

As noted earlier, the movie Cat’s Eye – which is based on a script by Stephen King – turned 39 years old this past week, and while I didn’t have the real estate in this column to fully expound upon its strengths, I will at the very least celebrate it with my Recommendation Of The Week. The movie features adaptations of two existing King stories, and simply because it comes first in the film, the title I’ll highlight is the equally funny and disturbing anti-smoking tale “Quitters, Inc.”

First published in the 1978 omnibus Night Shift, the story introduces Constant Readers to Richard "Dick" Morrison, a hardcore smoker who is looking to give up his ugly habit. During a random encounter with an old college friend, he ends up learning about an organization called Quitters, Inc. that is only known about via word of mouth and guarantees to end anyone’s cigarette addiction. Incredulous but curious, he decides to check the place out, and it’s made very clear to him in his first meeting why the program is so effective: should he make any attempt to light up a cancer stick, his loved ones will be threatened with torture and death. It’s terrific and chilling anti-smoking satire.

That brings this week’s edition of The King Beat to an end, but be sure to head back here to CinemaBlend next Thursday for my latest roundup of all the biggest stories from the world of Stephen King. Meanwhile, you can check out my Adapting Stephen King series: a chronological exploration of all the film and television projects based on the author’s stories.