4 Times Stephen King Made Marriage Terrifying
Stephen King has been married for over half his life. It’s no surprise then that some of his most memorable characters are man and wife. Even when put under tremendous strain, the relationships King crafts remain true to life: informed by four decades of experience.
And while his own marriage to Tabitha may be happy, the author is no stranger to what ifs. What if you had to expose your spouse’s deepest secret? What if they exposed yours? And, finally, what would you do to protect your interests against theirs?
If marriage binds two people as one, King splits that person in half again, showing how little we know those closest to us – and ourselves. Forget vampires and rabid dogs, now that’s scary stuff. So without further adieu, we give you the top 4 times Stephen King has made marriage look terrifying.
1) A Good Marriage (2014)
A Good Marriage tells the story of Darcy Anderson (Joan Allen), a New England housewife who recently celebrated 27 years of marriage to her husband Bob (Anthony LaPaglia). Apart from being a successful accountant, respected scout leader, and dutiful father, Bob is also a sexually repressed psychopath who periodically dismembers women.
When Darcy stumbles upon her husband’s crimes, she is torn between her duty to Bob’s victims and the gravitational pull of normality. The scariest part of the story isn’t Bob’s atrocities, but the double-act Darcy must play after discovering them. Stuck in the same routine, living in the same house, and even sleeping in the same marital bed, Darcy is disgusted to find how quickly habit can reassert itself after revelation.
2) 1922 (2017)
King fans rejoiced when Netflix released its adaptation of the short story 1922 late this October, only weeks after Gerald’s Game. The film, as you might expect, takes place in the early ‘20s. Farmer Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) is the proud owner of 80 Nebraskan acres, which border his wife Arlette’s (Molly Parker) slightly larger estate of 100. Arlette has tired of country living, and wishes to sell her land and move to the city.
The catch is her buyer plans to erect a slaughterhouse on the land, rendering Wilf’s adjoining acres unfarmable. Arlette suggests to Wilf that he also sell his land, but the country born and bred farmer will hear none of it. Husband and wife must then compete to win the heart of their teenage son Henry (Dylan Schmid), who is caught between affection for his mother, obedience to his father, and love for a neighboring beau.
READ MORE: Our full review of Stephen King‘s 1922
The difference is while Henry’s mother is trying to convince him to move to Omaha, Henry’s father is trying to convince him to murder his mother – solving the land dispute once and for all.
The matricide scene packs a strong punch, but that’s not what makes 1922 so disturbing. The darkest scenes take place in Wilf’s head, as he convinces himself that murder is the only option, and then coerces his son into helping. The voice that wins out Wilf calls the ‘conniving man’: a personification of sociopathic self-interest. It’s the conniving man who finally allows Wilf to act on years of buried resentment, and convert hatred into a concrete plan of action.
3) Gerald’s Game (2017)
Another well received Netflix adaptation, Gerald’s Game starts out in 50 Shades of Grey territory but ends up in another genre entirely. The story starts with Jessie Burlingame (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) off on a weekend getaway to Maine, in hopes of spicing up a flat lining marriage. When Gerald, a Type-A lawyer, handcuffs Jessie to the bed, all appears to be going apace. But issues arise after Gerald takes the roleplay too far – persisting even when Jessie becomes uncomfortable – and then further complicates matters by having a fatal heart attack. And Bruce Greenwood looked so fit!
Long story short, Jessie is now stuck in a secluded Maine cabin, handcuffed to a solid wood headboard, with only a dead husband for company – oh, and did we mention the starving dog? Well it turns out the dead husband solves the starving dog problem, but Jessie still has to devise an escape from her cuffs or face death from dehydration.
In classic King fashion, the key to Jessie’s freedom lies in her past. Fortunately hallucinations of Gerald and another, younger Jessie appear to aid her along the path to self-discovery. Jessie is apparently able to talk far more openly with Gerald now that he’s dead, and the couple can finally vent their mutual discontent with married life. There are plenty of other dark secrets revealed, which we won’t spoil, but suffice it to say Gerald’s Game is one of Stephen King’s most character-centric horrors: equal parts sympathetic and gruesome.
4) The Shining (1980)
Last, but far from least, The Shining remains one of King’s greatest books, and arguably Hollywood’s best adaptation.
The parallels between a 33-year-old King and his protagonist Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) are hard to miss: both writers, both recovering addicts, both married with young children. The result is one of King’s most complex and personal characters.
Most people summarize The Shining as a haunted house story; the place is evil, not the people. But in the book, Jack breaks his son Danny’s (Danny Lloyd) arm in a blind rage before ever setting foot in the Outlook Hotel: behavior learnt at the hands of his own abusive alcoholic father. And in further backstory, we discover Wendy considered leaving Jack long before he started hallucinating dead barmen.
In short, Jack brings as many demons to the Outlook as he meets. In the film’s most iconic scene, when Jack hacks apart a bathroom door to get at Wendy (Shelley Duvall), he is less possessed, and more unleashed – realizing both wife and husband’s worst nightmare.
There you have it: four good reasons to stay away from the altar, all from the mind of America’s greatest storyteller. Check out this full list of King’s horror flicks for further viewing, and let us know in the comments below if we missed anything!