Stephen King adaptations are notably difficult to get right, but two films in particular missed the mark enough to earn 0% scores on Rotten Tomatoes.
Adaptations of Stephen King’s work can be hit or miss, but only two movies based on his stories hold the undesirable score of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Similar to how difficult it is to achieve a 100% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s even less common for movies to report zero positive reviews on the site. Sadly, two film adaptations of the horror author Stephen King’s work hold this disappointing title, joining movies like Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous 6, the John Travolta-starring biopic Gotti, and Jaws: The Revenge on the 0% Rotten Tomatoes score list.
Horror movies, especially adaptations, tend to have difficulty achieving great acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, Stephen King’s stories have inspired some of the greatest films of all time, whether the genre is horror, drama, sci-fi, or suspense. For instance, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining has an 82% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, with Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption holding a 91% positive score. The highest-rated Stephen King film on Rotten Tomatoes is Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Carrie, which holds a Certified Fresh 93% score. Given Carrie’s critical acclaim and horror legacy, the bar was set high for King adaptations, which is perhaps why two of them hold 0% scores.
Graveyard Shift & Children Of The Corn (2009) Have 0% On RT
The only two movies inspired by Stephen King stories that hold 0% scores on Rotten Tomatoes are Graveyard Shift (1990) and Children of the Corn (2009). Both films are based on short stories of the same names by the author, which have been adapted several times to varying success. Graveyard Shift is a horror film depicting a drifter who discovers a terrifying monstrosity when working the graveyard shift at a textile mill. Children of the Corn, a remake of the 1984 adaptation, follows a couple who happens upon an eerie town in which a murderous cult of religious children worships a god in their cornfield.
Stephen King mentioned to Deadline that Graveyard Shift is among his least favorite adaptations, as the author felt the movie about the bat was “yuck… Just kind of a quick exploitation picture.” Graveyard Shift’s 0% Rotten Tomatoes score is aggregated from seven critic reviews, which assess that the movie is an especially poor King adaptation full of unnecessary and distasteful gore. The six Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews for Children of the Corn’s 2009 adaptation describe the film as “lazy,” remiss of suspense, and lacking compelling cast performances.
Why Stephen King’s Stories Are So Hard To Get Right
The popularity of Stephen King’s books and novellas lends them well to film adaptations, though few are able to truly grasp the underlying success and nature of the author’s work. The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, Doctor Sleep, Carrie, and Cujo stand among some of the adaptations that King himself approves of, whereas he wasn’t a fan of the story interpretations in Tommyknockers (1993), The Shining, and the critically-panned Graveyard Shift (1990). Frank Darabont, Mike Flanagan, and Rob Reiner brilliantly understand the balance of horror with the character arcs and themes of King’s stories, which has allowed their movies to be established as classics not only among King adaptations, but also in larger film history.
The failures in adapting Stephen King typically occur when the elements of horror and shock are prioritized over the main story and character developments. King’s horror is often psychologically chilling as a supplement and gives far higher stakes to the main stories, which takes a keen eye and a significant understanding of King’s themes to adapt well. Both Graveyard Shift (1990) and Children of the Corn (2009) lean far too much into horror tropes and unnecessarily shocking elements over the actual underlying terror of the stories at hand, so their 0% Rotten Tomatoes scores make sense against the pantheon of Stephen King movie adaptations.