Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Stephen King Novel Moments That We'll Never See On Screen

Stephen King has become a literary legend in the horror community, inspiring generations of writers and filmmakers. The bestselling author has penned more than a staggering 150 novels and short stories, many of them adapted for film or television — in fact, he holds the record for most adaptations of any living author. 

While many of the horror mogul's twisted tales have made it into the mainstream spotlight, like Brian De Palma's "Carrie" or the recent hit remake of "It," some of King's work has been cast aside into seemingly permanent obscurity. He doesn't always write horror, but when he does the details can get quite graphic, so perhaps it makes sense that some of his most gruesome plot points are left to the imagination. 

Below is a list of some of some of Stephen King's most strongly-imagined moments. Whether they are profane, beautiful, exploitative or excellent is for you to decide — but fans are unlikely to ever see them play out on screen, and in the eyes of some, perhaps that's for the best.

The orgy in "It"

On paper, "It" is a coming-of-age story about growing up — it just also happens to be the reason generations of people have a crippling fear of clowns. The story of Pennywise, an ancient, alien creature that hunts the children of Derry, Maine, has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning two memorable adaptations. Those who've read the King book likely noticed a prominent omission from both the original 1990 television adaptation and the 2017 film: a graphic scene of group sex involving children.

Near the middle of King's novel, the kids fighting back against Pennywise find themselves lost in a sewer. The group — who call themselves the Losers — feel like they've reached the end of their journey and are about to be defeated. But Beverly, the only girl in the group, tells them that they'll escape if they all have sex with her, and that's exactly what happens. 

While the story is open to interpretation, King commented on the scene's controversy in 2013. "I wasn't really thinking of the sexual aspect of it," he explained. "The book dealt with childhood and adulthood — 1958 and Grown Ups. The grown-ups don't remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children ... Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It's another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children's library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene, and there is now more sensitivity to those issues."

The sexual assault in "The Stand"

When dealing with literal embodiments of good and evil, it is hardly surprising when evil people commit terrible acts. Yet, somehow the sexual assault in "The Stand" novel still manages to cross what feels like a post-apocalyptic line. 

King's story follows the aftermath of the deadly, mass spreading of a weaponized Influenza that has wiped out most of the world. Considered one of King's best novels, the story was adapted into a mini-series, and it had to be watered down a bit for television. But this infamous assault scene occurs between "The Trashcan Man" and "The Kid," two madmen from the evil faction — and fell victim to such TV-friendly deletions. "The Kid" assaults his fellow teammate with the barrel of a gun on their journey to Las Vegas, proving that you can't even trust the people on your own side.

As two of the most unhinged, psychopathic characters to ever appear in King's novels, the scene adds an extra level of disturbing terror. On the screen, it would probably just repel rather than reflect anything insightful.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

When Jack disfigures his face with a mallet in "The Shining"

Although Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of "The Shining" is considered one of the best films ever made, regardless of genre, King has always been very vocal about his disdain for the film, referring to it in 2016 as a "big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine in it."

The story follows the mental descent of Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic, and his family while caring for a hotel during its off-season. While King has often condemned the creative changes made in the characters and casting, he has also noted that Kubrick's film alters several important aspects of the story. King especially has an issue with the ending of the film.

"At the end of my book the hotel blows up, and at the end of Kubrick's movie the hotel freezes," King pointed out. "That's a difference." 

Kubrick's classic also omits a scene where Jack disfigures his own face with a mallet at the peak of his insanity. The mallet is switched out for the infamous ax, which may explain the omission, but that lack of a bloody, twisted visage on the face of the deranged pursuer lowers the intensity of the chase scene. Since the film already maintains an R-rating, it seems like gore wouldn't be an issue, but Kubrick chose not to use it anyway.

Tad's death in "Cujo"

King might know his way around a vampire or a ghost story, but what makes him the "Master of Horror" is his ability to create fear from mundane, everyday objects.

"Cujo" follows the story of a woman and her son slowly dying of heatstroke while trapped by a rabid dog. King's 1981 novel scared readers upon its publication because it felt more realistic than his previous stories, as canines have long been considered man's best friend. They are everywhere, in our homes, neighborhoods, dog parks — and suddenly, King had imagined them as a terrifying threat. 

The 1983 film adaptation showed a St. Bernard's slow transformation into a mindless, blood-crazed monster, but the creative team took substantial liberties when it came to getting the book's plot into script form. One of the most significant changes comes at the end of the story, which features the tragic death of Tad, the 5-year old son. In the original novel, Tad dies of heatstroke after his mother fights off Cujo in a last-ditch effort to save themselves. But, rather than end the film on such a nihilistic note, the film revived Tad at the very end. Could Hollywood ever make a "Cujo" where the little boy dies? Conceivably, but unlikely.

Sue Snell's miscarriage in "Carrie"

It didn't take long for King to become a household name as a prolific horror author, with "Carrie" serving as his breakout novel. The hair-raising story about high school revenge and religious trauma took the world by storm, selling over a million copies a year after its release. In classic Hollywood fashion, the infamous book was quickly adapted for the silver screen, and Brian De Palma's revered "Carrie" arrived in theaters to years later. Compared to other King adaptations, the film might be a little tame — but that wasn't the only significant creative decision De Palma made in adapting the story. 

In both incarnations, when a bucket of pig's blood is dumped on the head of Carrie (Sissy Spacek) at the prom, the scene becomes a bloody, violent sequence where she graphically rains vengeance down upon her classmates. Before the end of the novel, countless people are dead, including Carrie's mother. 

In the novel, the scene is colored by a key, intimate conversation Carrie has with Sue Snell, a kind classmate who is pregnant with the child of Tommy (William Katt). In one of the most memorable moments of the novel, it is revealed that Sue suffered a miscarriage from the stress of the carnage. De Palma's adaptation chose to water down the pregnancy storyline.

In the movie and novel, Carrie tells Sue that she's pregnant. She grabs her stomach and says she's having a girl — but the movie cuts out the fact that she miscarried at the end, glossing over a brutal tragedy.

The amputation in "Misery"

Another novel that helped elevate King to notoriety in his early days, "Misery" tells a story following the deranged kidnapping of author Paul Sheldon at the hands of a superfan. The Oscar-winning film featured several gruesome acts committed by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). However, the plot still omits many of her most violent acts. 

In King's novel, Wilkes is far more brutal than she is portrayed on screen — which might seem impossible considering Bates' haunting performance. Not only does she brutally maul a police officer to death with a lawnmower, which King describes in graphic detail, but she also commits far worse acts against Sheldon.

In one of the film's most iconic scenes, Wilkes breaks Sheldon's legs with a sledgehammer. While it's incredibly disturbing, the novel describes an even more violent sequence of events where she amputates his foot and then cauterizes the wound with a propane torch.

Roland sacrifices a child in "The Dark Tower"

"The Dark Tower" was a massive fantasy project for King, spanning eight novels — on his website, he even refers to it as his magnum opus. The story follows a classic Western gunslinger named Roland (played in the film by Idris Elba) on a quest to find a mysterious tower. Although the lore of the story was expansive enough to launch a cinematic universe, the film adaptation flopped terribly upon release. 

But that doesn't mean it is without some classic, disturbing King content. While the post-apocalyptic tale isn't necessarily a horror story, its characters find themselves in horrific situations. There are countless examples of heartless acts committed by those trying to survive the harsh landscape, although none compare to the death of Jake (Tom Taylor in the film), reminding us once again that King has never been afraid to kill off his children characters.

A 12-year-old companion to Roland, Jake is reborn multiple times throughout the series. The most tragic of his deaths occur when Roland is given an explicit choice to either save him or continue the quest. Jake finds himself hanging off a crumbling bridge, begging his friend for help. But when he realizes that Roland has made his decision, he allows the boy to fall to his death — a choice that haunts Roland throughout the rest of the series.