Forgotten Stephen King Movie Was So Horrendous, It Got 0% on Rotten Tomatoes

Forgotten Stephen King Movie Was So Horrendous, It Got 0% on Rotten Tomatoes
Image credit: Paramount Pictures, globallookpress

It was a horror alright. Just not the type we associate with Stephen King.


  • Stephen King is one of the most successful horror writers ever.
  • His books have spawned some great movies.
  • This film from 1990 wasn't one of them.

Stephen King has had 52 novels adapted for the screen. In fact, he's inspired some of the best films of all time that have been loved by generations of moviegoers and still endure today.

Carrie is his highest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 92%, while The Shawshank Redemption (rated 89%) frequently appears on fans' all-time favourite lists.

But you may have forgotten about this complete flop of a movie based on one of Stephen King's works.

It was based on a short story, not a novel

The most successful Stephen King movies have been based on novels, which allow plenty of scope to develop the story. While the books have to be pared down for the screen, with plenty of story to play with, they may be easier for filmmakers to work with.

The 1990 film Graveyard Shift, adapted from a short story written in 1970, may have suffered from having less room to develop.

What's it about?

The movie follows John Hall and his new colleagues working in a textile mill in Maine. They're covering the graveyard shift from midnight until dawn and are assigned to clean out the basement.

As they go further underground, they discover something deadly lurking down there.

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It has all the hallmarks of a decent Stephen King movie, but it completely fails to deliver.

What was so wrong with it?

Everything. As we've already seen, the basic premise was ok. But it was quite a constrained idea. Making it into a successful movie was going to be a struggle without a fair amount of creativity and development.

It might not be a bad film for viewers who are new to the genre and just want to see a bit of gore. But we've come to expect so much more from Stephen King.

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The movie was widely panned for its acting, cinematography and pacing. The characters were boring and hard to like or dislike. They just existed on the screen without ever becoming people you could care about or invest in.

But perhaps the worst aspect of the film was the plot, or lack thereof. One of the best things about most Stephen King books and movies is that the stories are clever and nuanced. Sure, fans love the blood and guts of some of his horror stuff, but it's the compelling stories that keep them coming back for more.

In Graveyard Shift, there was a lot of running around in the basement and we kind of knew there was a threat. But it lacked any real direction or purpose. As a result, the tension that we associate with a Stephen King horror was never really allowed to build.

Stephen King didn't like it – but he's not always the best judge

The author described Graveyard Shift as a 'quick exploitation picture,' showing that he wasn't a fan of the film. He's never been shy about criticizing adaptations of his work that he feels don't hit the mark. But he hasn't always been the best judge of these things.

For example, he didn't like The Shining when it was first released. Nor was he a fan of The Running Man. Both are now cult classics.

The Shining has an audience score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, while The Running Man has a score of 67%.

On this occasion, however, it's hard to disagree with the author. Graveyard Shift failed on all fronts, and it's probably a good thing that it's been forgotten.