Most people might have a little trouble seeing Stephen King, master of horror and the macabre, capable of writing a screenplay that would be anything but absolutely horrifying, but then those same people might have forgotten that he’s toned down his writing now and again to provide more drama with just as much bone-chilling terror for an astounding story. As Jack Wilhelmi of Screenrant tells it, he managed to team up with John Mellencamp back in the early 2010s and came up with Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which was released in 2012 as a stage play and had a short run before it faded off into obscurity. As King has said he pulled from the story of Cain and Abel for a great deal of inspiration for the book, as it has to do with two brothers who are insanely competitive with one another and are taken to cabin by their father, who witnessed something horrible when he was younger, and is hoping that the ghosts of that long ago time can save his sons. It’s the type of story that one might expect from King, as he’s become the master of building up an epic story, though there are too many moments in which he somehow putters out at the end, as though he loses steam and simply gets bored or attempts to close out a book with a rushed ending.
It’s kind of a shame that this musical had such a short run since it would have shown a lot of King fans that he’s capable of doing something that’s different than a book that gets turned into a movie. King has been lauded and celebrated for so long as a great writer and someone that can scare the living hell out of people with his writing, but from the standpoint of an author he’s someone to be enjoyed, but also questioned every now and again. The average reader might roll their eyes and call my words the ‘disenfranchised complaining of a non-selling author’ or something along those lines, but then again the average reader who hasn’t written page one, no offense intended, doesn’t know much more than what they read. King has shown legitimate talent and mastery over his craft throughout the years, but he’s also shown that he doesn’t know everything, and that like many people he’s continually learning. That’s the mark of a great author, as it goes well beyond the idea that a person can write and create a story that’s gripping and feels absolutely real enough to send chills down one’s spine. An author that continues on in the same vein throughout the years without learning how to change, how to adapt, is someone that’s going to fall out of favor at one point or another. An author that remains versatile, as King has, will find success so long as they can get people to read their stories, and he’s proven that much from one year to the next. But he is fallible, no matter how many King fans might want to deny this.
There’s a reason why it would behoove a lot of people to watch King’s entire list of book to movie adaptations, and it’s because there are moments when his inability to successfully craft an ending with that much consistency is translated to the movies as well at times. From IT to The Stand to many other stories, it feels as though he runs out of gas at the last chapter and simply throws something together in order to finish up. I’ll admit, he has several great endings, one of which belongs to The Dark Tower series, which is the central hub for many of his books. But it’s enough to wonder if Ghost Brothers of Darkland County has an ending that’s epic or anticlimactic, especially since King is kind of hot and cold when it comes to endings. There’s no doubt that the musical is bound to be compelling, King is a great author after all, but for one reason or another his endings leave a bit to be desired sometimes, kind of like Dean Koontz, but in a much different manner. Where Koontz actually crafts his endings, many times at least, to be upbeat and showcase people with their dog, their RV’s, and with a tragic back story that has somehow led to a positive ending, King tends to end the story either in a rush with what feels like a very unsatisfying explanation, or in a long-winded manner that pulls together a great mass of facts that have only a little to do with everything that just happened in a very convoluted manner. Keep in mind, his endings can be absolutely great, but there are those times when a person might pull back from one of his books asking ‘what the hell was that about?’.