The Stephen King Sci-Fi Horror Marked By Controversy, Stream Without Netflix Right Now

By Robert Scucci | Published

  • This streaming Stephen King movie is one of the most controversial movies attached to the King of Horror.
  • 1992’s The Lawnmower Man is a trippy Stephen King adaptation starring Jeff Fahey and Pierce Brosnan.
  • Stephen King hated how far the film strayed from his story that he sued the studio to get his name removed.
  • You can watch The Lawnmower Man on multiple streaming platforms.

Stephen King fans know that the author doesn’t always necessarily celebrate the film adaptations of his literary works. In the case of 1992’s The Lawnmower Man, based very loosely on the short story of the same name, King actually sued the filmmakers to remove his name from the title, as it bore little to no resemblance to his work. Despite the controversy surrounding the science fiction horror film, The Lawnmower Man is still a wild interpretation of King’s work that you may enjoy despite its deviation from the source material.

Jeff Fahey And Pierce Brosnan Star In The Lawnmower Man

The Lawnmower Man was first published in a May 1975 issue of Cavalier and later included in Stephen King’s 1978 short story collection entitled Night Shift. While the original short story centers on an unnamed lawnmower man who worships the ancient god Pan, the film leans into the idea of using medical experimentation on an intellectually disabled gardener named Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey), who develops psychokinesis and telepathy after being treated with experimental psychotropic drugs.

In the cinematic adaptation of The Lawnmower Man, the narrative centers primarily on a scientist working for Virtual Space Industries (VSI) named Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan). Angelo specializes in the research of psychoactive drugs used concurrently with virtual reality to increase the cognitive function and performance of his subjects. An early iteration of his experiment, Project 5, involved a chimpanzee named Rosco who became intelligent as intended, but exhibited signs of extreme aggression and had to be executed by the laboratory’s security workers.

An Experiment Gone Too Far

Working with the best of intentions, Angelo wants to move forward with human trials and recruits Jobe for subsequent testing. Having developed a new formula that won’t make Jobe aggressive like Rosco, Angelo puts Jobe through further testing and training as his intellectual capacity becomes increasingly enhanced. In this version of The Lawnmower Man, project director Sebastian Timms has other ideas in mind, and swaps Angelo’s new medication with the medication that proved to be problematic with Rosco during the earlier Project 5 testing.

Where The Movie Strays

As Jobe continues to dose himself with the Project 5 medication, he becomes violent and goes on a killing spree. Leaning heavily into the concept of VSI technology, The Lawnmower Man continues to deviate from the source material when Jobe expresses his intentions to leave his physical body and live in a computer mainframe as a form of “pure energy.”

Much of the third act bears no resemblance to the original short story, but it’s still an interesting take on humanity’s relationship with technology at this point in time.

The original version of The Lawnmower Man that was written by Stephen King didn’t lean into these technological themes, but rather its titular character, who sacrifices those critical of its gardening methodology to the ancient god, Pan.

Stephen King Sues The Studio

stephen king the dark tower

Far from satisfied with the final product, Stephen King filed a lawsuit against New Line Cinema to get his name removed from the title, which was originally presented as Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man. The abysmal reviews (38 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) further solidified King’s case against the studio, resulting in a $2.5 million settlement in King’s favor. New Line Cinema would get in trouble once again in 1994 for distributing the home video version of the film with the original title even though they lost the lawsuit.

Where To Stream The Lawnmower Man

Despite its poor critical reception, The Lawnmower Man was a box office success, earning $150 million against its reported budget of $10 million. If you want to see this movie for yourself in defiance of Stephen King’s will, you can stream the ill-fated adaptation on Tubi, Starz, and Vudu. You can also rent The Lawnmower Man on-demand through Google Play, YouTube, and Apple TV+.

And if you’re looking for a lively discussion about The Lawnmower Man, we strongly recommend checking out the GenreVision podcast for a more detailed breakdown.