In the 35 years since Carrie came to our screens, Stephen King has become one of the most bankable names in horror and fantasy film. The list of adaptations of his work reads like a who’s-who of filmmaking: Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Creepshow, Christine, The Dead Zone, Stand By Me, Pet Semetary, It, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, The Green Mile etc., etc.. It’s hard to think of any other living writer whose work has been so prolifically embraced by filmmakers.
But just as Stephen King has continued to write (despite threatening retirement in 2002), so the public’s appetite for his work remains. While recent adaptations like Secret Window and 1408 have hardly been stellar, there are plenty of other King works which would make for riveting viewing. Here are 5 that we think should be at the top of any film executive’s list for green-lighting.
NOTE: Despite continuing uncertainty over its future, The Dark Tower does not feature on this list because it is technically in pre-production.
The Long Walk
Source: 1979 novel written under King’s pseudonym, Richard Bachman.
What’s it about: In a futuristic totalitarian United States, 100 teenage boys take part in the annual Long Walk – a gruelling “national sport” in which people walk without stopping until there is only one left. The winner gets ‘The Prize’ – anything he wants for the rest of his life. But slow down or stop and you’ll be shot dead by patrolling soldiers. The story concentrates on one walker, 16-year-old Ray Garraty, who emerges from a large group of boys to eventually win – but at what cost?.
Why do it: The story has great political and social potential, as well as being an exploration of madness, American culture and a satire on the notion of ‘coming-of-age’. It’s also a good test for a filmmaker, to make the same repeated action dramatically enthralling for 90 minutes.
Who to star: Bill Milner. The young star of Son of Rambow is the ideal age, and continues to impress with his performances. He recently turned up in X-Men: First Class as the young Magneto.
Who to direct: Frank Darabont has already obtained the rights. Having previously adapted The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist (three of his four directed movies), Darabont has a good relationship with King and clearly understands how to translate his work.
How likely: Darabont says he’ll “get to it one day”, and will make it “on a low budget, weird, existential and very self-contained.” Fingers crossed.
The Sun Dog
Source: 1990 novella, originally published in the anthology Four Past Midnight.
What’s it about: Kevin Delevan buys a Sun 660 Polaroid camera for his 15th birthday. He notices that in all the photos he takes, there is a black dog which gets closer to him and becomes more malevolent with every picture he takes. He joins forces with unscrupulous junk shop owner Reginald Merrill, who believes there is money to be made from flogging it to paranormal enthusiasts. The more photos they take, the closer the dog gets, until eventually all hell breaks loose…
Why do it: It’s an intriguing and chilling premise which taps into both the Paranormal Activity wave and the revival of old-school creepy ghost stories (The Woman in Black comes out next February). The image of a malevolent dog is a recurrent one in horror (Cerberus in the Greek Myths, The Thing, King’s own Cujo, Alien 3), so with a proper horror director we could get something very special.
Who to star: Either Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) or Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) as Kevin.
Who to direct: Christopher Smith, who helmed Triangle and Black Death amongst others, and clearly has a deep understanding of and affection for classic horror.
How likely: Depends on whether current trends continue. If The Woman in Black takes money this could happen pretty quickly.
The Man in the Black Suit
Source: 1994 award-winning short story, originally published in The New Yorker.
What’s it about: Gary, a 9-year-old boy, encounters a man in a black suit while on a fishing trip. The man has a fiery look in his eyes, and tells Gary that his mother is dead and that he intends to eat him. Gary flees from the stranger, realising it was the Devil, and makes it back home to find his mother alive. Now an old man, Gary is still haunted by the events at the lake, and fears The Man in the Black Suit will come and claim him, now that he is too old to run…
Why do it: There’s plenty of great horror movies about the devil catching up with people – Angel Heart is especially good – but within that familiarity there is great potential for invention. With a director who can expand upon the short story, or show the devil and Gary interacting over a number of years, it could be pretty damn creepy. You could even treat it like a Roald Dahl adaptation, producing something akin to The Witches.
Who to star: Skandar Keynes (The Chronicles of Narnia) as Gary, with John Hurt as his older self.
Who to direct: David Slade. Having tackled paedophilia (Hard Candy), werewolves (30 Days of Night) and vampires (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), he’s more than capable of taking on the devil.
How likely: Possible. A short film was made in 2004, so someone may eventually step in and do a full-length version.
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet
Source: 1984 novella, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
What’s it about: Henry is the fiction editor for a struggling magazine called Logan’s. He receives a story from a Reg Thorpe, which he considers a masterpiece, and the two men begin to correspond. Through their letters Henry (who is an alcoholic) comes to believe in Thorpe’s paranoid fantasies, eventually descending into a shared madness as he struggles to publish the story. The title is Henry’s description of insanity – it will eventually kill you, but it’s impossible to predict how long it will take.
Why do it: Aside from King’s record with stories about authors (The Shining¸Misery, Secret Window, 1408), this has the potential to get under the skin of writers and the process of writing in the same way as Adaptation did. In the right hands this could be as creepy and twisted as In the Mouth of Madness, or as utterly bizarre as Naked Lunch.
Who to star: Anybody except Jack Nicholson, James Caan, Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp and John Cusack. They’ve all been there and done that.
Who to direct: David Cronenberg. If you can do Naked Lunch, you can do this.
How likely: Like the flexible bullet, it will eventually happen, but we can’t predict when.
Source: King’s latest novel, more than 40 years in the making.
What’s it about: Jake Epping, a high-school teacher from Maine, discovers a time portal to 1958 and travels back in time with the intention of stopping Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting President Kennedy. Jake remains in the past for five years, falling in love and eventually averting the assassination. But what will the world be like when he returns to the present?
Why do it: It may have more than a passing similarity to Twelve Monkeys or Slaughterhouse Five, but since we’re unlikely to get a new adaptation of the latter any time soon, then this should do very nicely. Its central premise is thought-provoking and, if handled intelligently, could create an interesting drama or thriller about retrospective morality and existentialism, whose period setting could pull in the Mad Men audience.
Who to star: Ryan Gosling. He’s the right age and can play pretty much anyone.
Who to direct: Jonathan Demme signed up to direct before the book was even released. Demme has great form in both dramas and thrillers, having made The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia.
How likely: Very probably. Filming is due to start in late-2012.
Have I missed any out? Disagree with my choices? Comment below!
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