2011 is off to a stellar start for author Stephen King. The master of the macabre, who survived a near fatal accident a few years ago, has been a hot commodity in Hollywood over the past few weeks. We've brought you news about casting in the highly anticipated adaptation of his "magnum opus," 'The Dark Tower,' news that Warner Bros. and CBS are interested in remaking 'The Stand' and now news that a reimagining of 'Pet Sematary' is in the works. If that's not being on a roll, what is?
As prolific as King is (seriously, check out his bibliography – the man writes a lot), there aren't many properties left in his body of work that haven't been turned into films. King's works have been adapted for both the big and small screen – with some of them ('The Shining') standing as classics, and others ('Graveyard Shift') as forgettable junk. When something like 'The Night Flyer' gets a cinematic version, it's safe to say the cupboard is getting a little bare.
It's not empty, though – there are still some great pieces of fiction in the King library that haven't transitioned from the page to the screen, and with the author still turning out new tales of terror, it seems as though that will be the case for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at several pieces of King's work that we'd most like to see on the silver screen.
Hit the jump for our choices, presented in no particular order.
This 1984 novel featured King teaming up with fellow titan of terror Peter Straub, and the end result was just as magnificent as fans hoped it would be. 12 year old Jack Sawyer's mother is dying of cancer and in order to save her he must traverse through an alternate reality to find an object could save her known only as The Talisman. The journey is fraught with danger, as Jack's evil uncle, Morgan Sloat, is intends to stop him from achieving his goal.
Needless to say, 'The Talisman' would make for a great film. It's got enough dark undertones to satisfy King's core horror audience, but it's also the kind of fantastical quest tale Hollywood seems to love in the age of 'Harry Potter.' It also earns bonus points because it's a potential franchise (King and Straub wrote a sequel, entitled 'Black House,' back in 2001 and are planning to begin work on a third entry in the not too distant future).
Plans are afoot to bring 'The Talisman' to life, via a miniseries set to debut in 2012. That's great, but we can't shake the feeling that this is a book that would work far more effectively on the big screen. Still, we'll take what we can get.
It's become almost cliché to complain that King's recent work pales in comparison to the novels written when he was a younger man. It's true, of course – nothing after 'It' really compares to 'The Shining,' but not everything written as King has become older is without merit. Take, for instance, his novel 'Cell.'
'Cell' works because like King's best novels, it's based on a deceptively simple idea: cell phone signals turn people into raving, murderous lunatics. It's an interesting plot that becomes even more engaging because it focuses on one man's journey to get home to rescue his wife and son (and admittedly, it does feel just a bit like Brian Keene's zombie novel 'The Rising' – which would also make an awesome film).
King's everyman hero, Clay Riddell, must travel a great distance while avoiding the blood-crazed mutants to achieve his goal – it's the kind of story Hollywood loves and it's very easy to picture it on the screen while reading the book.
'Cell' is currently languishing in development Hell. The Weinsteins originally optioned the novel for Eli Roth to direct, but Roth pulled out in order to work on other projects. Last we heard, way back in 2009, John Harrison was writing an adaptation (different than the script for the Roth version) with the idea that the finished project would be pitched to networks as a miniseries. Things have been quiet since then, leading us to assume that the project isn't going to turn up on a screen large or small anytime soon. Hopefully someone remedies that in the near future.
Many of King's novels have been optioned or made into films, but his short stories are still a potential treasure trove of ideas for adventurous executives. His novellas, like 'The Mist,' have proven to be particularly profitable when placed in the right hands.
Of the author's more recent novellas, 'N.' stands out as the tale with the most interesting cinematic potential. It's a story inspired by Arthur Machen's 'The Great God Pan' and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and it features enough creepy ambience to have audiences clutching their cup holders should it ever appear onscreen.
Written as a framed story, 'N.' chronicles the madness that besets a psychiatrist after one of his patients commits suicide. The man, who the psychiatrist thinks is delusional, insists that a stone circle at Ackerman's Field is really a gateway to another dimension – and that it's the last line of defense against an Elder God-esque monster known as Cthun. The patient takes it as his sacred duty to keep the gate sealed, something the doctor writes off as obsessive compulsive disorder until he discovers that his patient might not be so crazy after all...
One of the best stories in King's collection 'Just After Sunset,' 'N.' is all about implied menace and spooky atmosphere. Think of it like John Carpenter's 'In the Mouth of Madness' – only hopefully with a bigger budget and cast – and you're on the right track.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there are any plans to bring 'N.' to a theater near you currently. The story was adapted in graphic video form and featured as a four issue Marvel comic miniseries in 2010. For now, it seems that will have to suffice...
Back when King was a young man, he wrote several novels under the pen name Richard Bachman. The reasons for utilizing a nom de plume were numerous – King's publishers didn't want him to oversaturate the market with books, they wanted him to continue writing about things that went bump in the night and King himself was curious if his success was based solely on his ability to write or if it there was an element of luck to it all. What better way to find out than start over again with the same style but a different name? Hence, Richard Bachman was born.
Bachman published five novels before the deception was uncovered (the last being 'Thinner'). None of them sold well until after people learned they were written by King. That's a shame, because three of them are pretty good. 'The Running Man' was made into (an admittedly terrible) feature film, but two others were not. The most impressive of those two was King's novel 'Rage.'
Written way before Columbine and school shootings became a sad part of our modern reality, 'Rage' is like a frightening glimpse into the future. It seems unlikely that anyone would even attempt to adapt the novel about a high school student who shoots up a school and takes his class hostage – but if the novel is any indication, it would make for compelling viewing.
King has taken the book out of print – something he calls "a good thing," since he feared it would inspire individuals to carry out events from the novel's plot. It has been linked to at least two school shootings, so maybe it's for the best. That being said, we still think it would make a fascinating film.
'The Long Walk'
The second of the Bachman novels that would make a compelling film, 'The Long Walk,' finds King straying well outside of the horror genre. In this dystopian tale, 100 young men are chosen to take part in an event that requires them to walk continuously at a four mile per hour pace. Falling below the threshold three times leads to death. When one walker remains, he wins the ultimate prize – whatever he wants for life.
The story centers on 16 year old Ray Garraty. Garraty squares off against 99 other young men, but soon finds himself forming bonds and friendships with many of them. This serves as the novel's emotional core, watching young men who've willingly applied to enter this lottery forced to confront their own mortality -- and that of people they've come to care about.
'The Long Walk' would be a character piece featuring an ensemble of young actors and infused with some deeper themes about life, death and how young men (who think they're invincible) are willing to risk it all for a shot at a fantastic prize. Frank Darabont has optioned the novel, and insists he'll get around to making the film one day. He says his version of 'The Long Walk' will be "weird, existential and very self-contained." Sounds pretty exciting to us.
Bonus pick: 'Eyes of the Dragon'
No good list is ever complete without one extra entry – the one thing that should have been included that didn't quite make the cut.
For today, that title is 'Eyes of the Dragon,' a traditional fantasy tale King wrote back in the late 1980s. The story is marked departure for King, but remains essential reading because it ties into so many other things. Most notably, the novel relates to 'The Dark Tower,' featuring a king named Roland and an antagonist known as Flagg. Regular King readers will realize that Flagg not only figures into 'The Dark Tower,' but turns up regularly in King's work – most notably as the villain in 'The Stand.'
Perhaps we'll see an 'Eyes of the Dragon' spinoff film if 'The Dark Tower' captures audiences' imaginations. The novel was optioned at one point, but that has since lapsed. It appears as though the book is still available – hop on it now, you fledgling film moguls!
And there you have it – six Stephen King works that we'd love to see on the big screen. Naturally, there are other deserving titles, and half the fun of a piece like this comes from the debate over what didn't make the cut. Agree or disagree, join us in the comment section to share some of your own selections for future King adaptations.