If this year has showcased anything in terms of pop culture trends, it’s that we’re in the midst of a renaissance of sorts in terms of Stephen King adaptations. While not every adaptation this year has panned out in terms of critical or box office expectations, King’s name has certainly been on many tongues and minds this year as we saw a number of new star-studded adaptations of his work. With The Dark Tower, Mr. Mercedes released, and IT (so close!), Gerald’s Game, 1922, and television series Castle Rock and The Dark Tower still to come, it’s clear that this is King’s universe and we’re all just along for the ride. All this month we’ll be celebrating Stephen King, his works, and the previous decades’ worth of adaptations that captured us, rattled us, and made us tighten our grip on whatever we hold near and dear. But before we get to all of that, we’re going to take a look at 10 Stephen King stories that deserve 21st century adaptations, or re-adaptations. May all things serve the Beam.
10. The Long Walk
Written under King’s pseudonym, Richard Bachman, in 1979, The Long Walk has become a cult-favorite among King’s constant readers. Set within a dystopian future where Germany won WW2 and America is run by a totalitarian dictator, young men all across America are put into a lottery where they are selected to participate in an event known as The Walk, which takes them from the Maine/Canada border all the way down the East Coast. “The Prize” is their heart’s desire for the rest of their life, but slowing down or stopping during The Walk has severe consequences. The Long Walk is fitting metaphor for young, working-class men drafted into war with the promise of better lives when they come out, if they can survive the nightmares of the experience. The story seems especially prescient now given our current U.S. government. The story is one that could easily be made with a low-budget, and a cast of relative unknowns. While there’s a habit in Hollywood of taking dystopian to mean big-budget special effects, the stark, grounded reality of The Long Walk is a large part of why it works. Frank Darabont, who hasn’t made a film in a decade, has mulled around the project for years, and we still think he’d be perfect for it.
1980’s Firestarter was previously adapted in 1984. It’s more noteworthy for being one of Drew Barrymore’s earliest starting roles than it is for being a particularily strong film. The 1984 film hits all the beats of King’s story of a pyrokinetic girl, Charlie McGree, abducted by government agency The Shop, but it lacks the emotional weight and strong characterizations of King’s novel. The story’s central antagonist, John Rainbird is one of King’s greatest villains, and we’re waiting to see an accurate portrayal of the character (George C. Scott’s casting didn’t work on numerous levels). Stranger Things has drawn from the novel with the character of Eleven, and if the appeal of that character is any indication, we think there’s plenty of potential for Charlie after a straight adaptation of the novel. While a SyFy channel sequel was made in 2002, and rumors of a show based on The Shop have circulated over the past year, we think a Firestarter film franchise could be the big-budget horror series that breathes of fresh air into superpower yarns. We’d like to see Michelle MacLaren lend her big-budget sensibilities to the project, and burn the house down.
8. Doctor Sleep
While King doesn’t typically do sequels to his novels, he took on the challenge of creating one to one of his most beloved novels, The Shining. 2013’s Doctor Sleep follows an adult Danny Torrance, a alcoholic struggling with the gift of the shine who finds purpose again when he most protect a powerful young girl from a tribe of vampires who feed off of psychic energy. The novel feels like classic King, while doing enough to separate itself from The Shining and exist as its own story worthy of the telling. You won’t find The Shining on this list, because even though neither the 1980 film or the 1997 TV miniseries managed to capture the personal impetus behind the novel, the story is so iconic and Kubrick’s so well made that we’d rather see the story of the Torrances move forward. Doctor Sleep provides the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of Kubrick’s film while being able to tackle the personal and humanistic struggle with alcoholism that film missed out on. Last year, it was announced that Akiva Goldsman would be adapting the screenplay, but given his track record we’d rather see someone else oversee the project. We think Ben Affleck would be a top choice to direct it, and maybe star as Danny as well.
Christine, which will be discussed in a longer capacity later this month, is one of King’s best novels about adolescence and growing up. Yes, the central threat of the story revolves around a red and white Plymouth Fury with a will of her own, but behind the wheel is aging, death, and heartbreak. The 1983 novel was adapted by John Carpenter and released that same year. Carpenter’s film is really good, memorable primarily because of Keith Gordon’s performance as Christine’s owner Arnie Cunningham, who succumbs to the influence of the car. But the film feels too brisk, passing over the character moments that make Christine’s relationships work. While Christine herself is given sleek menace, the horror of her attacks lacks the brutality of the novel. We’d love to see a new adaptation keep its 80s setting but further develop its characters. The idea of an evil vehicle, a staple of King’s works, may seem a bit dated but if explored as a dark high school drama first, and a supernatural story second, Christine could be able to tap into something powerful about our lust for nostalgia. We think Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen) could craft the emotional high-school horror the story deserves.
2014’s Revival is the most frightening book King has produced in some time. This story of a boy and a charismatic preacher across several decades has all the makings of a modern classic. Taking inspiration from Shelley’s Frankenstein, Machen’s The Great God Pan, and H.P. Lovecraft, King expertly blends earnest small-town life with the extraordinary, culminating in a cosmic horror so unsettling that it’s impossible to shake off. While Revival doesn’t have the same benefit of familiarity as the other projects on this list, it’s freshness may be something that could work in its favor. Revival plays the long game in terms of horror, but its characters’ journeys are so compelling that the drama is equally as important as the horror. Josh Boone has been attached for a while with Russell Crowe rumored to star, but with Boone working the X-Men universe with New Mutants, the project doesn’t seem to be gaining any traction. We’d love to see Darren Aronofsky step into the world of King, and Revival, with its themes of addiction and death, would tie in perfectly with his larger filmography.
1981’s novel about a rabid dog, a dog perhaps possessed by the spirit of a serial killer, set loose upon a woman and her son trapped in a car, was adapted into a pretty decent film in 1983. But where that film succeeds in its performance by Dee Wallace and fantastic make-up effects work done on the titular St. Bernard, it fails to capture the emotional depth of King’s novel. You see, Cujo isn’t simply about a monstrous dog. That monstrous dog represents marital struggles, and how impending divorce affects children, with devastating results. It’s one of King’s darkest books, and it’s also one of the books he doesn’t remember writing because of his struggles with drugs and alcohol at the time. The book has the kind impending doom and storm cloud energy that feels like the work of a man possessed. While brief, Cujo still packs a punch and its psychological examination where the novel really hits home. Cujo feels like the perfect job for Mike Flanagan who will delve into King later this month with Gerald’s Game. If he can handle that difficult adaptation, which we’re confident he can, we think he could bring the same level of careful character work that he’s shown in his previous films to Cujo. Plus, his directorial trait of showing possible outcomes within the minds of his characters would work perfect for an escape-plan story like Cujo.
Another novel written under King’s pseudonym, Richard Bachman, the 1981 novel Roadwork centers on an unnamed protagonist (at least until the novel’s end) whose workplace and house will be demolished by a new highway construction project. Reeling from his son’s death and the impending loss of home in every sense of the world, the protagonist strikes back against the city government. King wrote the novel as an effort to make sense of his mother’s death from lung cancer a year earlier. On the novel he says, “Roadwork tries so hard to be good and find some answers to the conundrum of human pain.” While his opinion of the book wasn’t particularly high at the time of publication, it has since become one his favorite early works, and it’s one of mine as well. Roadwork is an angry novel, all raw nerve-endings and impulse decisions, but it’s also a novel that feels honest. Given the state of America right now, and the loss of jobs and homes as a result the government and big business, Roadwork feels like a perfect channeling of some of America’s righteous anger at the moment. While it entirely lacks any supernatural or genre hook, there’s still a frightening intensity to it all. We think James Mangold would do a hell of a job tapping into the human pain and loss at the heart of the story, and deliver the grit of simple American life.
3. ‘Salem’s Lot
You’ve gotta give King a lot of credit for delving into vampires in what was only his second novel. A lot of horror writers would have wanted to distance themselves from the classic archetypes so early in their career, but King dove headfirst into his love of Stoker’s Dracula and delivered a masterclass novel that’s regarded as part of the canon of vampire literature. ‘Salem’s Lot, published in 1975, was our first look at King’s ability to create sprawling narrative that envelope the tiny lives of an entire town and make them feel grand. Tobe Hooper adapted the novel as a TV miniseries in 1979. The Emmy nominated miniseries, while dated by today’s standards, is really good and one of the better TV adaptations of King’s work. The novel was also adapted for TV in 2004, but the reaction was less sucessful. The story really deserves a big-screen, big-budget adaptation made to thrill and terrify modern audiences. Vampires have lost a bit of their mystique and fear factor of late, and it’s time for them to reclaim that. Hopefully Robert Eggers will set that in motion with his remake of Nosferatu. ‘Salem’s Lot could help set a trend, and we think Cary Fukunaga could really bring a stark horror and sense of mystery to the proceedings. While creative differences led him to abandon IT, we’re still itching to see what he can do with the horror genre and King’s world. Maybe even as two-parter, Fukunaga could get the freedom he’s been seeking.
2. Pet Semetary
1983’s Pet Semetary is Stephen King’s most frightening novel. While he’s written better works, I’m not convinced that any have captured the pure cold, sweaty terror of Pet Semetary. The novel starts off innocent enough with a father’s discovery of an ancient burial ground which he uses to bring a family pet back to life but things take a drastic turn when tragedy strikes, and the novel’s oft-repeated phrase “sometimes, dead is better” echoes through the story. The novel was adapted by Mary Lambert in 1989, and remains one of the best horror movies of the 80s. It also happens to include a kickass song by The Ramones. Unlike the other previously adapted works on this list, Lambert’s Pet Semetary remains scary. You’re more resistant than I if Gage and Zelda haven’t creeped up in your nightmares a few times. While a Pet Semetary remake may not be necessary, the story is so gripping and fraught with tragedy that we’d love to see a new perspective brought to it, even if the story largely remains the same. Pet Semetary has cropped up on Guillermo del Toro’s wish-list of projects several times. As awesome as that would be, there’s the very realistic factor that del Toro always seems quite busy blessing us with original projects, which we’re more than grateful to have. So if not as director, then we’d like to see del Toro as producer, and his friend and IT director, Andy Muschietti take the helm. Muschietti has also mentioned recently that Pet Semetary is a project he’d like to tackle. And if IT is the success early word of mouth and the marketing is promising, Muschietti surely won’t have any issue having his pick of projects. But hopefully it’ll be after we get IT Part 2!
1. The Stand
The Stand is my favorite Stephen King novel. In fact, it’s my favorite novel period. Originally published in 1978, and then re-released in 1990 with previously omitted material, The Stand is takes us to a world that has been devastated by a strain of influenza, conceived as a form biological warfare, named Captain Trips. Those who are immune survive among divisions, the good led by Mother Abagail in Boulder, Colorado and the evil, led by Randall Flagg in Las Vegas. The Stand features a broad population of characters, shifting perspectives, and gives us the grandest sense possible of this escalating, and final conflict between good and evil. In 1994, ABC produced an eight-hour television miniseries directed by Mick Garris and scripted by King himself. While it’s saddled by a TV budget, the miniseries does a good job of presenting a stripped down version of the story. A new version from Warner Bros. has been in the works since 2011 with David Yates, Ben Affleck, and Josh Boone all being in talks for the project at some point. In 2015, there was talk of doing another 8-eight-part miniseries but it has since been abandoned and The Stand is back at square one. Hopefully though, Warner Bros. will see the success of IT as a sign that multi-part horror adaptations, and accuracy to King’s work pays off and will bring the project to life again. The Stand will be a massive undertaking, with a massive cast, and will hopefully be done as a trilogy. Matt Reeves was our original choice, but he’ll likely be doing Batman film for a while so we’ve got another taltented filmmaker we’d like to see end the world. While Jeff Nichols hasn’t made a big-budget film yet, we think his aesthetic sensibilities, and ability to encapsulate a very specific part of America makes him the perfect name to helm King’s epic. Plus, if that means we may get Michael Shannon as Randall Flagg, then how could we deny that?
Here are the King adaptations and re-adaptations you constant readers said you’d like to see:
I want Children of the Corn told entirely from Malachi's point of view.
— Rhoda Nightingale (@Rhoda_Night) August 24, 2017
The Library Policeman
— Jason Mxyzptlk (@jrwells82) August 24, 2017
I am the Doorway (short story in the Night Shift collection).
— Victor H. Rodriguez (@dimestorecaesar) August 24, 2017
Has anyone brought up his story UR? Always liked that.
— DFP (@2FeaturePreach) August 24, 2017
Long Walk would b great but most of the narrative is inner monologue might have 2 lose integrity 2 gain watchability
That said -Pet Sematary
— chris smith (@chrismith6944) August 24, 2017
Cujo with the book ending.
— AB Film Review (@ABFilmReview) August 24, 2017
The Eyes of the Dragon
— ThankYouLordforHenry (@Cavill1204) August 23, 2017
"Children of the Corn." https://t.co/UKVPvjDkw1
— Craig (@kreig_86) August 23, 2017
Rose Madder, Insomnia &
The Drawing of The Three!
— JediMum (@TheJediMum) August 23, 2017
I think they could do something really special with The Langoliers nowadays. https://t.co/ii1fFr1X6F
— Ross Miller (@rosstmiller) August 23, 2017
The Long Walk.
— Hari MacGuffin (@on_frames) August 23, 2017
Running Man (as Bachman). Superb more real world vision.
— EnglishScribbler (@EnglishScrib) August 23, 2017
I'd absolutely love to see N. adapted. Great for an unsettling, slow-burning but intense horror in the vein of The Witch or The Babadook.
— Sam Coleman (@SayonaraSamm) August 23, 2017
CUJO or UNDER THE DOME https://t.co/3SMLN8U6pe
— President Diego (@deggowaffles) August 23, 2017
Joyland would be lovely if they allowed it to be mostly a coming of age movie with a hint of thriller like the book is. https://t.co/HtQA31BXvz
— Josh Brown (@joshuatbrown) August 23, 2017
I think there's a 90-minute car chase film adaption of "Popsy" that I would love to see. https://t.co/lMHeSeAQ6A
— Jeramy Wainwright (@JeramyWainwrigh) August 23, 2017
Umney's Last Case has a lot of potential and I think they kind of botched it.
— Brett N. Lashuay (@greyweirdo) August 23, 2017
CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF properly https://t.co/Bd0vSex3EZ
— Charlie Brigden (@moviedrone) August 23, 2017
The Long Walk. I'd also like a Pet Sematary remake https://t.co/PtHMja8mba
— Kieran Fisher (@HairEverywhere_) August 23, 2017
The Long Walk or Rage. I'm a Bachman fan.
— Matt Tucker (@playhouse76) August 23, 2017
I'm hoping when IT makes all the money we'll finally get a big crazy prestige adaptation of SALEMS LOT because it's time damn it! https://t.co/1CzJ2CM3Pp
— Patrick Smith (@Patrick_NJ) August 23, 2017
I want Jeff Nichols' PET SEMATARY. Idk if I can defend this opinion tho so don't question me https://t.co/QPpUtLh2WC
— Reid A. Ramsey (@reid_ramsey) August 23, 2017
— annadreams (@annadreamerkid) August 23, 2017
THE LANGOLIERS but with a real budget. https://t.co/3RHktRRnWR
— Kip Mooney (@kipjmooney) August 23, 2017
Dreamcatcher, Shawshank Redemption, Cujo, Green Mile, Shining, Doctor Sleep. https://t.co/hi1Jy5TQzE
— Miles A. Harris (@PrinceM9422) August 23, 2017
@WeTalkMovies a Needful Things mini series on Netflix, HBO, Showtime, or Starz could be cool.
— GeezerHatesYou (@GeezerHatesYou) August 23, 2017
— Dane (@danejohnson23) August 23, 2017
THE TALISMAN. Preferably as a TV show. https://t.co/N7VHDy4ugD
— Nathanael Hood (@NateHood257) August 23, 2017
Oh! Also, @RealGDT once said he wants to do his own adaptation of PET SEMATARY.
I NEED THAT MOVIE https://t.co/N7VHDy4ugD
— Nathanael Hood (@NateHood257) August 23, 2017
A stronger Carrie
— Bernard Oliver (@boliver36) August 23, 2017
— Shaun McCullough (@soggywhitebread) August 23, 2017
The Dark Tower.
— The Film Grump (@KJCrighton) August 23, 2017
The Long Walk is my answer. https://t.co/OHf6HQjZ1b
— David S. (@AE_DavidS) August 23, 2017
Insomnia with Bruce Dern in the lead role
— Short Film Boy (@WhatsPappening) August 23, 2017
The Lawnmower Man https://t.co/PKPZzcB6NU
— Marshall Flores (@IPreferPi314) August 23, 2017
Rose Madder https://t.co/A9kdNzSmIr
— Brandi (@inkthepage) August 23, 2017
It'll probably never happen, but Rage is resonant as hell these days… https://t.co/ecjdLfssyg
— A.M. Novak (@BookishPlinko) August 23, 2017
Eyes of the Dragon https://t.co/ZRr4j3miQr
— James Roberts (@Jroberts3456) August 23, 2017
The Talisman, Desperation, Bag of Bones, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, The Langoliers, & Everything's Eventual. https://t.co/7ZVcmbCQkt
— Scott Stamper (@DerfelBarada) August 23, 2017
— Daniel Doherty (@CASHEWJUlCE) August 23, 2017
The Long Walk. The Long Walk. The Long Walk. The Long Walk. The Long Walk. The Long Walk. The Long Walk. The Long Walk. The Long Walk. https://t.co/OYYsQDi8qh
— Schyler (@SkyyTweet) August 23, 2017
LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY LISEY'S STORY
— Brian Scully (@brianscully) August 23, 2017
Langoliers deserves another chance. https://t.co/8r8XzL6tFh
— John Northcutt (@JohnFiIms) August 23, 2017
Night flier x Sleepwalkers https://t.co/zULr8gcUu4
— You (@LetsThiagooo) August 23, 2017
The Langoliers. If IT can look like it can be better than the miniseries (no disrespect to those who loved it), so can The Langoliers.
— Keith Adams Jr. (@BigBrother1988) August 23, 2017
I'm going to adapt The Stand….so that one, but for me. https://t.co/2UWXpMPZYJ
— paswrd is Jacob (@jamiller6565) August 23, 2017
The Stand https://t.co/VMOuPa8pZp
— Fird (@Fyrdausi) August 23, 2017
Anyone saying The Stand is wrong, The Stand could only ever be a TV show, most of why the miniseries sucks is that it's too short
— Dean Buckley (@sublimeinsomnia) August 23, 2017
Hearts in Atlantis, but less heartwarmy coming-of-age, and more experimental cross-cutting with the pain in different generations.
— Andrew Hathaway (@cantstopdrew) August 23, 2017
DOLORES CLAIBORNE https://t.co/Dbt1Y4QWpB
— زينب (@BAK3M0N0) August 23, 2017
Pet Sematary. Desperation. Dreamcatcher. https://t.co/aaepYUgC3P
— Weaver (@MuyiwaSaka) August 23, 2017
*puts on bulletproof vest*
I'd like to see The Shining adapted properly.https://t.co/OKOk4q9dJ1
— Matt Brown (@CallMeRoy88) August 23, 2017
Can I say "The Shining" without getting beaten up?
— Jessi Lauren (@SearchToFindYou) August 23, 2017
Never read as too scared so this is for my brave followers (my kids & I prefer a nice Beatrix Potter with kittens made into suet puddings) https://t.co/vXuI8tF7mk
— Sarah (@cautionspoilers) August 23, 2017
Featured Image: Signet, Viking, Scribner