10 Stephen King stories that need to be adapted for film or TV next
Stephen King is one of the most popular and prolific authors in history. As of this writing, the man who reinvented horror for a generation has over 200 novels, novellas and short stories in print. With over 50 of his works adapted for TV and film so far, there’s still plenty more King for Hollywood to mine for its next blockbuster.
“Bad Little Kid”
This frightening short story from King’s 2015 anthology, The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams, raises a complicated ethical question. Is the murder of a child ever justified? When attorney Leonard Bradley visits his client, convicted child murderer George Hallas, just before his execution, he’s expecting a confession. However, what Hallas relays to his lawyer is the inexplicable tale of a supernatural entity that’s haunted him since childhood. Featuring King’s creepiest monster since Pennywise The Clown, “Bad Little Kid” is gripping, thematically complex and terrifying.
With the continuing popularity of zombies on film and TV, it seems impossible that one of the best stories about the hungry dead written by the world’s greatest living horror author has yet to be adapted for the screen. Yet, that is the case with “Home Delivery.” First appearing in John Skipp and Craig Spector‘s influential Book Of The Dead in 1989 and then in King’s 1993 collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes, “Home Delivery” tells the story of how the zombie apocalypse affects a small island community off the coast of Maine. Poignant and frightening, “Home Delivery” features sympathetic, relatable characters and a unique take on a well-worn genre trope delivered in King’s trademark style.
“I Am The Doorway”
“I Am The Doorway” has been adapted as an independent short. However, this early story from King’s 1978 collection, Night Shift, has the makings of an excellent sci-fi/horror feature. With a plot reminiscent of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass Experiment, “I Am The Doorway” is the story of a former astronaut whose shattered body becomes the vehicle for an evil alien presence. Evocative of both the cosmic terror of H.P. Lovecraft‘s best stories and the feel of 1950s science fiction, “I Am The Doorway” contains some of King’s most bizarre and compelling imagery.
1994’s Insomnia is a testament to King’s uncanny ability to connect seemingly average people to events with universal implications. Taking place in King’s fictional town of Derry, Maine, the setting of It, with connections to King’s sprawling fantasy series The Dark Tower, the novel tells the story of Ralph Roberts, an aging widower whose insomnia allows him to see hidden aspects of the universe. Drawn into a conflict between godlike opposing forces of the multiverse, Roberts learns about the true nature of life, death and reality. Obviously, Insomnia would pose a challenge to adapt to the screen. However, in the hands of the right director, say, Guillermo del Toro, Insomnia would make for a visual experience containing both spectacle and thematic weight.
Originally conceived as a kind of literary Christmas card for his friends, King published the as yet unfinished novel The Plant in three installments between 1982 and 1985. King attempted to publish the novella as an ebook on his website in 2000, charging readers a dollar per chapter on “the honor system.” Sadly, this experiment failed, and King seems to have abandoned the project. Told through a series of letters and memos, The Plant is the story of an editor at a paperback publishing house who receives a strange manuscript along with some disturbing photographs from an apparently deranged author. After contacting the police, the editor receives a weird plant from the enraged author. Although we won’t know how the strange events of The Plant pan out until King decides to finish the now decades-old story, what we have so far definitely seems like it would make a great movie or TV miniseries.
In the intervening four decades since its 1977 publication, Rage has become King’s most eerily prophetic work. Written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, Rage is a suspenseful novel that deals with the motives of a troubled teen who takes his high school class hostage at gunpoint. Disturbed by the book’s connection to recent school shootings, King has allowed it to go out of print. Nevertheless, a cinematic version of Rage would make a gripping and supremely relevant cautionary tale if its hot-button subject matter were handled by a sensitive filmmaker.
One of King’s most touching and poetic short stories, “The Reach,” from his 1985 anthology Skeleton Crew, is a poignant tale of dignity in death. Having never traveled from her island home off the coast of Maine, 95-year-old Stella Flanders intuits that her cancer, which she’s kept secret from her family, is in its final stages. Beckoned by the spirit of her dead husband, she sets out alone across the frozen reach to see the mainland before she dies. Spurred on by the singing voices of deceased loved ones, she makes it across. Substituting his typical scares for a real emotional punch, “The Reach” is a classic ghost story that represents King’s often undervalued maturity as a storyteller.
Returning to his Bachman pseudonym, King published The Regulators in 1996 as a “mirror” to his novel Desperation. Although Desperation was adapted as a 2006 ABC television film starring Ron Perlman, The Regulators has yet to find its way to the screen. In the novel, an evil entity known as Tak exploits the thoughts of an autistic child to wreak havoc on an Ohio suburb. Surreal and incredibly violent, The Regulators finds King returning to some of his favorite themes, albeit through the gritty perspective of his Bachman persona.
Despite rumblings of a proposed film version in 2011, King’s 1995 novel Rose Madder has so far evaded adaptation. The story of Rose Daniels, a woman on the run from her abusive cop husband, Norman, the novel finds King blending elements of dark fantasy and Greek mythology with realistic settings and subject matter. After taking a job as a hotel housekeeper, Rose trades her wedding ring for a painting of a woman in a rose madder dress. The painting turns out to be a portal to another world and the key to exacting revenge on her murderous husband. Much like Insomnia, a film version of Rose Madder would need the hand of a skilled and imaginative director. Yet, with the right person at the helm and a well-crafted script, the novel would no doubt make a compelling film.
If you’ve ever wondered what Cast Away’s inspiring message of the resilience of the human spirit would be like filtered through the unhinged imagination of King, your answer lies in the short story “Survivor Type.” Featured in King’s 1985 anthology Skeleton Crew, “Survivor Type” is a thoroughly mean-spirited story that has made even the hardiest of constant readers to close the book in revulsion. When the cruise ship he’s traveling on sinks in the Pacific, disgraced surgeon-turned-drug-smuggler Richard Pine finds himself stranded on a desolate island. With few supplies except for his cache of heroin, the desperate doctor resorts to amputating and consuming parts of his own body to survive. Adapted twice as an indie short in 2011 and 2012 and for the upcoming animated The Creepshow Halloween Special on Shudder, “Survivor Type” is definitely deserving of a feature-length treatment. Naturally, there’s no way the Hollywood mainstream would touch this gruesome tale of autocannibalism. However, someone such as Takashi Miike or David Cronenberg could no doubt turn “Survivor Type” into a body-horror classic.