Posted on Friday, April 7th, 2017 by Chris Evangelista
Film adaptations of Stephen King novels are experiencing a popular resurgence. Recently, the trailer for the new take on King’s It (opening on September 8, 2017) set a new record for the most trailer views in 24 hours. On the horizon, there are theatrical takes on The Dark Tower and 1922 (based on a novella in King’s Full Dark, No Stars), a Netflix adaptation of King’s 1992 novel Gerald’s Game, a TV series remake of The Mist, a series based on King’s 2014 novel Mr. Mercedes, and the J.J. Abrams-produced Hulu series Castle Rock, which will draw inspiration from several of King’s short stories. It’s safe to say the Stephen King adaptation business is booming.
With this comes a question: what is there left to adapt? Sure, there are plenty of films to reboot and remake – a more faithful remake of Pet Sematary, for instance, would be wonderful. But then there are the outliers, the lesser-known titles that have yet to make the leap from page to screen. Let’s take a deep dive into King’s bibliography and examine several lesser-known titles that would make great film or TV adaptations.
In 1984, Stephen King committed murder. The victim, however, never really existed. It was in ‘84 when King “killed off” his pseudonym Richard Bachman, after it was revealed that King and Bachman – author of such books as Thinner and Rage – were one and the same. But in 1996, King attempted an interesting experiment: he brought Bachman back from the dead and published two books – one, Desperation, under his own name; the other, The Regulators, under his pseudonym. Interestingly enough, both books have the same cast of characters, but they behave vastly differently in each work and have no knowledge of the events of either book. Desperation was adapted into a TV movie in 2006, but The Regulators remains untouched, which is odd, since it’s the more cinematic of the two works.
In The Regulators, a suburban Ohio neighborhood is turned upside down upon the arrival of vans carrying shotgun-wielding killers – killers that aren’t entirely human (some of the gunmen look like aliens, some look like movie cowboys). As the killing starts, the very street itself begins to change, with some houses turning into log cabins and others transforming to resemble crude child-like drawings of houses. All of this is suitably bizarre and, coupled with the sudden bursts of violence, would make for a truly remarkable film. King actually originally developed The Regulators as a screenplay for filmmaker Sam Peckinpah, but Peckinpah died before the script was completed. There is, of course, no modern Peckinpah, but if you handed this property over to Logan filmmaker James Mangold, I think he’d make a go of it.
The Eyes of the Dragon
With Game of Thrones ending very soon, there’s always room for a new fantasy epic television series. One perfect candidate prime for adaptation is King’s frequently overlooked 1984 novel The Eyes of the Dragon. This was was King’s first major deviation from the horror genre: a sword and sorcery epic that could double as a rather lengthy bedtime story; a tale of kings, castles, dragons and dark magic. The film follows two young brothers, Peter and Thomas. Handsome, outgoing, much-loved Peter is heir to the throne of the mythical Kingdom of Delain, which doesn’t sit too well with his less talented, less well-regarded younger brother. Behind the scenes, the evil magician Flagg – a character who appears, in one form or another, in King’s Dark Tower series and The Stand – works to destroy the entire kingdom by setting in motion a course of events that will irrevocably alter the character’s lives, bringing death and turning brother against brother in the process. Unlike Game of Thrones, there’s only one book to work with here, but King does enough world-building to set the stage for a talented showrunner to expand on.
Crouch End is a short story that appears in Stephen King’s collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and it’s one of the most unsettling stories of the author’s oeuvre. Drawing inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, King’s story opens with an alarmed, disheveled American woman named Doris Freeman stumbling into a London police station. Once there, she spins a seemingly impossible tale for two rapt police constables: she and her husband Lonnie are in London on vacation, trying to locate the home of one of Lonnie’s business acquaintances in the London suburb of Crouch End. But as the sun starts to set, the couple becomes lost and increasingly terrified by the things they encounter – things that defy all real logic and hint at dark, malevolent forces lurking beyond space and time.
King is one of the few modern writers adept at taking on Lovecraft’s ideas, and Crouch End is all the more terrifying for it. Crouch End was adapted into an episode of the mostly forgotten TNT Nightmares and Dreamscapes TV series, but that particular adaptation stripped the story of everything that made it unique and disturbing. It’s best to ignore that and flesh this out into a feature film. Let Kill List and High-Rise director Ben Wheatley helm an adaptation of this, and audiences might flee the theaters screaming (in a good way).
Co-written with Peter Straub, King’s The Talisman is a fantasy-adventure that draws on Mark Twain and influences King’s own Dark Tower universe. It’s a sprawling tale about twelve-year-old Jack Sawyer, who one day sets off on a quest to find a crystal known as “The Talisman.” Jack hopes this magical crystal can help save his mother, who is dying of cancer. Along the way, Jack stumbles upon The Territories, a bizarre parallel universe that mirrors our own. Highly anticipated at the time of its release, mostly due to the popularity of both King and Straub, The Talisman seemed to disappoint most critics. That didn’t stop it from going on to achieve a cult popularity and also spawn a sequel, Black House (avoid it – it’s not very good).
There’s enough material in this book to spawn a TV mini-series, if not a series. In fact, at one point, Steven Spielberg attempted to adapt the book into an ABC miniseries, but it never got off the ground. Later, Congo and Arachnophobia director Frank Marshall was attached to a film adaptation, but that never found its way. My advice: give Selma and A Wrinkle in Time helmer Ava DuVernay free reign to do with this story as she pleases. The results will be dazzling.