Forty years ago, on 5 April to be exact, a book entitled Carrie was released to limited fanfare. Written by a then unknown scribe named Stephen King, while he was struggling, it was actually his fourth complete novel (but first to be published). With an initial run of 30,000 copies, few could imagine the cottage industry it would help fuel. While the hardcover was hardly a hit, the paperback sold over one million copies. King quit his job as a teacher to concentrate on his new career and the rest, as they say, is one of the greatest runs in horror prose history. The mild mannered man from Maine with a wealth of internal demons and a demented way of expressing them would go on to sell a staggering 350 million books, many of which have been adapted into successful (or in many cases, schlocky) movies. In fact, during the ‘80s and ‘90s, hardly a year went by when another King effort made it onto either the big or small screen.
Since then, King’s commercial cache has cooled off quite a bit. Sure, there’s been continuing contributions to his “in other media” mentions on Wikipedia, but for the most part, the most significant entry was last year’s uninspired remake of, of all things, Carrie (unless you count Under the Dome, and frankly, who does?). With that in mind, we decided to celebrate four decades of dread by picking five original efforts and five existing King productions that should be reset for further film enjoyment. While many of these are listed as TBA through various sources, we are casting our vote for their release from Development Hell. True, his movie legacy has been more miss than hit, but King remains a consummate storyteller and if there is one thing solely lacking in Hollywood these days, it’s compelling tales.
With The Hunger Games and Divergent attempting to steal away most of the YA dystopian thunder (and money) from the international box office, it seems odd that no one has attempted King’s Richard Bachman penned precursor. Granted, the Master of the Macabre’s version of such a kid vs. kid stand-off is far darker and more dour, but in the right creative hands, it could be amazing. Of course, one setback could be the framework, which imagines the grueling marathon as a “boys only” experience. Another could be the defiantly “downer” ending. Still, King’s pulp prose is riveting here, making the lack of an adaptation all the more unfathomable.
No, this isn’t the Christopher Nolan film from a few years back. That was an adaptation of a sensational Swedish thriller. Of all of King’s books, this stands as one of his most imaginative, drawing in elements of life, aging, and various enigmatic mythologies. An elderly man named Ralph Roberts finds it difficult to sleep, and the resulting title syndrome tunes him into a parallel universe he can see people’s life forces and the creepy little creatures cutting off same with razor sharp scissors. It makes more sense on paper, admittedly, but when our hero learns of his own fate, he plots to thwart his tormentors.
Since Hollywood seems to love an epic which can be divided into several, hopefully successful films, this collaboration with Peter Straub (Ghost Story) seems perfect for such production parameters. The first book features young Jack Sawyer as he travels through something called “The Territories” hoping to save a dying Queen, and as a parallel, his own mother. The second tome takes up with Jack as a police detective trying to solve a string of child abductions and murders which may have a connection to his past. With the right creative team behind the scenes (Steven Spielberg once expressed interest), this could be a truly amazing fantasy frightmare.
First, Eli Roth was slated to make a movie of King’s clever zombie reimagining. Then he dropped out, citing difference with his approach and that of The Weinstein Company, who were to bankroll the project. Now, there are hints of a completed screenplay and some casting (John Cusak, Samuel L. Jackson), but nothing definite. Sure, the ending is a little lame, but in this drowning in high tech world, the tale of people going berserk thanks to a rogue cell signal seems more prescient that ever. Here’s hoping the powers that be can find a way to resolve their differences and deliver the goods.
Granted, this is still a possibility. Director Ron Howard desperately wants to turn these books into a monumental multimedia blockbuster with both major motion pictures and TV tie-ins as part of the overall plan. With eight books to contend with, however, along with a diehard cult of fans who will wince at the very idea of certain actors playing their favorite post-apocalyptic gunslinger (Javier Bardem? Russell Crowe?), this remains a enormous undertaking. While we always argue for film, perhaps a better approach would be to get some cable network with a history of handling difficult properties like this, get them to commit, and then go the Walking Dead/Game Thrones way with this series.