With 57 movies, TV shows and mini-series (and counting), Stephen King has never been shy about allowing his works to be adapted. Still, because the guy is such a prolific writer, there are dozens of untapped stories that could stand the big screen treatment. Before you catch IFC’s Father of Horror marathon, check out a few Stephen King tales that have the legs to go from the page to the silver screen — that is if Kathy Bates doesn’t beat them with a hammer first.
10. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
The best thing about this 1999 King book is its simplicity: A girl is separated from her family while hiking in the woods, and must survive with few provisions and little know how, all while fending off increasing hallucinations of an evil creature determined to kill her. With its relatable “girl vs. nature” story, and a few dark Stephen King flourishes, this could be a gripping tale about one woman’s fight to live at all costs.
9. The Monkey
“The Monkey” tells the story of a wind-up monkey toy that causes someone to die every time it claps it symbols together. A surprisingly understated story, considering it centers on a murderous stuffed marsupial, in the right hands it wouldn’t have to become the campfest its logline suggests. (Monkey Shines, anyone?) King himself adapted a version of this story for The X-Files episode “Chinga,” but we still feel like there’s plenty to mine here. One of the few stories left unadapted from Skeleton Crew, the Stephen King book of short stories that gave us The Mist, “The Monkey” is a tail, er, tale whose time has come.
Insomnia tells the story of a widower unable to sleep after his wife dies in a horrible accident. The longer he goes, the more strange visions he starts to see. From ribbons billowing out of people’s heads to little bald men in lab coats, his lack of sleep reveals another world to him. With the right director at the helm, this hallucinatory look at a man coping with grief could make for both a gripping meditation on loss, and a visual masterwork. Rob Schmidt, the director of Wrong Turn, tried and failed to get an adaptation going in 2007, so this one might have a steep hill to climb to make it to the big screen.
7. Gerald’s Game
The story of a wife who’s left handcuffed to a bed after her husband dies during a sex game, this story would be a difficult adaptation. For one, the lead is naked for the entire movie. Then there’s the fact that she’s the only character for the majority of the book. Still, with its florid hallucinations, and tense escape scenes, this movie could be to S&M what 127 Hours was to rock climbing. Not one of King’s best novels, but with the right vision, it could be reworked into a taut thriller with a feminist twist. (An adaptation from the director of Oculus was announced in 2014, but things have been quiet of late.)
6. The Talisman
Perfect for the blockbuster franchise treatment, this collaboration between King and horror icon Peter Straub was a stab at mixing the authors’ dark sensibilities with a more fantastical genre. The book tells the story of Jack Sawyer, a young boy who must travel across the country, and through parallel worlds, on a quest to save his mother from cancer. With wonderful fantasy iconography, all grounded by a boy’s personal journey to save his dying mother, this could be an epic story with real heart. Think Labyrinth, but with bloody murder instead of singing puppets. And thanks to the book’s sequel, Black House, which tells the story of a grown up Jack, there’s material here for multiple sequels.
A psychological horror story in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft, N. follows a group of disparate people who become obsessed with, and are driven insane by, a circle of stones in a random field which they believe are a portal to a monster in another world. A tense thriller mixed with some Lovecraftian cosmic horror of the unknown, this could be a fun, particularly dark movie about trying to maintain one’s sanity in the face of absolute terror.
4. The Regulators
The Regulators follows a young, autistic boy named Seth, who’s given the power to control his town by a demon. Thanks to his TV obsessions, this idyll suburban setting quickly transforms into a mishmash of cowboys and sci-fi silliness. With its dark, fantastical visuals, a big screen version of The Regulators has the chance to be a wonderland of pop culture references and unexpected scares.
A more recent novel in the author’s canon, Joyland tells the story of a young man working at a carnival for the summer, where he must help a ghost solve her own murder. More a coming-of-age tale than an outright scare-fest, this novel has some weighty themes, mixed with enough horror pulp to make it a truly special film.
2. Doctor Sleep
Now this one is a no-brainer. A sequel to The Shining, this 2013 novel picks up in present day, following a grown-up Danny as he tries to protect a psychic girl from nefarious forces. While it would be intimidating to try to follow in the footsteps of auteur Stanley Kubrick, with the proliferation of remakes and sequels out there these days, it seems hard to imagine this won’t make it to the big screen at some point. Let’s just hope whoever helms it has their own vision, and doesn’t try to do Kubrick-lite. (Click here to see all airings of The Shining on IFC.)
1. The Long Walk
An early work written in 1979 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, The Long Walk is without a doubt one of the author’s most original, dark and haunting stories. Set in the near future, the story follows a group of boys who’ve entered a walking competition, with a twist. If they stop for any reason, they’re shot. The last boy standing gets whatever he wants for the rest of his life. An early example of the dystopian game show genre that would go on to influence everything from King’s own The Running Man to The Hunger Games, The Long Walk mixes a fascinating collection of characters with a stripped-down story about the will to live at any cost. Stephen King adaptation all-star Frank Darabont has owned the rights for years, but has yet to move on them. Let’s hope that changes.
Honor scary dads this Father’s Day with the Stephen King Father of Horror marathon.