With the success of shows like American Horror Story and Supernatural, television audiences have shown an increasing appetite for well-produced horror shows. Studios have listened, and with the current run of Bates Motel and the forthcoming show based on The Exorcist, they have found fertile creative ground in giving new life to stories already told on film.
With the wealth of great horror from which to pull, we thought it would be fun to compile a list of horror flicks we’d like to see get the small screen treatment. We’ve tried to stay away from films that have already had television adaptations or which live within subgenres already well represented (looking at you, zombies), while selecting stories whose film versions left more to tell. So, turn on all the lights, check under your bed, and slash your way through our 13 Horror Films That Deserve a TV Series.
13. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Pod people, unite. Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been adapted four times for the big screen: in films of the same name in 1956 and 1978, 1993’s Body Snatchers and again in 2007’s The Invasion. Based on Jack Finney’s 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, it speaks to what scares so many of us at our core: that everything we know is not as it seems, and nefarious forces are at work behind the scenes, manipulating everything familiar to us for our own purposes.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers has plenty of material to explore in TV form — from the effects of the attack on individuals, families, and cities to efforts to fight back around the world. Who wouldn’t love to see celebrity pod people? Political pod people? Military pod people? There’s room to explore it all on TV.
12. The Changeling
In this creepy 1980 film, a composer loses his family in a car accident. In an attempt to start fresh, he moves to Seattle, into a spooky old haunted house where strange things begin to happen. During a particularly spine-tingly seance scene, the ghost of a boy appears, and the composer takes it upon himself to solve the mystery of this child’s death.
His investigation leads him to a wealthy industrialist senator, a case of assumed identity, and all of the intrigue and drama the most ardent Scandal fan could ever want, combined with enough scares to keep you up at night, convincing yourself to avoid your attic at all costs.
11. Blair Witch
When The Blair Witch Project hit the screen in 1999, the horror genre was instantly redefined. “Found footage” became all the rage, and its influence lingers nearly two decades later.
At its heart, however, Blair Witch is about a stretch of woods where bad things happen to people who wander too close. In this, it is timeless. On television, the series could reinvent itself each season-one year examining colonial times and interactions with the entity in the Maryland woods (like this year’s big-screen horror hit The Witch does exceptionally well), and another season it could be industrialist loggers, or another set of college kids out camping, or an origin story of the Witch herself. With the unlimited story possibilities, combined with the chance at fresh direction, writing, and casting each season, The Blair Witch Project is perhaps more primed for a long-term stretch on the small screen than any other horror movie.
10. It Follows
2015’s It Follows was an instant classic. In truth, it’s not much more than Reefer Madness or any other morality play designed to scare youth away from sex, drugs, and the Devil’s music. But what a morality play it is.
The genius of the film is in the device it uses to pass evil from one person to another: in order to save oneself from a murderous demon, the victim must transmit the curse through sex. The ultimate STI: Demonic haunting. Given our lust for all things salacious, our delight in prime time soap operas, and our glee at seeing dopey teenagers get slaughtered on the screen, it follows that It Follows could shine on our TV screens.
9. The Ring
In many ways, The Ring is quite similar to It Follows. An unwitting victim is exposed to a curse: in this instance, by watching a video. After watching the video, the victim’s phone rings, and she is warned she has seven days. Seven days later? Dead. Unless, of course, the victim copies the video and shows it to somebody else, transferring the curse.
On the small screen, The Ring could work almost as a supernatural crime procedural, investigating the source of the curse, and delving into interpersonal relationships in more depth than the film could allow, culminating in a decision of whether to pass the curse on — and to whom (perhaps setting up a second season?).
8. The Fly
Who doesn’t love The Fly? It has everything: science experiments gone wrong. A man slowly transforming into a bug. Jeff Goldblum!
Admittedly, a small-screen version of this gross out classic would need to make some fundamental changes to thrive. However, give the lead some sentience once fully transformed and the fundamentals of a fantastic series are all there. Imagine an antagonist-led series, where the human fly picks a new weekly victim. Or a superhero series where the fly takes on bad guys every week. Or a sci-fi thriller, where all he wants is to get back to human form, creating experiments with unintended consequences week after week. Imagine the buzz a show like this would get.
7. Vampire Chronicles
To date, there have been two films based on Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. Interview With a Vampire was serviceable, but Queen of the Damned was downright unwatchable. The rich detail that exists in the novels is primed for exploration, and with rumors of another film in the works (Universal and Image picked up the film rights to the series in 2014), the timing seems right for a TV show.
The entirety of the Vampire Chronicles spans the entirety of biblical humans, all the way back to Cain and Abel. Whether the series follows Lestat, Louis, and Claudia in New Orleans, or any of the untold generations of undead who preceded them, the deep societal connection with these blood-suckers begs for a more in-depth examination of their lives. Rice’s material is worthy of a great adaptation; all it needs is another chance.
6. Abominable Dr. Phibes
This fantastic 1971 cult classic is perfectly engineered for the living room. In the film, a scientist (played by the legendary Vincent Price) blames a team of doctors for medical errors which led to the untimely demise of his wife. In true mad scientist fashion, he deigns to kill all ten doctors he holds responsible for her death — with murders based on the ten plagues of Egypt.
Phibes screams for a twelve episode run, with an hour of intro, an hour of epilogue, and ten hours of boils, frogs, bats, locusts, and six more deadly plagues…starring Jeff Goldblum, if there is any justice in the universe. Netflix and ill, anyone?
5. Dead Ringers
In this 1988 David Cronenberg film, future Alfred Pennyworth Jeremy Irons plays a set of identical twins who happen to be gynecologists at an infertility clinic. One twin seduces the women who come into the clinic, and, when he grows bored with them, passes them on to his less confident brother. That is until a particularly lovely patient comes along and upsets the balance between the brothers, as one soon falls in love with her. Murder, mayhem, and pure psychosis follow.
4. The Tenant
This 1976 Roman Polanski film finished up his Apartment Trilogy (following Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby), and has a fantastic sense of impending madness living just outside of reality. Never quite sure if the main character is going insane, or if he is living in a building full of madness, The Tenant lives square in the same world as Hitchcock’s masterful Rear Window.
A television series would expand the story to bring out all of the crazy living in the building and all of the insanity in its protagonist. Like Twin Peaks, it has room to live in between the lines of reality and something just beyond the reach of reality.
3. The Shining
This is a little bit of a cheat, as The Shining already had a go as a miniseries in the 1990s. However, that was a basic retelling of Kubrick’s film and the Stephen King novel on which it was based.
But it still seems that there is so much more to the story that has not yet been told. There is the story of the prior caretaker of the Overlook hotel, who murdered his family but who exists only in ghost form in the book and adaptations. There are the Danny’s hard years after the Overlook which were fleshed out in King’s 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep. And there are untold denizens of the Overlook and people gifted with the supernatural powers Danny displays who we have never met. One of the greatest horror novels (and films) of all time, The Shining will always have an audience, and networks would be wise to hop on this one sooner rather than later.
If there is a horror movie you probably haven’t seen but badly need to, it’s likely Suspiria. It’s by far the goriest film on this list, but does not trade its terror for blood and guts. In the 1977 Dario Argento classic, a young American woman travels to Germany to attend a prestigious ballet school that soon proves to be substantially more dangerous than your standard dance academy. With stunning visuals and a great prog rock score by the band Goblin, Suspiria highlights the fear of being the outsider and the dangers lurking behind insular communities in a way few films have been able.
In September of last year, a planned remake was announced by director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash), starring Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, and Dakota Johnson. With this new big screen attention, the ability to provide a more in-depth look on the small screen is timely.
In your living room, everybody can hear you scream.
With the rapidly expanding mythology around the Alien films — 2012 film Prometheus providing an origin story (kind of) and next year’s Alien: Covenant slated to be the first film in a new trilogy — perhaps no horror classic has more space to explore than Alien.
Have there been other human encounters with this species? Where else are we in deep space? What happens after Alien: Resurrection? There is an audience starving for a Firefly replacement, and this franchise is perfectly suited to fill that need. With the right combination of horror and space adventure, this series could easily become the next big thing on TV.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Which horror flick adaptations would keep you glued to your TV for an hour each week? Let us know in the comments section.