Stephen King has been rightly called the greatest horror novelist working today (although he actually considers himself to be a suspense novelist, not a horror novelist). His novels all have juicy premises, and the plotlines and characters of those novels do the premises justice. For example, a haunted house story about an isolated man in a Colorado hotel succumbing to writer’s block becomes a contemplative study of the psychological effects of child abuse.
Many of King’s novels have been adapted for the screen, but as It and Pet Sematary have shown, there's a lot of potential in re-adapting those novels with newer film-making techniques, to better represent their stories on the screen.
Stephen King’s novel Christine, which is about an evil car, was previously adapted for the screen by John Carpenter. The concept of sentient automobiles has been played with a lot. In fact, the movie that landed Steven Spielberg the gig helming Jaws and effectively launched his entire directing career was a made-for-TV movie about an evil truck called Duel.
However, we haven’t seen a truly frightening take on the concept – apart from in the Transformers movies, but they’re frightening in a childhood-destroying way – in modern cinema. A new adaptation of Christine could be the perfect opportunity for a visionary director to cover that ground.
9 The Dead Zone
There have been countless parodies of The Dead Zone and its premise over the years. It’s the tale of a man who awakens from a five-year coma with the ability to see into the future. Every show from The Simpsons to American Dad! has spoofed this premise. Christopher Walken starred in a prior film adaptation, but that version feels very dated today.
Since the plot of The Dead Zone isn’t as widely known as the plot of some other King novels, a mainstream audience will have enough disconnection with the original to accept a new version of it. The same thing happened with Pet Sematary this year.
8 Children of the Corn
The first time Children of the Corn was adapted for the screen, it grew into one of the direct-to-video market’s most lucrative horror franchises. The premise is incredible – convinced by a mysterious entity known as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” the kids of a rural town murder all their parents and take over the town – and could make something truly harrowing if a director who knows what they’re doing is hired to tackle it.
Horror is about everything: the camera angles, the rhythm of the editing, the lighting, the music. If all these elements aren't pulled off successfully, we end up with a lazy movie like the original movie version of Children of the Corn.
7 The Running Man
With reality TV now more prominent than ever, it’s the perfect time for a new version of The Running Man. The novel, which King wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, tells the story of a man who finds himself fighting for his life on a sadistic game show with the whole world watching. The original movie adaptation was an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie, but in today’s climate, it could be a harrowing social satire in the style of a Black Mirror episode.
Casting the lead role would be a lot of fun, with the potential to make the movie a vehicle for one of horror cinema’s up-and-comers, like Alex Wolff or Lakeith Stanfield. It could even be gender-swapped and become The Running Woman.
6 Needful Things
Most mainstream consumers today know Needful Things from the Rick and Morty parody, and the fact that the Duffer brothers tweaked its title to arrive at the name of their Netflix series Stranger Things. But it’s a very interesting story that leads into relevant themes about the economy and trusting small businesses.
As many people know from the Rick and Morty episode, it’s about a guy who opens up a store and sells mysterious items that have some kind of hidden irony. A previous 1993 film adaptation was panned by critics and quick to be swept under the rug by movie-goers, so there’s no reason not to have another crack at it.
Rob Reiner’s film adaptation of Misery from the 1990s still stands as a horror classic and is a near-perfect translation of the intensity of the source material. But there’s a lucrative chance to make a socially-relevant reboot set today. These days, the fans of long-running narratives like Paul Sheldon’s Misery series use social media to make themselves actively involved in the creative process, by posting fan theories and making their negative thoughts about movies like The Last Jedi abundantly clear to their creators.
Instead of being the author of a series of novels, Paul Sheldon could be a film-maker or screenwriter who’s responsible for a controversial installment of a major film franchise, and gets targeted by an Annie Wilkes-type fan who wants their movie to be remade to reflect their fan theories.
A thrilling blend of the horror and science fiction genres, Firestarter focuses on a strange young girl who begins to discover her psychic abilities and soon becomes a great threat to the people around her. It’s a perfect vehicle for a child actor.
The first attempt to adapt Firestarter for the screen, which was released in 1984, famously launched Drew Barrymore’s career. However, King considers that version to be one of the worst screen adaptations of his novels, calling it “flavorless; it’s like cafeteria mashed potatoes.” So, he’d probably be open to a different film-maker taking a shot at it.
3 The Stand
Stephen King wrote his post-apocalyptic epic The Stand as a way of giving America its own gigantic genre tome in the vein of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In the world of The Stand, biological weapons have ended civilization as we know it and, like in any post-apocalyptic story, the survivors that remain slowly go mad in a society that they’ve rebuilt in a hauntingly skewed way.
The novel is filled with iconic characters and its plot is engaging from start to finish. The Stand would make an awesome trilogy on the scale of The Lord of the Rings.
There was an adaptation of Cujo back in 1983, and it’s generally well-regarded among fans of both movies and King’s novels. Still, now that pretty much anything can be accomplished with CGI – or, better yet, motion-capture performances – we’re due another adaptation of Cujo that modernizes the titular canine’s look for a more desensitized audience, just like Andy Muschietti did with his depiction of Pennywise in It.
The premise of a dog that becomes a bloodthirsty monster after contracting rabies from a bat bite is torn right out of the heart of the high-concept supernatural ‘80s horror oeuvre that has inspired Stranger Things.
1 ‘Salem’s Lot
When Stephen King began thinking about what would happen if Dracula suddenly showed up in contemporary America, he started coming up with the first concepts and ideas that would become his sophomore effort, Salem’s Lot.
Positioned between his debut Carrie and his first masterwork The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot is a well-known King work, but not immensely familiar. There are characters and plot points that would still surprise general audiences if the book was adapted into a movie today. This could be a great way to bring the vampire genre back to horror after the Twilight movies let it slip under the romance banner.