Nothing perks someone’s ears like saying there’s a new Stephen King adaptation coming to theaters. Many of King’s best stories have already been transformed into movies and television shows to varying success. The Shining, The Mist, Misery, The Green Mile, and 1408 are just some of the best adaptations yet. It seems like his unique mix of horror and fantasy is perfect for any Halloween special.
But in a body of work that contains over 200 stories, there’s bound to be some that would pose a challenge to filmmakers. Here are ten that would be nearly impossible to bring to the big screen.
10 For Owen
This 34-line free-verse poem is about Stephen King walking his son Owen to school. During the walk, Owen describes the school he goes to that’s filled with fantastic anthropomorphic fruit. Among them are watermelons that are always late and bananas that are in charge.
While stories about anthropomorphic fruit could certainly make a great kid’s TV show, there’s not enough material to make this poem its own movie. Though there are a few asides that could be creepy, it is more hopeful than most of King’s work. A movie based on this poem wouldn’t make it as part of his horror brand.
9 A Face In The Crowd
This novella is actually by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan. The loose partnership began because King spoke about the beginning of the story at the Savannah Book Festival in 2012 but said he didn’t know how to finish it. "I'm gonna give this story to you, you guys write it,” he said. O’Nan was in the crowd.
The story would be difficult to adapt no matter who wrote it. It concerns a man who sees his dead childhood best friend in the crowd of a televised baseball game. He keeps seeing him in stadiums all over the world. Eventually, he begins seeing other faces in the crowds as well. Creepy to consider, but not terrifying to watch happen to someone else.
8 The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet
This novella concerns an editor who receives a masterpiece of a short story. However, he realizes that the writer has various paranoid fantasies. In the course of trying to get the story published, the editor begins to grow paranoid as well and descends into madness himself.
The story was published in 1984 and depends on the “Fornits,” elves who live in typewriters and bring good luck. That's not too hard to adapt, but considering how technology has changed the story would have to have significant changes to work in the 21st century. Because the story is also a couched story (the editor is retelling the writer’s story), some of the immediacy would be lost if done as a direct adaptation.
7 The Blue Air Compressor
In this 1971 short story, Gerard Nately writes a short story about his friend’s extremely obese wife. After she finds the story and mocks it, he sticks a blue air compressor into her mouth and over-inflates her until she explodes. Her remains are buried and he flees, but not before alerting the police to her “disappearance.” He’s never caught, but he eventually kills himself with a guillotine.
This strange little story is more gross than creepy, and simply isn’t long enough to make a full movie. King inserts plenty of his own thoughts on the nature of horror in it, without which the story wouldn’t work. However, the same asides make it hard to adapt.
This novella is a psychological thriller that focuses on a couple’s deteriorating financial status. Nora, the wife, is offered a chance to make $200,000 in exchange for committing a sin for an ailing pastor. She does it, but despite solving their financial problems her marriage falls apart as a result.
The story explores relative morality and complicity. It’s a fascinating psychological thriller, but it probably wouldn’t make for a great movie. The crime Nora is asked to commit is bad but not horrifying in the extreme way we expect from movies. The ending isn’t the right kind of satisfying for a movie, so the story would need to be changed for a film.
The controversial novel has fallen out of print due to King's own reservations about it. The story is about Charlie, a high schooler who holds his teachers and classmates hostage in a classroom at gunpoint. Charlie fatally shoots two teachers, and in hostage negotiations he repeatedly threatens the lives of the students. It was first published in 1977, but became associated with actual high school shootings in the 80s and 90s.
While this novel is literally easy to adapt, the problematic story it tells ensures that it never will be. King is uncomfortable with the story being available to people, and has written an essay response to it called "Guns."
4 Uncle Otto’s Truck
After committing murder by crushing someone with a truck, murderer Otto Schenck becomes obsessed with that truck. He is convinced it is moving on its own, and planning to kill him. He doesn’t get rid of the truck, however, and eventually he is found dead by his nephew. Otto was drowned in oil and had a spark plug in his throat.
This story of a murderer being murdered by his truck is creepy, but would probably be too difficult to bring to a mainstream theater. It might make a fun Halloween cartoon for kids, but then it would lose a lot of the horror elements that keep adults up at night.
3 L.T.’s Theory of Pets
In this story, a man and wife can’t stop fighting because of pets they each bought each other. Eventually, the wife takes off with the dog that was supposed to be a gift for the husband but loves her better. In the end, the car is found abandoned. The wife is missing and the dog has been killed with an ax. We find out a serial killer in on the loose. The husband hopes his wife is alive, but it’s unlikely.
The problem with this story is that the stakes aren’t very high. As it stands, it makes a great story, but it would have to be seriously changed to make an equally good movie.
2 Mister Yummy
The story concerns mainly two characters: Dave and Ollie, friends who live in the same assisted living center. In the 1980s, Ollie met Mister Yummy in a nightclub once but never saw him again. However, Mister Yummy has begun showing up to Ollie again as an avatar for death. Ollie starts to believe that everyone sees avatars like this when they get close to death, but Dave thinks he's just becoming senile. Then, Ollie dies a few days later.
As interesting as the concept is, there’s not a lot here that could be forced into a three-act film. Any adaptation would have to take serious liberties with the story to make it a scary story with a beginning, middle, and end.
1 Here There Be Tygers
This short story from 1985 is about Charles, a third-grader who is embarrassed by his teacher on the way to the bathroom. Once there, Charles sees a tiger inside and won’t go in. Another student leads him in, insisting the tiger isn’t real. Charles manages to escape the bathroom but then returns to see that the tiger has a piece of the other student’s shirt on his claw. The teacher arrives to find both students, and Charles abandons her to her fate.
It’s surrealist and scary and maybe a bit redemptive—the teacher got what was coming to her. However, it’s also too short to be brought to the big screen. Maybe something could be cobbled together if it was combined with several other stories, but as it stands, “Here There Be Tygers” is best served in print.