The film and television industry loves dipping back into previous intellectual properties. And though it’s sometimes depressing, it’s also understandable. If a recognizable name or character has the potential to bring in a larger audience than an original concept, they’re going to try it.
With the explosion of long-form content on TV and streaming outlets, it makes sense that they’d also try to milk those concepts for all they’re worth by turning them into series. It’s not a totally new phenomenon, but the frequency has increased in recent years.
The movies chosen to turn into TV series fall into a few categories: Good or Great (Hannibal, Ash vs. Evil Dead, The Exorcist, Bates Motel, Wolf Creek); Fine (The Dead Zone, From Dusk Till Dawn, Scream); Bad (Damien); Series’ Which Never Had a Chance (Tremors: the Series, Blade: the Series, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven); and Series’ That Are Barely Connected to Their Source Material (Friday the 13th: the Series, Freddy’s Nightmares).
With already announced series’ for The Mist, The Lost Boys, American Gods, and Tremors (again) on their way, perhaps there’s room in the television landscape for a few other horror franchises to become TV’s next big hit. And we’ve got some ideas about that…
Frankly, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened already. With a deep mythology that runs back centuries, an established presence in the distant future and the 1700s France, and a whole gaggle of visually stunning and disturbing Cenobites just waiting in the wings for their moment to shine, this series has the potential to connect with fans who love the over-the-top weirdness of American Horror Story and the intricate world-building of Game of Thrones. Given that the series has been direct-to-video since the fifth installment, it already feels at home on the small screen.
George A. Romero’s ‘Living Dead’ Series
Though there is an overall sense of zombie fatigue, not to mention the fact that series’ like The Walking Dead and Z Nation have picked clean the bones of what Romero began decades ago, it’s still compelling to consider what kind of intriguing social commentary he could find if given a decent television budget and the hands-off approach of a network like Starz. He could go in a couple of directions, either continuing the anthology-esque nature of the series and having standalone episodes that all take place in the same universe, or he could start to weave together narratives he’s been creating for forty years. Either way, it would be a fitting conclusion to the modern zombie phenomenon to give the man who reinvigorated it the opportunity to finish telling his story.
Even though another installment of this film is on its way, this is a series that has always begged for the opportunity to stretch its narrative legs. Juggling the personal story of Jigsaw (and his disciples), the people in the traps (and their families or significant others), and the police and FBI, every entry in the series is stuffed with plot machinations. The way the series was produced (with a new film coming out every year at the same time for seven years straight) already operated like a miniature television studio, and the stories would benefit from having a writer’s room to brainstorm all the traps and last-act plot twists.
These wouldn’t be combined into a single show, but they’re grouped here because they have something in common: they would make fun horror-action series’ on Syfy. The network, known primarily for cheesy movies and the occasional brilliant show like Battlestar Galactica and The Expanse, has always gravitated towards action-driven series’ that were out there, but not TOO out there: 12 Monkeys, Dark Matter, Killjoys, Van Helsing. The tone and pacing of movie series’ like Resident Evil and Underworld fit the mold perfectly, with solid genre trappings and just enough silliness and absurdity to appeal to the demographic.
No film universe with the expansive and complex background of The Purge should be limited to only taking place for a few hours during one night a year. If the world of The Purge were expanded into a continuing series, the audience would be allowed to see the inner workings of life outside the annual Purge; the political and financial divide, the quiet resentments building up over a year, the psychopaths gleefully counting down the days until the next Purge. And who would know better about whether or not the movies would work in this format than James DeMonaco, the creator of the films, who already considered making it a series. We’re getting a fourth installment of the movie franchise, but there may be a TV show here yet.
This film series is the most perfectly constructed concept to turn into a TV series: husband and wife supernatural investigators struggle to live a normal, happy life with their family while simultaneously battling demons in the cases they find. It already has the built-in “case of the week” element, and a great gimmick in the “based on a true story” angle. And when the story has the room to breathe that television allows, it will give the creators more time to explore the family dynamic and perhaps start to create a larger mythology for the demon creatures that seem to have targeted Lorraine and Ed. The only downside: television might not be able to afford both Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson every week, and I can’t imagine what two other actors they could find that would embody them so wonderfully.
Making a successful, sustained horror series is hard enough; adding comedy is even more challenging. No one tried it in earnest for a long time, but then Ash vs. Evil Dead came along and shattered all expectations for serialized horror-comedy on television. Now that the way has been paved, it’s time for Herbert West to get his due. The series could either pick up where the films left off, with Herbert West out of prison and experimenting in secret; or it could totally reboot the story. Starz has Ash vs. Evil Dead, IFC has Stan against Evil; Epix, what are you up to?
Many people say that Black Mirror has already taken the mantle of “the modern Twilight Zone.” While that is partly true, one aspect of Black Mirror that is different from The Twilight Zone is its origins: while Black Mirror is brilliant dark satire, it has a specifically British sensibility. The Twilight Zone was as distinctly American as its creator/host Rod Serling, and much of the commentary of the series was filtered through that lens. All three entries of V/H/S touch on uniquely American perspectives in their entries, giving the found footage and anthology subgenres a geographical specificity; getting a weekly half-hour of segments of varying length, style, and plot (but all still in the “captured footage” arena) might lead to another great renaissance in television anthology storytelling.
Which of these would you love to see? And can you think of any others?