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10 Stephen King Stories That May Be Too Weird for Adaptation

Stephen King has been churning out novels and short story collections on a yearly basis for the last forty-plus years, giving film and television plenty of fodder to fill their screens. While the frenzy to adapt King’s work has had its ups and downs, both in quality and frequency, it seems we are now in something of a Renaissance for Uncle Stevie’s adaptions.

With television shows like 11/22/63 and Mr. Mercedes garnering critical praise and the upcoming theatrical version of IT projected to slay at the box office, it feels pretty damn good to be a King fan right now. And despite a few hiccups (*cough*The Dark Tower*cough*), the King Machine isn’t showing any signs of slowing as properties are being announced for adaptation on what seems like a weekly basis.

But what about the properties that aren’t being cherry-picked? What works by King are just too out there for general audiences?

Well, here are 10 Stephen King tales that just may be too weird for the masses…

Note: Some of the entries on this list have been turned into short films, but not full length features. And while most of these are short stories that seem like they don’t warrant a full length movie, keep in mind, there are 10 Children of the Corn flicks, so…

Also, there could be an announcement for any of these to be greenlit, any day now. After all, we are getting a movie based on Gerald’s Game, which is a book I never thought anyone would take a chance on adapting. So, never say never!


The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)

A girl obsessed with former Red Sox pitcher, Tom Gordon, takes a hallucinatory adventure through the woods after she gets separated from her family on a hiking trip. Oh, and a wasp-faced evil entity is stalking her and sometimes it takes the form of a bear. Honestly, I think this one would be pretty cool as a film. Give it to Laika, the animation studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman. They might be able to make sense of it.


“I Am the Doorway” (from Night Shift, 1978)

This story is goddamn terrifying. I’m a sucker for cosmic horror and body horror, and this one has them both in spades. The pitch: an astronaut comes home and starts growing extraterrestrial eyes all over his body, which doesn’t really lead to a happy ending… as you might imagine. Sounds like a real crowd-pleaser, doesn’t it?


“The Lawnmower Man” (from Night Shift, 1978)

The only things the 1992 cyberpunk film and King’s original short have in common are the title and some aspect of lawn care. Now if the movie had featured a grass-eating satyr who worshiped the Greek god Pan, maybe they’d be in the same ballpark.


Rage (1977)

There’s a reason King’s first publication under his pseudonym, Richard Bachmann has never been optioned for a movie: It’s an angry, ugly book written by a young man who had not fully discovered his voice. It’s a novel about a school shooting in which we are almost expected to take the side of the shooter. Now, this might be a moral conundrum that could make for an interesting drama, but a direct film adaptation would probably be abysmal and in poor taste.


The Long Walk (1979)

Arguably King’s best Bachman novel, The Long Walk is a harrowing and painfully realistic dystopian tale about a group of teenage boys who participate in a walking contest where there are no runner-ups. Maybe this story hasn’t seen a proper adaptation because of the glut of young adult dystopian movies filling multiplexes, or maybe it’s because The Long Walk is absolutely brutal and soul-crushing.  


“Gray Matter” (from Night Shift, 1978)

This is a story of recluse who buys a “bad” beer carrying a mutagen that turns him into a disgusting, cat-eating blob. I know that doesn’t sound too out there (at least not for King), but the detail Uncle Stevie puts into the transformation (and the recluse’s more refined cravings later on) is equal parts disgusting and terrifying. I can assure you, you’ll never drink a skunky beer again after reading this one.


“The Moving Finger” (from Nightmares & Dreamscapes, 1990)

This was previously adapted as an episode of the anthology show Monsters, and while it was blast to see Tom Noonan battle a giant finger growing out of a drain for twenty-two minutes, I could have watched it for two hours. Alas, I don’t know how many people would be in that same boat.


“The Breathing Method” (from Different Seasons, 1982)

This is easily one of the weirdest and most oddly endearing stories King has ever written. The tale is told from the point of view of an aging doctor as he recalls an incident where a young, pregnant woman is involved in a fatal car crash and stays alive long enough to deliver her baby. I know this sounds like the setup to a Lifetime or Hallmark TV movie, but did I mention the woman has been decapitated and her head is several feet away from her body as she goes into labor? Yeaaahh.


“Survivor Type” (from Skeleton Crew, 1985)

This is a story that King himself has said “goes little bit too far.” And he’s not wrong. This one I actually consider a litmus test for new King readers. If you can get down with this story, you can get down with anything. “Survivor Type” is a story of a man who winds up on a deserted island with a whole lot of heroin and nothing to eat. What could go wrong?


From a Buick 8 (2002)

Interdimensional portal in the trunks of cars. Father and son relationships. Giant alien fish. This book has EVERYTHING…except a film adaptation. This one must be a pretty hard sell. At one point the late, great George A Romero was reportedly working on it, and then the reigns were handed over to Tobe Hooper. Now, it’s as dead as the creatures the titular Buick gives birth to.

So there you have it. What did I miss? What your favorite Stephen King story that is perhaps too messed up to be brought to life?



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COMMENTS

57 Comments
  • Tiger Quinn

    From a Buick 8 is still to this day the worst book I have ever read. It’s not a car but a gateway. Nothing happens.

    • Bart Crowe

      It felt like a short story stretched out to novel length. Definitely not one of King’s best but far from his worst. In King’s latest short story collection he has a similar story called Mile 81 about a car that mysteriously appears to be broken down but is only a lure to devour unsuspecting good samaritans. That story works because it’s way shorter and stuff actually happens. Plus you get a rather graphic descriptions of the car dissolving its victims so as to eat them.

      • That King tale truly sounds like an automobile version of DEATH BED(:THE BED THAT EATS).

        • Bart Crowe

          Pretty much

    • It’s not a good book, but it’s ten million times better than Cell. If anything ever felt like King phoning a book in (no pun intended), it’s “cell phone zombies.” If the technology had existed in the 1970’s I would have thought it was an old manuscript he had left over from his pre-fame days that he dusted off and published because he was on a deadline.

      • Tiger Quinn

        Oh man, Cell actively pissed me off, but at least they were burning people alive in football fields. Buick 8 is 400 pages of Four Cops Sit Around A WaterCooler and Talk to The New Guy About His Dead Dad.

  • macguffin54

    Survivor Type is my all-time fav “horror” story. He did not go too far; it was perfect. Go too far? That might be the one where the husband lives in his apartment for days without (consciously) realizing his wife has been decomposing in bed next to him. But… No, that’s not too far either.

    And I thought they were adapting The Long Walk?

    • And just what is the name of that story about the guy discovering his wife’s deteriorating corpse next to him,may I kindly ask.

      • scryberwitch

        “A Good Marriage.” I want to say it was a bonus story in Four Past Midnight, but not sure about that.

        • HalesTales

          Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s not “A Good Marriage” because that was about the serial killer and his wife stumbling onto his crimes and she doesn’t die. A Good Marriage is in Full Dark, No Stars btw.

          • scryberwitch

            OK, that’s right. So I had to look it up – it’s called “Under the Weather” and it’s in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. Sorry!

  • Bart Crowe

    Survivor Type is goddamn amazing. Ladyfingers they taste just like ladyfingers. Also from Skeleton Crew I would say The Jaunt would be perfect if anyone ever decided to resurrect The Outer Limits or create a new Sci-Fi/Horror anthology series. Stephen King is a national treasure and I’m glad we are rightfully getting more Stephen King TV shows and movies.

    • scryberwitch

      Seconding both those suggestions!

    • Tiger Quinn

      I love, love, love that collection, but doesn’t it seem like nearly every story ends with “and somebody jumped up and went “Ha ha dad or mom! I did what I shouldn’t have!”

    • Evi

      Elements of The Jaunt are in Event Horizon.

  • Rohan

    I just read survivor type because of this article. It’s just plain horrifying. Leave it to King to make a castaway story the most disturbing it could be.

    • That self cannibalism tale is just too gruesome an idea to be filmed,unless Eli Roth gets the idea to tackle it(as much as everyone hates Roth).

      • Rohan

        Yeah, it would be hard to pull off. A story like that would be hard to stretch over a feature length film, let alone getting autocannibalism past censorship without ruining the imagery.

  • Carlos Parlo

    Rumor is that Frank Darabont is in the works to adapt “The Long Walk” into a feature length film. Since he’s responsible for the best King adaptations and since Long Walk is one of the best stories King has ever written I hold out high hopes it will actually work. It’ll be dark for sure. I’m also sure some will say he’s ripping off “The Hunger Games” not realizing it long predates it (and is rumored to be the inspiration for those too).

    • MrX13

      I remember reading the Long Walk a long time ago. It could work as a movie and would be interested if Darabont made it.

  • MrX13

    And all this time, I thought the Lawnmower Man (the movie) was really from King himself. But after reading the synopsis, it’s a totally different story. Kind of interested to see that movie instead of the Brosnan movie.

    As far as these other stories, I really need to start reading again! Some of these caught my attention especially Survivor Type

    • The movie is so far removed from he source material that King actually sued to have his name removed from it.

      • MrX13

        Yeah I read that too. Good thing he did that! I would have rather seen the book source as a movie than that one

  • Royal Rican Prince

    I always LOVED “Ms. Todd’s Shorcuts”! OUTSTANDING.

    • Otterlee

      That would be an incredible movie. Or even TV series, there’s always a shorter way, and if you save miles, you’ll save time, sure enough.

  • I’m hesitant to call any novel, comic, short story, ETC “unfilmable”. At best, it’s just really, really difficult to adapt.

    • Otterlee

      Make Buick 8 good. I personally don’t think it can be done. Not unless they do it like Lawnmower Man and the movie only carries the same title. To this day I regret reading half that book, and I’d give a leg to have not read the whole thing. I should’ve quit while I was ahead.

  • Wil McMullen

    I would love to see the Long Walk adapted for film… With a hard R rating! I actually enjoyed the Revival as well but I am not interested in it being made if they don’t keep that Lovecraft-ing ending.

  • Elizabeth

    Grady Hendrix (Horrorstör, My Best Friend’s Exorcism) did a fantastic analysis of everything King has written over on Tor. But it’s definitely for people who have already read the books; the columns are full of spoilers.

  • Terry Powell

    The odd thing for me about Rage is when it came out, I was in college, planning on being a filmmaker and writing scripts. Bought this paperback and thought it could make a really good low budget film. Wrote an outline and, though I was writing my own stuff, would pull it out every so often and jot ideas down. Lost the book, and lost a lot of crazy ass ideas I’d written down in a basement flood and eventually forgot about it. Then I bought The Bachman Books and about shit when I opened the cover to see Rage!

  • Shane Scully

    But…..The Breathing Method IS being adapted….

  • Kristoffer Groves

    With the popularity of The Hunger Games, i’m amazed that nobody has attempted to adapt The Long Walk yet. It might even work as a legit reality show, although they probably wouldn’t be allowed to shoot any of the contestants.

    • Dirty Frank

      Probably wouldn’t? Give it time. Another year for America and anything goes, I reckon.

  • I’m not a big fan of King’s most recent output but i really loved “Duma Key” and i’d like to see a proper translation into a movie or a miniseries.

  • Dirty Frank

    An adaption of The Long Walk is seriously overdue. It’s a great story. A proper adaption of The Running Man would be pretty good too.

    • oh_riginal

      I love The Running Man. It’s a lesser Arnie flick, but still entertaining as hell. That being said, I too would love to see a more epic, more faithful adaptation.

      • Dirty Frank

        I love the Arnie version too, it’s a cracking movie, still. But that original story….that would make a great, faithful adaption to film.

        • Brandon MisterJuicy Alexander

          it would have been unfilmable 20 years ago, but now… not so much.
          man, i want to see that now!!!!

    • turk

      You still have to wonder about the logistics of that walking handjob, though…

  • Jada Maes

    I’d be interested in seeing The Breathing Method as part of an anthology about that funny no-name club in New York…

  • Brandon MisterJuicy Alexander

    reading “the long walk” was my first inspiration to try to become a filmmaker, actually.

    my first short was a riff on this and jesus/2 thieves.

  • I don’t think it’s so much that From a Buick 8 is too weird as it is that the book is absolutely horrid. I had a copy once. I’m fairly certain I threw it out or let the dog have it after.

  • One-Eye

    George Romero wanted to make THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON.

    I recall it being around the time LAND OF THE DEAD came out and he had a bit of heat on him again. Alas, it never happened.

  • James Allard

    Gray Matter is a “dollar baby.” Sayin’ some of all y’all do this kind of thing, there ya go, get on it.

  • scryberwitch

    I think the comments have suffered from mission creep! Which ones do I think are *too far* for film? A Good Marriage – because the whole thing is based on not knowing what’s really going on until the end, and you couldn’t really make that work in a visual medium.
    That said, I’m going to go along with the gang and list my fave King stories that I’d LOVE to see on the big screen: Jerusalem’s Lot (the original short story), Survivor Type, The Jaunt, and I Am the Doorway. Maybe they’d be better suited to shorts, in another Creepshow/Cat’s Eye style anthology.
    Obviously, I am a HUGE fan of King’s short stories!

    • Kev Weldon

      A Good Marriage was already adapted into a movie, though apparently not a terribly good one. Another King adaptation anthology is long overdue!

      • scryberwitch

        I agree! (and I’ve edited my original post, since I had the wrong title – I was thinking of “Under the Weather.” Sorry!)

  • SupernaturalCat

    One For The Road
    Jerusalem’s Lot
    I Am The Doorway
    I Know What You Need
    Uncle Otto’s Truck

  • John Ryder

    ‘Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2)’ from ‘Skeleton Crew’.

  • scryberwitch

    I’d also like to just gripe a little…King has written *so much* stuff, that there seems to be nothing left for any of us other writers! I feel like I’m in that episode of South Park, “The Simpsons Already Did It.” Every time I think of a story, “Stephen King Already Did It!”

    • HeteroFriendly

      Well the good new as far as that I guess is that if he’s not above redoing himself,
      psychic houses, haunted cars, then its perfectly fair to redo anything king has done as long as you do it your own way and add something to it.

      Its well known that nothing is entirely original.
      Including shakespear or anything Stephen King has ever done,
      everything accumulates and is built on the culture before it one way or another.

      And thats perfectly fair and the way the world works.

  • Mayday

    The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon wasn’t too weird, it was too awful – THE worst book King ever put out.

  • What about the picture featured above where the woman has just given birth and is beheaded… that looks interesting.

    • That’s Patrick Leger’s illustration of The Breathing Method from Different Seasons.

      • Ooh, shame it’s only a book it looks interesting.

  • Rage was always my favorite of The Bachman Books’ stories, but I just assumed – considering when I read it – that it would never be made into a film or miniseries due to the subject material.

  • amir ezra

    I like Jerusalem’s Lot from Night Shift, and I’m waiting for an adaptation.

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