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.
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?