Between the upcoming releases of Pet Sematary, It: Chapter Two, In the Tall Grass, Doctor Sleep, and a new Creepshow series on Shudder, 2019 promises to be another stellar year of Stephen King adaptations. Of course, that doesn’t even touch upon the pending adaptations currently in various stages of development, like a new take on The Tommyknockers, Firestarter, or The Stand, and countless other King novels and short stories that have been optioned. Yet, the prolific author has penned over 200 stories, 59 plus novels, nonfiction work, multiple screenplays, and more, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. This means that there’s still endless story potential waiting to be translated to screen, with some of the grisliest, most gruesome of King’s works begging to be adapted.
While King is known for epic novels, many quite massive in length, his short stories are just as effective at getting under your skin. They’re also not quite as well-known as his novels. Digging into his catalog, here’s 5 amazing King short stories that bring the horror, repulsion, and boundary-breaking fear- perfect for adaptation.
First published in the March 1973 issue of Cavalier magazine before being collection in the 1978 book Night Shift, “The Boogeyman” takes place in the office of psychiatrist Dr. Harper, where his new patient Lester Billings recalls how he murdered his three young children. Or rather, passively let them meet grisly ends by way of the Boogeyman. It’s easy to see why this one hasn’t been adapted yet; one of the biggest taboos is the murder of children. In this short, the three children are all extremely young, around the ages of 2-3 years old, when the monstrous creature that comes from the closet murders them in brutal fashion. Not the sort of thing that audiences would be too comfortable seeing on screen. But it’s a bold story with a zinger of an ending, and it’s not as though the ages of the children couldn’t be updated.
Perhaps more interesting is that one small paragraph in the short has Lester relaying a story he read in a Tales from the Crypt comic that featured a wife drowning her husband, who then gruesomely returned from the grave for revenge. Sound familiar? That’s because it served as the basis for the segment “Something to Tide You Over” in 1982’s Creepshow. If one paragraph inspired an anthology segment, it’s time this entire short gets its due.
This short appeared first in Yankee magazine in 1981 before being collected in 1985’s Skeleton Crew. Rights to adapt it were snatched up during Cannes Film Festival in 2012, but the project seemed to disappear since. “The Reach” is one of King’s best stories, and follows 95-year-old Stella Flanders, a woman with terminal cancer prompted to finally travel across the body of water that separates the island she’s lived on her whole life from the mainland. Her journey is instigated, and then accompanied, by ghosts of the past and deceased island inhabitants. A gothic, hauntingly atmospheric tale of crossing over from one plane of existence to another.
Essentially, “The Reach” is the precise type of story that will appeal to both horror fans and the mainstream, with its blend of horror and humanity. It’s not the most gruesome or horrific, but it does embody what makes King such a special author.
Initially written when King was only 22, and later revised and collected in Night Shift, “Strawberry Spring” brings King’s twist to the Jack the Ripper story. Only this time, it’s set on a college campus, with the serial killer known as Springheel Jack loose on a murderous rampage during a strawberry spring. The unreliable narrator tells of the slayings that has the police perplexed and going ultimately unsolved, culminating in the slayings beginning again eight years later, under a new strawberry spring. This story also ends in a King sort of twist.
“Strawberry Spring” combines our fascination with serial killers with King’s very distinct sense of style and world-building, setting up endless possibilities for a feature length film.
First published in 1989’s Book of the Dead and later in 1993’s Nightmares & Dreamscapes, this short story is King’s take on the zombie. It follows the shy and meek Maddie Pace, a pregnant woman who recently lost her husband in a boat accident. Living alone on the island of Gennesault, Maddie is forced to find her inner strength when the dead rise from their graves. Including her dead husband.
Sure, that sounds like just about every other zombie story we know, but you can rest assured that King adds his own spin. Like the source of the outbreak, for example. An alien satellite, named Star Wormwood, hovers above Earth, and its transmission meant to reanimate the dead and bring about our destruction. But wait, there’s more! Star Wormwood is actually a giant mass of ravenous alien worms, making the joint U.S./Chinese mission to stop the alien satellite a complete nightmare. Who doesn’t want to see this brought to life? Technically, Guillermo del Toro did, when he produced an animated short film adaptation in 2005. But still. “Home Delivery” could use a feature film adaptation with filmmakers unafraid to take this zombie story to all its wacky edges.
“A Very Tight Place”
It seems that the new Creepshow series will be tackling one of the grossest King stories of all with “Survivor Type”, which makes grisly use of the word autosarcophagy. If so, then I’d like to see this novella get an episode as well. Collected in 2008’s Just After Sunset, “A Very Tight Place” tells of an escalating battle between neighbors Curtis and Tim over property rights, exacerbated when Curtis’ dog was killed by Tim’s electric fence. A confrontation results in Tim locking Curtis up in a porta potty, and then tips it over. With no one around to help, Curtis endures one hellish night in a tipped over portable toilet, trying to find a way out.
King spares no detail in Curtis’ portable toilet predicament, which means that no one should go into this story with a full stomach. The war between hateful neighbors has never been so disgusting or vicious as it has in “A Very Tight Place”, which quite possibly wins the title of the grossest of all King’s works.