Franchises, sequels, and reboots lurk in every theater and haunt the streaming services. And just as with horror film monsters, you may love them or hate them or both at once, but they keep coming. No theatergoer can escape them!
As the most adapted author in history, it's no wonder that Stephen King, our reigning monarch of horror, should want to get in on the act. The new movie Doctor Sleep, based on King's 2013 sequel to his 1977 classic The Shining, debuts this week. Danny Torrance, the psychic child who escaped the haunted Overlook Hotel, is now an adult recovering alcoholic pursued across the countryside by resort vacation spots seeking revenge for his role in blowing up one of their number. (Spoiler: This is not, in fact, the plot. Danny fights psychic vampires, not feral ambulatory hotels, probably because the latter would be extremely unwieldy to screen.)
If Danny Torrance can enjoy an afterlife among the ranks of misshapen blockbusters in the Cineplex, why not other King protagonists? Here are some terrifying King novels that could stand to be resurrected as terrifying sequels on the big screen.
Pennywise the interdimensional spider/clown thing that haunted Derry, Maine is supposed to have been destroyed. But interdimensional spider clowns are notoriously difficult to kill.
It was distributed by Warner Bros., which has had great success with clown films, suggesting possible crossover synergy. "Pennywise vs. Joker: The Last Laugh" is just a matter of time.
New Line Cinema, who produced It, is planning on a 'Salem's Lot adaptation, so King should get cracking on a sequel. King has said that the original 1977 novel about vampires infecting the inhabitants of a small town was a reaction to the paranoia of the Watergate years; a return to the Lot under Trump would be very much in the spirit.
Perhaps a big city reporter could come to town looking to interview MAGA voters. Make America Ghouls Again.
The recent film adaptation of King's 1983 novel about a burial ground that reanimates pets and people was reasonably successful, so why not a sequel?
There actually was a Pet Sematary Too way back in 1992 after the first 1989 film adaptation. But it introduced new characters to bury and resurrect rather than sticking with the ill-starred Creed family. Of course, the Creeds at the end of the original story are mostly undead monster murderers, but does that mean they should get kicked out of their own story? The zombies next door are people too, kind of, even if they do keep hacking the neighbors to death. That sounds like a movie plot.
The Long Walk
The first novel King wrote (though not the first he published) is set in a future dystopian world where teen boys participate in a walk to the death in order to win an obscure but fabulous prize. It's another King property being adapted by New Line Cinema, which means a sequel seems plausible at some point.
The protagonist and winner of the Long Walk, Garraty, is supposed to be granted a life of luxury at the novel's end. But he's disillusioned with the authorities, and they could easily decide to engineer his participation in another contest, a la Katniss' second Hunger Games in Catching Fire.
For variation perhaps the authorities could stage different endurance contests: Traveling on hands and knees ("The Long Crawl"); traveling with one leg tied up ("The Long Hop"); or sitting through Avengers: Endgame ("The Long Bladder").
Though not billed as such at the time, Firestarter is essentially a superhero novel. The young Charlie McGee has the psychic power to set anything ablaze, which she uses to fight bad guy government operatives who want to exploit her.
The 1984 film version is maligned, but superheroes are hot now. There has to be an audience for Drew Barrymore in a cool costume lighting things on fire.
The Shawshank Redemption
A Shawshank Redemption sequel is an obviously terrible idea, but that wouldn't necessarily stop it from happening. At the end of King's original 1982 novella on which the movie is based ("Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption"), Andy, falsely accused of murder, has escaped from prison and he and his buddy Red are prepared to live happily ever after in Mexico. But send the law after them with guns and you've got the makings of a two-fisted, action/comedy buddy film.
Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, stars of the famous 1994 film are both getting on in years, so Hollywood better hurry up.
The haunted 1958 Plymouth Fury is still on the hunt at the end of King's 1983 novel, so it could easily run down some more victims in a sequel. It might be more fun to update the make and model, though.
Imagine Elon Musk's ghost possessing a Tesla, running down folks who criticize him on Twitter. '50s greasers aren't that scary anymore, but a billionaire with a grudge and a power source is another matter.
What novel deserves a sequel more than King's 1987 novel about sequels? In the original book (and the 1990 film), obsessive fan Annie Wilkes forces author Paul Sheldon to write a new romance novel about his character Misery. Annie is supposed to have died at the end, but there is no shortage of rabid fans out there, and one of them could easily be inspired to continue the work of ax-wielding inspiration.
Write us the sequel, King — or else.