Stephen King is one of the most-adapted authors alive, but we still haven't run out of ways to interpret his work. For instance, here's Christian Torpe, executive producer of the new TV adaptation of The Mist, on how they're approaching the story:
"Let's call it a 'reimagination.' Internally, we talk about it as doing the Fargo approach, where the movie and the TV show are the same, but it's different. It's like a weird, twisted cousin to the original source material. Fans of the movie and of the book and of Mr. King's work will certainly see elements from it. ... We also, in order to develop it for TV and turn it into an ongoing series, took our own little detours here and there."
That quote got me thinking: What other King tales could take the more "inspired by" (as opposed to "based on") approach and develop new stories out of old concepts? Obviously, you do enough twisting and any story could make the leap, but when I look at King's whole body of work, these are the ten tales that merit the most TV consideration.
Check out my picks below and let us know yours in the comments.
This King novel, which I consider one of his most underrated, has already been adapted for film but the concept is ripe for a long-form adaptation. The premise is relatively simple: A mysterious man named Leland Gaunt arrives in town and sets up a curiosity shop full of all the things his customers seem to need or want most. Gaunt's happy to part with these items for a very reasonable price ... and a small favor. These favors set off a chain reaction of secrets, violence and terror in the town, and chaos ensues. Now, imagine unspooling that kind of narrative over the course of two or three years, with the rich setting of Castle Rock as a backdrop. It could be a supernatural Fargo, set in Maine. I'd watch that.
King's second novel has been adapted for TV not once but twice, but I think there's still something here. Salem's Lot's ending is not definitive. We know the vampire threat isn't over -- not just from the story, but from the companion short story "One for the Road." Add to that the story's connections to The Dark Tower mythos (which might get too complicated for one series, but it's possible) and the dark past explored in the short "Jerusalem's Lot" and you've got a complex background for a small-screen vampire epic.
OK, so Creepshow isn't a King story so much as it's a King film concept that also spawned a comic book, but his inspirations were the classic horror anthology comics he read as a child. The idea behind the film was to take pulpy, garish stories like that and bring them to the screen, and the result was loads of fun. Doing the same thing on the small screen isn't exactly a new concept, but if King and his friends ever wanted to get a horror anthology series together, I'm sure producers somewhere would be more than happy to listen.
"CHILDREN OF THE CORN"
The most famous story to come out of King's Night Shift collection, and possibly his most famous work of short fiction ever, "Children of the Corn" has already been adapted twice, and the first adaptation has spawned eight mostly terrible sequels. If we insist on revisiting this material so much, why not try a TV series for a change? Like so many King stories, there's an underlying mythology here that's only touched upon, and by the end of the tale it's made clear that at least some of the children aren't entirely on board with the worship of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. That kind of tension and mystery could unfold even longer in series form, and additional characters -- perhaps from a neighboring town -- could spike the drama even more.
"I AM THE DOORWAY"
An astronaut returns to Earth only to find he's been infected by aliens, which manifest in the form of eyeballs all over his hands. The aliens use the eyes to see into our world and eventually begin to take over their host's body. It's a fairly simple body horror short, but imagine expanding this concept to include multiple astronauts, NASA scientists and other government officials. Then you've got a creepy invasion drama.
A serial killer called "Springheel Jack" plagues a small New England college in the 1960s, confusing police and sowing panic. Years later, he returns, and the real killer might not even know he's responsible. It's a short psychological thriller in print, but with the right showrunner it could transform into a terrifying, time-jumping crime drama.
A young man discovers that the elderly German living nearby is a Nazi war criminal and blackmails him in order to hear stories of the Holocaust. The Nazi plays along, but eventually comes up with some blackmail material of his own, and a deadly game commences. This novella has a very clear ending, but the action plays out over years and the level of tension just keeps rising. If done right, it could have a real Bates Motel vibe.
This story from the Just After Sunset collection borrows from the cosmology of Arthur Machen and tells a layered story of several different people encountering a field of stones that slowly drives each of them insane. The story resolves these encounters in a rather cut-and-dried way, but Lost fans know very well that there's an allure in hunting for monsters we don't understand, and expanding this concept to incorporate even more monstrous lore could make for a great supernatural mystery series.
A man with terminal cancer makes a deal with Elvid, a peddler of sorts who offers to extend his life ... but only if he passes his misfortune on to someone else. The choice he makes, and the impact it has on his life and those around him, propels the story to its unsettling conclusion in a very self-contained way. We do know that Elvid claims to be impossibly old, and he's clearly done this before. What if a series explored his other exploits or simply focused on a few interweaving stories caused by the deals he makes?
This entry from King's latest collection has a blissfuly simple premise. Michael, a journalist with a sense of humor that tends toward the macabre, has a very specific power: He writes obituaries which kill their subjects. When he realizes his joke obits are turning deadly, the power becomes an addiction and begins to spread. This could be a brilliantly witty TV series satirizing media and celebrity culture ... or it could just be a creepy show about a guy who can't stop killing people with his pen. Either way, there's something here.