Joe Hill’s twisted take on the vampire mythology is rolling into production.
Before zombies flooded the market with a flesh-eating fervor, the vampire was our monster of choice. The creature of the night has existed in a variety of forms, shifting from romancing gothic literature to swarming the apocalypse of I Am Legend and walking in daylight with Blade. Stephenie Meyer seemed to take the vampire to its sparkly conclusion with her Twilight saga, but you can never keep a good ghoul down.
AMC has been on the hunt for a horrific follow-up to The Walking Dead for quite some time. Not content with their Fear of the Walking Dead spin-off, the cable network has been tinkering with an adaptation of Joe Hill‘s “NOS4A2” since 2015. After spending those years constructing a writer’s room around the project, they have finally cracked the code, and a 10-episode series has been ordered.
The novel revolves around the supernatural conflict between Victoria McQueen and the soul-sucking Charles Talent Manx. Spanning decades, “NOS4A2” introduces a young girl to a monster behind the wheel of a diabolical Rolls-Royce stalking the United States. The title representing the not-so-subtle vanity plate that scars the vehicle. A childhood confrontation with “The Wraith” only marks the beginning of Vic’s lifelong battle with evil.
Jami O’Brien (Fear of the Walking Dead, Hell on Wheels) is adapting the book, and will serve as showrunner for the series. She has been attached to NOS4A2 since 2016, and her involvement bolstered Hill’s confidence in seeing his story translated to the small screen. The Hollywood Reporter quotes him thus:
“I couldn’t be more excited about the forthcoming adaptation of ‘NOS4A2.’ I know it’s in good hands with showrunner Jami O’Brien: her beautifully composed scripts show a writer at the height of her powers, one who has an exquisite touch with character and a relentless instinct for suspense.”
“NOS4A2” is the closest Joe Hill has come to replicating a horror story in the same vein as his father, Stephen King. Young Vic McQueen feels like a character who might have been hanging out with The Losers of “IT” or the kids that went corpse-hunting in Stand By Me. Heck, Hill is not even trying to hide the familial connection. In the novel, there is an actual reference to Derry, Maine (aka Pennywise’s favorite territory to terrorize), and Charles Manx certainly shares some DNA with various King villains.
Hopping in time from 1996 to 2008 to 2012, the novel is compellingly constructed for serialized entertainment. McQueen’s original encounter with The Wraith could serve as the first season, while the second season could jump into her teenage years. At nearly 700 pages, there is a lot of meat to pick at.
As with his father’s books, why bother with one supernatural element when you can toss in three more. Hill mixes vampiric serial killers with monstrous Fast & the Furious transportation, and a haunted house in the form of a dilapidated Christmas village. Trapped inside that wannabe roadside attraction are the souls of Charles Manx’s victims, a nightmare hellscape worthy of a few grotesque set-pieces.
The reader is ultimately compelled by the rich emotional drama bubbling beneath Vic McQueen’s tortured soul. Living with her from childhood to adulthood to motherhood, you invest your own being with hers. The absurdity of Charles Manx simply heightens the everyday trauma of growing from child to parent.
“NOS4A2” does not reinvent the wheel, but it is a clever twist on the vampire myth packed with genuine stakes for our hero. Hill’s book has a nostalgic attachment to the the horror novel boom of the ’80s, and it’s a good reminder that we need other monsters in our life besides the brain obsessed.