9 Stephen King Adaptations We Want to See Now That ‘IT’ Is a Hit

Who’s up for a “Dedication” mini-series? R-rated, obviously…
By  · Published on September 14th, 2017

Who’s up for a “Dedication” mini-series? R-rated, obviously…

It was exactly eight years ago that we first suggested some Stephen King adaptations we’d like to see, and while they were specifically limited to short stories we’re still waiting on all of them. The monster success of IT though — the biggest horror movie opening weekend ever at $117 million *and* it’s a great goddamn horror movie to boot — will open the floodgates to more King films. King’s had 47 novels published (I’m counting The Dark Tower as one here), and of those a whopping 28 have been adapted for the big and/or small screen. Some more than once! The author was already having a pretty good year onscreen with four feature films and two television series, and per IMDB he has dozens more in various stages of development, but it’s a good bet that some stalled projects will now be jump-started and others will be begun anew.

It’s unclear where this leaves my highly anticipated Cujo: Canine Unit Joint Operations.

We definitely want more King onscreen, though, and the nine below are the ones we want to see next. But yes, I expect we’ll get Akiva Goldsman’s Firestarter and a ninth Children of the Corn before any of our picks below see a green light.

“Battleground” (1972)

Assassins are always good subject matter for movies as while their profession — killing people for money — should make them despicable, we’re often drawn to them instead. The killer here is a successful one who returns from his latest hit on a toy-maker to his high-rise apartment where he finds a package waiting for him. It’s a locker filled with army action figures crafted by the newly deceased’s company, and they soon come to life on a mission of vengeance. The story allows for some terrific set-pieces as the miniature soldiers employ tiny rifles, bazookas, and more, and it got a solid adaptation in the fantastic but short-lived Nightmares & Dreamscapes anthology show. A feature film could up the ante even further, and while you’d have to pad the first act a bit — easy to do as we could see the initial hit itself and then settle in with a charismatic killer before he opens the trunk — the film’s final hour could be a highly entertaining extended battle. Think Free Fire but with a pissed-off hit-man exchanging shots with hundreds of determined, organized, and tiny soldiers. With a strong lead and some snappy dialogue this could be explosive fun. – Rob Hunter

Rage (1977)

One of King’s earliest novels is also the only one that can no longer be purchased new. Published in 1977, Rage followed the perspective of a high school shooter. After several real-life school shooters were reportedly influenced by the novel, including a 14-year-old who shot eight people in 1997, King decided to let the book lapse out of print. Way before his recent Twitter tiff with Trump, King was already a socially conscious figure in the literary world, and he explored his choice to self-censor Rage in the 2013 post-Sandy Hook essay “Guns”. Shows like American Horror Story and 13 Reasons Why still demonstrate a dangerously romantic notion of teen violence, making King’s choice 20 years ago seem all the more significant. The story of this book, life imitating art, and pop culture’s evolving relationship with mass shootings deserves a closer look. How about a Netflix documentary by Ava DuVernay or Kitty Green? – Valerie Ettenhofer

The Stand (1978)

I’ve always enjoyed The Stand miniseries, but I don’t think it’s aged particularly well. In fact, that’s how I feel about the majority of Stephen King adaptations, but this is the one I really need to see knocked out of the park in my lifetime. With the sheer magnitude and scope of this story, it has all the makings for a grand scale trilogy, but it needs room to breathe and sprawl. At the time of writing, there’s a planned movie stuck in development hell, but hopefully the success of IT will prompt some movement. I’ve always felt The Stand had a Tolkien-esque quality, so my ideal director would be Peter Jackson. He’d be a safe bet, sure, but with the story’s whopping adventure elements coupled with its horror sensibilities, he’d be a perfect match. I’d also settle for Guillermo del Toro, who doesn’t make bad movies and has previously stated interest in adapting King. – Kieran Fisher

The Dead Zone (1979)

The Dead Zone has always been my go-to novel for any Stephen King non-believer. He’s that guy who writes spooky stories, right? Eye roll. The initiated know that he’s more than just psychotic prom queens and ax wielding fathers (*pushes glasses all the way up my nose* actually, in King’s The Shining Jack Torrance swings a roque mallet). The Dead Zone offers enough supernatural shenanigans to make things interesting, but it hooks its audience through pure romantic melodrama. School teacher Johnny Smith is on the verge of wedded bliss when his car is struck head-on during a rain storm. When he awakens from a four-and-a-half-year long coma, Johnny discovers that his true love has married another and he now has psychic abilities brought on by physical touch. After he shakes the hand of the wrong politician, he’s ready to solidify his cursed destiny as Lee Harvey Oswald’s successor. David Cronenberg’s adaptation captures all the heartache and angst of the original. It easily shifts into an extra layer of theatricality by simply casting Christopher Walken in the lead role. “The Ice Is Gonna Break!!!” Once seen, it cannot be unseen, and re-reads of the novel will forever be scarred with Walken’s melancholy mug. He absolutely captures the sad-sack woe of Johnny’s Smith’s torment, but he’s also merely too damn Walken-y. It’s equally awesome and frustrating. The film may never be spoken in the same breath as Cronenberg’s Videodrome or The Fly, but if you give it a bit of a push, The Dead Zone still fits into his body horror canon. Especially how it fetishizes a pair of Castle Rock scissors. Nasty. Do we need another remake? Yes. Even after the Cronenberg flick and the USA Network television series, The Dead Zone is even more relevant today than yesterday. Post-Trump America would be lit ablaze by a searing, savage re-imagining of King’s novel. I’d still want to see them keep the romantic melodrama, but the 2017 version would lean in hard on the assassination plot. Johnny Smith shakes the hands of a rapidly ascending politician and sees mushroom clouds in our future. Would you kill Hitler on the eve of his Third Reich reign? What choice do you have? Cast an actor like Garrett Dillahunt and you’ve got a Johnny Smith that can easily transition from mopey to global avenger. – Brad Gullickson

The Talisman (1984)

The Stand is my favorite King novel and the one I’ve re-read the most, but this collaboration with novelist Peter Straub is a close second. The Talisman is an epic YA adventure before there really were such things, and it follows a twelve year-old boy named Jack on his cross-country, inter-dimensional journey to save his mother’s life. Sharply-drawn characters and monstrous set-pieces share space with real heart and highly emotional beats. The world-building is fantastic as King and Straub layer an alternate world, the Territories, over the United States we know, and Jack’s travels take him through both. The grand tale is filled with numerous dangers in both worlds including a cruel boys’ home where Jack is remanded for a short time, and the whole is just overflowing with creativity and wonder. Unlike IT, the story doesn’t have a natural split which would make a two-film structure unsatisfying, but I’d love to see it get the limited series treatment like the one afforded Hulu’s 11/22/63. A single film wouldn’t really do it justice. – Rob Hunter

“The End of the Whole Mess” (1986)

As someone who on occasion has actively rooted for the global extinction of humanity, stories about just such an occurrence have a special appeal for me. Two brothers discover a substance that lowers and erases aggressive urges, and as the world descends into greater and greater violence they devise a method of spreading it around the globe. It works, and peace settles over the earth, but the chemical isn’t done yet. As anger and violence subside and vanish and mankind celebrates, other faculties begin disappearing too. The story has a downer ending — one that still satisfies — and while the film should keep it there’s room before then for small victories and action beats to give the illusion that humanity is winning. – Rob Hunter

“The Ten O’Clock People” (1993)

There’s a real They Live vibe to this one, but that’s not a bad thing for obvious reasons. (But in case it’s not so obvious, They Live is awesome.) An average Joe discovers that many of the people in power around town and indeed the world are in fact monsters posing as human beings. The only ones who can see them for what they are are people in the midst of quitting smoking — those who’ve cut back to a single smoke per day, usually a break around 10am — and what starts as a simple little sci-fi tale explodes into action as a a resistance forms to fight the invaders. It could be a fun action/sci-fi movie, something we can never have too many of, and as recently as a couple years ago a feature was being developed with Jay Baruchel in the lead. – Rob Hunter

“Umney’s Last Case” (1993)

A private eye straight out of a Raymond Chandler noir sees his life begin to crumble. Work dries up, acquaintances give him grief and then bail from his Rolodex, and nothing seems to be going his way. His spirits are briefly lifted when a potential client walks through the door, but they’re just as quickly dashed when the man reveals his identity — he’s the writer who created the detective, and with nothing to live for in the real world he attempted suicide and instead woke up here in his own fiction. Intent on taking over the P.I.’s life the writer banishes him… and the character awakes on the writer’s real-world body. This is a pretty fantastic meta setup that’s actually enough to justify a series — how easy would it be to follow both men in their new worlds, both fish out of water, as one of them tries desperately to return and the other fights to remain. Barring a show I’d happily accept a feature as the hook and narrative possibilities hold a lot of promise. – Rob Hunter

The Regulators (1996)

The companion piece to Desperation — both were published simultaneously and feature the same characters (albeit unaware of their alternate existences), although this was the final book under the Richard Bachman name — this is the far more engaging and visually interesting of the two. The peace and quiet of a suburban street is shattered by the arrival of shotgun-wielding humanoids who begin slaughtering the locals, and as their reign of terror unfolds the neighborhood itself is transformed into one created in a western-infused imagination. The book actually began its life as a screenplay King was writing for Sam Peckinpah, but the famed director died while King was completing his suggested revisions leaving King to turn it into a novel instead. It’s a nasty, imaginative piece of work, and it would make for a brutal tale somewhat reminiscent of the “It’s a Good Life” episode of The Twilight Zone. – Rob Hunter

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.