BMD Picks Their Most Wanted Stephen King Adaptations

On the occasion of Stephen King's 70th birthday, the BMD crew gets together and makes a wishlist.

Earlier this week, IT director Andy Muschietti commented that he wanted to remake Pet Sematary – a rather brash statement (as Mary Lambert’s ’89 adaptation still works perfectly fine) that got the BMD crew thinking: which of Stephen King’s novels would we want to see adapted in the wake of Muschietti’s monster hit? It’s no secret we’re huge fans around these parts (PS – you still have a chance to read us rattle on about Creepy Uncle Steve in print, Constant Reader), and certainly harbor personal wish lists when it comes to unmade King pictures.

So, today - on the occasion of Stephen King's 70th birthday - a portion of the BMD gang got together and threw out our picks for which King works we’d like to see adapted for the screen first. Some of these have never been made, while others already sport big screen versions that could be improved upon. Take a look…

The Long Walk [1979] (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman)

While HBO’s upcoming Confederate has (somewhat justly) soured many on the notion of “alternate histories”, Richard Bachman’s The Long Walk (I don’t credit King with these novels, mind you, as they truly do feel as if they came from another author entirely) envisions a world in which Germany became the primary power following WWII. This of course means one thing: fascism. So, to go along with this new brutal police state, the entertainment we as a world enjoy involves watching kids participate in a marathon, where the losers are viciously murdered should they not be able to keep pace with their competitors. It’s a savage companion piece to Bachman’s The Running Man, and further proof that King was using his own personal Richard Stark to work some seriously dark shit out.

Frank Darabont had been working on an adaptation for years, and it’s difficult not to hope he still is. In a post-Trump America (which already borders on resembling the sociopathic totalitarian state written about in this novel), The Long Walk possesses a prescience that’s difficult to shake, and even more difficult to comprehend when you consider the author first penned the tome before his alter-ego conceived Carrie. This makes sense, though, as The Long Walk is certainly the product of an angry young man, witnessing his country getting torn apart by a confusing conflict of its own (the original draft is said to have been completed in ’67, so you do the math as to where this college freshman’s head was at). Forty years later, and shit hasn’t changed one bit. The scenery’s just a little different and our leader’s hair, a little worse. Now all they have to do is update the tech, and the movie would feel like a fucking documentary. – Jacob Knight

The Running Man [1982] (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman)

(Previously adapted by Paul Michael Glaser, Stephen King & Steven E. de Souza)

Sure, they already made one Running Man movie. But as fun as that Arnold jam is – and it is pretty fun – it’s not much of an adaptation of King’s (writing as Richard Bachman) novel, leaving this still-untold (and now even more timely) story on the table, just waiting for someone to make good on its compelling thriller premise, interesting rules and world-building. You might want to change that ending though. – Evan Saathoff

Pet Sematary [1983] (previously adapted by Mary Lambert & Stephen King)

Let's be real: the success of It doesn’t mean we’re about to be bountifully gifted with a bunch of Stephen King’s heretofore unfilmed works. It means we’re about to get a fuckton of remakes. You know it, I know it, even Andy Muschietti knows it. Sadly, this means we’re probably not going to see the creative team behind American Vandal adapt Rage, King's tale (written under his Richard Bachman pseudonym) of a classroom held hostage by a deranged student, kicking off a story that spirals into something like a Columbine-esque Breakfast Club (though King’s book obviously predates both). The author let the novel go out of print due to its subject matter being referenced in several actual school shootings, so it’s safe to assume we can put this dream back on the shelf.

A more realistic – but still kind of exciting – scenario in my head has a female director (is Jennifer Kent too obvious?) revisiting Pet Sematary and shifting/swapping the focus from Louis Creed to his wife Rachel. The original 1989 film has its fans, but I was never one of them. Back when George A Romero was prepping his unrealized version of the film, King optimistically said he was hoping for a cross between Night of the Living Dead and Romero’s Martin. Grafting that tonal hybrid onto some primal mom horror is something I’d love to see. – Phil Nobile Jr.

The Talisman [1984] (co-written with Peter Straub)

Universal once bought the rights, hoping Spielberg would direct. Will Smith was going to star. So was Michael J Fox. Mick Garris almost directed a miniseries version of it. You can't say they haven't TRIED to make a cinematic version of Stephen King and Peter Straub's The Talisman, but for whatever reason it always falls apart. It's easy to see why – the King brand is horror (or sad prison dramas), and this ain't horror. It's an epic fantasy, and as The Dark Tower proved this year, cutting that sort of thing down to 90 - 120 minutes isn't the best idea.

No, a miniseries would be ideal, allowing for a full realization of King and Straub's endearing and exciting tale of a young boy traveling to an alternate universe in order to save his mother, meeting a number of colorful friends and foes along the way. The concept lives on; the book got a sequel a few years back (Black House), and Del Rey put out a comic series that was intended to adapt the entire novel, though in true Talisman fashion it never got finished (the first collection only covered up until the hero Jack met up with Wolf; a planned second arc never saw the light of day), and the video game Ni No Kuni cribbed a number of ideas from it. But sadly, we have yet to see this world – which ties into that of The Dark Tower – brought to life before the cameras, and at this point, even with the success of It, I don't think we ever will. – Brian Collins

The Eyes of the Dragon [1984] (as a reboot for The Dark Tower)

Let's be frank here: Dark Tower fans got screwed this year. Sony whiffed it on a project that we (the members of this particular fandom ka-tet) have been anticipating for years, decades even. They whiffed it so spectacularly that a better Dark Tower adaptation is unlikely to manifest in my lifetime. 

But there's a fun way to skirt around that little issue, and that's with a cable TV series adaptation (how they should have tackled Mid-World in the first place, in other words) of The Eyes of the Dragon, Stephen King's 1987 fantasy novel that exists in the same universe as The Dark Tower. Fans will be able to meet Roland's nemesis Flagg, his progenitor King Roland, and his world before that world moves on.

While The Eyes of the Dragon is one of the shorter books in King's canon, at only 326 pages, once we throw in concepts (vampires!) found in the 1998 Dark Tower-adjacent novella "The Little Sisters of Eluria," we've got a rich universe ripe for several seasons. Fantasy nerds will be happy; King nerds will be happy; this nerd will be happy. Showtime's probably looking for a Game of Thrones competitor these days – hop on this beam, my buds. Heal my broken heart. – Meredith Borders

From A Buick 8 [2002] (heretofore unfilmed)

Even amongst King fans, 2002's From A Buick 8 isn't a very popular novel. The framing device needlessly overcomplicates things, there's not much actual plot to speak of, and - say it with me now - King doesn't really stick the landing. And yet, I've always had a soft spot for this one.

From A Buick 8 tells the story of a most unusual car that basically functions as a portal to another dimension. Abandoned at a gas station by one of King's nefarious "Low Men" (which, yes, ties this novel into the Dark Tower mythos), the car is brought back to a local police station and stuck in a garage, where it then begins burping up creatures and vegetation from a world very unlike our own. The cops keep their problematic houseguest a secret, and a rotating cast of narrators walk us through the many bizarre events that happen while the Buick 8 is in their care. 

From where I'm standing, the relative simplicity of the plot would allow for a lean, mean adaptation, the rare King book that could be conquered by a two-hour film. The various creature sequences could serve as set pieces, and lord knows I'd love to see those creatures brought to life. Get a really sharp practical effects team in there to build 'em out, and you'd have something pretty interesting.

George Romero flirted with adapting From A Buick 8 shortly before his untimely death, but the project never really went anywhere. Seems likely that someone'll get around to it, though, what with King's recent resurgence in popularity and the fact that no one's ever attempted this one before. Here's hoping that - when the day comes - they keep it simple...and that they make the creatures weird af. - Scott Wampler

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