The debate over Stephen King’s “greatness” may be ongoing, but the author’s near-universally adored bibliography speaks for itself. And the fact that Hollywood is constantly trying to adapt his work speaks volumes, too. Even though comic book adaptations are bolstering Stan Lee’s number’s, it’s King who’s seen more versions of her work onscreen than any other writer alive. By a large damn margin.
Of course, the reason is obvious: King populates his fiction with thrilling battles between good and evil, roguish heroes, lovable villains, and unimaginable nightmares. And Hollywood eats that shit up.
Though a lot of his work may take a somewhat homogenized form onscreen, more often than not, the original text is usually pretty extreme. King is objectively brilliant, sure, but that brilliance is cut by a really twisted imagination and a gleeful adoration of ultra-violence. If you don’t believe me, just consider that he once spent seven pages writing a six-on-one orgy starring grade school kids.
In other words, sometimes the prolific writer just publishes stuff that, for whatever reason, doesn’t belong on film. Sometimes his dark side is a little irredeemably dark, sometimes his narratives are too “literary,” and sometimes he just writes stuff that Hollywood doesn’t have the balls to execute.
Here are seven of those stories.
Rage is the story of a freaking psycho, who — ostensibly driven by an abusive and equally psychotic Dad — takes an entire high school algebra class hostage, kills several teachers, induces a brutal riot, and ultimately lands in a mental hospital.
This is the one work of King’s that is almost entirely unlikely to get made (or even dug up). After some school shooters took on ominously similar MOs, King disowned the novel, asking his publishers to take it out of print. They happily obliged.
The Long Walk
Technically, the long walk stands a chance of getting made, but it’s a long shot (consider that a good thing). Last it was in the public eye, Frank Darabont had optioned the rights and claimed he’d, “get there eventually.” That was in 2007.
And, anyway, The Long Walk is too book-y for a proper adaptation. Basically, it’s a bunch of kids walking until 99 of them die. Is it some government exercise? Is it a form of entertainment? It’s unclear. The book itself is riveting, because King makes great use of language. Translate that into film and you’ve just got a bunch of kids dying, slowly, in Maine.
The Eyes of the Dragon
One of King’s rare straight-up fantasy novels. The Eyes of the Dragon is a competent fantasy tale about an evil sorcerer operating in the court of a benevolent king. Here’s the thing, though. The asshole magician is named Flagg and the king is named Roland. In other words, it’s basically just a fantasy riff on The Dark Tower.
The Eyes of the Dragon kind of operates as a ancient history confrontation between Roland and the Man in the Black. Ish. There are definite connections between the two novels, even if their stories differ. The similarity in the names and characters, however, might make this guy kryptonite once America gets a peek at The Dark Tower.
Gerald’s Game is easily one of Stephen King’s most fucked up books. The protagonist is a woman who accidentally kills her shit bird husband — while having kinky sex in their Maine cabin. Basically, she spends 90 percent of the book handcuffed to the bed, going slowly insane, watching a stray feed on her husband’s corpse, tormented by what turns out to be a goddamn necrophile. It is fucking crazy.
And there’s no way Hollywood could ever adapt Gerald’s Game into anything that didn’t completely dull the horror and cleverness of the book. It would just be weird, lonely torture porn.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Remember earlier, when I said that some of King’s adaptations are so brutal that Hollywood doesn’t have what it takes to do them correctly? The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is that book. It’s the story of a nine-year-old girl named Trisha who gets lost in the labyrinthine woods of the Appalachian Trail.
As she becomes more and more desperate and hallucinatory, Trisha imagines herself headed for a showdown with a monstrous creature who inhabits the woods. It’s a testament of survival, and one of King’s best. It could never be done properly because no studio is going to green light a movie that sees a young girl come razor close to death.
Blaze is a book that should stay on the page, because an adaptation of the thing would likely draw some pretty harsh criticisms from the PC set.
Which is most objectionable to you: A mentally challenged guy who’s dead set on self-destruction? Or that same mentally challenged fella kidnapping and seriously endangering an infant in several precarious sequences while also losing his grip on reality? How about all the police murder?
This is one of King’s bleaker efforts that honestly only got published because he’s a literary superstar. Originally it was turned down in favor of ’Salem’s Lot, because … of course it was.
Doctor Sleep is not a bad novel. It’s not. It just never needed to exist. It’s clear that with old age, King’s taste for horror has waned slightly, as he turns more of his attention to old-manish pursuits like writing mystery novels and alternate histories.
So, that said, Doctor Sleep was never going to be truly horrifying, no matter how many psychic cannibals there were. When you’re going for a sequel to The Shining, one of the scariest books ever written, you need to bring the horror — or steer clear. King should’ve steered clear. We didn’t need a resolution between Danny and Jack. Jack was an asshole who deserved what he got.
Add to that the troubled production history of The Shining and the fact that most of pop culture identifies with Kubrick’s version (which is way different than the books), and it’s best for Hollywood to simply stay away.