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10 Stephen King Short Stories That Should Be Films

By  · Published on September 10th, 2009

Two days ago, I posted up a story about how Children of the Corn is going to be remade because the original just plain wasn’t religious enough for the Weinsteins. They demand more creepy children. In corn! And while this prospect doesn’t make me all that sad – either because I’m a robot with no feelings or because I’ve grown desensitized to remake news – it does make me wish that filmmakers would dip a bit further into Stephen King’s giant corpus of short stories.

Instead of another Children of the Corn, let’s see a few of these gems fleshed out into full feature length horror trips.

All That You Love Will Be Carried Away

The Pitch: Alfie is a traveling salesman who is fascinated by graffiti, seeing it as small messages people can leave behind on walls and bathroom stalls that broadcast out into the rest of the world. He’s also fascinated by the idea of killing himself and frequently thinks on suicide but stops short realizing that leaving behind a notebook of all the graffiti he’s copied down over his journeys would seem insane. Stuck between ending it all or sharing that insanity in book form, Alfie makes a decision: if the lights of a nearby farmhouse turn on before he counts to 60, he’ll write the book. If they don’t, he’ll throw his notebook away and pull the trigger.

There’s a lot of emotional nooks and crannies to explore even if the story takes place in a short amount of time. It could easily be expanded, and the weight of the outcome of his decision is perfect for film.

The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet

The Pitch: An alcoholic editor who receives a manuscript that he believes is a work of genius starts to believe that the writer’s delusions are real. Henry, the editor, delves into madness (the flexible bullet) while struggling to get the story published.

There’s a ton of story here, specifically because it deals with a descent into madness and a subplot of investing in an artist. Plus, it’s always fun to watch someone go crazy.

The Cat From Hell

The Pitch: A hitman is paid $12,000 to kill a cat. This goes horribly, horribly wrong.

I have to admit that I’m not sure whether there’s enough meat here to make it all the way as a feature, but that title is awesome, and watching a professional deal with an unkillable monster cat sounds rad.

Everything’s Eventual

The Pitch: A high school drop out with a crappy job history is hired by a special company when they realize he has the unique ability to psychically coerce people into doing what he wants through his drawings. He gets a name and email address, he draws something that will make them commit suicide. It’s as simple as that, and he lives on easy street. Until he starts getting a conscience about who he’s killing.

The Gingerbread Girl

The Pitch: After her daughter dies from crib death, Emily becomes obsessed with running and loses an immense amount of weight. She moves in with her father during a trial separation from her husband, and is introduced to a man in the neighborhood who turns out to be an insane killer who takes her prisoner.

I love this idea as a film because it flows easily between two very different plots in the way The Descent does. The first is an emotional tale of a woman losing herself and her family, the second, a slasher chase scene where her obsession happens to come in handy.

Home Delivery

The Pitch: In what is the easiest story to adapt, “Home Delivery” tells the story of a small island community that fights off a zombie attack after the dead have been brought back to life by an alien spaceship hovering over the hole in the ozone layer.

Sounds a lot like Plan 9 From Outer Space but is far more intimate. Plus the remote location offers a lot in the way of tension and scares.

In the Deathroom

The Pitch: A former reporter is arrested in South America and taken into a Deathroom as he’s interrogated. It becomes increasingly more and more obvious that he won’t leave the room alive no matter what he tells them, so he devises a plan to escape.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a solid political thriller, and it’s been a really long time since one dealt with South America. A lot would need to be added, but considering the dramatic nature of the character and his situation, he’s got a lot of room for a cool back story.

The Last Rung on the Ladder

The Pitch: After the suicide of his sister, Larry recounts a story where she was stuck on the last wrung of the ladder in the barn house so he piled hay beneath her and told her to let go. After landing, he realizes that she never looked down, she simply trusted him that she’d be safe. The true story focuses on how her life deteriorates, how he becomes too wrapped up in his own life to intervene and how he missed the opportunity he had to save her.

Subtle and personal, this would make a killer drama.

The Man Who Loved Flowers

The Pitch: A serial killer continually searches for his love Norma despite her dying years ago. He buys flowers, presents them to a girl, and when she isn’t Norma, he kills her.

Yet again, this would have to be fleshed out a ton, but I think it could work. It has a great feel of nostalgia and irony to it since everyone the man meets on the street as he ambles along lovesick and flower-laden notes how wonderful the beauty of love is. One elderly woman actually scolds her husband for not being as passionate anymore right after the man has viciously murdered a young woman. In the right hands, it would be smart, funny, a little campy, and brutal.

Strawberry Spring

The Pitch: After the name “Springheel Jack” appears in the newspapers again, a young man recounts the spring that the killer first appeared at his college campus and ponders on the killer’s return.

The only story here with a true twist ending, it has the potential to surprise audiences. Plus, it’s a great story overall that takes a fresh look at the paranoia and fear of a campus killer.

Editor’s Note: Some of these stories have already been sold as Dollar Babies, the program King has set up for student filmmakers to buy the rights to make a film based on his work for only a dollar.

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.