With the concluding chapter of Stephen King’s “It” remake floating into theaters this week – and with new versions of “Firestarter,” “Salem’s Lot,” and “The Stand” on the horizon – here are 10 terrifying King films that might benefit from a fresh adaptation.
The Dead Zone (1983)
It’s impossible to imagine another actor playing Johnny Smith, the clairvoyant coma survivor at the center of King’s creepy tale, with as much haunted intensity as Christopher Walken brought to David Cronenberg’s superb adaptation. That’s why a modern remake of “The Dead Zone” would be wise to expand the role of Greg Stillson, the unhinged political candidate portrayed by Martin Sheen the first time around. Luckily, King’s bestseller includes several frightening scenes with the deranged character that weren’t included in the original film. In today’s politically divisive climate, a Stillson-centered take on the material would help give a remake a fearsome identity all its own.
John Carpenter’s stylish adaptation of King’s haunted car tale perfectly captures the nostalgic tone and eerie atmosphere of the book, with one small exception. In the film, the murderous 1958 Plymouth Fury rolls off the assembly line already evil, while in the novel, Christine is merely possessed by the spirit of her diabolical former owner, who frequently appears as a putrid corpse chatting away in the back seat. Carpenter himself has expressed regret about the decision not to include the rotting passenger in the film, so a remake could help correct that nagging detail, while simultaneously scaring a new generation of automotive horror fans.
Silver Bullet (1985)
Hampered by sub-par werewolf effects and a wildly uneven tone, this silly adaptation of King’s novella about a 10-year old paraplegic boy who tangles with a bloodthirsty lycanthrope in a small New England town is a perfect candidate for a modern remake. With an improved creature design, more assured direction, and a disabled actor in the lead role, this chilling short story might finally work on the screen the way it does on the page.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
King himself directed this gloriously goofy adaptation of a short story from his Night Shift collection about a group of local yokels trapped in a roadside truck stop by a convoy of killer big rigs. Although dismissed by critics as amateurish when it was initially released, the film has since become a beloved entry in King’s cinematic canon, thanks in large part to its raunchy sense of humor and over-the-top set pieces. Considering how popular car-centric franchises like “The Fast and the Furious” and “Transformers” are right now, an action-horror remake of “Maximum Overdrive” might be just the thing to rev moviegoers’ engines.
The Running Man (1987)
Written under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, King’s dystopian novel tells the story of Ben Richards, a tragic everyman who volunteers for a lethal game of hide and seek in order to solve his family’s crippling financial problems. But producers of the 1987 film adaptation cast larger-than-life Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role, which completely altered the book’s theme. Instead of a morally complex thriller about a desperate man on a suicidal quest to give his wife and child a better life, viewers were treated to a tacky sci-fi adventure filled with cartoonish villains and cheesy one-liners. A faithful remake would go a long way towards restoring the book’s disturbing reputation.
Rob Reiner’s Oscar-winning thriller about an unlucky author who finds himself at the mercy of a psychopathic admirer remains one of the best King adaptations of all time. But in today’s era of obsessive stanning and toxic fandom, a remake of the classic novel could shed scary new light on the increasingly twisted relationship between audience and artist. Beyond that, an updated version might also focus on the intense drug addiction aspect of the book that wasn’t fully developed the first time around. As for the original movie’s infamous hobbling scene, a fresh take on the material could see Annie Wilkes wielding an ax instead of a sledgehammer, the way she did in King’s bestseller.
Needful Things (1993)
Even the most hardcore King aficionado wouldn’t rank this anemic film about a devilish proprietor whose odd antique store turns neighbor against neighbor as a particularly good adaptation. Truth be told, the book itself isn’t that great either. But clocking in at a whopping 690 pages, it’s certainly loaded with enough horrific material to fill at least two seasons worth of a television series. Perhaps with someone like Alan Ball or Ryan Murphy taking the reins, a remake of this shopworn tale might attract a few new customers.
Though far from King’s most nuanced novel, this 700-page horrorpalooza managed to cram some of the author’s most delightfully disgusting imagery between its front and back covers, resulting in a fan favorite that continues to revolt new readers every year. Unfortunately, the made-for-TV version that premiered on the ABC Network suffered from a problem that plagued so many King adaptations throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s – namely, director Mick Garris. But with a filmmaker like Mike Flanagan (“Gerald’s Game”) or Zak Hilditch (“1922”) at the helm of a “Desperation” remake, there might be hope yet for King’s nightmarish epic.
Bag of Bones (2011)
This A&E miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s 1998 bestseller about a grief-stricken writer who encounters a restless spirit in his Maine summer home suffered from a badly miscast Pierce Brosnan, sloppy direction, and a dearth of decent scares. However, in the hands of a modern master of supernatural terror like James Wan or Jennifer Kent, the book’s numerous scenes of ghostly happenings might produce genuine shivers rather than embarrassing chuckles like the TV version did.
The Dark Tower (2017)
King fans were understandably disappointed when this long-awaited film adaptation of his acclaimed fantasy series turned out to be an epic mess. From its dull action scenes, stiff performances, and routine special effects, “The Dark Tower” managed to botch nearly everything that made the books special. Although a television reboot is reportedly in the works at Amazon, a fresh theatrical update that hews closely to the source material would surely please the legion of devoted Gunslinger disciples who felt let down by this unfortunate misfire.