Adaptations of horror books on the big and small screens aren’t exactly in short supply – you can’t make it through a single calendar year these days without tripping over two or three Stephen King adaptations, for instance. But certain books that are ripe for a cinematic reimagining have been unfairly overlooked. Here are five books I’d like to offer up to the Hollywood gods:
Zone One, Colson Whitehead
Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad is currently being adapted as a limited series for Amazon, and I would just die to see Whitehead’s unusual 2011 zombie novel get picked up next. It’s the story of Mark Spitz (not his real name), a survivor of the zombie apocalypse currently working as a sweeper, clearing out the remaining zombies in lower Manhattan building by building, room by room. Spitz’s unlikely survival is told largely in flashback, including a scene set in New York’s subway system that has haunted me for years, and is ripe to traumatize a whole new generation of moviegoers.
Wylding Hall, Elizabeth Hand
If you know me at all in person or online, you know that I LOVE this terrifying little novel, which tells the story of a cult favorite acid folk band and the summer they spend recording their classic album in an abandoned mansion in the English countryside. I have a beautiful dream for the adaptation, with some talented folk singer making his screen debut as Julian, and writing and performing a full Windhollow Faire album for the soundtrack. Can Hozier act? He probably can, right? Just let me have this, universe, please.
The Luminous Dead, Caitlin Starling
This claustrophobic sci-fi survival horror story takes place in a series of deep caves on Cassandra-V, a mining planet, as Gyre, an inexperienced caver, goes deep into the planet’s crust, searching for… something. Her handler, Em, isn’t exactly big on transparency. And there’s something else down in these caves – something deadly. The casting would need to be strong – there are only two main characters (ghosts/hallucinations aside) and the producers would need to nail the chemistry between Gyre and Em, but the production design could be the third star here. It’s an alien cave system! A director with vision could have a field day with the look and feel here.
The Family Plot, Cherie Priest
An adaptation of Priest’s novel about a salvage crew clearing out an abandoned house in the Tennessee hills would absolutely be the low-budget sleeper hit of the year. It’s a classic haunted house set-up – Dahlia and her small team are sleeping at the house they’ve been charged with clearing (because of course they are). They all have their own demons, but the house adds a few more to the mix – there are several ghosts here, one of whom is very, very angry. After I finished this book I was scared to shower for a week, and it’s one of the only books I’ve ever read to feature what I can only describe as a jump scare – on screen, it would be drop dead terrifying.
World War Z, Max Brooks
“But Emily,” I hear you say, “World War Z WAS adapted already. Didn’t you see the movie?” Yeah, I saw the movie – that’s the problem. Aside from being a fairly mediocre zombie movie, it was only an adaptation in the loosest imaginable terms, and I feel like we as a society are owed a mulligan. I’m envisioning a high-budget HBO World War Z miniseries – think Chernobyl meets Game of Thrones. The star-studded audiobook hints at what a proper adaptation of WWZ could do if it adhered to the book’s oral history format – it’s a casting director’s dream. And so many of the book’s vignettes are cinematic already – the Battle of Yonkers could easily be the next Battle of Winterfell (with better lighting), and the sequence where the astronauts on the ISS watch the zombies sweeping across North America? I get chills just thinking about it.