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Speaking as a longtime fan of the filmmaker, I consider Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher to be one of the best Mike Flanagan creations yet, and for a multitude of reasons. I am especially in awe, however, of the Doctor Sleep director’s ability to expand Edgar Allan Poe’s 72-page novella into an eight-part Netflix original miniseries — whilst also taking inspiration from more of the seminal author’s works, of course. Regardless, it makes me wonder what other short horror stories out there would be worth adapting for screen.
There have been many great horror movies and TV shows alike for which short-form literature served as the basis, such as how The Thing is adapted from John W. Campbell’s "Who Goes There?", or Clive Barker’s “The Forbidden” inspired Candyman. So what is the next great screen adaptation of a horror show story? Perhaps it could be one of the following creepy classics and underrated tales below.
The Veldt by Ray Bradbury
The key to the lasting legacy of science-fiction author Ray Bradbury — who also wrote some of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone — is his prophetic examination of concepts like censorship (such as in his novel Fahrenheit 451, which was most recently adapted into a HBO movie with Michael B. Jordan) and technology, like his 1950 short story, “The Veldt.” The disturbing dystopian tale of a married couple who find their roles as parents being usurped by their technologically-advanced home and its virtual reality capabilities has been adapted a number of times, such as a few audio plays and a segment of the 1969 anthology feature called The Illustrated Man. Yet, it might be due for a new reimagining that would not require a setting too far in the future, given how timely its themes have become.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Another short story that has already inspired a number of adaptations, but is more relevant today than ever, is 1948’s “The Lottery” — one of the most unsettling works by Shirley Jackson, which is really saying something given her most iconic work is The Haunting of Hill House. Speaking of, Mike Flanagan might be a good fit to modernize this tale about a seemingly quaint community and the annual tradition they practice annually to dispel bad omens, which could be an amusing way to examine the topic of mob mentality.
11 Miles by Richard Southard
Online, user-generated horror stories known as Creepypastas have inspired several screen adaptations in recent years, such as the seasonal anthology TV show Channel Zero and the upcoming Backrooms movie from A24. I would love to see something based on “11 Miles” by Richard Southard (who originally posted under the pseudonym Emeryy), which describes a ritual to achieve a most desired reward involving a maddening drive through otherworldly territory. It is framed as more of an instructional manual, but a film depicting one person's experience of this extremely dangerous trip could be very effective and I think Kyle Edward Ball — writer and director of the inventive indie horror flick Skinamarink — could make something truly creepy and immersive out of it.
The Shadow Out Of Time by H.P. Lovecraft
One of the most prolific names in horror fiction is H.P. Lovecraft, whose works has inspired countless movies — such as the classic horror-comedy Re-Animator — and the Emmy-winning HBO series Lovecraft Country. However, one of the few titles by the author that has not been adapted is 1936’s The Shadow Out of Time, which imagines an extraterrestrial race that can travels to other planets and others times by way of bodily possession. I am surprised more alien invasion movies have not explored this topic, which is more frightening to me than flying saucers, and I believe this story deserves a movie or show adaptation that No One Will Save You director Brian Duffield might handle beautifully.
I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
The growing prevalence of artificial intelligence is something that deeply, deeply concerns me, and I cannot think of a greater way to explain why than by citing Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream.” The Hugo Award-winning 1968 story is about an A.I. that achieves sentience and, out of revenge for its own creation, wipes out most of humanity, save five people whom it subjects to infinite torture. So far, the best-known direct adaptation of this post-apocalyptic thriller is a computer game, but the relevancy of its themes and bleak narrative would make for one fiercely frightening project.
Contents Of The Dead Man's Pocket by Jack Finney
Jack Finney is better known as the mastermind behind the sci-fi serial that inspired several Invasion of the Body Snatchers movies, but one effort of his that deserves more attention is “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket.” First published in 1968, it focuses on an overworked man who risks his life to retrieve a piece of paper after it accidentally flies outside his apartment window. It is an intense, thought-provoking parable about reevaluating life’s priorities that might not work as a feature film or series, but would work great as an episode of an anthology TV show like Black Mirror or Cabinet of Curiosities.
The Landlady by Roald Dahl
The best-known Roald Dahl adaptations are whimsical family movie classics and it was not until recently, with Wes Anderson releasing The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and more shorts on Netflix, when mainstream audiences became more acquainted with the author’s darker efforts. Yet those are as light as The BFG or Matilda when compared to “The Landlady” — Dahl’s 1959 short story in which a 17-year-old stays at a bed and breakfast run by a suspicious older woman. Without giving away the twisted final reveal, it is hard to believe that this shocker came from the same mind that brought us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but that’s exactly why I think a proper feature-length adaptation might be in order.