Originally published in Twilight Zone Magazine and later assembled for Skeleton Crew, “The Jaunt” follows a world in which Mars is colonized, and travel between Earth and Mars is through a method of instantaneous teleportation called “jaunting.” There is a catch, however: you must jaunt while unconscious, as all living creatures who jaunt while awake either die on the spot or go absolutely mad. The story is told by Mark, a father of two who recounts multiple jaunting horror stories, from a prisoner who volunteered to jaunt while awake for a pardon (and died almost immediately) to a man who forced his wife to jaunt and trapped her between portals. Of course, when Mark and his family attempts their jaunt, something goes terribly wrong.
So why would “The Jaunt” be among the unfilmable? Well, for one, you’re looking at a science-fiction/horror story depicting Mars and teleportation that would be filled with flashbacks of murder and insanity, with an ending that offers karmic nihilism and gore in spades. While the Event Horizon fan in me salivates at the thought, budget restraints would likely keep “The Jaunt” from getting a proper cinematic take. Too bad Black Mirror isn’t in the adaptation game, as it would certainly fit into the series’ wicked wheelhouse.
The Talisman may be the most notable King story (co-penned with Peter Straub) to have never received a screen adaptation (not counting the impending Dark Tower), possibly due to the story’s rich mythology and fantasy setting. However, while it’s conceivable that The Talisman could wind up as a mini-series event like so many of King’s richer works one day or another, the same can’t necessarily be said about its follow-up, Black House, which follows the adult life of Talisman protagonist Jack Sawyer as he investigates a series of murders in Wisconsin.
While a cat-and-mouse killer story may be a cakewalk for most King fanatics, Black House is virtually unfilmable thanks to the murderer’s M.O.: he’s called “The Fisherman” as he replicates the sadistic, depraved crimes of serial killer Albert Fish. All of the victims of “The Fisherman” are children, and all of them are found mutilated and cannibalized; seeing that Fish’s terrifying true story has only been adapted in a low-budget 2007 effort The Gray Man, this writer can’t see producers flocking to Black House en masse. Factor in the connections to The Talisman and King’s Dark Tower mythology, and Black House looks tol likely remain perpetually on the shelf.
The most recent King tale on this list, having appeared in King’s 2010 novella compilation Full Dark, No Stars, “Fair Extension” returns to Derry, Maine, to tell the tale of two men: the cancer-ridden Dave Streeter and rich opportunist Tom Goodhugh. One day, Streeter comes across a mysterious stranger, who offers a seemingly impossible deal: 15 extra years of life, in exchange for 15% of his pay, and the weight of his misfortune falling upon someone of his choosing. Of course, Streeter selects Goodhugh, and soon, their respective fates change with shocking results.
Though “Fair Extension” may not be controversial, complicated, or gruesome, the story itself mixes pitch black humor with a barrage of emotional torture. Unlike Thinner or The Dead Zone, there’s no agency and no hope for those afflicted by the horrors within “Fair Extension,” which reads like a contemporary Job story and, admittedly, might not be the easiest watch. And with no karmic comeuppance against the man who revels in another’s suffering, the chance of “Fair Extension” sitting well with audiences who traditionally like to see a protagonist come out on top. In fact, to that point, “Fair Extension” doesn’t have a protagonist in sight!
A thirty-plus year old “Richard Bachman” piece that eventually was rewritten and released in 2007, Blaze is one of King’s most underrated novels, with rich characters, genuine suspense, and a narrative that feels uniquely unlike anything King has ever written before. Blaze follows Clayton “Blaze” Blaisdell, Jr., a mentally-handicapped man who takes part in the kidnapping of a wealthy man’s newborn son. Jumping between Blaisdell’s troubled past to his criminal activities to his current situation, of which he’s wholly unprepared, Blaze is an emotional and tightly-wound story that would make a fantastic feature film.
However, it’s more likely than not that Blaze will never reach the big screen for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, Blaze, a crime drama, is not among King’s most popular works, and with the Bachman name attributed to the story, the novel doesn’t quite receive the critical or fan support that are more present for King-branded works. Next, there’s the unrelenting emotional nature of the story that similarly plagues “Fair Extension,” which is even more torturous considering that the character of Blaisdell is incredibly empathetic. Lastly, there’s the sad fact that complicated, deep stories about the mentally handicapped are still somewhat taboo in modern cinema, with commercial stories often positing reductive, whimsical tales while more art house fare about mentally challenged individuals are often lost in the saturated independent marketplace.
Perhaps the grisliest story in King’s repertoire, even the Master of Horror himself has said “Survivor Type” goes “too far,” and with good reason. Written in first person diary entries, “Survivor Type” shares the tragic tale of Richard Pine, a disgraced surgeon turned drug smuggler who finds himself stranded on a small desert island after his boat sinks in the Pacific Ocean. Low on resources, save for bags of heroin that have washed ashore, Pine regals his diary with stories of his past before slowly succumbing to insanity and starvation. Eventually, Pine realizes his best chance of survival requires him to eat the only available food source on the island: his own flesh.
If given to the right filmmaker, “Survivor Type” could be the body horror film to end all body horror films, with a morbid voyeuristic quality that could craft Cast Away for the genre crowd. That said, the chances of “Survivor Type” of becoming a feature film are slim; not only would the film mostly be a one-man show, a daunting task for any actor, but the graphic depiction of Pine’s self-cannibalism would be pushing it with the ratings board, even considering their more relaxed standards as of late. By the end of the film, the mad, mostly-eaten Richard Pine would be a sight to behold, but unless a producer and filmmaker decide a feature length depiction of gag-reflex endurance test is best for business, a feature adaptation of “Survivor Type” will remain a sight unseen.