It’s the latest craze: turning a popular (or at least vaguely notable) horror movie into a television series, exploiting a fun idea and/or a complex mythology for fun and profit.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some of these series sound like terrible ideas on paper, but turn out perfectly entertaining (like BATES MOTEL) or absolutely brilliant (like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER or HANNIBAL). Others sound like reasonably fun ideas but turn out… well, they just turn out, basically. Teen Wolf and Scream are okay and all, but they don’t seem to be blowing anybody’s minds, and who knows whether the upcoming TV series based on FRIDAY THE 13TH, THE OMEN or THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES will be any good? (Alright, alright, we have our theories too.)
But we won’t complain (anytime soon) because there’s a lot of potential in these movies to expand into grander tales, or at least into entertaining episodic adventures. And we want to get in on the fun. We’ve put our studio executive caps on and come up with five films that we think could be turned into ripping serialized yarns, by either elaborating on the original story or using the movie’s setup as a launching pad for all-new tales of terror.
Take a look at what we’ve come up with, and let us know which ones you’d watch!
The Pitch: “It’s TWIN PEAKS, in college, with mad scientists!”
H.P. Lovecraft has been called the most important horror author of the 20th Century, but he’s never had his own official TV series… until now (or at least until someone buys our pitch). Fortunately for any studio interested, Lovecraft’s works are in the public domain, so taking a beloved horror icon like Herbert West, the re-animator of human flesh (played so charismatically by Jeffrey Combs in Stuart Gordon’s 1985 film), and putting them in updated surroundings is a snap.
And since many of Lovecraft’s works revolved around the same locations like Arkham Asylum and Miskatonic University, it would be a snap to center an ensemble cast of Lovecraft’s most popular characters within their walls. A horror series in which Herbert West attends class alongside Randolph Carter (Lovecraft’s own alter ego), and is taught by the various mad scientists from COOL AIR, FROM BEYOND and THE STRANGE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD (just to start with) gets our spines a-tingling already. And by the time season two rolls around, and the anthropology department starts giving public lectures about Cthulhu, this show would have you hooked.
THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (1997)
The Pitch: “It’s Better Call Satan!”
There are more TV series about lawyers than we would ever care to count, but we wouldn’t mind one more if the concept was devilish enough. Enter THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, an adaptation of Taylor Hackford’s hammy but entertaining 1997 thriller about a lawyer who discovers that his new law firm is run by Satan himself.
Yes, it’s a little like the fifth season of ANGEL, but in the series based on THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE there are no good guys trying to make things right. It’s a series about moral corruption, not unlike BREAKING BAD, in which we root for the antiheroes to achieve their goals whether or not we actually like them. Defending unrepentant murderers, business retreats that are also unholy rituals, and a boss who absolutely cannot be trusted will lead to an atmosphere of unease that can be milked from episode to episode for noose-tightening suspense and unexpected twists.
CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991)
The Pitch: “It’s MAD MEN but with magic!”
Imagine a world of hard boiled men and women, back in the 1940s, where using magic is an everyday facet of life. Now imagine trying to solve crimes in that environment. That was the setup for Martin Campbell’s clever fantasy noir from 1991, and since CAST A DEADLY SPELL was a TV movie already, shifting gears into a weekly series doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch.
Besides, shows like MAD MEN and MASTERS OF SEX have proven that a television series set in America’s recent past has enormous potential to remind us of just how far we’ve come, culturally. Adding a fantasy element and weekly allegories for social unrest practically writes itself (if anything does). And the 1994 sequel WITCH HUNT, directed by Paul Schrader, sets up a clear destination for the Cast a Deadly Spell series, which would take our hero Det. Lovecraft from World War II to a parallel McCarthy era, in which the U.S. government literally hunts witches.
Pitch: “It’s BAND OF BROTHERS in space!”
When James Cameron added Colonial Marines to the mythology of ALIEN, he turned a fright flick with interstellar chills into an action classic about intergalactic thrills. But can you make a TV series set in the Aliens universe, without the actual aliens everybody knows and loves?
Hell yes you can, because there’s more than one type of alien out there. Don’t forget that Cameron’s film refers to other planets have “indigenous life” already, and Pvt. Hudson refers to previous conflicts as both “standup fights” and “bug hunts.” So a series about a group of hard-asses traveling from planet to planet, getting involved in violent political conflict, fending off scary monsters and becoming unwitting pawns in the ongoing conspiracies of “The Company” would be one hell of a serialized tale. Game on.
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: VAMPIRE CHRONICLES (1994)
The Pitch: “It’s OUTLANDER with bloodsuckers!”
Before shows like TRUE BLOOD and GAME OF THRONES started adapted novels into serialized entertainment, audiences had to settle for feature film versions that cut out half the good stuff just to fit in a reasonable theatrical running time. But those days are over, and turning a seductive supernatural drama like Anne Rice’s THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES into a TV show makes more sense than ever.
With over a dozen novels to cull from (and seven more if you count Rice’s LIVES OF THE MAYFAIR WITCHES), showrunners would have ample material to tell the story of these undying, lost souls throughout history, and really delve into the characters and the madness and mythology. And a cable series would be able to really throw money at the many luxurious locations and costumes, and expand on Anne Rice’s world in a way that the Neil Jordan movie – as impressive as it was at the time – barely could. (And it would definitely put the QUEEN OF THE DAMNED movie to shame, wouldn’t it?)