There are a number of high-concept, cross-genre books that have made the translation from the printed page to film or television over the last few years. While some LGBTQ-interest shows have been critically lauded, like Bryan Fuller’s prequel to Thomas Harris’ pre-existing franchise HANNIBAL, it didn’t become a ratings hit like other adaptations THE WALKING DEAD or DEXTER, and was axed after three seasons.
Other books with queer themes that have had more success on the screen are the dystopian teen survival sci-fi tale THE 100, now halfway through its third TV season, while non-genre entries like Todd Hayes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s CAROL and transgender biopic THE DANISH GIRL met with uniformly positive reviews and award nominations.
So it begs the question: what queer horror novels would make great movies/TV shows, and what directors could bring them to the screen? Below are four speculative choices — and some directors that might make a nice fit.
THE DAYLIGHT GATE by Jeanette Winterson
Who Could Play Characters: Hayley Atwell (Alice), Katie Burke (Demdike), Jon Hamm (The Dark Gentleman), Tilda Swinton (Elizabeth Southern)
The Book: GLBTQ activist, essayist and novelist Jeanette Winterson was headhunted for Hammer Horror’s literary line, and she delivered THE DAYLIGHT GATE, a mournful and stylishly provocative slice of historical fiction. The story sees Winterson (ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT) mining the 17th century Pendle Witch trials, which are the most famous British executions ever documented. The story follows the wealthy and generous landowner Alice Cutter (Hayley Atwell) residing in an untamed wilderness in Lancashire or The Dark North, a stronghold of the catholic faith at the time. Alice is targeted for execution when she gets caught up in a witchcraft plot. Her affiliation with the gutter-dwelling harridan Demdike (Katie Burke) and her coven attracts the attention of the local authorities. The net around her tightens and we learn more about Alice: her relationship with Machiavellian Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton) Southern and her connection to The Dark Gentleman (Jon Hamm).
Who Could Adapt: THE WITCH writer/director Brian Eggers would be a perfect fit for THE DAYLIGHT GATE.
Why: THE WITCH and THE DAYLIGHT GATE share a number of thematic parallels: female persecution, religious mania and a feminist slant. Both stories take place in the 17th century America and Britain, respectively (both remaining faithful to historical accuracy), and Eggers has already immersed himself in hard-research and accomplished a lot with THE WITCH on a budget of $1 million. THE DAYLIGHT GATE could (hypothetically) be made on a similar budget. A director’s relationship to his subject matter is absolutely vital, and because Eggers did some pretty exhaustive research into this world, the book should translate without much difficulty.
THE THREE by Sarah Lotz
Who Could Play Characters: Barbara Hershey (Lilian), Lauren Ambrose (Elspeth), Ray Wise (Len Voorhees), Russell Tovey (Paul Craddock)
THE Book: Framed within Elspeth Martin’s non-fiction book FROM CRASH TO CONSPIRACY is South African novelist Sarah Lotz uber-creepy THE THREE. This high-octane horror-thriller is related via extracts, statements and first-person accounts, relating multiple (and potentially unreliable) stories (that include everything from spectre-filled forests to android replicants, bad-seed children and rapture cults) in a journalistic format, surrounding the survival of three children “miraculously” pulled from three (of four) plane wreckages on a day described by the global press as Black Thursday, and the apocalyptic events that follow.
When one of the doomed aircraft’s victim’s final messages is leaked online, fanatical evangelical minister and radio show host Len Voorhees seizes on the message. Using social networking and his radio show as a platform, he spreads the message that Pam’s last words mirror the vision of the Rapture laid out in the Book of Revelation, and The Three are possessed by The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; the children’s very existence might signal the end of days. The children’s families quickly discover that it isn’t the relentless press attention, Yakuza hitmen or even the rise of the religious subset of the theocratic right that they need to worry about, but the children themselves.
Who Could Adapt? THE THREE has already been optioned for a TV series by Company Pictures. The reason for its inclusion on this list: Paul Craddock is a gay character who is also a primary protagonist. The book has an oral history approach (similar to WORLD WAR Z) so Chris Carter could adapt THE THREE for television. It ticks all the boxes for Carter: Ghosts, Bad Seed children, sinister robots, man-eating lizards…
Why: THE THREE is set on four continents and focalised through a large number of characters from diverse backgrounds and cultures. In a series spanning between 10 and 13 episodes, Carter would be able to do the book justice without resorting to huge info-dumps and exposition, something that would be difficult to achieve in a film adaptation — even with an extended running time. Techniques that could be utilized might be the found-footage conceit, with live-action and real-time episodes and character-focused realism. For budgetary reasons, the segments that take place in Japan with the android replicant and the suicide forest could be anime sequences.
THE HEXSLINGER TRILOGY by Gemma Files
Who Could Play Characters: Boo Boo Stewart (Chess), Wentworth Miller (Ed Morrow), Sam Elliot (Rook), Lucy Lawless (Ixchel)
THE HEXSLINGER TRILOGY by Gemma Files is an alternate history with its prurient origins deeply rooted in the Yaoi/Slash-Fiction movement and hard-boiled pulp. The trilogy revolves around unrepentantly bad-ass queer Chess Pargeter, who along with his Pinkerton agent boyfriend Ed Morrow is sharpshooting his way through the dust-bowl landscape of post-Civil War America, and pitted against Aztec goddess Ixchel, monsters and Reverend Astor Rook…
Who Should Direct: Bryan Fuller, S Craig Zahler and Rick Jacobson (mini-series)
Why: With HANNIBAL, AMERICAN GODS and STAR TREK (rumored) under his belt, Bryan Fuller is no stranger to brilliantly reinventing pre-existing franchises on the small screen. THE HEXSLINGER TRILOGY would make a bold and expansive western/horror hybrid and Fuller as a showrunner would never compromise the source material with hetero-washing or toning down the more adult content and omitting the more phantasmagorical elements that would have audiences reaching for their vomit-bags. Fuller’s Chess Pargeter would make a great queer anti-hero; the LGBT themes would be front-and-center in a Fuller adaptation.
BONE TOMAHAWK’s S Craig Zahler and ASH VS EVIL DEAD’s Craig Jacobson could come on board and share the director’s chair on adapting the first two books: A BOOK OF TONGUES and A ROPE OF THORNS. Together they’d perfectly capture the weird and violent essence of Files’ material — and it would be as gruesomely satisfying and sexy as all Hell. Fuller would directly adapt the concluding chapter A TREE OF BONES, and hopefully keep the giant spider.
LOST SOULS by Poppy Z. Brite (Billie Martin)
Who Could Play Characters: Ezra Miller (Ghost), Cillian Murphy (Steve Finn), Logan Lerman (Nothing), Bret Harrison (Zillah), and Lee Pace (Twig)
The Book: The vampire-themed debut novel LOST SOULS by Poppy Z. Brite (who now identifies as trans-man, Billie Martin) follows orphaned baby-vampire Nothing, growing up different in a soul-destroying backwater who one day decides to find out about his biological parentage. His investigations into his ancestry lead him to The French Quarter in New Orleans and he crosses paths with a triumvirate of terrifying vampires. Steve and Ghost are residents of Missing Mile; Steve Finn is a rage-filled musician and Ghost is a fey mystic. Steve and Ghost are unwittingly drawn into the vampires’ plans, and a fight for survival begins.
Who Could Direct: Jen and Sylvia Soska
Why: The Soska Sisters have already demonstrated that they can explore (and offer insights) into alternative subcultures in AMERICAN MARY. They’re not afraid of risky, envelope-pushing fare like LOST SOULS, and are skilled and uncompromising filmmakers in their own right. So readers wouldn’t need to worry about the film being a truncated or watered-down flick. It would be potentially fascinating to see how they’d approach a testosterone-fueled group of male characters (might there be a gender-swap thrown in?) and let’s be honest — we’ve been waiting for a vampire film from these twisted sisters for years.