Peter from Horror's Not Dead gives us Five: Adaptations of stories you probably don’t have on Your bookshelf
These days horror adaptations from the literary world are so rare (unless the source is Stephen King or a Manga) that one may forget a time when they were the bread and butter of genre productions. Obvious monster lineage (Frankenstein et al) and genre staples (Jaws, The Shining et al) aside, there are plenty of terrific adaptations of fairly underplayed short stories or novels. Some a little more common than others, but the following five all owe their existence to that wonderful breed of horror unique to tried and true prose.
Incident on and off a Mountain Road
Directed by the fan friendly Don Coscarelli, Incident is an adaptation of a short story by the relatively prolific Joe R. Lansdale. Perhaps best known as the author of Bubba Ho-Tep, Lansdale has a tendency to write darker than most and Incident is no different. Written without a prepared plot, Lansdale started his short story with a woman driving down the road and naturally shaped it into one delightfully demented chase through the woods. The adaptation was the premiere episode of Masters of Horror (and one of the best of the first season), didn’t wear its welcome out at its sub 60 minute runtime, has some badass makeup effects and one very cute Bree Turner as the damsel in distress. If you haven’t seen the episode or read the short (which can be found with a quick google to Lansdale’s homepage), both are quick and reliable entertainment.
A Boy and his Dog
I love A Boy and his Dog, but not everyone does. Overlooked outside of the genre community, this L. Q. Jones directed adaptation of the Harlan Ellison short story of the same name is perhaps as imaginative a journey through a post-apocalyptic wasteland as one could ever hope for outside of the Fallout game series. If you’re still not sold, you have to at least respect the originality of a story about an 18 year old who uses his psychic relationship with his dog, Blood, to traverse the wastelands and find women to rape. It has an ending that will make you double over from its sheer lack of politics, but even the build up is fascinating. Plus, the dog who played Blood is capable of more emotions than most child actors are these days.
Another overlooked, but easily recommendable film, Altered States was originally written as a novel by Paddy Chayefsky, who’s more popular Network won the 1976 Academy Award for best screenplay, and adapted for the screen by Ken Russell (from Chayefsky’s own script). Imaginatively based on the sensory deprivation experiments of real life scientist John Lilly, Altered States is one beast of a creative film that all too often gets lumped in as an acid trip film. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out on a phenomenal film. Remove the psychedelic plot and you still have an expertly crafted film that weaves one winding story without handicapping itself for the sake of mass audience understanding.
Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man)
I’ve never read the Tiziano Sclavi novel that Dellamorte Dellamore is based on, but predictably (hence its place on this list) I dig the hell out of Michele Soavi’s direction here. I honestly believe it to be some of the most inspired camera work ever put to screen, in and out of the horror genre. It’s no surprise that Soavi was an assistant director on several of Dario Argento’s films, but his command over Dellamorte Dellamore – for me – exceeds anything Argento has done in terms of complete cohesion. There are no ups and downs, but rather a steadfast and hypnotic ride through the life of a man surrounded by death with little more but job obligation keeping him sane. A great source of quotes and practical camera effects, Dellamorte Dellamore is one of the more unique zombie films out there.
Everyone has seen the story of the Fly in some shape or another, be it the original film, one of its sequels, remakes or even the Simpson’s Tree House of Horror’s take on it, so no description is needed, but few have probably actually read the short story by George Langelaan. It was originally published in a 1957 issue of Playboy with a – surprisingly – more heart wrenching outcome than any of its film adaptations. I prefer the David Cronenberg adaptation (and, for the record, consider it one of the best horror films ever made) to them all, but no matter what incarnation you’re watching, you’re still guaranteed a fairly solid variation of what I consider one of the most emotional science-gone-wrong stories ever written.
Buy them at amazon.com: Incident on and off a Mountain Road | A Boy and his Dog | Altered States | Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) | The Fly
Read more from Peter at Horror's Not Dead