In Anticipation Of: The Necroscope

NOTE: This post has been updated. New information that supersedes the production update in the body can be found at the bottom of the piece.

The first time I did a piece labeled In Anticipation Of it was regarding Mercy the adaptation of the Stephen King short story Gramma, which was produced by Blumhouse and will be released by Universal Horror. With this one I have decided to go with something that I’ve watched off an on for a long time that could probably be better described as being development purgatory rather than development hell for a long time.

My history with the Necroscope, if we are to be quite literal, goes back to just after I started reading the horror genre. I really started to embrace horror, and enjoy being scared, after I watched The Shining in a cinema class. I then proceeded to read Desperation, then Bag of Bones, and despite my not enjoying that one quite so much, I borrowed It and then I was a King devotee for life. As I went to browse bookstores for more King, or other future possibilities, I came across the Necroscope series. The only reason I delayed really was because it took me a while to look up and confirm the correct reading order.

The books that really caught my attention were the covers and stories of the Vampire World trilogy, books six thru eight. However, there was the debate about committing, at least in theory, to a series that long. Then I did. The first two books are brilliant; absolute masterpieces of the horror genre. Further on down the line there are still strokes of genius. For as good as the beginning is that section, which I did eventually get to, is very strong. And the most recent book, a short novel entitled The Möbius Murders, is by far the strongest installment in The Lost Years chronology.

Necroscope (Bob Eggleton)

Part of the issue with a film, or potential series of films, in my estimation, has been the budget that I believe a halfway decent adaptation would incur. While I was in college I immersed myself in Lovecraft for a time such that not only was I worried for my mental health for a week or so, but I also managed to turn out my take on the mythos in screenplay form. The script was what I wanted it to be: a tale that would take its time yet consistently build atmosphere and pace. However, my best guess that at is original 150 pages its budget would be at least one million dollars a minute, and that’s a problem for a Lovecraftian tale. Therefore, I decided to turn said spec script into prose. Just look at how the supposedly high-budget At the Mountains of Madness fell apart. My expectation for the budget on Necroscope is similar. Add to that the international intrigue, foreign tongues, potential for voice over, finding the correct tone and detailed mythology being built; and there are pitfalls.

Yet, that hasn’t stopped the property from being optioned numerous times. Like I said, I get why, but as Lumely’s site reports it’s now six consecutive years the option has been picked up. What prompted me to write this piece was that after hearing the words “Necroscope” and “movie” on TV, as Glenn Hetrick was introduced on an episode of FaceOff I wondered “Is it really that much closer to happening?”

As per Lumley’s site in March, it seems not, save for the most recent renewal. Maybe Hetrick was just trying to get some interest, buzz and free advertising for the possibility. Can’t say I blame him really.

geek_lumley_lg

However, this property, which is amongst the iconic properties of horror fiction, is also on a short list of big properties oft delayed, and this one likely offers a bigger tonal challenge onscreen as opposed to things like King’s Dark Tower and The Talisman, which have also been oft delayed and changed hands many times. It’s getting to a point where I do wonder if I could fight my fandom when a film came out: could I supplant my image of Harry in my mind? Could I deal with a Yulian not speaking Romanian, and so on? I’d like to think so. However, with this project so long in the offing and seemingly still so far off I honestly can’t answer as a fan if I want to see the film happen. I just know that if it does, when it does I’ll be there.

UPDATE: I recently saw a link to a Necroscope fan group on Facebook, joined, and it seems Glenn Hetrick messaged the group Admin with an update on the status of the project. It reads as follows:

Happy New Year Guys! There is nothing that I can discuss at the moment, we are honing the pitch and script and setting up meetings for early 2014 with studios, but this entire process, contracts, waiting for responses, etc. is quite drab I assure you, so the reason I have been silent is that there is nothing new to report other than we are moving forward. Not a day goes by that I do not spend time on the phone or computer trying to push this ahead, if you think you are feeling impatient I also assure you it is far worse for me. There is also the legality of the whole thing, which will compel me to remain reticent even once we have a deal, up until such time an interested STUDIO concretes a deal, picks it up and then decides to officially announce the project, which i feel will be sometime this year. During that entire period I will not legally be capable of discussing the project publicly, but just know I am throwing everything I got at this. It requires a Herculean effort to get a film produced by a major studio and near impossible to get that done right, with integrity of the source material intact, a promise I made to Brian personally. I am years into the process…we are getting close. Know that as soon as there is something to report, I will do it here. Currently working on Hunger Games sequels and will be going back to shoot Face Off again soon, during which time I am developing new designs and visuals for our pitch whilst tweaking the script, fingers crossed everyone! Ok, rob, get to liking, I want bloody fingers!

Advertisements

Horror Films and Stephen King (Part One)

Plenty of movies reek, especially horror films, they may have their moments that stick in your mind and cause them to be somewhat memorable, but every once in a while a movie comes along that makes you say, “What the hell happened there?” One such case is Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive.
 

Stephen King can write just about anything he wants and make it work. Not only will it work but it will sell, as a book anyway. Due to the fact that King, through no fault of his own (if you call it fault), redefined popular fiction. Hollywood has always drooled at the opportunity to turn both his tomes and tales into film. They’ve done this with varying degrees of success, but have usually fallen on the lower end. Regardless of all that the films that have been made out of his literature have added to the already enormous King lexicon, a list of titles that is so huge that one can easily get lost and a few small unassuming films do slip by and are actually quite good.
    

While Maximum Overdrive hardly takes the cake as the best Kingflick it certainly isn’t the worst and it does hold the distinction of being the only one he not only wrote but also directed. Many things went wrong in the making of this film everything from production problems to distribution issues, which in my opinion contributed to making this film less than perfect. It ultimately led King to believe that his film wasn’t the greatest and he had better stay off the set for a while. I believe that what happened with this film doesn’t rest completely on King’s shoulders and there would be much worse things than having him direct again such as another Britney Spears movie (isn’t one painful enough?).
  


 
When we’re dealing with horror films onscreen there are certain conventions that some people will constantly follow. These conventions often come in direct conflict with the way Stephen King writes. The first thing we will recall is that most horror films rely on plots that are similar in construction to what King phrases as “The Tale of the Hook.” It’s a story we’ve all heard. Basically, it goes a little something like this: It’s the one with the guy and the girl who are making out in a car and there’s a report on the radio about a killer with a hook for his hand. During their make-out session the girl keeps getting distracted by a noise she hears. The guy persuades her that it’s all in her mind then when she gets dropped off at her house and slams the car door a hook is dangling from the door handle. It’s the stuff of urban legends that has been somewhat literally interpreted and turned into films such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
    

King is not simple-minded, however, and understands that the “Tale of the Hook” is a basic form for much of horror fiction in both film and literature. “The story of The Hook is a simple, brutal classic of horror. It offers no characterization, no theme, no particular artifice; it does not aspire to symbolic beauty or try to summarize the times, the mind, or the human spirit.” (King, Danse, 21). This is the type of plot construction that dominated the horror of the 1980s and pretty much defined the slasher sub-genre and in fact still does ‘til this very day.
    

This Hook Mentality is prevalent only in film because the genre is a completely different creature than horror in literature. Often the best horror literature is impossible to adapt because we delve so deep into character and wander into such supernatural areas that film can’t do it justice. The target audience for horror literature is usually much larger than it is for movies in terms of different demographics. Producers usually do whatever will get the kids to show up. 
 

And this is why the “Tale of the Hook” works for them: “Stupid, simplistic and transparent are also perfectly good words to describe the Tale of The Hook, but that doesn’t change the fact that the story is an enduring classic of it’s kind – in fact, those words probably go a long way in explaining why it is a classic of its kind.” (King, Danse, 139).
  
 
King rarely works with the hook picking at his brain. When we think of his novels and even films we often think of names: Jack Torrance, Gage Creed, Randall Flagg, Andre Lenoge, Roland, Bill Denbrough, Carietta White, Jessie Mahout Burlingame, Dolores Claiborne, Tak, Pennywise, Bobby Garfield, Bart Dawes; I could go on but I think you get the idea. King is about character first and foremost. He takes his time and builds them slowly and steadily allowing the plot to flow out of them. This tactic in film while it’s also effective is time consuming, costly and not easy to do. 
    

A mistake many filmmakers have made in handling his material is focusing on events and only slightly introducing characters and assuming the audience has an understanding of what makes these people tick. This is the case with Needful Things whereas in the book we always had a distinction between the characters, in the film things are blurred and many characters disappear. This is a question of logistics, considering that it was a novel that was 731 pages long and had to be transformed into a film script which at the maximum was 140 pages long. Aside from the condensation issue there were also certain unexplainable changes and bad casting decisions. 
 

While King contends to this day that he hates Kubrick’s version of The Shining (he even wrote a mini-series remake) one thing both King and Kubrick understand is that to adapt one needs to use the basic structure of a tale and expand on themes and not necessarily events. Adaptation is hard to do. That in mind one should be wary when venturing into a territory that has swallowed many a scribe whole. King can adapt his own stuff as he’s done it successfully in the past (Pet Sematary, Silver Bullet) but with this film I feel that he was under pressure because he would be required to shoot it. This may have caused him to emphasize the wrong elements in this tale, despite that fact that there is some structural similarity it doesn’t seem like King. When reading The Talisman, a book he co-wrote with Peter Straub, I remember thinking to myself ‘This all sounds like Stephen King.’ Yet in Maximum Overdrive the dialogue rang true to my ears like his but the story didn’t. In my mind I can just imagine an exec from the Dino De Laurentiis Entertainment Group phoning him up and saying, “Steve, I’ve got some notes for you.”
 

In this film, Stephen King made a real attempt at telling a multi-character tale on screen in his own way. In later years he would take on the role of producer in his mini-series’, and I think it’s the direct result of the difficulties he faced with trying to make this film the way he wanted. In this film, he did flesh out his characters more than he did in the short story but as we’ll see bringing them to life is another story.

 Note:
 This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be published here in installments.