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Plot: House of Leaves is likely the most unconventional novel you may ever read, or attempt to read. Clocking in at 700 pages, Mark Z Danielewski's novel is actually a novel within a novel within a novel. The bulk of the book is a manuscript written by a blind man named Zampano regarding a film known as The Navidson Record. That film follows a family who live in a "haunted" house that measures larger on the inside than the outside. When Zampano dies, a young tattoo artist named Johnny Truant finds the manuscript in his apartment and begins to read it. Truant then begins to add footnotes regarding the bizarre experiences he encounters now that the book is in his hands. The book forces you to read pages of footnotes before backtracing to read the footnotes to the footnotes. Some pages have only one word while others are in multiple directions on the same page. Some pages even require you to hold them up to a mirror. Incorporating every conceivable tool at his disposal, Danielewski's novel is an intricate and mind-boggling piece of art. Singer-songwriter Poe (Danielewski's sister) released an album, Haunted, that parallels the events in the novel.
Film Status: This book would easily fall into the category of unfilmable books based on the intricate nature of the book, but the story at it's heart is a haunted house tale. The success of the found footage genre would work for part of the movie while the rest could be told in a conventional style. I may be dreaming but this could make for an insane movie.
Plot: On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens--at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world--hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever. Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?
Film Status: Guillermo Del Toro optioned the novel prior to it being published in 2009 and it has since gone nowhere. With Del Toro's propensity for optioning dozens of projects, this will likely need to be made by a different director. The idea of taking a historical figure and putting him into a fictional story is not new, but Drood is a truly scary and well written novel that will keep you up late at night and would make for a great movie. As I read it, I kept visualizing the mood and style of THE PRESTIGE and FROM HELL.
Plot: Set in the suburbs of Seattle during the mid-1970s, the comics follow a group of mostly middle class teenagers who, over the summer, contract a mysterious sexually transmitted disease known as "the Bug" or "the teen plague", which causes them to develop bizarre unique physical mutations, turning them into social outcasts. The comic was intended to be read as a graphic novel. It is very disturbing while at the same time comes across as a horror version of the classic high school movie. Think John Hughes meets David Cronenberg.
Film Status: The film version has had the names Alexandre Aja, Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary, and David Fincher attached as far back as 2005. The most recent news was that Fincher was removing his name to focus on THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. The subject matter of the film (disease, teen sex, STDs) may prevent it from becoming a major studio release, but if the makeup effects were done well, it could work as a smaller indie style film.
Plot: A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold. In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing. So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city--a city that includes his wife and son--before it is too late.
Film Status: Guillermo Del Toro originally came up with The Strain as a television series that was never picked up. So, he instead converted it to a trilogy of novels with cowriter Chuck Hogan, author of Prince of Thieves (which became Ben Affleck's THE TOWN). The novels are good and fast reading with the obvious pace of a Hollywood movie. The story is already perfect for a film adaptation. With the saturation of vampire movies out there, this may not be made anytime soon. It does have several similarities in tone to Del Toro's own MIMIC and BLADE II so I would not anticipate him directing this one. But, it is definitely a good beach read.
Plot: Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he's obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis--all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac. With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she's written three unexpected and terrifying words: "Don't trust Ben." Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? And, for the reader: Can Christine’s story be trusted?
Film Status: My first instinct was that this was the chick version of MEMENTO. But, it is much more than that. The novel unfolds via Christine's journal which puts you in her point of view with her limited memory. That amps up the suspense and makes for a very tense reading experience. Ridley Scott optioned the novel as soon as it was published. It appears filming is either underway or completed as a poster has appeared at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival featuring Nicole Kidman. The film is being directed by Rowan Joffe, son of director Roland Joffe.
Plot: The Passage begins in the near future and details an apocalyptic and, later, post-apocalyptic world that is overrun by vampire-like beings who are infected by a highly contagious virus. What begins as a project to develop a new immunity-boosting drug based on a virus carried by an unnamed species of bat in South America eventually becomes the virus that transforms the world. The novel begins in 2018 and spans more than ninety years, as colonies of humans attempt to live in a world filled with superhuman creatures who are continually on the hunt for fresh blood.
Film Status: This 800 page book is the first in a trilogy and is a massive epic in the vein of Stephen King's The Stand. It has sprawling journeys, action, violence, sex, tons of characters. In essence, a big budget movie waiting to happen. Plus, it is really good. Ridley Scott purchased the movie rights to this novel for $1.75 million three years before it was published. John Logan (GLADIATOR) will be writing this movie's screenplay.
Plot: Meet Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of John Kennedy Toole's tragicomic tale, A Confederacy of Dunces. This 30-year-old medievalist lives at home with his mother in New Orleans, pens his magnum opus on Big Chief writing pads he keeps hidden under his bed, and relays to anyone who will listen the traumatic experience he once had on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bound for Baton Rouge. ("Speeding along in that bus was like hurtling into the abyss.") But Ignatius's quiet life of tyrannizing his mother and writing his endless comparative history screeches to a halt when he is almost arrested by the overeager Patrolman Mancuso--who mistakes him for a vagrant--and then involved in a car accident with his tipsy mother behind the wheel. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Ignatius is out pounding the pavement in search of a job.
Film Status: There have been repeated attempts to turn the book into a film. Since it was published in 1980, Harold Ramis, John Belushi, Richard Pryor, John Candy, Chris Farley, John Waters, Stephen Fry, and John Goodman have all been attached to make the movie. Many consider it to be cursed. The closest it ever came was in 2005 when Steven Soderbergh, Scott Kramer, and David Gordon Green were on the verge of filming with Will Ferrell, Lily Tomlin, Paul Rudd, Kristen Johnson, Mos Def, Rosie Perez, Olympia Dukakis, Alan Cumming, and Jesse Eisenberg. But, Hurricane Katrina halted all New Orleans films and the movie never came back. The latest news is that director James Bobin (THE MUPPETS, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL), screenwriter Phil Johnston (CEDAR RAPIDS), and Zach Galifianakis are in the beginning stages of a new adaptation.
Plot: In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called “The Lost City of Z.” David Grann himself travels to the Amazon and documents what he encounters as he tries to find out what happened to Percy Fawcett.
Film Status: Brad Pitt's Plan B Productions optioned the book with Pitt himself aiming to star. No further progress has been made. The book could be filmed as a straight adventure story, INDIANA JONES style, or it could work as a parallel tale of Fawcett's adventure in 1925 with Grann's own journey in the modern day. Either way, this is a very interesting read.
Plot: Do I really need to explain this one? Alright, for those of you who are not familiar with the Jane Austen tale, it follows the Bennet sisters who are all in various states of romantic relationships as their father tries to preserve the family austerity. Elizabeth Bennet is the outspoken middle daughter who wants nothing to do with Mr. Dacy, whom she eventually falls for. It is all very prim and proper. This version takes the exact same source material and enhances it with ninjas and zombies. The first of the literary mash-up trend, this is a well made novel. Grahame-Smith takes the source material and makes it fun to read for those who would be otherwise turned off by the dry source material.
Film Status: Natalie Portman was going to star but now serves only as producer. Davd O. Russell, Mike White, and Craig Gillespie have all been attached to write and direct but have all left due to scheduling conflicts. Unlike ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, this film is firmly tongue in cheek. Even if the film were made completely seriously, everyone would still look at is a funny twist on the source material. As long as the right filmmakers are involved, this would make for a very fun movie.
Plot: Larson tells the stories of two men during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works.
Film Status: Where I previously listed Drood as an excellent book that reminded me, stylistically of FROM HELL and THE PRESTIGE, this book is a true horror story. Having to recreate a historical city from scratch could make for amazing big screen visuals if done correctly, but could also be very cost prohibitive. Leonardo DiCaprio's production company bought the rights to the book in 2010 but no progress has been made. Maybe he can get his pal Scorsese to visit the 19th century again for a bloody, violent drama.
Plot: Taxation has been abolished, the government has been privatized, and employees take the surname of the company they work for. It's a brave new corporate world, but you don't want to be caught without a platinum credit card--as lowly Merchandising Officer Hack Nike is about to find out. Trapped into building street cred for a new line of $2500 sneakers by shooting customers, Hack attracts the barcode-tattooed eye of the legendary Jennifer Government. A stressed-out single mom, corporate watchdog, and government agent who has to rustle up funding before she's allowed to fight crime, Jennifer Government is holding a closing down sale--and everything must go.
Film Status: A clever and well written satire, Jennifer Government was optioned by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney's Plan 8. When Plan 8 closed, the rights were returned to Max Barry who has no further news. A cult favorite, you can find countless fan made movie posters online for this one. Barry's other novels Company and Machine Man would also be ripe for adaptation as well.
Plot: This novel is always listed in my Top Five. Tender Branson—last surviving member of the Creedish Death Cult—is dictating his life story into Flight 2039’s recorder. He is all alone in the airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. But before it does, he will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child to an ultra-buffed, steroid- and collagen-packed media messiah. It is haunting, hilarious, and brilliant. Trust me, once you read the lobster scene, you will never look at shellfish the same way ever again.
Film Status: Chuck Palahniuk is one of those author's who has everything he writes optioned by Hollywood and yet only FIGHT CLUB and CHOKE have been successfully filmed. Jake Paltrow wrote a screenplay for Survivor prior to 9/11 when this movie was on the fast-track, but since then it has barely moved. Trent Reznor was once rumored to make this his film directorial debut. Currently, CATCHING FIRE director Francis Lawrence is developing the movie.
Plot: Almost fifteen years in the making, the series centers around the Bone cousins, white, bald cartoon caricatures. In the opening pages of Bone: Out from Boneville the three Bone cousins—avaricious Phoncible P. "Phoney" Bone, goofy cigar-smoking Smiley Bone, and everyman character Fone Bone—are run out of their hometown of Boneville after Phoney decides to run for mayor and built a balloon on top the head of a statue of Boneville's founder. A strong wind made the balloon break the head off of the statue and all the townspeople ran Phoncible, Smiley, and Fone out of town. After crossing a desert, the cousins are separated by a sea of locusts and individually ending up in the mysterious Valley and must make their way across the fantasy landscape pursued by rat creatures. They joyously reunite at a local tavern called Barrelhaven, where they are taken in by a mysterious girl named Thorn and her even more enigmatic grandmother. Fone Bone instantly develops a crush on Thorn when he meets her, and repeatedly attempts to prove his love through poetry. As they stay longer in the valley, they encounter humans and other creatures who are threatened by a dark entity, the Lord of the Locusts. The Bones are quickly drawn into the events around them, compelling them on a hero's journey to help save the world.
Film Status: Nickelodeon tried to adapt the comic in the 1990s but creator Jeff Smith refused their demand that it include pop music and child actors. Most fans will tell you that Bone is not a kids story but rather shares more in common with THE LORD OF THE RINGS and STAR WARS. As of 2011, Warner Bros. was developing a trilogy of CGI films to be released some time after 2013.
Plot: Of all the unfilmed works of Neil Gaiman, American Gods is one of the most demanded by fans. The story is a blend of horror, fantasy, and the great American Road Trip. Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down. His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job. But Mr. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming -- a battle for the very soul of America . . . and they are in its direct path.
Film Status: As of 2011, Tom Hanks was producing an HBO series based on the novel that would be cowritten by Gaiman. No other news since then from Gaiman or HBO.
Plot: My all time favorite novel(s) defy categorization. The Dark Tower is at once a western, a fantasy epic, a medieval sword and sorcery tale, a horror story, and more. It incorporates everything from Romeo and Juliet to the Harry Potter universe and THE WIZARD OF OZ. The sprawling eight book series is weaved in and out of multiple Stephen King novels and short stories, making this series more like twenty books. The new prequel comic series adds vital back story to the characters that enhances the amazing scope of this masterpiece. King himself calls it his magnum opus and he even appears as a character. There is no reason why this should not be a movie already.
Film Status: We are now closer to a Dark Tower movie than ever before. Previously, JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse (LOST) had optioned the work only to find they could not do it justice. Then Ron Howard stepped forward with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and star Javier Bardem ready to make this a combination film and television mega-series. Since initially being set up at NBC and Universal, it has since fallen back. But, Ron Howard is still plugging along at pre-production with both Warner Bros. and HBO in contention to finally make these novels into the films they were destined to become.