It’s a Crime This Horror Novel Hasn’t Been Adapted Yet

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Television is currently the most viable medium for adapting big epic tales into serialized drama, and there are over 70 planned adaptations in development.
  • Kaaron Warren’s novel Slights has not yet been adapted for the screen, despite its blend of visceral horror, black comedy, and a compelling female protagonist.
  • Slights has potential for adaptation due to its similarities to Australian horror movies, its puzzle box structure, and its unique angle on supernatural horror emphasizing family and personal relationships.


In recent years, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in novels and comic books making a successful transition to film and television, and right now, television happens to be the most viable medium when adapting big epic tales into serialized drama. So far this year, streaming sites like AppleTV+, Netflix, and Disney+ have given us literary revisionism with Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher, office-based horror The Other Black Girl, and the post-apocalyptic Silo, to name a few. As of writing, we have 70+ planned adaptations in various stages of development to look forward to and dozens more speculative choices readers want brought to the screen. Genre fans possess an insatiable appetite for seeing our favorite tales realized as live-action horror. A certain contingent of horror fans equate horror novel adaptations with Stephen King and while it is true King’s writing is widely read and easier to adapt than either Clive Barker’s Weaveworld or House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, a number of novels could just as easily make the leap from page to screen.

It’s a crime Kaaron Warren’s 2009 debut Slights (published by Angry Robot Books/HarperCollins and re-released by IFWG) hasn’t been adapted for the screen yet. The book straddles visceral horror and black comedy, channeling a bleak philosophy and offering readers a brilliantly terrifying creation with the book’s protagonist Stevie ‘Stephanie’ Searles, a woman composed of internalized spite and malice, and the premise: when we die there isn’t a tunnel or welcoming light, only a room full of distorted people you’ve slighted who want to do you harm. It isn’t often we get a female character in a horror novel who is so well-developed that she walks (forgive the cliché) right off the page, and it is even less rare to find yourself laughing along with her when you should run in the opposite direction.


What Is ‘Slights’ About?

Via IFWG Publishing

Slights is narrated in the first-person by Stevie ‘Stephanie’ Searles. The story begins on her 18th birthday, with Stevie enjoying a night out with her mother. Stevie drinks too much, and a car accident claims her mother’s life. Stevie briefly dies and finds herself in a cold room that stinks of mothballs and feces, full of people she has offended, dismissed, or even slighted in some way, and they want to exact revenge. She is later resuscitated and becomes fixated on the dark place she visited during her near-death-experience. The room is literally a version of Hell populated by people she offended or harmed in some way during her life. Each chapter takes place on a successive birthday as we’re immersed in Stevie’s world and her family’s bleak history. Warren’s writing elicits a shocking immediacy with Stevie, whether she is dumping a boyfriend because of his unsightly penis, mocking her life-coach brother Peter’s clients, or recounting a story about her perverse neighbor — she draws us into the narrative with her wit, intelligence, and charm. This is no easy feat for a writer when her character’s obsession culminates in multiple murders.

Stevie’s life resumes, and she starts investigating when she finds odd items, bones, and other paraphernalia buried in the backyard. Fired from her courier position and alone in her mother’s house, Stevie develops a fascination with her father’s legacy and begins to emulate his actions. Are the bones in the yard really related to her cop father, shot dead in the line of duty? How is it connected to disappearances in her area when she was a child? Many lovers and old friends resurface and lodge with her for a while, only to leave — or so she claims. It isn’t until midway through the book that we are provided clarification and discover Stevie isn’t only trying to dig up information on her father, she is fueled by finding out more about the room, so she begins killing strangers. With each subsequent visit to the room, the crowd grows bigger and nastier. This storyline parallels Stevie’s obsession with the room she glimpsed when she was close to death — until both narratives overlap with Stevie training as a nurse, so she can gain access to the sick and dying and find out what they see on the cusp of death. She develops a need to see and understand what it must mean or if it means anything at all — it leads her to work in a hospice with people nearing the end of their life. Things take an even more sinister turn when Stevie starts bringing people close to death, and this is where the story and character escalate.

‘Slights’ Is Similar to Australian Horror Films

Slights share similarities with several Australian horror movies. The story and main character are grounded in brutal realism, not unlike Wolf Creek, Snowtown, or Hounds of Love. The biggest differences with Slights are the fresh approach to the supernatural and the puzzle box element of a tale excavating a tale, and it is refreshing how small in scale the story is (while never feeling small) — keeping Stevie as the focal point and raising questions about the validity of the room. If these aspects don’t already have you hooked, Stevie is like the lovechild of Alfred Hitchcock, and Sam Peckinpah and John Waters would kill for her sense of humor. Of course, adapting a single book with so many layers could potentially prove difficult, and a lot of her humor might need to be cut in translation.

The diary-like story structure actually makes it perfect for episodic installments. It is a much edgier story than most horror book releases, so you’d need a director who wouldn’t be scared of pushing the envelope. Warren brings the horror with some truly chilling scenes in the book — an anecdote where a cop relays a tale of a farmyard massacre is delivered in a chilling matter-of-fact manner that will chill your blood, Stevie’s elderly neighbor Eve is the stuff of nightmares, and her brief time in the room will linger. The story largely takes place in one setting with a small group of primary characters and a number of people who only appear for a short time — so this would keep budgetary costs to a minimum. It has a unique angle on supernatural horror — kind of like Relic making family and personal relationships integral to how the horror plays out. Getting the tone of the story right, and keeping the core themes of faith colliding with nihilism intact, and Stevie’s voice/character right would be the most difficult tasks. Stevie is a complex and layered serial killer (technically, she’s a killer by default) and Warren imbues her with humanity, a hilariously cruel wit, and a curiosity fatal to herself and those unlucky enough to find themselves close to Stevie. So, while there would certainly be some significant challenges, there’s no question — Slights has all the ingredients to make for an absolutely killer adaptation.



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