Bad Movie, Great Novel: Celluloid Stinkers That Would Fare Better on the Page

Bad Movie, Great Novel: Celluloid Stinkers That Would Fare Better on the Page


In days of yore, when I still went to see movies in movie theaters (you know, as opposed to just staying home and waiting until they’re on Netflix), my favorite part was watching the trailers. I especially loved playing the could-this-be-a-novel game. It goes like this: When a trailer looks awful, and is not based on a book, you figure out whether the concept could work as a novel. Is the story essentially good? Are the actors ruining it? Does it have a terrible script? Shoddy special effects? Because all that can be smoothed over with the magic of the written word.

So, without further ado, here are some bad movies (according to movie-criticism aggregator Rotten Tomatoes) of the last decade, and the awesome books they could become:

Alone in the Dark: Paranormal thriller

Edward Carnby’s memory was wiped when he was 10, when he witnessed something terrifying that involved aliens. He grows up to be a detective for a secret government bureau specializing in paranormal activities. Through some convoluted plot twists, Edward’s investigation of a lost Native American tribe leads him to the aliens of his own past. Dark shenanigans ensue as Edward is joined by his ex-girlfriend and museum curator Aline.

Considered one of the worst films ever made (it has a 1% score on Rotten Tomatoes), it would nonetheless make a supremely entertaining novel. Edward and Aline would quip at one another feistily, the psychological elements of Edward’s memory loss would be played up, and, of course, the action would be flawless. I see it now:

Edward’s fist went through the wall. He shouted, his eyes glittering with a flash of memory, and Aline pulled him back. “We gotta go,” she said. A deafening buzzing came out of the wall and Edward swallowed hard. “After you,” he huffed, shoving Aline in front of him. She started running and he was right on her heels. The swarm of impossible insects rose up behind them.

Click: Literary fiction

Michael Newman, workaholic husband and dad, discovers a remote control that can slow down or speed up his life. Predictably, he slows down on bouncing cleavage and speeds through family dinners. Eventually, he realizes he’s fast-forwarding so much that he loses control over consequences, and learns his lesson.

This concept could make for an amazing literary novel: poignant and touching and less Adam Sandler-y. We’d cut the stupid ending, obviously, and just have the guy die regretfully in bed, alone:

The tube in his nose helped him breathe, eat, sustain life. Michael’s hands were too weak to tear it out. He wanted the nurses to switch off the vast machinery that kept his shell of a body supporting life. His memory was a blur, and it only made him dizzier to dwell inside it. The cool darkness of death would be less nauseating.

Prom Night: Horror

Names aren’t important in this story. There’s a bunch of guys, a bunch of girls, and they’re all gorgeous. One of girls has a dark past: Her parents and brother were murdered by a teacher who was obsessed with her. On prom night, three years after the murders, the teacher is back, and he’s dressed to kill.

The movie basically involves lots of blackouts, screaming, and splashes of blood. But the novel could be so much more effective: It could play up the emotional horror of a teacher coming back to haunt you (hashtag: metaphor for high school) as well as the need for a girl with a troubling history to have a perfect prom.

I tried to tell myself not to freak out. He wasn’t really there. He couldn’t be. Relax, I told myself. I went to find some water and it was on my way that I saw him again. He wasn’t alone. He was pulling my English teacher to the dance floor, right near all my friends. He held her close, like he knew her, and his eyes found me. As I watched, he pulled out a syringe and plunged it into my English teacher’s neck. He grinned as she fell and walked away. The lights flickered and went out.

All About Steve: Romance

Quirky, wordy Mary is set up on a blind date with Steve. He’s gorgeous, and he seems to like her back. Sort of. When she calls him while he’s out of town and he says he wishes she could be there, she takes it seriously and follows him. He didn’t mean it, though. He finds her both annoying and distracting. But hey, guess what? He falls in love with her in the end.

Like some other (better) films, it gives hope to eccentrics like me. But, unfortunately, the film is not as funny or cute as it could and should be. A romance novel treatment would be better. Wouldn’t it be great to read a love story about a kind of strange woman who becomes obsessed? Don’t we all feel that way sometimes? And wouldn’t it be great to have it work out for them?

Steve shut the trailer door in Mary’s face. “So yeah,” she said, bending down to get her voice heard through the little air vents. “Later!” She stood there for a moment, in her cherry-red boots and ran her fingers through her hair. She wondered where she could find a shower around here. He’d said he’d see her later. So she needed to be ready. She wondered whether he liked Jell-O. There was so much they would be able to talk about.

Burlesque: New Adult

Cher and Christina Aguilera, pretending to be other people, duke it out in song and dance, filling the screen with all kinds of glittering razzle dazzle. I know some of you will ask how on earth a musical movie that involves lots of gorgeous costumes and visuals could or should become a novel.

Well, this is how it would go: The descriptions of costumes would be sumptuous. The dance scenes would scrumptious. The whole thing would be a delectable New Adult novel, with Ali (Aguilera) vying for power with Tess (Cher), while also having a steamy romance with Jack (the singer-songwriter-bartender):

The music played and Ali lost herself in it. Her body moved as if she were barely attached to it. When she finished the number, she heard a slow clap come from the darkness of the wings. She turned, startled. “I didn’t think anyone was here,” she said. Jack’s eyes glinted in the shadows and his lips curled into a smile. “You better watch out,” he said, voice gravelly. “If Tess sees you can move like that… She might start thinking about retirement.”

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: Graphic Novel

This film version of the classic fairy tale is poorly written. But the fact that Hansel and Gretel are a) all grown up (and looking good) and b) have guns and wear basically biker gear is actually super cool. The story here is not the important part. The point is really that Hansel and Gretel grow up to be kickass.

As a novel? Well, just look at books like Wicked. This concept has been done, yes, but not quite like this. Hansel and Gretel killed the witch who tried to eat them, and the trauma has caused them to become expert, eternal witch hunters. Another interesting fact: Hansel has diabetes (and insulin somehow, too, because 18th-century Germany totally had that). So why a novel? Because it would be a GRAPHIC NOVEL. Maybe with art like this:

Fan art ©  Ryodita (via deviantART)


Leave a Reply