Horror novels are quite often adapted as films and tv/mini series, but it seems like a handful of my favorites, such as A Head Full of Ghosts, have just not been fully appreciated enough to receive a screen version yet.
Many favorites have, of course, but let’s face it, most of those are Stephen King adaptations (and those films are a mixed bag at best). So, I am putting together a short wish list of my favorite horror novels that I think would make great films.
Let’s start with the most recent horror novel on my list, Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts. Boy, is this a good one! I read it on a flight to and from Ohio in March of last year, and it was a hard one to shake. It’s spooky, unsettling and mysterious, and I still get a cold chill down my spine when I think about it.
A Head Full of Ghosts introduces us to the Barrett family. John and Sarah are parents to 14-year-old Marjorie and 8-year-old Merry, and the family is under financial strain due to John’s current unemployment. Merry and Marjorie are quite close, but Marjorie has started to exhibit some strange behavior recently. While she is fond of telling Merry stories that include the characters from her favorite Richard Scarry books, suddenly the innocent tales start to take a dark turn, terrifying the younger girl.
As it turns out, Marjorie is seeing a therapist, and is believed to possibly be schizophrenic, but as her odd behavior escalates, her father starts to believe she is possessed. A priest is called in to consult, and John even agrees to have his family filmed for a television reality show called The Possession. The director and crew move into the house, and begin filming the family, as things start to unravel even further.
By the time the exorcism is performed (on camera, of course), the story escalates to a hair-raising finale, and the reader tries to figure out whether or not all of this is for real. The actual exorcism scene is terrifying.
The real story of what happened to the Barretts in the past is told by the now 23-year-old Merry herself, to a writer named Rachel. By now, The Possession series and the Barrett family are well known, and it’s supposed that Merry’s story of what really happened will be huge.
Honestly, I am shocked this one hasn’t been made into a film yet, although Focus Features has reportedly purchased the rights. In my dreams, Mike Flanagan would direct a film adaptation of this brilliant horror novel, and in true Flanagan form, he would cast it with his favorite actors from past projects.
Here is how I would personally cast the complicated characters in A Head Full of Ghosts:
Lulu Wilson (The Haunting of Hill House, Ouija: Origin of Evil) would be a fantastic Marjorie. She makes every project she is in better, just by virtue of her presence.
Violet McGraw (young Nell in The Haunting of Hill House) could play the role of young Merry, and in a Hill House callback, Victoria Pedretti could be the adult version of Merry. Since the two actors played Nell, this could be a great choice.
For the parents, we could go with Kate Siegel (Theo in Hill House) as Sarah, and Hamish Linklater (Father Paul, Midnight Mass) would be perfect as the troubled John.
Henry Thomas (Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass) could either play the priest or the director of The Possession; after all, he is a Flanagan staple, and has proven that he has the ability to play many different types of characters.
And for Rachel, the writer who is interviewing Merry, I submit Samantha Sloyan, who was positively brilliant as Bev in Midnight Mass.
I truly think Mike Flanagan would do this amazing book justice, based on his ability to do a deep dive into family dynamics and trauma, while still keeping the scare level really high. He specializes in emotional horror, which A Head Full of Ghosts has in spades.
Obviously, a film version of this horror novel does not yet exist, so in the meantime, you should read it, and check out Mike Flanagan’s work, if you haven’t already. Flanagan’s series The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor and Midnight Mass can all be seen on Netflix.
Paul Tremblay’s other novels include Survivor Song and The Cabin at the End of the World.
Do you love reading horror novels? Which do you think are deserving of a film treatment? Tell us all about your picks in the comments section.