One of the assumptions about horror authors who’ve been churning out novels for the last thirty years is that they’ve been churning out movies too. After all, in the ’80s, Stephen King adaptations were produced as fast as the author could throw a thousand pages together; Dean Koontz had eight movies in the ’90’s alone (how many can you name without peeking? I deadlocked at three). Clive Barker has been working consistently on his screenplays, with more coming all the time.
It’s no question that Jack Ketchum is in the same class of writers. King himself once referred to Ketchum as “the scariest guy in America” and has been championing his work ceaselessly for years now. And yet somehow, none of his books have made it into theaters, no cheesy ’80s horror movies, nor any crummy ’90s ones laden with half-baked CG effects. How on earth did this happen? Ketchum can’t explain it either. “I’ve had a lot of options on my books in the past — a half dozen for Off Season alone — but none got past the option stage,” says the author.
Now those options are finally bearing fruit. Three films have been made in three years: King referred to as “the dark-side-of-the-moon version of Stand by Me.” Ketchum confirms that an adaptation of Offspring is in post-production, but while news is flying that Off Season (the novel that launched his writing career and the prequel of Offspring)
will be enlightening audiences to the finer points of cannibalism
sometime in the near future, the author himself is far from certain
about its fate. “It’s been purchased, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s
actually going to happen,” he warns. “As you know, there’s many a slip
‘tween the buy and the clip with movies.” He’s psyched,
however, that Eric Red , has expressed interest in taking the helm.
So the question lingers: If not then, why now? Ketchum attributes
the interest to a number of factors. For one, since he signed up with
Leisure Fiction, more copies of his 22 titles are out there than ever
before — which means they get into the hands of more people who are
interested in making movies. Also, small press publishers are
reprinting Ketchum’s earlier titles, and that’s attracted the attention
of Publishers’ Weekly. “My understanding is that film people keep a sharp eye on those capsule reviews,” says Ketchum.
Regardless of whatever it was that used to keep Hollywood from
breaking down Ketchum’s door, it was probably a blessing in disguise.
He never got his Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers ,” he recalls (paging Stacie Ponder
for rebuttal…). He maintains that, like them or not, you can’t say
the same thing about any of the movies made from his books so far. “In
fact they tend to stretch the envelope as to what’s even considered
horror,” he posits. “My script for Offspring is more in line
with the films of the late ’70s and early ’80s, and though it’s more
firmly in the horror genre, hopefully the finished movie will make a
Ketchum notes that the Stephen King bromance certainly hasn’t hurt
his exposure either, and that the Internet has allowed him greater
access to his fanbase and vice versa. He stays in touch via MySpace and visits his message board
at least once a week. “I answer questions, accept the compliments and
put up with the abuse. Death threats aside, I always enjoy hearing what
they have to say,” he jokes. Occasionally he’s found the messages to be
downright illuminating. “One reader, memorably, commented that he or
she thought that all my books were really about loss. Man, I had to
think about that for a while,” says Ketchum. “And I’m not at all sure
he wasn’t right.”
down interviews with horror icons has provided Tom Blunt with a healthy
alternative to obsessively spying on old classmates via Facebook. More
interviews abound at his site http://hermitosis.com.