5 Movies That Would Make Killer Stage Adaptations

stage The Strangers

Like most of the randos you will meet in this life, I have a theatre background. Sometimes when I see a horror movie that I love, I can’t help thinking about what it would be like to sit in an audience and watch the chaos unfold live. There are quite a few horror movies that take place in theatres or were even straight-up adapted from stage to screen. But we never talk about the scary movies that should be adapted for the stage. With The Humans on Hulu and the discourse surrounding if it is or is not a horror movie, I figured it was the perfect time to talk about five recent-ish movies I think would make amazing live theatre. 

The Dark and The Wicked (2020)

Where You Can Watch: Shudder


Two siblings come up against something evil when they return home to check on their ailing father at the family’s isolated farmhouse. Because the isolation of this movie is a huge part of what makes it stressfully creepy, I think it could be replicated for live theatre audiences. That the atmosphere could easily be cranked up another couple of notches. We would lose a lot of the scares and might lose most of the moments that take place outside of the home. But, there would still be enough creepy conversations and weird occurrences to make it worth the price of admission.

Scenes that would be especially unsettling would be the “Come outside” scene. In it, the creepy priest arrives as the old school phone rings. Then, the nurse takes her knitting needles to the eye as she mumbles about Jesus. Because so much happens via sound, phone calls, and the two leads reacting to all of the chaos, I think it would be a very scary good time.

Hereditary (2018)

Where You Can Watch: Showtime


While navigating the tricky grieving process of the family matriarch, a woman and her children realize the older woman set some very sinister plans into motion for them all before her death. This is another movie where most of the creepy factors could remain intact if we set it on a stage. In my dream (that you didn’t ask me to share) I see a house set that will contain a lot of the moments of familial grief and Annie’s spiraling.

We can play with the lighting in one of the rooms to get us our support group monologues (which should have gotten Toni Collette so many awards). But, we might have to lose some of the stunts and ceiling stunts depending on who is bankrolling this dream. While we would also have to lose the beheading, as someone who has seen the movie five times I can tell you the shock wears off. However, listening to them find the remains in the car the next day (and Annie’s cry screaming) are still mortifying. 

Scare Me (2020)

Where You Can Watch: Shudder


Two writers tell each other scary stories during a power outage. This would be the best horror-comedy stage adaptation we could ever ask for. After my first viewing, I described it as, “kind of an unexpected feminist love letter to theatre kids,” because it’s an anthology that leaves a lot to the imagination. You just need four strong actors, a great sound designer, a light designer ready to play with the fireplace situation and some shadow. Don’t forget the iconic hand sweater, then your production has most of the key components.

It would also let the props department have fun figuring out which bits of the stories they can bring in as the evening goes on. This could be adapted with very few conceits. It’d also give us the chance to see “Feel The Music, Feel The Light (Get Ready For Some Serious Evil)” live on stage. Of all of the horror-comedies that have been adapted for the stage, or even vice versa, this would be the one that matters.

Spell (2020)

Where You Can Watch: Hulu


A man crash lands and awakens in the attic of a strange woman who practices dark magic and wants to use him as part of an upcoming ritual. I know a lot of people who have read this far will want to mention the Misery stage adaptation here. I cannot stress enough that it is not the same. Not only does Spell crank up the tension on this bedridden captive situation but we also get into themes that other movies could never. Complicated family dynamics, generational trauma, and we also add in hoodoo in a way less icky way than most horror movies I have encountered.

I had a visceral reaction watching Eloise feed Marquis his son’s hand. The gross things that happened with Marquis’ legs still haunt me, from the time I rented the movie and watched it from under my weighted blanket. I cannot imagine how I would react watching just those two moments happen with just the fourth wall between me and this chaos. 

The Strangers (2008)

Where You Can Watch: Netflix

A young couple on the verge of breaking up finds themselves terrorized by three unknown assailants. It would have been easier to adapt this for the stage than it was to make the sequel. We have another small cast, isolated location, and the soundtrack as an unofficial extra character. I would be willing to run the Kickstarter to keep the original soundtrack because it’s key to the creep factor of the movie. Also, home invasions are some of the scariest movies by default. Just the thought of watching it unfold a few feet away from me is hard on my spirit. The final moments with Kristen and James asking why them before getting stabbed might even cause me to walk out with a new understanding of how far removed from being metal I actually am. 

I picked some of my favorites that would transfer to the stage easily. But there are a ton more horror movies that I would pay good money to see on stage for future nightmare fuel. Do you have a movie that you think would make for a scary good time on stage? Drop me a line at @misssharai so we can nerd out about it together.



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter