13 Horror Plays
Article By: Tyler Doupe
The idea of a horror film being adapted for the stage is a strange one. However, it happens with much greater frequency than you might think. A multitude of contemporary and classic genre flicks have undergone the adaptation process and made the leap to stage play. Many of the titles have even been reimagined not only as stage plays but also as musicals.
Below, we take a look at 13 horror films that have been adapted for the stage. Be sure to let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page!
1. American Psycho
American Psycho: The Musical may be one of the strangest film-to-stage adaptations of our time. But the creators of the stage play understand and embrace that. The critical reaction to the production was overwhelmingly positive and rightfully so. The musical numbers (by Duncan Sheik) are well written and expertly choreographed. And the entire venture pays tribute to the source material without feeling derivative.
2. Young Frankenstein
The stage version of Young Frankenstein (known as The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein) manages to be every bit as outlandish as the film and then some. Although the critical response to the play was somewhat mixed, that didn’t stop the production from spending two-years on Broadway and enjoying two national tours. Mel Brooks co-wrote the book, composed the music, and also wrote the lyrics.
3. Silence of the Lambs
Although it was not an officially licensed production, Silence of the Lambs has been adapted for the stage. The production was known as Silence! The Musical. The stage production is played entirely for laughs, with songs like ‘Put the F**king Lotion in the Basket’ and ‘I’d F**k Me’. The general consensus on Jon and Al Kaplan’s take on Silence of the Lambs is that it was a bit too silly at times but ultimately won its audience over with well-placed gags.
4. Evil Dead
While it wasn’t exactly begging to be adapted as a stage play, Evil Dead: The Musical still managed to justify its existence and win critics and fans over. What’s not to like about a stage play that has a section of the theater dubbed the ‘splatter zone’? The intent of George Reinblatt (book and lyrics) was to combine the best parts of the Evil Dead trilogy into a stage production and in that regard, it’s hard to say the he didn’t succeed.
5. The Shining
The Shining has been adapted for the stage on several occasions. There was Jason Levering and Aaron Sailors version, which adapted the Stephen King tome to collect funds to restore The Benson Theatre in Omaha. The play was presented in five acts, each representing a section of King’s novel. The tale has also been adapted as an opera by Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell for The Minnesota Opera. And last but not necessarily least, there was also Redrum: The Unauthorized Musical Parody of The Shining from writer/director Joe Lovero.
One of the things that makes Re-Animator: The Musical so special is that original writer/director Stuart Gordon was heavily involved with the production and even co-wrote the book with Dennis Paoli and William J. Norris. The stage adaptation is full of the camp and deadpan humor that made the movie the cult classic it is. Re-Animator: The Musical won Best Book at the 2011 Ovation Awards, among others.
The stage production of Carrie debuted on Broadway in 1988. The critical reaction was not kind and as a result, the show was cancelled after a mere 16 previews and 5 performances. It has been revived off Broadway a number of times, each garnering a better response than the original incarnation. The play comes from a book by Lawrence D. Cohen (who penned the screenplay for the 1976 feature film) with lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and music provided by Michael Gore.
Unlike many of the other entries on this list, Misery has been adapted for the stage as a non-musical theatrical production. William Goldman’s take on the Stephen King novel took a lighter tone and reportedly didn’t deliver the same level of terror that the 1990 film of the same name provided. The Broadway production starred Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense) and Laurie Metcalf (Scream 2).
9. The Toxic Avenger
The Toxic Avenger musical is a whimsical take on a brilliant, outrageous, and irreverent film that one might not initially expect to work as a musical. However, Toxie made the leap to the stage seamlessly and garnered positive reviews from the likes of The New York Times and The New York Post. Joe DiPietro wrote the book, with David Bryan composing the music. The pair worked together on the lyrics.
10. Little Shop of Horrors
The stage adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors (based on the 1960 film of the same name) made its off Broadway debut in 1982 and later ran for a five-year stint at the Orpheum Theatre Off-Broadway. It eventually made its way to Broadway in 2003. The play has since been revived several times. Although it deviates from the film in several ways, the original production was well received by fans and critics alike and won several awards during its run.
11. King Kong
King Kong seems like a bizarre choice for a stage play when considering the scope of the feature films and how difficult it would be to successfully translate that to a fixed location with little room to depict an entire city. But that didn’t deter director Daniel Kramer from trying. The musical production of King Kong is based on the 1933 feature film of the same name. The play made its premiere in Australia in 2013 and opened to primarily positive reviews. The path to bring the film to Broadway has been a troubled one, with a multitude of writers becoming casualties of the arduous process. The original incarnation in Australia saw Marius de Vries providing music, with lyrics from Michael Mitnick and Craig Lucas. Craig Lucas penned the book.
12. Night of the Living Dead
Because it is in the public domain, Night of the Living Dead has seen a variety of adaptations, unofficial sequels, and more. Among the barrage of unaffiliated efforts was Night of the Living Dead the Musical, directed by Stephen Gregory Smith, Jenna Ballard. Stephen Gregory Smith, with Smith penning the book and Matt Conner providing the music. As it is a stage play, the focus of the production is tied more to what is going on inside the farmhouse, as opposed to outside. In addition, the play also offers a dose of political commentary, as the original did. However, this time, it is updated for the post-9-11 world. Of the press the production received, much of it was positive.
Nosferatu: The Vampire Musical made its world premiere at The Madison Theatre in Peoria, Illinois in 1994. It was billed as a rock opera musical. Music and lyrics were both provided by Bernard J. Taylor. In addition to its world premiere, the production has also enjoyed two runs in the UK. An unrelated Nosferatu stage play (by Grzegorz Jarzyna) premiered in 2012 and received poor reviews.
Tyler Doupe is a film critic and journalist. He is the managing editor at Wicked Horror and an occasional contributor to Fangoria and Rue Morgue.