Stephen King’s Rival Can Destroy Him If He Allows Movies Made from His Books

By Shanna Mathews-Mendez | Published

dean koontz

Stephen King is an amazing writer whose novels have been adapted into dozens of exceptional films. Consider this an ode to a friendly rivalry and a public prayer that another fantastic horror writer, Dean Koontz, could have similar success. To see truly great movies adapted from Dean Koontz’s novels may indeed call Stephen King’s reputation as the king of horror into question. 

Koontz Is King With More Of The Fantastic

I was a young girl when I started reading horror novels. My first Stephen King book was Christine, about a man who falls in love with his car, Christine, and the car that falls in love with him right back, to the point of obsession and murder. I still vividly recall the buckets of blood scene described in the book. 

Then, I found Dean Koontz, an author who, to my teenage mind, seemed to be doing what Stephen King was doing, but with more emotion, more fantasy, more science fiction. 

King Is Horror, Koontz’s Horror Is Just One Piece Of The Puzzle

Where King imagines a zealous fan kidnapping her favorite author to bring about the ending she wants in Misery, Koontz imagines how a brutal serial killer was formed from childhood trauma in Whispers, and how, even though he must be stopped, we are also compelled to empathize with him.

I read many of King’s novels but many more of Koontz’s, and I have no doubt it is because the former felt like almost pure horror with blood and guts everywhere and the latter felt like horror was a side effect of so much more. 

Dean Koontz’s novels have heart, relationships, and joy in the face of abject terror, horror, and brutality. Stephen King just terrifies us — plain and simple.

Koontz’s Adaptations Have Not Gone Well

Again, both writers are good at what they do, so my concern isn’t that Koontz doesn’t get recognition. Indeed, he is the 6th highest paid author in the world, tying with John Grisham. 

Instead, I have always been incensed that more of Dean Koontz’s novels are not made into great films. Where Stephen King has dozens of excellent movies made based on his books that have become classics and blockbusters, only a handful of Koontz’s 105 novels have been adapted for film, and all of them pretty poorly. 

The Best Koontz Adaptations Are Just Sort Of Okay

dean koontz

Watchers, perhaps the most famous adaptation, was completely changed for the screen, turning the man into a boy and a romantic relationship into a mother and son bond. The result was a poor rendition of the novel. Even Phantoms, an epic horror story about a town decimated by a giant shapeshifting monster, ended up being an only okay film with Ben Affleck, Peter O’Toole, and Rose McGowan. 

Most of the films made from his books have been turned into straight-to-video or made for television movies, when they could have been major blockbusters. 

Koontz Has Been Burned Too Many Times

Part of the reason for this sad state of affairs is likely because his early works did not do well, so Hollywood kind of gave up on Dean Koontz and stuck with the more reliable Stephen King. 

Another part of the reason is likely because Dean Koontz has become notoriously difficult to please in terms of his passion projects. One of his greatest novels, Frankenstein, which brings the characters from Mary Shelley’s thriller into the present day, was slated for a huge television series on the USA Network, with Martin Scorcese even signed on to collaborate, Koontz ended up pulling the project over creative differences. 

Here’s Hoping…

dean koontz

I have read Koontz’s notes in the back of some of these books, and on the issue of his stories being made into films. He has been burned one too many times by filmmakers and studio execs trying to turn his work into something it is not. 

Perhaps a filmmaker will come along and see what real cinema magic can be made from his many stories. 

I’ll be here, turning the pages of his novels, holding out hope in the meantime.