Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Children's Books I Want To Watch On A Big Screen

Provided they're not rewritten to include a soulless love triangle and a mysteriously hot cast of supernatural creatures, of course. After all, these are works of children's literature, not cynical marketing opportunities like Twilight and Fuck Me, I'm a Pretentiously Named Vampire or whatever the rest are called. So why hasn't Hollywood sucked them dry of all merit yet?* Your guess is as good as mine.

*OK, so they're not all bad. I did like Alfonso Cuaron's take on Harry Potter, and my teenage students who sneaked into The Perks of Being A Wallflower reported that it was good, although they "didn't understand the soundtrack"... those Rihanna-loving plebes.

1. Garth Nix's Sabriel (1995)

In this age of tween horror and routine CGI, I am amazed that no one has succeeded in making Sabriel, the movie. At the risk of sounding like SNL's Stefon, this book has everything - a spunky female protagonist, magic, the living dead, a talking cat and a hot dude who happens to be like, 300 years old. Imagine an army of the Dead coming at you in 3D!

In all seriousness though, the book is great - fast-paced, realistic characters, intriguing world-building and loads of spooky situations. I even like the idea of ringing bells as necromantic weapons - they sort of remind me of those old Chinese hopping vampire B-movies, with the temple bells and chanting monks. I would want Alfonso Cuaron to direct - he knows his way around a moody, dimly-lit setting.

2. Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond (1958)

OK, so this one is old, but it's set in the 1600s anyway, so what does it matter? A young girl arrives in Connecticut to live with relatives, unaware that their Puritan community hates education, freedom of thought and fun, not necessarily in that order. She defies their pious warnings to befriend an old Quaker lady who is constantly this close to being tortured and killed as a witch by the suspicious townfolk. There's a cheeky sailor who provides the necessary love interest and at least two other hot guys who get in the way.

I love it because it sends important messages about freedom and religious extremism. Plus, feminism! I think Joe Wright would do a good job. It would be Pride & Prejudice shot through with the adrenaline of Hanna.

3. Vivian Vande Velde's Companions of the Night (1995)

I loved this book so much when I was a kid, I must have borrowed it at least 10 or 11 times from the library. It's not really a vampire story - more of a kidnapping thriller featuring an uneasy alliance between a teenage girl and a charming, untrustworthy vampire (who is NOT in high school). It's surprisingly grown-up for a book that contains no swearing or actual sex. It does have a great scene involving sunlight, a crazed vampire hunter and an opera record played at top volume to cover up the screaming.

It might be a bit dark for the under-15 crowd, but I envision it as a tight little suspense film, like a cigarette lighter flicking on and off in the darkness. Click, click, cut to burned corpse and blood. Give this one to Neil Jordan to direct - he seems to have a thing for vampires.

4. Alan Garner's The Owl Service (1967) 

Yes, there was a supposedly haunted 1969 BBC series, but I think a good remake would take the cliche of one girl, two boys and spin it around faster than that possessed little girl in the Exorcist could rotate her head.

The plot is a bit tough to describe - a girl discovers a mysterious set of dinner plates in the attic of her holiday home in Wales, and wakes a ghostly presence. Her step-brother and the cook's son try to save her, but the three are trapped in a re-enactment of an ancient Welsh legend that always ends in bloodshed and misery. Also, class differences are a big issue. It's the UK, after all.

It's got that isolated, caged woman in a desolate land theme, so I nominate Jane Campion to direct.

5. Margaret Mahy's The Changeover (1984)

This is like if a 1970s' Wiccan feminism textbook gave water-birth to a YA novel. On the surface, it's about a girl whose brother is being harvested by a soul-draining demon, and has to change to embrace her true witchy nature in order to save him. The hot guy in this case isn't a vampire, but a male witch (who's trying very hard not to be emasculated). It's kind of cheesy, but it feels so good, like walking into a gender studies class in uni and realising everyone in the room believes women are equal human beings. Mind-blowing.

Wow, I have no idea who should direct this. I think it should be loopy and surreal - she does go on a semi-drugged spiritual journey in the suburbs, after all. (Richard Linklater, for the waking dream sequence?)

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