Pretty soon, Joe Hill might catch up to his father Stephen King when it comes to film and TV adaptations. Several of Hill’s books and short stories have been, or will soon be, adapted to the screen, and a new title has joined the list. That would be Voluntary Committal, a novella that appeared in Hill’s excellent short story collection 20th Century Ghosts. Paramount TV is adapting Voluntary Committal into a series, with Brad Caleb Kane (Warrior) handling the script. The story is about a man who suddenly recalls a haunting incident from his childhood in the wake of his brother’s sudden disappearance.
The news comes from Deadline, which also provides a very lengthy synopsis:
It is centered on Nolan Lerner and his quest to discover the truth about his autistic brother’s disappearance and its potential connection to a dark secret from their past. The circumstances surrounding Nolan’s investigation will begin to reveal that Nolan isn’t the only person in town hiding a secret, and that there’s a darker undercurrent to this town tracing back to decades of missing persons. The series will concurrently tell the stories of Nolan’s investigation as an adult and that of his teenage years with his autistic brother, Morris, who had an extraordinary ability to build elaborate mazes large enough for people to walk into; although people didn’t always walk out. The interweaving stories throughout the two timelines will constantly inform one another, with the story of Nolan’s past eventually providing answers that launch the remainder of the series set in the present.
I’ve read the story, and it’s captivating and creepy. That said, there’s a risk here in the way they go about portraying autism – one wrong move and it could backfire and turn viewers off (see the recent reactions to Sia’s movie Music for an example of this sort of thing going very, very wrong). Hopefully they strike the right balance. In truth, I’m not sure this story lends itself to a series – it would be better served as a feature film.
The Voluntary Committal series will be written by Brad Caleb Kane, whose credits include Fringe, Black Sails, Lodge 49, and Warrior. Kane will also executive produce along with Joe Hill and Bob Cooper. The series joins a growing list of Hill-based adaptations. Horns, NOS4A2, In the Tall Grass, and Locke & Key have already been adapted to the big and small screen, and Hill’s short story The Black Phone – which also appeared in 20th Century Ghosts – is currently in production.
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