For certain people of, well, let’s just say a certain age, the news that Twilight scribe Stephenie Meyer and Meghan Hibbett’s Fickle Fish Films have optioned Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall with plans for a film adaptation is enough to cause some grown-up shrieking. I know this because one of the shriekers at the EW offices this morning was me.
Because before teens and tweens of all ages got hooked on J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and — of course — Stephenie Meyer, there was Lois Duncan. If one were going to break down the reading habits of a generation simply, we had Judy Blume to give us comfort through the trials of adolescence and then we had Lois Duncan to scare the stuffing out of us and keep us up all night. You think the Reaping was tense times? Or the search for Horcruxes stressful? Just you go back and pick up some Duncan books, which blend just enough reality with the supernatural to make them absolutely terrifying. (Just seeing the original cover of the book is enough to make this writer’s heart lurch.) “It gave me some serious nightmares when I was 9,” Meyer wrote on her blog this morning, noting that the 1974 novel was a favorite with hers, along with Summer of Fear and Stranger with My Face. Side note: even Lois Duncan titles were scary.
Down a Dark Hall takes place at at the creepy Blackwood boarding school where there are only four students. Kit, our heroine, senses evil down every — yes! — dark hallway, and before you know it, we’re dealing with all sorts of things supernatural and eeeeevil.
Meyer is clearly comfortable writing inside dark and mystical universes, and surely she must have been influenced by Duncan’s flair for storytelling, so this seems to be a good match. I don’t want to reveal the many twists and turns that occur in Down a Dark Hall (if you can’t wait to either see the movie or read the book, check out this writer’s account of re-reading the book as an adult). But while there’s no love triangles, vampires, wolfpack or babies to imprint on, Duncan’s story, like Twilight, does have a strong female heroine facing extraordinary circumstances.
Duncan’s suspense-driven stories are a natural fit for the big screen — 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer was adapted from her 1973 novel — and it makes me wonder what’s taken Hollywood so long to turn some of her other titles into films. (The much-less scary Hotel for Dogs was a modest hit, too.)
Am I alone in remembering how scary Duncan’s books were? If I had a vote for the next one to get the film treatment on, it would be for A Gift of Magic. What about you? Tell me in the comments section below!