Allow me to rant for a moment about bad film adaptations of novels. I'm often stunned by the idiotic decisions made by TV and movie studios, and dismayed that mega-bestsellers shrug off the results, as though a clumsy adaptation won't discourage potential readers.
I just watched Crouch End, part of the Nightmares and Dreamscapes miniseries based on Stephen King's short stories. I remembered this particular story as a good read, so I was eager to see if the TV version handled it well. Before one of you screams, "Oh, you're a purist who believes the book is always better," I will tell you this isn't so. I thought The Shawshank Redemption was an excellent adaptation. So was The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Memento, Interview with the Vampire, and Jurassic Park.
And before you say, "Well, you're one of those sticklers who thinks the screen version should follow the book as closely as possible," I'll mention that Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining is much better than the TV version, although Kubrick deviated from the original novel. Awful film adaptations are not awful because of the book, even when they translate the book word-for-word. Seriously.
When a well-loved book becomes a forgettable film, blame it on the studio. They hired actors who weren't suited for the roles, they allowed for moronic camera work and abysmal editing. Those decisions can ruin a good story.
Anyway, the TV presentation of Crouch End wasn't awful, it just wasn't good. At least the actors worked. While watching it, I began to wonder if the original story was as cheesy as it was rendered onscreen, so I reread it during commercial breaks. It holds up. It's subtle and creepy, not cheesy. I took a screenwriting course or two, so I can imagine the decisions made by the production crew. Someone must have said "exaggerate everything!" To be fair, screenplays rely on exaggerated action and dialogue, because you can't film inner monologues, or the elements of a writer's style (outside of dialog, that is).
The problem with Crouch End is that they exaggerated indiscriminately. They took what is described in the book as a "battle-scarred" tomcat and turned it into a cat wearing demonic prosthetics. They took a couple of creepy children and turned them into freaky witch-kids. They took a sense of subtle "wrongness" and turned it into out-and-out lunacy. The original story removes you from reality one small step at a time, whereas the screen version never bothers to do this; it rips you forcefully out of reality without bothering to build up suspense or develop any sense of internal logic. Like the Harry Potter films, the studio seems concerned only with capturing the words on the page, rather than exploring the salient themes in the story.
Why does this bother me? Bad adaptations do an enormous disservice to writers. I get tired of movie fans who associate Stephen King with crappy TV miniseries. Those people might enjoy reading Stephen King, but they won't because they think he writes campy horror. This effect is also a problem for J. K. Rowling and other authors (like Philip K. Dick). Okay, you may argue that J. K. Rowling and Stephen King don't need any more fans, but there are lots of less well-known writers who do. Screen adaptations have a measurable effect on a writer's reputation. How many of you went out and picked up a copy of David Brin's The Postman after watching Kevin Costner try to top Waterworld?
If more studios would put care and effort into making adaptations that did justice to the books and short stories on which they are based, the result would be more readers. Considering the shape that publishing (particularly publishing in our genre) is in, this would be a great move.