Podcasts have revived the radio drama. What used to be a leading form of family entertainment had all but died, but now the niche world of podcasts has brought it back. With today’s technology, audio entertainment is better than ever, offering immersive experiences that listeners can tune into whenever they wish.
Fiction podcasts have shown as a wealth of new talent and content for our ears, but the most successful shows are already branching out into other formats: live shows, tie-in novels, and TV shows. It’s only a matter of time before one of ’em becomes a movie, so here are four fiction podcasts that I think would blow audiences away.
Welcome to Night Vale
This quirky sci-fi comedy exploded in the podcast scene, bringing in hordes of eager listeners. Written and created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, this mock radio show details the wacky goings-on in Night Vale — an unassuming desert town that happens to be a magnet for the weird, sinister and supernatural. The podcast has spawned a spinoff novel, and has gone on several live tours in the US and Europe.
It’s rare and wonderful that a podcast, especially one so niche and odd, becomes a juggernaut. So a movie doesn’t seem like a stretch for this property. The podcast’s unique brand of humor would translate very well to the screen, and seeing the town realized would be a real treat. The film could blend the sensibilities of Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness with the radio station setting of Pontypool. Throw in a touch of Twin Peaks and you’ve got some serious potential for a great Night Vale movie.
Recommended Episode: “Glow Cloud”
This hugely popular audio drama only lasted seven episodes, but show creators Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie say more are coming. They just have to complete the prequel novel and TV pilot first. Limetown is an impeccably produced show with a great premise. It has the cerebral, quiet qualities of a Shane Carruth movie, but would scale up beautifully into a conspiracy thriller.
The podcast’s story follows Lia Haddock, a radio journalist who’s hell-bent on finding the truth about Limetown: a small Tennessee town in which 300 people disappeared. The show’s focus on interviews won’t translate as well to the screen, so perhaps the bulk of the film should follow a resident of Limetown as they become an active participant in the twisted scientific research that happens there.
Recommended Episode: Start at the beginning!
This anthology show features a smart new premise in nearly every episode. Beautifully acted and filled with atmospheric sound effects that transport you to extraordinary places. It hops genres with ease, and sometimes dips into the abstract and mind-bending. The show’s director, veteran radio producer Jonatan Mitchell, calls The Truth “movies for your ears.” That’s a spot-on description, and it’s one of the reasons the show would work so well in movie form.
The show’s anthology feel might be difficult to capture in a single film, because episodes vary so widely in tone and genre. Perhaps one of the longer stand-out episodes would be the best candidate for bringing The Truth to the big screen. For example, the two-part “In Good Hands” tells a frightening story about two urban explorers who discover a secret underground community in an abandoned section of the New York City subway. It’s a cool premise that’d make for a really neat thriller, especially with the urban exploration angle.
Recommended Episode: “In Good Hands”
The NoSleep Podcast
Spawned from Reddit’s NoSleep forum for short horror stories, this podcast began as a labor of love that quickly turned into one of the most reputable horror podcasts on the web. The show’s quality increased exponentially in the first few seasons, and now, in its seventh season, it’s a well-oiled and polished machine.
NoSleep is an evolution of the anthology tradition in horror, and I see no reason why a NoSleep movie shouldn’t be an anthology, too. Horror anthology flicks are like pizza in that they’re still fun even when they’re not great. But when they’re great, we get stuff like Creepshow. Turn a great director loose on the five best stories from NoSleep’s huge library of content, and that’s bound to be a hell of a night at the movies.
Recommended Episode: Season 5, Episode 25 – “The Whistlers”