Since Gabriel Rodríguez and Joe Hill’s Locke & Key was first published in 2008, there’ve been numerous rumors about and two definite attempts at getting a live-action adaptation of the haunted house horror comic off the ground. This week, Hulu passed on the pilot of the show, which fans had been eagerly awaiting. This was a was particularly surprising case as Hulu produced the pilot themselves and had even built sets for the show.
We can chalk this instance up to corporate shakeups, but that only explains away one of the many times Locke & Key fell shy of the screen. In an age of prestige television, why has a great property like Locke & Key been so hard to adapt? And what are the chances we’ll get to see Tyler, Kinsey, Bode, and Keyhouse brought to life on screen?
At first glance, the sprawling six-volume story of the three Locke children and their mother—who, after the brutal murder of their father, relocate to the mysterious Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts—appears to be the perfect fodder for the current long-form prestige TV trend. Hill is a talented horror writer, so the book is constantly keeping readers on their toes as we follow the siblings on their journey of discovery in their vast and dangerous new home.
In the wake of the spectacularly popular Stranger Things, this story of a group of precious young kids in a supernatural setting becomes even more attractive. The fact that the series spans six separate collections helps too—if you’re to imagine each season would be based on one trade paperback, then you have a potential for six seasons before having to divert from the material.
So why hasn’t a live-action Locke & Key been able to get off the ground? One of the main problems that the source material presents is that it’s almost too expansive and experimental. For those of you who have yet to delve into the gothic world of Locke & Key, it may be hard to imagine the expansive visual landscape that Rodríguez and colorist Jay Fotos create. At the core of the story are a set of magical keys and the doors they open, which lead to either another dimension or (literally) the user’s mind.
Rodríguez’s art is astonishingly detailed and some of the set pieces integral to the story could likely be very hard to put onscreen. Another sticking point could likely be the horror elements of the story. Though we now have shows like American Horror Story and Penny Dreadful, historically it’s been hard for gory genre fare to make it to television, and Locke & Key is as much of a horror story as it is a fantasy one.
Though the latest hiccup at Hulu is disappointing for fans who’ve been waiting 10 years to see the world of Locke & Key on their TVs, it may just be that—a hiccup. Though Locke & Key is undoubtedly a challenging property, there’s still a fantastic TV show to be made out of it. Now that horror shows are popular, all Locke & Key needs is a production company and/or channel that believe in the product enough to take a risk with the more visceral and violent elements of the story.
Netflix seems an obvious fit, as they often pick up canceled shows and have a great eye for horror. (Plus, they’ve put out some winning adult animated series these past few years—BoJack Horseman and Big Mouth among them—which bodes well for the truly beautiful prospect of an animated Locke & Key show.) But an even better tonal match could be Shudder; the fantastic streaming service may still be niche, but it has an enviable selection of movies, shows, and even exclusives including the recent Neil Gaiman-led anthology Likely Stories. It would be a huge get for Shudder and would mean that the show could really lean into its horror roots.
As for the more fantastical elements of the show, recent prestige shows like Legion have pushed the boundaries of what we expect from a television series. With the right directorial vision, Locke & Key could jump off of the abstract, experimental, and non-linear storytelling of a show like Legion to create something unique that still pays homage to Rodriguez’s incredible art and the vibrant, intricate visual world that he created.
How do you see Locke & Key coming to life? Do you have a favorite story arc? Just want to see the saga of the Locke family continue? Let us know below!
Images: IDW Comics