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Adapt This: Lauren Beukes’ “Broken Monsters”

Adapt This: Lauren Beukes’ “Broken Monsters”

Adapt this is a column that makes the case for a big or small screen adaptation of a book or graphic novel.

Broken Monsters

The book: Broken Monsters, written by Lauren Beukes, published in 2014

Premise: In modern-day Detroit, amidst economic hardships everywhere, Detective Gabriella Versado comes across a body that’s more unnerving than anything she’s seen before; the top half of a boy and the bottom half of a deer seem to have been put together into one. As Detective Versado tries to track down this new killer as he strikes again and again, her daughter Layla, homeless man TK, blogger Jonno, artist Clayton, and many others get drawn into the web, all while trying to maintain their own lives and keep themselves ahead of their own problems, which come in all shapes and sizes.

Why it would make a great adaptation: Aside from successfully being a nail-biting mystery with several tense moments, Broken Monsters is also a strong character study, taking the time to flesh out and explore many of the characters at its core, including TK and Detective Versado. In addition, the story also travels along the edge of the supernatural in a way that’s very reminiscent of the first season of HBO’s True Detective, suggesting the presence of an evil entity that may not necessarily just be the figment of a disturbed mind. And the best thing about Broken Monsters is that not only would it put the city of Detroit in its current state front and centre, it would also focus on several non-white characters, bringing an extra dose of welcome diversity to whichever screen it ends up on.

How it can be a great adaptation: A movie would be the best way to adapt Broken Monsters, as the story moves along at a solid pace while immersing the audience in the characters and locale. Done well, it could end up appealing to fans of several genres, from mysteries to character studies to supernatural dramas.

To bring the novel to the screen, Beukes could be a solid choice to write the screenplay, as she has experience in the television realm along with her novel-writing, meaning that she wouldn’t be completely inexperienced in making the transition. James Vanderbilt would also be a good choice for the adaptation, as his work on the 2007 film Zodiac proves his ability to write a tense serial killer script using multiple perspectives, as well as his ability to adapt a script and retain the compelling aspects of it. For the directorial reins, a Zodiac reunion with David Fincher helming a film adaptation of Broken Monsters is likely to result in an excellent feature. However, Cary Fukunaga, whose work on the first season of True Detective proved his ability to marry investigative work with supernatural elements, has also proven himself more than capable of making an entertaining film out of the novel.

The novel’s diverse characters allows for the perfect opportunity for many supporting players to step into the spotlight in well-earned leading roles. Andrea Navedo would be an excellent choice for the role of Detective Versado, giving her an opportunity to show her skills in a role that’s radically different from her part as Xo in Jane the Virgin while also playing into her strengths of finding a character’s emotional core and using that to make her relatable. Roselyn Sanchez would be another great selection for the lead, as she has often been the best part of numerous supporting casts, and has experience playing a Detective from her time on Without a Trace. Similarly, the role of TK would be a good fit for a performer such as Brandon Jay McLaren or Johnny Ray Gill, both of whom have displayed the empathy and dogged resoluteness of the character in various roles, including Graceland and Rectify respectively. Johnny Ray Gill also has the potential to be captivating as Clayton, and the roles of both Jonno and Layla are equally strong enough to allow up-and-coming performers the chance to shine.

Chances of seeing an adaptation: Broken Monsters has been optioned to be developed as a drama series, but no further progress has been made. However, this doesn’t mean the book may never make it to a screen, big or small. The wide variety of genres the book can fall into make it ripe adaptation material, as it could appeal to numerous audiences, from horror and thriller fans to those interested in stories set in modern-day Detroit. An adaptation of this story also gives filmmakers an opportunity to add some much-needed diversity to the screen, which in turn brings an audience out as well, as previous ventures have shown, making it a win-win. Hopefully producers see the advantages of this adaptation soon as well.