The Halloween season is upon us. In addition to watching horror movies, now is a good time to read a scary book or two. What are your favorites?
It’s impossible to beat Stephen King’s ‘The Shining‘. I first bought that book about 25 years ago, started reading it, got too freaked out, and returned it to the bookstore. In 2006, I bought it again, read it in the middle of the day on a sunny beach in Florida, and it STILL scared the hell out of me. If you’ve only ever seen the movie, you’ve got to read the book. It’s a whole different world of terror, with so much more humanity and heart, which makes things much scarier.
Although he didn’t used to be, Chuck Palahniuk has become somewhat pegged in the horror genre for his disgusting stories. Not all of his books feature horrific elements, but one is so creatively bloody and graphic that it’s far more terrifying than most scary films. ‘Haunted‘ is a crafty tale about more than 20 aspiring authors who are willing to enter a secret anything-goes contest to improve their skills and find instant success. A shady bus picks up the “winners” one-by-one and takes them to the secret location of their writers retreat: a shady, windowless, completely inescapable and rotting theater. Once there, they’re locked in and encouraged to write their masterpieces.
Of course, awful things start to happen and it gets nasty – but there’s more to ‘Haunted’ than just this narrative. Nearly every other chapter is a short story written by one of the contestants while locked inside. The first of these short stories, ‘Guts’, allegedly caused lots of people to pass out during a live reading. While I’m not sure if I buy that nice piece of publicity, it’s surely a story that you can’t erase from your mind after reading it.
M. Enois Duarte
Anyone who knows me personally knows that, to my mind, nothing beats Mary Shelley’s seminal classic ‘Frankenstein‘. Along with Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’, the book essentially brought the horror genre to popular mainstream success. Yes, there are thousands of other, more recent books to choose from, but the highly intelligent and expressive Creature has grown into one of the best-known horror icons. Worldwide, he remains an emblematic figure of our collective nightmares after nearly two hundred years since his creation.
Since I was a kid, I was always attracted to this particular monster. That was the result of both James Whale’s 1932 film adaptation and the classic TV series ‘The Munsters’. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and finally read the original novel that I really started to develop a fascination with him. To this day, if you ask me about Shelley’s book or why I love it so much, you had best clear your schedule because I’ll go into a great amount of detail explaining what it makes one of the most significant masterpieces of literature.
Stephen King may have jumped the shark too many times to count in this millennium, but he nevertheless is an enduring horror icon. With ‘Misery‘, the author-turned-character-turned-captive-author not only makes for a horrific read, but its re-readability is off the charts. Sadly, the movie couldn’t or didn’t try to capture the dangerous things going on in mind of the main character, but those sequences of starvation (of all kinds) are not to be missed.
I recently read a book called ‘The Boy Who Drew Monsters‘ by Keith Donohue. It’s about a young autistic boy whose horrific drawings somehow come to life. The story is told from two main points of view. First, you have Jack’s point of view. He’s the kid who draws monsters. His world view is frightening, but also enlightening given his condition. The other point of view is that of Nick, Jack’s lone friend. But Nick is more a friend of Jack’s because his parents make him, not by choice. Nick is deathly afraid of Jack, understands Jack has some sort of supernatural powers, and provides a completely different view of transpiring events.
There’s a scene in the book in which Nick peaks out of Jack’s bedroom window because he hears shrill screaming. When he looks out, demonic babies are scuttling around on the outside of the house, screaming and twisting their heads all ‘Excorcist’-like. Right then, I felt like Guillermo del Toro would be the perfect director for a movie adaption.
I went through a big Clive Barker phase back in my college days, but my favorite of his books (‘Weaveworld’, ‘The Great and Secret Show’) are better classified as fantasy than horror. Of his genuine horror work, I most liked the short story collections called ‘The Books of Blood‘. I was such a fan, in fact, that my film school senior project was a totally unauthorized adaptation of one of Barker’s stories. In retrospect, had I been smarter, I would have focused my energies onto making something original that I owned outright, rather than a short film that would only ever have a single screening within the school, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The story in question, called ‘Dread’, was eventually licensed by someone else and made into a direct-to-video feature that I’m sure you’ve never heard of. My own short film is likely also best left lost to time.
Recommend some more good scary books in the Comments below.