I guess that I am still in the Oscar movie mindset, wondering who win the coveted treasure. There will be lots of articles about these winning movies but I was thinking about scary movies. Very few horror movies have won that little bald man. Perhaps the reason is that very few films can live up to the terror an author can invoke in your mind. Stephen King’s movies are infamous for not being that good, with a very few rare exceptions. Here are some books that I feel will always be scarier than the movie, no matter who acts or directs them.
Since I already mentioned Stephen King, I will start with The Shining (M). As wonderfully crazy Jack Nicholson was in the film, I still prefer the shivers I got from the book. There is a reason King is a horror master and he proves it time and time again. King presents a child-eye view of his parent’s crumbling relationship and his father’s descent into alcoholic hell very effectively. That the child is a “shiner” who can see the ghosts of the hotel just makes the imagery even more frightening. King fans may be interested that there is another movie version of Carrie. But like I said, King’s writing can bring you to some pretty terrifying places.
Having not seen the movie John Dies at the End (M) perhaps I should not judge it. But David Wong is known to be a great writer. Wong and his penis obsessed best friend John become addicted to a drug known as soy-sauce, which causes very bizarre hallucinations. The book takes pop-culture trends from the past 20 years, blends it with male teenage humour and splatterpunk gore. Yet, it has a very dark sense of humour that may have you laughing out loud. It is really hard to describe and give it justice. Thus, I feel the movie will not be able to translate Wong’s words into images.
Another “warped” author that I am a fan of is Chuck Palahniuk, an American author of transgressive fiction. One thing that can always be said about his novels, they are somewhat disgusting and disturbing. But considering his life, it is not surprising. His father began a relationship with a woman, only to have her ex-boyfriend murder them. His mother soon after died of cancer. He is a member of the rebellious Cacophony Society, which involves pranks and drunkenness. He used this society as the basis for Project Mayhem in Fight Club. Most people are familiar with this novel because of the film starring Brad Pitt. My favourite of his novels is Haunted (M), which was also made into a wonderful audio book, performed by a number actors as opposed to one voice. This parody of reality shows brings together a group of would be writers for a three month writing retreat. The group is then locked into an old theatre with dwindling supplies. What price will people pay for fame? Read this book to get an idea how horrifying people can be.
Shirley Jackson is the queen of horror in my mind. She can weave a tale so scary it will stay with you decades later. Her story The Haunting of Hill House (M) has been made into a few film versions. Four people spend the summer at the reportedly haunted Hill House: Dr. Montage, an occult scholar, Theodora his assistant, Eleanor a recluse and Luke, the heir to the house. What makes the novel so very effective is the character Eleanor, because of how very vulnerable she is. Jackson is a such a master at creating suspenseful tension that there is an award named for her that recognizes contemporary literature of psychological suspense and horror.
The Exorcist (M) by William Peter Blatty is one movie that came close to the genius of the novel. Linda Blair’s spinning head and vomit are unforgettable. But I am afraid that my imagination can and does create more terrifying images than any film can. In a world that horror moves have become more splatter and gore, it is testament to Blatty’s book that it remains on the Best Horror novel lists. It is the tale of an innocent teen who is possessed by an ancient demon. Coming to her aid is an old priest who specializes in exorcisms and a young priest who is struggling with his own faith.
So what is your creep factor? How scary is your imagination or are you a more visual person? Either way, remember you can always leave the lights on!