Halloween is less than a week away, and this is that rare time of year when even the faintest of heart are willing to curl up with a copy of Dracula and a pumpkin spice latte, or even become brave enough to sit through a viewing of Halloween. Then there are those of us who can’t get enough of the frightful fun, whether book or movie, no matter the time of year. Whichever camp you fall into, there’s a horror book out there to help you get the most out of the Halloween season. And while many movies based on horror books are truly great, yep—you guessed it—the books are even better! Here are five of our favorites.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1890)
A spooky, but relatively tame classic for those of you who don’t consider yourselves horror fans, Oscar Wilde’s 19th-century masterpiece was the only novel written by the poet and playwright. Stunningly handsome Dorian sells his soul to stay young and beautiful forever, while his portrait, hidden away where only he can see it, bears the proof of his age and every sin of his life of debauchery. The 1945 film adaptation earned Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury—yes, THAT Angela Lansbury—almost makes this film worth a watch just to see the Murder, She Wrote star as a young actress) and Best Cinematography (well-deserved—it’s an absolutely gorgeous film).
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson (1959)
A revered author among horror fans, Shirley Jackson’s seminal ghost story was a runner up for the National Book Awards in 1960. Two film adaptations have been made—the 1963 cult classic The Haunting and the let’s-just-pretend-this-never-happened 1999 adaptation of the same name—and a highly anticipated (by yours truly, at least) Netflix series is set for release in 2018. If you read this book and feel it falls victim to horror tropes, think again—Jackson wrote the book (literally) on those staples of ghost stories you’ve read and seen many times since.
The Shining, Stephen King (1977)
Jack Torrance, his wife, Wendy, and their son, Danny, move into a massive resort hotel for the winter when Jack is hired as the caretaker for the off-season. While the tortured Jack is steadily losing it, and Danny is dealing with psychic powers he doesn’t yet understand, Wendy is trying to keep the family from falling apart. While Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of Stephen King’s third novel (famously hated by the author) is a work of art on its own, few of the movie’s iconic scenes have much to do with the book. The book does have its own incredible, cinema-worthy moments, but most are so fantastical, there was no way to recreate them at the time the movie was filmed. With a much more complex picture of Jack Torrance’s descent into madness—much of it is from Jack’s own point of view—the book is well worth the read, even if you’ve seen the movie a dozen times.
The Books of Blood, Clive Barker (1984–1985)
Clive Barker has cemented himself as a tentpole of the horror genre. His popular books have spawned some of horror’s most iconic movie adaptations (Hellraiser, Candyman, Nightbreed), but it all started with The Books of Blood, a collection of six volumes of short stories (from which several of Barker’s lesser-known movie adaptations were made, like The Midnight Meat Train, Rawhead Rex, and the titular The Books of Blood). His debut offerings quickly became cult classics, with stories that range from grisly (the aforementioned The Midnight Meat Train, about a gory night in a subway car) to the humorous (for example, The Yattering and Jack, in which a demon possesses a Christmas turkey). Read for yourself to see why Barker is considered a master of the genre.
Coraline, Neil Gaiman (2002)
Here at HigleyFox, we are quite fond of young adult books, so we would be remiss to exclude a YA horror offering from this list. Coraline, by beloved horror and fantasy author Neil Gaiman (The Sandman series of graphic novels, Stardust, American Gods) does the job nicely. Coraline Jones discovers a locked door in her home and finds it’s the gateway to a world that seems very much like her own; except, in this world, her parents have very pale skin and black buttons for eyes. These new versions of her mom and dad spoil and indulge her to no end, but their attention eventually turns sinister. Gaiman’s first YA outing was adapted into a movie in 2009, but the book is a bit darker than the film. As is often the case in the book vs. movie debate, the book is subtler and more nuanced, and therefore provides a more effective creep factor. Thankfully, with the success of Coraline, Gaiman has gone on to write many more YA and children’s books.
What’s your favorite horror novel? Did we miss your favorite horror book with a great movie adaptation? Let us know in the comments below!