That Aren’t by Stephen King
Everyone’s got a favorite horror movie. But, I think you would agree, the ideas have to come from somewhere. Many of these movies are based on or strongly influenced by books. Let’s take a look.
The Collector – John Fowles
Film Adaptation starring Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar, 1965.
While this may be more of a thriller than a horror, meh, this is a personal favorite of mine and will be included on the list.
From Amazon: Hailed as the first modern psychological thriller, The Collector is the internationally bestselling novel that catapulted John Fowles into the front rank of contemporary novelists. This tale of obsessive love–the story of a lonely clerk who collects butterflies and of the beautiful young art student who is his ultimate quarry–remains unparalleled in its power to startle and mesmerize.
Burnt Offerings – Robert Marasco
Film Adaptation: 1976
This is one of the first horror movies I’ve ever seen and Bette Davis was in it too!
From Amazon: Ben and Marian Rolfe are desperate to escape a stifling summer in their tiny Brooklyn apartment, so when they get the chance to rent a mansion in upstate New York for the entire summer for only $900, it’s an offer that’s too good to refuse. There’s only one catch: behind a strange and intricately carved door in a distant wing of the house lives elderly Mrs. Allardyce, and the Rolfes will be responsible for preparing her meals.
Jaws – Peter Benchley
Film Adaptation: 1975
“Smile, you son of a bitch!”
Gosh, how many times have I seen this? Too many. I read the book as a teenager, back in the 80s, after having seen the film. The book offers a different slant, concentrating on a lot of soapy stuff between Mrs. Brody and Hooper, but it’s still a keeper.
From Booklist: This novel about a rogue shark that terrorizes a beach community hasn’t aged a day since its publication more than 35 years ago. Benchley’s writing is lean and efficient—this is his first novel, and also by far his best—and the story is a solid mixture of small-town politics, mystery, and outright terror. The author positions his protagonist, police chief Martin Brody, as virtually the lone voice of reason in a town filled with people who want to downplay the shark’s presence (so as not to scare away tourists with their bulging wallets); and when the body count starts to rise, it’s Brody who has to find a way to kill the beast, even if it means putting his own life on the line.
The familiar characters—Brody, oceanographer Matt Hooper, shark-hunter Quint—are not as likable as they are in Steven Spielberg’s classic film adaptation, but in the context of the novel, they are well drawn and compelling. Those who are familiar with the movie, but not the book, are in for some surprises, and those who read the book way back when should definitely give it another look.
A Stir of Echoes – Richard Matheson
Film adaptation: 1999 as Stir of Echoes
Richard Matheson’s first entry on this list is a heck of a thriller written on 1958. Granted, the story is dated, and some of the “morals” aren’t as strong as they are today, but the book is still a good ride. The film version updates the core issue quite a bit, and is a great starring vehicle for Kevin Bacon.
From Amazon: Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he’s hearing the private thoughts of the people around him-and learning shocking secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom’s existence becomes a waking nightmare, even greater jolts are in store as he becomes the unwilling recipient of a compelling message from beyond the grave!
The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin
Film adaptations: 1975, 2004
“I thought you were my friend…I thought you were my friend…”
Written by Ira Levin, this sci-fi/horror mash-up had a concept that most are familiar with. Again, the book itself is dated, but the writing packs a good punch that keeps you reading, even though you probably already know the twist. Sometimes it’s the journey, not the destination. It was made into two film adaptations, one in 1975 and in 2004. The 1975 is far superior in its execution and also has no Matthew Broderick.
From Amazon: For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town’s idyllic facade lies a terrible secret — a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.
The Sentinel – Jeffrey Kovitz
Film adaptation: The Sentinel, 1977
This is one of the books I haven’t read, so I cannot offer personal commentary.
From Amazon: Jeffrey Konvitz’s New York Times–bestselling horror novel about a young woman descending into demonic madness who discovers it’s not simply in her mind.
Aspiring model Allison Parker finally moves into her dream apartment: a brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. But her perfect home quickly turns hellish.
The building is filled with a cast of sinister tenants, including a reclusive blind priest, who seems to watch her day and night through an upstairs window. Eventually, Allison starts hearing strange noises from the empty apartment above hers. Before long, she uncovers the building’s demonic secret and is plunged into a nightmare of sinful misdeeds and boundless evil.
Let Me In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
Film adaptations: Let the Right One In (2008), Let Me In (2010)
This too, I have neither seen nor read.
From Amazon: It is autumn 1981 when inconceivable horror comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.
But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.
The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
Film adaptation: 1991
“I’m having an old friend for dinner….”
Of course, you know this one and it’s kind of caught between thriller and horror. I judge it….mash up. Both chilling and entertaining, the reader finds themselves drawn to Lector’s suave, cultured personality while at the same time repulsed by his killer/cannibal ways. It’s a great read and adds layers to the film.
From Amazon: A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname–Buffalo Bill–is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter–Hannibal the Cannibal–who is kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
Film Adapations: : The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), I Am Legend (2007), and direct-to-video I Am Omega (2007).
This author was prolific, to say the least. I purchased an anthology of his stories a while back and realize most of them were Twilight Zone episodes. This is his second entry on the list, and I believe the one that was adapted into the most fillm.
From Amazon: Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there is nothing else human left.
Falling Angel – William Hjortsberg
Film Adaptation: Angel Heart 1987
“I gotta thing about chickens.”
Interesting movie, stands out because of Robert DeNiro’s performance as a mysterious Louis Cyphre.
From Amazon: Big-band frontman Johnny Favorite was singing for the troops when a Luftwaffe fighter squadron strafed the bandstand, killing the crowd and leaving the singer near death. The army returned him to a private hospital in upstate New York, leaving him to live out his days as a vegetable while the world forgot him. But Louis Cyphre never forgets.
Cyphre had a contract with the singer, stipulating payment upon Johnny’s death—payment that will be denied as long as Johnny clings to life. When Cyphre hires private investigator Harry Angel to find Johnny at the hospital, Angel learns that the singer has disappeared. It is no ordinary missing-person’s case. Everyone he questions dies soon after, as Angel’s investigation ensnares him in a bizarre tangle of black magic, carnival freaks, and grisly voodoo. When the sinister Louis Cyphre begins appearing in Angel’s dreams, the detective fears for his life, his sanity, and his soul.
Duel – Richard Matheson
TV Movie adaptation – 1971
As you can tell, I am kind of a Richard Matheson junkie, but I’ll be brief.
Man in car vs. Evil 18 wheeler
Psycho – Robert Bloch
“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
Film Adaptation: 1960
Classic. What more can be said about this one?
From Amazon: Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. He has lived with Mother ever since leaving the hospital in the old house up on the hill above the Bates motel. One night Norman spies on a beautiful woman that checks into the hotel as she undresses. Norman can’t help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife.
The Birds and Don’t Look Now – Daphne DuMaurier
Film Adaptations: The Birds – 1963
Don’t Look Now – 1973
Two separate titles made into two very good film adaptations.
Don’t Look Now is the story of a husband and wife grieving from the loss of a child while in Venice.
The Birds – well, basically, they get theirs.
These are short stories (novelettes?) rather than full blown novels. Still they offer a quick read with a big punch.
The Hellbound Heart and The Forbidden– Clive Barker
Film adaptations: Hellraiser (1987) and Candyman (1992) respectively.
The Hellbound Heart focuses on a mystical puzzle box and the horror it wreaks on a family that is unfortunate enough to come across it.
The Forbidden is about a university student named Helen is doing a thesis on graffiti, and selects a run-down estate to focus her study. She notices disturbing graffiti in an abandoned building that makes references to some sort of mythical figure known as the Candyman. Further enquiries lead her to believe this is connected with recent murders and mutilations in the neighbourhood, although the locals are seemingly reluctant to discuss the incidents. She eventually encounters the Candyman himself, gaining notoriety by becoming his latest victim.
Herbert West: Reanimator, The Dunwich Horror, From Beyond – H. P. Lovecraft
Film adaptations: Reanimator (1985), The Dunwich Horror (1970), From Beyond (1986) respectively
Herbert West: Reanimator
From Goodreads: “Herbert West: Reanimator” is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was written between October 1921 and June 1922. It was first serialized in February through July 1922 in the amateur publication Home Brew. The story was the basis of the 1985 horror film Re-Animator and its sequels, in addition to numerous other adaptations in various media.
The story is the first to mention Lovecraft’s fictional Miskatonic University. It is also notable as one of the first depictions of zombies, as corpses arising, through scientific means, as animalistic, and uncontrollably violent creatures.
The Dunwich Horror:
From Wikipedia: Written in 1928, it was first published in the April 1929 issue of Weird Tales (pp. 481–508). It takes place in Dunwich, a fictional town in Massachusetts. It is considered one of the core stories of the Cthulhu Mythos. “The Dunwich Horror” is one of the few tales Lovecraft wrote wherein the heroes successfully defeat the antagonistic entity or monster of the story.
From Wikipedia: The story is told from the first person perspective of an unnamed narrator and details his experiences with a scientist named Crawford Tillinghast. Tillinghast creates an electronic device that emits a resonance wave, which stimulates an affected person’s pineal gland, thereby allowing them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is the graphic meant to do any more than to augment the article. So, show me what you got. What are some of your horror movies that were influenced by books. And, which did you think was better – the book or the movie? Throw your thoughts in the comments.
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