There’s a certain gauche charm in seeing horror films shown on massive cinema screens. Perhaps it’s the gore, the scream queens, or the pure terror writ large in the eyes of victims caught in their final moments. Whatever it is, it’s a magic that has fascinated audiences for ages. But a casual fan of horror movies might be surprised to learn how many of their favorite films are novel adaptations. This is even truer in an age when easy access to guides on creating and self-publishing an e-book has allowed many authors to distribute stories which would otherwise have never been seen. Andy Wier and his indie novel and subsequent Hollywood blockbuster, The Martian, come to mind.
So aside from Night of the Living Dead, Martin, and It Follows, here are some of the best horror films adapted from novels:
Let the Right One In
This beautiful (if somewhat gloomy and cold) tale of meek, bullied 12-year-old Oskar who befriends the vampire who moves next door to him is one of the most invigorating and refreshing vampire tales in years. Let the Right One In is a haunting, romantic and somehow wistful story from the mind of Swedish writer Jon Ajvide Lindqvist, who wrote the novel in 2004. The film is as faithful an adaptation as they come, sublimely translating the tentative personality of the characters as they start to come to explore one another’s natures, the power that children sometimes yearn for, and the lengths that people will go to help someone they love.
One of the more unsettling horror stories out there, Hellraiser is a cult classic that needs no introduction. The name Frank Cotton instantly brings to mind a flayed body in its entirety, and one can’t help but link Cenobites with the image of many threaded hooks. The film’s origins are that of a novella penned by the director and writer of the film itself. It’s called the Hellbound Heart and but for a character’s role being switched, what you read is what you see on the screen.
We had to include a Stephen King story in here somewhere, right? And while it might not be the Shining (that’s a little bit too obvious), Salem’s Lot is a terrifying glimpse into the secrets residing behind the picket fences and manicured lawns of small town America. The novel took the world by storm in 1975 before being adapted for the screen in 1979 and again in 2004.
Before Christian Bale was dropping chainsaws down stairwells onto prostitutes or murdering rival yuppies in a fit of jealous rage, his character found his not-so-humble origins in Bret Easton’s novel of the same name. And while the book might be slightly more violent and feature longer lists of brand names (there are a lot), it’s still essentially the same telling of a satire surrealist story concerning a young urban psychopath obsessed with image and vanity.