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Your Imagination Isn't Always Better: Nine Horror Films We Love as Much as the Books

By Jodi Clager And Cindy Davis | Seriously Random Lists | October 24, 2013 | Comments ()


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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No silly, not Christmas or back to school day…Halloween. Whether you were sent off on your first horror journey by Stephen King or his son, Joe; by H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe, there are bound to be film adaptations of almost all your favorites. Here are a few of ours.

1. The Exorcist, based on the William Peter Blatty novel

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Director William Friedkin initially excised this spider-walk scene because of visible effects. With the aid of newer technology, the effects were erased and years later, the scene was added back—resulting in a deliciously creepy few moments. But it’s the glorious mood captured by Friedkin and cinematographer, Owen Roizman that make The Exorcist one of my all time favorites. -CD

2. Let The Right One In, based on the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel.

Original Swedish Flavor only, please. From the strong casting of child actors Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson to the perfectly bleak backdrop of Stockholm, the film is a perfect recreation of the stomach-churning novel. Oskar’s plight as a lonely, unsure, bullied young boy is horrible enough without the vampire Eli catching his attention. Yet, you can’t hold anything against Eli or her actions because she’s just as lonely and unsure as Oskar. - JC


3. The Shining, based on the Stephen King novel

Although (and because) Kubrick changed so many things his film created a case of double-love; each medium is terrifying in its own way. For me, there’s never been a novel vs. film debate; one doesn’t negate or take the place of the other. In this quintessential scene, mallet was changed to axe, and Nicholson ad libs the famous line: “Here’s Johnny!” -CD

4. The Amityville Horror, based on the Jay Anson novel.

The last time I was this disappointed by a book, I threw it across the room. Anson writes about the supernatural occurrences that allegedly plagued the Lutz family like he’s writing a car manual. To say that the films are a vast improvement is an understatement. Personally, I prefer my Amityville Horror with manly eye candy. -JC

5. Christine, based on the Stephen King novel

Once I started King, I couldn’t stop (well, until I got to the crap that was Lisey’s Story and Under the Dome); Christine was one of the early reads that got me hooked. I’m a sucker for John Carpenter’s moody (and musical) touch, and Keith Gordon was the perfect Arnie. Unlike the ridiculously silly Maximum Overdrive (foolishly directed by the author himself), Christine was one of the better King movie outings. -CD

6. Pet Sematary, based on the novel by Stephen King.

I think I only need to remind you of two things to prove that this novel made a visceral, terrifying movie: Achilles tendon and Zelda. I totally pulled a Joey and left this book in the freezer more than once. -JC

7. Hellraiser, based on Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart

Here’s a case where the book author adapted his own novel, and it turned out well. Barker is a great writer whose descriptions of Frank’s book torture are difficult to bring to life—and regardless of how successful that particular aspect was—Hellraiser brought us into the terrifyingly creepy alternate dimension where the Cenobites reign. -CD

8. The Silence of the Lambs, based on the Thomas Harris novel

What can I say that you don’t already know? Demme’s take on Harris is as good as it gets. Though many people enjoy Michael Mann’s Manhunter (based on Harris’ Red Dragon), I never truly felt Cox’s Lecktor. Hopkins embodied Lecter, Foster’s Clarice blew us away, and don’t even get me started on Ted Levine. But best of all, the film is just as terrifying as the read. -CD

9. Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel

King’s first published novel was also his first work adapted to film (and introduced me to Brian De Palma, who has made a few of my favorite films). Sissy Spacek completely embodied King’s frreaky-yet-sympathetic outcast; likewise Amy Irving’s ability to tread the line as a member of the group who taunts Carrie, and the haunted, remorseful last (sort of) survivor. From what I’ve read about the recent reboot, De Palma’s scary tribute will stand as the classic. -CD


Jodi Clager,Cindy Davis, (Twitter)


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • madderrose74

    Robert Wise's The Haunting distills the dreamy, creeping insanity of Shirley Jackson's book perfectly. Julie Harris is wonderful as our unreliable narrator and the visual effects are restrained enough to keep the terror firmly at the back of our skulls where it belongs.

  • phase10

    Those '70's soundtracks provoke such a visceral response of dread and fear. I don't know if it's because they are that good, or if it was the age I was when I first heard them. shivers

  • JenVegas

    Looking a this list...I realized I read most of these books and saw most of these movies before I was 12. That probably explains a lot more about me than I'd care to admit.

  • Buellie413

    I prefer the novel The Shining to the film, but I appreciate the latter for how intense it is. Though the scariest part for me was always the topiary animals. I read that novel in college during the winter and I could SENSE them outside my dorm waiting to pounce. I just wish there was a better version of Salem's Lot out there.

    And I would love to see an adaptation of one of my favorite horror novels from the past 20 years-Dan Simmons' Summer of Night. It has such a nostalgic sentimentality, and it's also scary as shit.

    Also ALSO also, I'm super excited for Horns. I bet Hill's Heart-Shaped Box would make a creepy film as well.

  • Siege

    Yes. To everything here.

  • axis2clusterB

    Summer of Night is one of my all-time favorites. Also super-excited for Horns!

  • Jezzer

    OMG, Summer of Night is just awesome. I read it years ago and recently re-read it. He's re-used several characters in other books. Mike from Summer of Night reappears in Children of the Night as one of the protagonists, for example.

  • Buellie413

    Shit, did I read that? I read his other book that featured Dale and liked it, but SoN is just the BEST.

  • Jezzer

    It was his modern take on vampires. Cordy Cooke apparently shows up in another book, The Fires of Eden, but I haven't read that one.

    He also did a long short story on his website that takes place after Summer of Night and details the future of the characters, and it's "series finale of Six Feet Under" levels of depressing.

  • Buellie413

    Oh GOD. Tell me Sia plays in the background.

  • A better version of Salem's Lot would a Very Good Thing. Hell, they're remaking everything else under the sun, why not this?

  • Buellie413

    Right? I want someone to really capture that scene where the gravedigger just HAS to make sure the kid's eyes are not open, and the sun keeps slowly going down and down and by the end of that chapter I was yelling at nothing.

  • Uriah_Creep

    To this day, The Exorcist is the only movie that really freaked my shit out. I saw it when it came out in late 1973 (and of course I was wearing an onion on my belt, as was the fashion at the time), and didn't feel right again for weeks. It may have had something to do with the illicit substance my friends and I ingested before going to see it, but no matter. I'll never watch it again, and I can watch shit that would make Uwe Boll's bolls shrivel.

  • Buellie413

    I slept with rosaries on my headboard for years after watching that movie at the tender age of 12. I still can't watch it alone even though I basically have it memorized, because then I can't go to the bathroom.

  • Uriah_Creep

    You watched The Exorcist when you were TWELVE? I'm pretty sure I would have broken my brain if I'd done that.

    Um, were your parents aware of this?

  • Buellie413

    Oh no. This was all done behind their backs, and then of course they found out because my sister CRIED. Heeeee.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Yeah, sisters are the worst. (I'm kidding; I'm very close to my 2 sisters, but they got me busted several times when we were kids).

  • Super solid list! I must've missed that Let the Right One In was based on a book. I'll definitely have to check that out.

  • Of course, my two favorite movie adaptations of King's books are not horror at all (although horrific things do happen) - The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me. Also, in hindsight I know they weren't very good, but I have an abiding fondness for the miniseries adaptations The Stand and Rose Red.

  • Jezzer

    Rose Red wasn't adapted, it was made for television. The tie-in book, Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, was written by Ridley Pearson to promote the miniseries and later adapted as a prequel.

  • my bad.

  • apsutter

    I grew up watching his miniseries with my family so I could watch The Stand a hundred time and not get sick of it.

  • linnyloo

    I have the miniseries on VHS... and I watch it about once a year.

  • $3647259

    Misery and The Mist were pretty good, too.

  • apsutter

    Love both of them. Saw The Mist in theaters and didn't know what to expect...let's just say that it was a very quiet audience shuffling out of the theater and a somber drive home.

  • I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've never seen Misery. Something about the whole thing just put me off.

  • DominaNefret

    Deliverance?

  • Wigamer

    Deliverance. *shudder*

  • John Carpenter's amazing The Thing was based on a very good (but not terribly scary) novella 'Who Goes There'.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • Very true! I remember reading "Who Goes There" in middle school and not feeling particularly spooked, but The Thing takes it to a whole other level.

  • Spooky is a great description. I read it in a year's best collection of sci-f that I remember more for containing Asimov's amazing "The Last Question".

    The Ring is also based on a book.

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