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It’s kind of startling to realize how many of the best horror movies started out as novels. But it’s true: so many terrifying films found their start as equally terrifying books, including some that might surprise you. Since it’s Halloween (which is definitely the scariest time of year), we’ve rounded up six awesome horror movies that were originally adapted from books. If you don’t want to sleep for the next few nights, then it’s time to dive into both the movie AND book versions of these horrifying tales:
It’s no surprise that The Shining started as a novel written by the king of horror himself: Stephen King. Both the movie and the book are considered classics of the genre, and both are guaranteed to give you a few sleepless nights (or maybe years). Interestingly, King hates the Kubrick version of the film, calling it a “big beautiful Cadillac with no engine.” In 1997, King got his own shot at bringing his masterpiece to the screen, when he supervised a TV miniseries that more closely followed his vision in the book.
Considered one of the scariest movies of all time, The Silence of the Lambs began as part of the Hannibal Lecter book series, written by Thomas Harris. Silence is actually the 2nd book in the series, which follows Harris’ famous cannibal character through his adventures and shows us how he develops into the serial killer we all love to hate. While The Silence of the Lambs is the most famous adaptation, every single Hannibal book has been turned into a movie at one point, as well as a HannibalTV series that ran from 2013-2015.
Is there any movie eerier than Psycho? Thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s expert directing, this 1960 film is as creepy as it is terrifying. It was also adapted from a 1959 Robert Bloch novel of the same name, which he eventually turned into a series. Even creepier? Bloch based his story on a real murderer, Ed Gein, who was obsessed with his mother, and known for robbing graves and crafting keepsakes out of his victim’s bodies.
The 2011 film is about a young boy who befriends his next door neighbor, only to later realize that she’s a vampire who needs fresh blood to live. It’s also creepy, dark, and the kind of vampire movie that will make you afraid of any shadow you see. The movie is a remake of a Swedish film, which is originally based on a 2004 novel by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, called Let the Right One In. And while there is romance, it’s definitely twisted: this is not your Edward Cullen-sparkly-soulmate kind of vampire love story.
Just thinking about The Ring – and that horrifying scene where the ghost climbs out of the television set – gives us genuine chills. The film is actually based on an extremely popular Japanese horror novel called Ring that was written by Koji Suzuki in 1991, with all of the events taking place in modern Japan. Suzuki ended up turning the book into a series, with six books and counting. The stories have been adapted into multiple movie versions, including four in the US (with another Rings movie slated to come out in 2017), several in Japan, and one in South Korea.
OK, so we’re not going to pretend that I Know What You Did Last Summer is a truly great film. But it is fun and does help represent a specific resurgence in the teen horror movie genre that took over cinemas in the late ‘90s (thanks to the popularity of Scream). We only recently discovered that Last Summer – starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Geller – is actually based on a 1973 novel by Lois Duncan. ‘90s teens will remember Duncan as the queen of young adult thrillers, and we all had at least one or two of her books gracing our bookshelves. In 2010, Little Brown even re-released a bunch of Duncan novels to introduce them to a younger audience – including I Know What You Did Last Summer. Freddie Prinze Jr. would be proud.
Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.
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