This month a host of new thrillers will hit the big screen in time for the day-after-Thanksgiving movie going crowd. A few of these, including Roman J. Israel, Esq., starring Denzel Washington, are sure to become classics we will want to revisit over and over again. Until, these films are in theaters (some starting tomorrow), we thought we’d share some our favorite thriller classics that are perfect to watch on a cold, rainy November evening.
Who could ever forget Jack Nicholson in The Shining? The film is heralded as one of the greatest movies ever made, with the famous “Here’s Johnny!” scene down in history as one of the most famous movie scenes of all time. The film was based on Stephen King’s original 1997 novel, which firmly established Stephen King’s reputation as an authority in the horror genre. With more than a handful of King’s novels turned to screen (Carrie, It), we still acknowledge The Shining as the best, and the scariest.
The Amityville Horror, released in 1979, is one of the most terrifying movies ever produced to date. A classic, not-to-miss film in the horror genre, we can only recommend that you also look at the book that inspired the film, the sequels, and the remakes. Published in 1977, the book was written by Jay Anson on the supernatural experiences of the Lutz family, who bought the Long Island house where Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed six members of his family. The family only lived there for 28 days before they left. Whether it’s the writing, the events, or the fact that it’s based on true events, this book is thoroughly creepy.
Little known fact: The Ring was based on a book. The 2002 movie starring Naomi Watts was actually a remake of the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, which was based on the 1991 Japanese horror novel Ring, by Koji Suzuki. But no matter what adaption you watched, we know it scared you half to death, and the book is as abstract and terrifying as the books, so if you get scared easily, do not read this one at night, or in the dark. Either way, you’re going to be looking over your shoulder for a long time after you read this one.
The Woman in Black was made into a film in 2012 starring Daniel Radcliffe, but it was originally based on a novella by Susan Hill, written in 1983. A classic ghost story, the film and the novella are styled in the traditional gothic sense, only adding more layers to the feeling that someone is definitely watching you. Though fans of Harry Potter were definitely part of the main audience to see the film, fans of horror and the paranormal should see this one, but read the novella before you do – the two are actually pretty different.
Most people are more familiar with the film series, but I Know What You Did Last Summer is actually based on a book. The iconic film in the teen horror/slasher genre, the all-star cast (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr) made this one a classic to watch at date nights, or with a bunch of friends in the dark. While the book by Lois Duncan was a little different than the film, it’s been updated over the years since the original 1973 release date. Take a look, and be prepared to sleep with the lights on.
Don’t Look Now is a little known British-Italian independent horror film that, while having little recognition at the time, has only grown more popular over the years. Considered to be fairly controversial, the film focuses on feelings of dread and the psychological, rather than the gore of slasher films. The film was based on a short story written by Daphne du Maurier, and published in 1971, as part of a collection – it may be a novella, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold all the terror that a full length novel does.
What list of horror movies would be complete without a vampire film? Swedish film Let the Right One In took top honors, and received critical acclaim at every film festival where it screened. The film, and the 2004 novel it was based on, take a unique twist on the classic vampire movie, with Eli, the vampire, being only 12 years old, despite how long he has been undead. A collection of short stories by the author also included an epilogue for the novel, showing what happened after the end of the book. Pick up both, and let your vampire cravings be satisfied.
The Haunting is one of those movies with cult status, which means that even if you don’t want to watch it (it’s genuinely terrifying, so we don’t blame you for that), you probably should. Martin Scorsese actually placed the 1963 film as first on his list of eleven scariest horror movies of all time. If you’re the type that scares easily, and even if you’re not, be warned: the book it was based on, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, is scarier. One of the best literary ghost stories, it is probably the best known book to introduce the “abandoned mansion with a mysterious past” trope. Shirley Jackson, we tip our hats.
If you though that combining science fiction and classic horror wasn’t possible, think again. The original film adaption was released in 1956, followed up by a remake in 1978, and another one in 1993, which is largely overlooked. Typically, we’d tell you that one is obviously better than the other, but to be honest, all three films are just as unsettling and creepy as the book. The Body Snatchers was written in 1955 by Jack Finney, and was the world’s first introduction to “pod people.” For cultural sake alone, you should go read this book – but we’d recommend it to you anyway, because there’s nothing scarier than the people around you.
Largely thought of as Alfred Hitchcock’s best film, the movie was actually an adaption of the 1959 thriller by Robert Bloch. Norman Bates, the central character in Psycho has basically become a household name, and besides inspiring the classic film and subsequent sequels, also inspired the Bates Motel television series. It’s entirely possible that Bloch was somewhat inspired by the arrest of Ed Gein, the murderer and body snatcher, who also inspired Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, among others. Read the book, watch the film, and be wary of your next door neighbors.
Interested in writing? Take a look at our Writers-in-Residence program!