Looking for horror books made into movies? There are many adaptations, but here we will tell you about the most terrifying.
Literature and cinema are two forms of art that are closely linked to each other. Many of the films that have shone on the big screen are adaptations of books whose success has not gone unnoticed.
This is a reality that does not distinguish between genres, and horror has been one of the most acclaimed since its inception.
Below, you will find a selection of great works of literature that transcended the written word to shine in horror movies.
In addition, we will show you interesting information about the authors, their style, what critics say about these works, and much more.
The Shining by Stephen King
The Shining is a novel written by Stephen King and published in 1977. It is one of the best horror stories made into movies and the third novel by the author, considered by many to be the best writer of the genre in the world.
The title is inspired by Instant Karma!, a song by John Lennon that contains the phrase «We all shine on…».
The book tells the story of Jack Torrance, a writer with a past tainted by alcoholism. Torrance takes a job as a security guard at a desolated hotel in a mountainous region during the winter season.
When he settles in the place with his wife and son, he begins to suffer psychotic breaks that drive him to attempt against his family.
King used Edgar Allan Poe’s book The Masque of the Red Death as a reference. Therefore, at various points in the plot, there are elements that refer to this horror story.
Stephen King is not a conventional writer and this book is proof of his need to break paradigms.
Here you will not find ghosts passing through the walls nor will you witness an exorcism. It’s one of those stories where you don’t know what to expect, and where psychological terror is a constant, as is constant analysis in your head.
The film version was released under the same name in 1980 under the direction of Stanley Kubrick.
A large number of analysts highlight the director’s ability to mix a large number of subliminal elements with psychological references to human nature.
Psycho by Robert Bloch
Psycho is a horror novel written by the American Robert Bloch. It is considered one of the most influential horror stories of the 20th century.
The book has been acclaimed by experienced storytellers from all over the world, which is why it is also the subject of study in different institutions dedicated to cinema and literature.
The novel features Norman Bates, a middle-aged bachelor who lives with his mother in a modest Fairvale hotel.
At the place arrives the young Mary, who has just escaped from the company where she worked as a secretary with a juicy check. As Norman greets her, we begin to see the man’s deranged mind, followed by an unexpected murder.
One of the advantages of this novel over other works of its genre is the author’s ability to mix different points of view to tell us a little more about the psychology of each character.
Psycho is an approach to the mind of a murderer, his victims, a detective, and a thief.
The homonymous film was released in 1960 under the direction and production of Alfred Hitchcock.
The screenplay was based on Bloch’s novel and starred Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, and Martin Balsam.
It is the director’s most famous work and has been enthusiastically praised by academic and film critics for its high standards of directing and iconic performances.
It is the first version of the slasher film genre.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 gothic horror novel by American author Shirley Jackson.
In addition to being considered one of the best horror stories made into movies, it is also one of the most influential ghost stories of all time.
There are two feature films and a play, as well as a series, based on it.
Hill House is a mansion located in a place unknown to the reader, but whose geography is surrounded by hills. The plot, sometimes, denotes a certain elegant and gothic touch, like the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
The plot revolves around four characters:
- Dr. John Montague: natural phenomena researcher.
- Theodora: a bohemian artist.
- Eleanor Vance: an unhappy young woman who cares for her disabled mother.
- Luke Sanderson: the heir to the mansion and the host of the other characters.
They all provide us with essential information to understand the story.
The book gets interesting when Dr. Montague decides to use the Hill House as his perfect laboratory to prove the existence of the supernatural. The reason? This mansion possesses a creepy reality and appears to be haunted.
The book was adapted to television through a series of the same name. It was produced by Paramount Television and Amblin Television for Netflix and is the basis for the anthology The Haunting.
The series premiered in 2018 and was critically acclaimed, especially for the good mix of acting, directing, and producing.
The Ring by Koji Suzuki
The Ring (Ringu, in its original version), is a novel written by the Japanese Koji Suzuki. His influence and popularity are reflected in the three films made in his name:
- Ringu (Japan)
- The Ringu Virus (South Korea)
- The Ring (United States)
It is one of the best horror stories in the Japanese language and one of the creepiest.
The plot takes place in modern Japan and shows us a journalist named Asakawa, who hasn’t had the inspiration to write interesting stories for a while. He is a trader with no product.
Suddenly, however, Asakawa learns of the mysterious death of four teenagers, who died at the same time inside a cabin and under the same diagnosis: heart failure.
Asakawa travels to the cabin to investigate what happened and finds an unlabeled videotape which he decides to play.
En lugar de encontrar respuestas en la cinta, se reproducen una serie de imágenes perturbadoras y una advertencia que afirma que quien haya visto la cinta morirá en una semana.
Instead of finding answers on the tape, a series of disturbing images and a warning are played stating that whoever has seen the tape will die within a week.
Then, the message “the only way to survive is…” is displayed, and the tape is cut. From there, anguish and terror take over the protagonist due to the “deadline”.
Although the most popular version of The Ring in the cinematographic plane was the American one, due to the great influence of Hollywood, said version is an adaptation of the Japanese film directed by Hideo Nakata and released in 1998.
This version is a direct adaptation of the book and is among the most successful horror films in Japan.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula is one of the most important gothic horror classics of all time.
The novel, published in 1897, has inspired many sequels, prequels and series. Much of the book’s content was considered controversial for its time (19th century).
Written by the Irishman Bram Stoker, the novel is told in epistolary mode, through different documents that tell the experiences of various people who knew and were close to Count Dracula.
The plot takes place between London and Transylvania, and the narrative is full of symbols and abstract images.
The plot begins with Jonathan Harker, an English lawyer who travels to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula and help him legally conclude some purchase deals.
Harker is staying at the mansion, but the Count warns him that he can only sleep in the room assigned to him. Harker ignores him and decides to wander around the place.
During his tour, he meets three female vampires, who introduce themselves as Dracula’s brides and debate among themselves over who will be the first to keep Harker’s blood.
Dracula arrives on time and scolds the women, giving them instead a baby wrapped in a bag as consolation. Disturbing? Surely you are thinking of reading this masterpiece, right?
The film was released under the same name in 1992. It was produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and stars Gary Oldman as Count Dracula.
In addition, star figures such as Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Anthony Hopkins participate. The premiere received good reviews from critics and received three Oscars.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Rosemary’s Baby is a novel of the horror genre that became a bestseller after its publication in 1967.
Written by Ira Levin, the novel was adapted into a film by Roman Polanski a year later due to the success of the book. In 1999, Levin published a sequel in honor of Mia Farrow.
The book features Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband, Guy. They both moved into an apartment condominium in New York. The building has a gothic look and the place is only inhabited by old people.
Once in their new home, Rosemary and Guy are visited by a couple (Minnie and Roman), who insistently seek to create a relationship with them.
Rosemary wants to get away from them due to the mysterious sounds coming from their apartment, while Guy seems to be drawn to the idea of creating a friendly bond with the neighbors.
When Guy gets a job and Rosemary becomes pregnant, the neighbors become even more interested in the unborn child.
Rosemary begins to suffer pain that is underestimated by her doctor, while Minnie decides to take care of the pregnant woman. Along the way, she makes her drink mysterious concoctions “to the last drop.”
Rosemary’s Baby was adapted into a film in 1968 and directed by Roman Polanski. The cast highlights the presence of Mia Farrow, Ruth Gordon, John Cassavetes, Maurice Evans and Sidney Blackmer, among others.
Although the film is set in New York City, much of its photography takes place in Los Angeles.The film received several honors, including Golden Globe nominations and two Oscar nominations. The film was acclaimed around the world, and is considered one of the best horror films of all time.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by R.L. Stevenson
Our list cannot be complete without this classic of horror literature. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a short story by author Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1886.
It is known for addressing psychotic disorder as a trigger for multiple personalities. The book was a resounding success and constitutes a literary reference in the academic field.
The book shows the London lawyer, John Gabriel Utterson, who is surprised by the deplorable state in which he finds Mr. Hyde when he first sees him, as he has heard in rumors. Faced with such a deplorable spectacle, the lawyer decides not to see Hyde anymore.
However, Dr. Jekyll, Utterson’s friend and respected physician, does not share the lawyer’s rejection of Hyde. In fact, he seems worried about the creature.
At that moment, strange things begin to happen in the city and Utterson is inevitably involved in them. At the end of the story, Utterson will see all his beliefs challenged by a shocking reality.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the film adaptation of this story. It was released in 1920 and was directed by John S. Robertson. It featured star performances from Brandon Hurst, John Barrymore and Martha Mansfield. The film was met with praise from audiences and critics.
The Birds by Daphne du Maurier
The Birds is a horror story written by the British Daphne Du Maurier. It was published in 1952 as part of The Apple Tree collection.
To string together the elements of the story, the author was inspired by an image of a farmer being attacked by seagulls in the middle of the field.
In Daphne Du Maurier’s story, birds suddenly start attacking people viciously. It is a phenomenon that occurs simultaneously throughout the world.
If we think about it, almost 400 billion birds seems enough to wipe out the human species. That’s how bleak history is, and how weak we look.
This seems to be the main argument of the author: the vulnerability of the human being. The birds are a threat to extinct us.
Paradoxically, many literary critics claim that Du Maurier’s story represents the events suffered by the English during World War II, and the aerial bombings are represented in the birds.
The Birds is one of the best horror stories made into movies, and the proof is the movie that bears his name, which was released in 1962.
The Library of Congress of the United States cataloged it as a “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” work. The main actors were Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy and Rod Taylor.
Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
Who Goes There? is a horror book written by the American John W. Campbell Jr. It was published in 1938, but it has an extended version published in 2019.
This version was found in a manuscript of the author called Frozen Hell. The work has been adapted to various formats since its launch and is a benchmark of the genre.
Who Goes There? it’s pure science fiction and claustrophobic horror. Thousands of years ago, a spaceship crashed in the icy depths of Antarctica.
Thanks to a magnetic anomaly, the ship is found by a group of researchers, who decide to extract the alien bodies to the surface. However, an accident will happen.
The story is powerful because of the power Campbell gives the aliens. These beings are capable of changing shape to deceive people and can even impersonate them.
Critics say it’s a reflection of what we humans do in situations of extreme stress and how our inner power can get us out of trouble.
This story was brought to the big screen in 1951 under the direction of Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks. Thanks to Campbell’s narration, it is one of the best horror stories ever made on film and is considered a cult film.
The box office success was overwhelming, and it is one of the few adaptations that also manages to become a classic of its genre.