13 of My Favorite Horror Films Based on Novels
1) Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Both the book and film are hauntingly stylish on a subdued grand scale. Perhaps my favorite film of all time. It’s fun to root for the bad guys when they are this fantastic. Beethoven's Für Elise being played on the piano in the background, coming from another apartment somewhere in the Bram, only ups the creep factor. The phrase "Rosemary’s baby" has become part of the lexicon to describe a certain type of child.
2) Psycho by Robert Bloch (1959)
If you don’t know the name Norman Bates then you must have never had access to books, television, or films. This film can scare the hell out of you, even if you go into it telling yourself it’s a black comedy. Hitchcock reportedly bought the film rights for $10,000 because Bloch had no idea to whom he was selling them, and Hitch tried his best to keep the plot of the film a secret for as long as possible, including buying up copies of the book so people couldn't read it and see the ending.
3) The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (1957)
Village of the Damned (1960)
Village of the Damned (1995)
Knowing Cuckoo birds are notorious for destroying the eggs of other birds and replacing them with their own for the other birds to hatch and raise is a stunning parallel for the children in both the book and movies. The unknown origin of the children is one of the things that makes the storyline so successful.
4) Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta (1975)
Audrey Rose (1977)
It’s a haunting story that sheds light on the possibility of previous existences. It also shows how far a parent will go in the name of love for a child.
5) Haunted by James Herbert (1988)
Possibly my favorite haunted house book because it includes all the creepy ambiance you could ask for. The film version is a good adaptation—as a standalone film it would be very good—but it would have been much better had it not altered some extremely significant plot points from the novel. I won’t give spoilers, but they should have kept these plot points the same.
6) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)
The Exorcist (1973)
Deeply disturbing and engrossing storyline. This, like Psycho had done, terrorized the audience in a whole new way. I still say Linda Blair was robbed of her Academy Award.
Legion by William Peter Blatty (1983)
The Exorcist III (1990)
This book and film are vastly underrated; both are well-done and stylishly dark, and the film contains a scene that makes me jump every time I watch it even though I know it’s coming. It's creepy in a spectacular way.
7) The Bad Seed by William March (1954)
The Bad Seed (1956)
Children can be damned creepy in horror films--Gage Creed in Pet Sematary is arguably the finest example of this—and the young actress who plays Rhoda does a bang-up job in this film. And, :Ike Rosemary's Baby, the phrase Bad Seed has become a description for a certain type of child.
8) The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (1986)
Utterly original, grossly terrifying, and you cannot tear your eyes from the page or the screen. This is the origin of the iconic horror figure the Cenobite Pinhead. Clive Barker has a way of uncovering nightmares and bringing them to life.
9) The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)
The Woman in Black (1989 British television film)
The Woman in Black (2012)
A dark, Gothic ghost story that captures your attention. The story unfolds in such a way you are on the edge of your seat, and the woman in black elicits both your sympathy and your terror as her secrets are revealed.
10) Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979)
Ghost Story (1981)
It is just what it promises: a ghost story. And, man, is it well-done. The book is well-written, the film is well-acted, and it’s an experience to enjoy on a winter’s night. It just goes to show you the past can come back to haunt you because it doesn't have an expiration date...and sometimes revenge is better than Christmas.
11) Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy Macardie (1941)
The Uninvited (1944)
Not an horrific ghost story, not an especially scary one, but significantly creepy and sometimes that’s all you need to have to enjoy an evening. Settle in and allow the creepiness to unfold.
12) Thor by Wayne Smith (1992)
Bad Moon (1996)
The book is different from the film in that it tells the story from the German Shepherds point of view, a unique way to tell a story. The movie version met with unfavorable reviews, but I liked it and I’m not a werewolf type of guy.
13) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
Disturbing. That’s the best way I can describe this story. Delightfully disturbing and this film version is the one I enjoy watching the most out of all the versions I’ve seen.
And maybe some time in the near future there will be a film version of my own Into the Mirror Black.