Horror films offer a little something for everyone, even the timidest of thrill seekers. But if you're looking for a break from the screen this Halloween season, books in the horror genre are a welcome alternative.
To help, here are a few recommendations based on your favorite horror movie subgenre:
If you like psychological horrors like "Psycho" (1960) or "Midsommar" (2019), read "The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Wild" (2021)
Unlike psychological thriller books, which follow a mystery, psychological horror books "inspire fear through suggestion, paranoia, and implication, rather than through violence, pursuit, or even gore itself," Book Riot explains. Think Alfred Hitchock's Psycho, but in literary form.
If you're looking for a book that scratches that part of your brain, look no further than The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Wild. The book centers around an old, boarded-up house at the dead-end of Needless Street. The dilapidated home has three inhabitants: a teenage girl who never leaves the house, a drunken man, and a bible-reading house cat. The three are bound together by a horrifying secret that threatens to be revealed with the arrival of a new neighbor. And as readers are drawn into the novel's sinister world, the trio's secret only grows more elusive. You probably won't see the ending coming, but it's sure to stick with you long after you're done.
If you're into slasher films like "Halloween"(1978) or "Freaky" (2020), read "My Heart is a Chainsaw" by Stephen Graham Jones (2021)
Slasher films like the beloved Halloween have spawned generations of horror fans. Often featuring dangerous killers (like the infamous Michael Myers) and now-classic horror movie tropes (like "the final girl"), slasher films typically pit a group of people against a knife-wielding murderer who picks them off one by one.
For those looking to get their psycho-killer fix from a book, try My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, which NPR describes as "a beautiful love letter to horror movies." Jones certainly pays homage to classic slasher films, and even name-drops a few, like Scream. The story follows Jade, a teenage girl with a gruesome infatuation with slasher films. An outcast with an abusive father and an absent mother, Jade finds solace in these movies, amassing an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre to cope with the horrors of her real life. But when it seems like a slasher is targeting her lonely town of Proofrock, Jade uses her knowledge of horror flicks to figure out what will happen to her community.
If you're a fan of demonic possession films like "The Exorcist" (1973) or "Hereditary" (2018), read "Come Closer" by Sara Gran (2003)
Tales of demonic possession have frightened people for hundreds of years, and movies have only furthered that fascination. Fans have found themselves captivated by the projectile vomit, floating furniture, and sacrilegious outbursts typical of possession films, such as the quintessential The Exorcist from 1973.
Come Closer by Sara Gran is perfect for horror fans of the demonic possession variety. Protagonist Amanda is overwhelmed by a voice in her head persuading her to wreak havoc in her own life. Unexplained noises, an expletive-laden memo about her boss, and a sudden urge to burn her husband with cigarettes cause her to question her sanity. At night she dreams of a demonic apparition and starts to wonder: Is she possessed or is she losing her mind?
If you're into paranormal horror like "The Amityville Horror" (1979) or "The Conjuring" (2013), read "Mexican Gothic" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020)
Paranormal or supernatural horror is often home to ghosts and ghastly apparitions, but dolls and clowns (looking at you, Pennywise) sometimes take the lead in these terrifying tales. Haunted houses are also a staple — how frightening would it be if your home became a monster?
2020's Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia made a major splash with horror lovers thanks to its cultural twist on the classic gothic ghost story. The New York Times best-selling book is also being developed into a series for Hulu, so now would be the perfect time to try it out. Set in Mexico in the 1950s, the book follows debutante Noemi as she leaves her glamorous life in Mexico City for the Mexican countryside after receiving an alarming letter from her cousin, Catalina. Catalina claims her new husband is trying to harm her, and that "fleshless things" or ghosts are harassing her. But when Noemi rushes to Catalina's defense, she's confronted by her cousin's overbearing husband and a mysterious house that seems to be infiltrating her dreams with "visions of blood and doom." Noemi struggles to separate reality from this dream world, and starts finding it increasingly difficult to escape.
If you're drawn to found footage films like "The Blair Witch Project" (1999) or "The Bay" (2012), read "The Troop" by Nick Cutter (2014)
Found footage horror is one of the more contemporary subgenres of horror flicks. The granddaddy of all found footage film, The Blair Witch Project, broke barriers and left viewers questioning if what they just watched was real. The subgenre has since then begun incorporating Zoom calls, vlogs, and surveillance cameras into its terrifying tales — all of which will have you side-eyeing your laptop.
If you're looking for a book that similarly blurs the line between reality and fiction, The Troop by Nick Cutter is a solid choice. The book comes highly recommended by horror aficionados, including author Stephen King, who said, "The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn't put it down. This is old-school horror at its best." The story follows a group of boy scouts and their group leader as they travel into the Canadian wilderness. But their journey is suddenly interrupted by a haggard stranger, who exposes the group to a bio-engineered virus. By interweaving the group's subsequent struggle for survival with news reports and interviews detailing the disease's origins, Cutter successfully mimics the reality-infused tension typical of found-footage horror movies.