It’s October, which means that some of you are visiting haunted houses, scaring the shit out of your elders and indulging in horror films. If you’re partaking in the latter, you probably had that moment where you finished a movie, scratched your head, and asked, “Why the fuck did they make another movie about evil children when there’s hundreds of great horror novels ripe for adaptation?” Well, in honor of the spookiest months of the year, here are five horror novels that would make great movies to watch in the days leading up to Halloween.
Laird Barron is best known for his short fiction. His stories appear with unsurprising regularity in Datlow’s best of the year collections. Even his first novel, The Croning, feels like several short stories strung together. This slow burn Lovecraftian nightmare follows Don Miller, a geologist, who unravels the truth behind a terror that has been lurking at the periphery of human existence since the beginning of time. The Croning spans decades and many locations across the world, but still manages to feel claustrophobic. Barron guides us into dark subterranean tunnels, the halls of a creepy mansion and the galleries of a macabre museum. Ben Wheatley, director of The Kill List was made to adapt this book. His quiet, creeping cinematic style is perfectly suited to Barron’s atmospheric prose.
The jury’s out on whether this novel even qualifies as horror. It’s one of those rare and wonderful literary hybrids that manages to defy genre conventions altogether. When it does tread more horrific territory, though, The Fisherman delivers the creep factor in spades. The story follows Abe, a widower, who finds refuge from his grief in his passion for fishing. But when he explores an uncharted stream, things get real weird real fast. One of the most fascinating aspects about this novel is its dual structure. About a quarter of the way through, the main narrative is suspended to make way for a ghost story set in America’s colonial past. If it were adapted into a film, I have a feeling the novel’s structure would scare prospective studios away. The solution would be to hire a filmmaker with a good track record of making successful films in the realm of the fantastic. Which is why I believe Guillermo Del Toro could translate the pathos and grim wonder of the novel into a visual masterpiece.
Not to pick favorites, but this book is my favorite on the list. Kathe Koja is an exceptional writer and prose stylist. Her works are unlike anything else in the field of horror fiction. In her first novel, The Cipher, a young couple’s relationship is tested when they discover a black hole in the storage closet of their squalid apartment building. When Nicolas decides to stick his hand into the “Funhole”, he develops an oozing abyss in middle of his palm. The novel is written in a gorgeous, grungy poetic style and would have been perfectly suited for a younger, Videodrome-era, David Cronenberg. But seeing that Cronenberg has evolved both stylistically and ideologically, I believe that Julia Ducournau, director of the recent French-Belgian coming-of-age cannibalism flick, Raw, would also do the novel justice. Her unflinching, intimate style and accessible yet artistic sensibilities would help bring Koja’s surrealist nightmare to life.
Seriously, why hasn’t this book been made into a film yet? Allow me to set the scene. The Orbit drive-in is jam-packed for the all-night horror show. Jack and his friends Bob, Randy and Willard are there to witness a horror fan’s wet dream: six screens simultaneously flashing a parade of blood, guts and terror. But the horror becomes all too real when a mysterious force surrounds the drive-in, trapping the patrons inside. Madness and violence ensue as people begin to mutate and give way to their darker, animal impulses. This book pulls off the near impossible feat of juggling multiple tones without feeling inconsistent or jarring. It’s funny, horrific, thrilling and outrageous, shifting from one mode to another with masterful ease. In terms of a movie adaption, I think Michael Dougherty, director of Trick or Trick and Krampus, would feel right at home bringing this book to the big screen. It would undoubtedly become a cult classic, a Fright Night or Evil Dead 2 for a new generation of horror fans.
Imagine a Halloween-themed Hunger Games and you’ll begin to understand what’s in store in this novella by Norman Partridge. Set in 1963, we follow a group of boys taking part in the annual “Run”, in which they are tasked with hunting the October Boy, a living scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head. The prose is brisk and energetic, and the plot moves at Mach speed. It’s also surprisingly action-packed. Don’t be shocked if your knuckles turn white as you’re thrust along with this rocket of a story. As for a potential director, Drew Goddard of Cabin in the Woods fame would likely do a good job balancing the novel’s high-octane action and Bradbury-esque chills.
Hopefully one of these books scratches that October itch. Happy Halloween, and happy reading!
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BRENDAN VIDITO is a novelist and short story writer from Northern Ontario. His stories have appeared in Splatterpunk Zine, Infernal Ink Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and the recent anthology Splatterpunk’s Not Dead. His short story ‘Stag Reel’ will be appearing in the upcoming CLASH Books Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey & Sylvia Plath anthology. You can visit him at brendanvidito.wordpress.com