Halloween is right around the corner! Turn on any major TV channel, and you’ll probably see 24/7 reruns of classic horror films. To accompany your spooky season movie marathons, let’s return to the iconic decades of the 70s and 80s for some staple horror reads. From true crime thrillers to supernatural terrors, these spooky classics still pack a punch for modern readers and have inspired some of the most enduring horror stories to ever hit the big screen. Let’s dive in!
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)
Inspired by a 1940s case of demonic possession of a child, this 1971 release swiftly became one of the most controversial novels of all time. It focuses on Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of a movie actress, whose troubling behavior brings in a group of individuals bent on rescuing her from malevolent powers. A timeless and essential read for any fan of classic horror, The Exorcist is sure to get under your skin.
The Shining by Stephen King (1977)
The King of Horror has been churning out frightful page-turners since 1974, with the publication of Carrie. Though any of King’s early novels could have made this list, The Shining is one story in particular that always stands to impress. Between the foreboding setting, the innovative storytelling, and the bone-chilling plot, the tale of young Danny Torrance and his family at the Overlook Hotel is horror at its best. Fans of the Stanley Kubrick adaptation will find familiarity between the pages as well as some notable differences.
The Reaping by Bernard Taylor (1980)
Artist Tom Rigby takes up a high-profile offer from wealthy clientele to paint the portrait of a young woman at Woolvercombe House. However, upon arrival at the secluded, rural mansion, strange occurrences plague him. He is soon drawn into Woolvercombe House’s maze of mystery and terror, which make for great slow-burn suspense read with plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing.
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (1977)
In terms of haunted house stories inspired by true events, Amityville takes the cake. The various horror film installments all trace back to one terrifying release. Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror marries true crime with the supernatural in exploring one of the most famous haunted houses of all time. As the only non-fiction book on this list, Anson’s 1977 release is extra terrifying to read, given its real-life inspiration.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988)
Clarice! The inspiration behind the hit film starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins is a must-read for fans of psychological horror. Harris’ suspenseful classic concerns an FBI trainee who has to team up with Hannibal Lecter, a psychopathic killer, and cannibal, in order to solve a string of unsolved murder cases spanning multiple states. The story of Clarice’s efforts to try and bring the serial murderer, Buffalo Bill, to justice is just as harrowing today as it was upon its release.
The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons (1978)
This 70s horror release is a haunted house story told from the perspective of its neighbors rather than its inhabitants. Particularly, it spotlights the Kennedy couple, living in an upscale suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, whose peace is suddenly disrupted when construction begins on the empty lot next door. Soon, encroachment of their privacy is the least of their concerns, as something sinister is afoot.
The Omen by David Seltzer (1976)
To conclude, we have another infamous read with a coinciding movie adaptation. Seltzer’s The Omen is the story of the antichrist incarnated in the form of a child. Unsuspectingly, Jeremy and Katherine Thorn become parents to Damien. However, terror and tragedy follow the boy, who bears a strange birthmark and a devastating destiny. No doubt, this eerie novelization of Seltzer’s franchise-spawning screenplay is a Halloween treat.
For more spooky season reads, check out our roundup of recommendations based on our favorite Halloween book tropes here.