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Fright Night: 10 Chilling Horror Novels We Wish Were Movies

Originally published on The Lineup


The ShiningThe Amityville HorrorA Clockwork Orange.

It’s been proven time and again: Chilling books make for terrifying horror movies.

Luckily for horror fans, there’s no shortage of material out there—it’s only a matter of finding the right story. We searched through our bookshelves for the creepiest characters and most terrifying plots that we want to see in action. These 10 horror novels we wish were movies are dying to find new life on the silver screen.


1. Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon


swan song horror books to movies


After surviving an apocalypse, a nine-year-old psychic, Swan, finds a mysterious amulet that may hold the key to mankind’s salvation. Of course, there are horrific evils in this new world, and they’ve quickly turned their eyes to Swan. Along the lines of Stephen King’s The Stand, Swan Song is prime for a big screen adaptation.

2. Horror Show by Greg Kihn

horror show horror books to movies


A washed-up Hollywood horror director agrees to recount tales of his life and work to a super-fan/reporter in exchange for cash. As the two begin talking, however, conversation slides steadily towards the director’s masterpiece, a film called Cadaver, which has supposedly been haunting all those associated with it since its release. The truth behind this cursed movie is worse than anything the reporter could have imagined. We’d love to see this wild and dark horror-comedy, which is in large part homage to the horror movies of the 1950s, on the silver screen.

3. Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand




A British band retreats to a mysterious mansion called Wylding Hall in order to record their album. While recording, the group’s lead singer goes missing within the Hall, and is never seen again. Years later, the surviving members of the group reconvene to recount the events surrounding the disappearance to a documentarian. As conflicting stories emerge, dark and terrifying secrets about what really happened to the lead singer all those years ago rise to the surface. This atmospheric novel has all the elements necessary for a great film, not least of which is the powerful main character: Wylding Hall, itself.

4. The Guardian by Jeffrey Konvitz


the guardian horror books to movies


All of the successful movie essentials are accounted for here: Satanic forces, revenge, passion, mystery … and a blind, paralyzed, nun with sinister intentions. A compendium of eerily linked murders eventually sends a husband to avenge his defiled wife, while destruction sends a priest to desperately save innocent lives. Konvitz’s The Guardian is a story of evil incarnate discovered in an Upper West Side apartment—and the sequel to The Sentinel, previously adapted to the big screen in 1977. We think it’s time that the sequel got an adaptation, too.

5. House Of Bones by Dale Bailey


house of bones horror books to movies


Not to be mistaken for the 2010 film about a crew of TV ghost hunters, this twisted tale follows four willing strangers who embark on a two-week stay in Chicago’s abandoned Dreamland Housing Project, where fatalities are as normal as a leaky roof. The cinematic terror of Bailey’s book—replete with creaking doors and haunted house jump scares—is begging for its turn on the big screen.

6. Bird Box by Josh Malerman


bird box horror books to movies


Malorie and her two children are among a handful of survivors of a terrifying plague: An unknown evil, which, once glimpsed, drives its victims to brutally murder everyone around them, including themselves. Now, Malorie and her children are embarking on a harrowing journey to find safety—a journey that must take place while all three are completely blindfolded. We can just imagine the creativity that would go into creating a movie featuring an evil that can’t be seen. Luckily for us, we may one day get to see Bird Box in theaters: Universal optioned the rights back in 2013, though we’ve yet to hear anything since then.

7. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay


head full of ghosts horror books to movies


Merry Barrett’s world was turned upside down when her older sister Marjorie began displaying signs of demonic possession. Short on money and growing increasingly worried, the Barretts agreed to let a film crew into their home to shoot a reality show about Marjorie and her upcoming exorcism. Now, 15 years after those terrifying events, Merry recounts her tale in an interview, and dark secrets are revealed. Fortunately, as of 2015, Focus Features had optioned the rights to A Head Full of Ghosts. Let’s hope it eventually makes it to the big screen.

8. “The Dune,” a short story from The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King


horror novels


While King is better-known for his brick-sized horror novels, his short stories also pack a wallop. “The Dune,” part of the collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, follows an elderly judge through childhood memories—including travels to a deserted island where the names of poor souls who died in freak accidents are written in the sand. From Pet Sematary to The Shining, King’s dark fictions are tailor-made for the silver screen. “The Dune” is no exception.

8. One Rainy Night by Richard Laymon

horror novels


The small town of Bixby is blanketed by a torrential black rain. As it falls, the town falls with it. Now prey to the strange, deadly downpour, the inhabitants succumb to a sudden thirst for blood and violence—a need to kill—slaughtering innocents who get in their way. Think The Happening, only amplified. And more damp.

10. Off Season by Jack Ketchum

horror novels


A beautiful New York woman retreats to a lonely cabin in the tranquil and idyllic Maine beach town of Dead River…nothing could possibly go wrong here, right? Except when a nearby family with a taste for fresh flesh gets a whiff of this newcomer, and things go awry. When Off Season was originally published in 1980, it was so controversial and graphic that it was taken out of print, making it a perfect cinematic opportunity for your more grisly movie cravings.


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