by Olivia Ingraham
There’s something magical about autumn – maybe it’s the changing colours of the leaves, the winds growing brisker as the winter draws near, or the distant scent of Pumpkin Spice Lattes wafting through the air. What I don’t understand, however, is how this enchanting time of year all somehow culminates in the inexplicable human desire to scare ourselves senseless. Haunted houses, corn mazes, scary movies, candy corn – all frights we voluntarily inflict upon ourselves as the celebration of Halloween approaches. But, in order to satisfy your inner cinephile, find your next haunting page turner, or fulfil your desire to scream for upwards of an hour, I have compiled a brief (yet very spooky) list of six horror movies adapted from literature.
1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959/2018)
Loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, which was originally published in 1959, The Haunting of Hill House follows the story of the five Crain siblings as they revisit their horrific memories of Hill House, their childhood home. Although not technically a movie, this 10-episode series only recently released on Netflix has garnered a fair amount of attention for its effect on viewers, some viewers reporting to have vomited or even passed out while watching the show. So maybe ditch the candy corn if you opt to binge watch and bring something more practical – jack-o-lantern barf bucket, anyone?
2. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971/1973)
The original scare-you-half-to-death film, and largely cited as one of the greatest horror movies of all time, The Exorcist was actually based on a novel written by William Peter Blatty in 1971 (two years before the film’s release in 1973), a fact of which many people are unaware. Reportedly inspired by the real-life exorcism of “Roland Doe” (a pseudonym), The Exorcist follows the story of Regan, a 12-year-old girl possessed by a demon, and the attempts made to save her soul by her mother along with the help of two priests. The film earned 10 Academy Award nominations (the first horror film ever to be nominated to the Best Picture category!) and has grossed over $441 million worldwide in the wake of various re-releases.
3. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (1977/1979 + 2005)
The Amityville Horror, like many of the other films on this list, has existed in several iterations and been the basis of many sequels throughout history. The original novel, written by Jay Anson in 1977, purports to be a true story – following the tale of George and Kathy Lutz who moved into a home in Amityville, a suburb of Long Island, New York, but moved out only 28 days later. The Lutz family claimed to have suffered from paranormal attacks during their stay in the house, which only a year prior had been the site of a gruesome murder. The original film adaptation was produced in 1979, with a significantly worse (but somehow charmingly laughable) remake in 2005, and has spawned over a dozen sequels and spin-offs, with another (The Amityville Murders) slated to debut this year. So the good news is that even if the story isn’t true, they’ve definitely managed to commit a real murder of this franchise.
4. The Shining by Stephen King (1977/1980)
I would be remiss if I didn’t at some point in this list mention the (very aptly named) King of Horror himself. One of the most iconic horror movies of all time, this film (directed by Stanley Kubrick) is based on King’s book of the same name that was originally published in 1977, three years before the film’s release in 1980. Set in the Colorado Rockies, the story follows Jack Torrance, a struggling writer, along with his wife Wendy and son Danny as they take over the operation of a hotel with a horrific past and supernatural forces that threaten the lives of the Torrance family. If you’re looking for a story to make you deeply afraid of all little girls who are also twins, this is definitely at the top of that list!
5. Ring by Koji Suzuki (1991/2002)
Listen, one of the absolute worst memories I have from my childhood is that scene in The Ring where the creepy girl crawls out of a television set. As such, it’s only appropriate that I include it on this list so that you also have to be haunted by this image every time your television turns to static. Originally a book simply titled Ring by Japanese author Koji Suzuki in 1991, the American film adaptation picked up a determiner in its title – because apparently The Ring is just that much creepier. The American film adaptation was released in 2002, but there are several Japanese adaptations that predate their western counterpart. A supernatural horror film, the story follows an American journalist who is investigating her younger sister’s mysterious death, uncovering a cursed video tape and a family’s horrific past in the process. Like I said, this is a great movie to watch if you want the sound of television static to give you chills for the rest of your life.
6. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004/2008 + 2010)
Rounding out our list with the most recently published book and film adaptation, we have Let the Right One In by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Originally titled Låt den rätte komma in in Swedish, this 2004 vampire fiction novel spurred two film adaptations – one in Swedish released in 2008 and another in English in 2010. Following the story of a 12-year-old boy named Oskar and his newfound vampire friend Eli, Let the Right One In may be less outright scary than the rest of the films on this list, but it deals with frightening themes such as murder, existential anxiety, and most terrifyingly of all: being twelve years old.
If you have a favourite horror movie based on literature, be sure to let us know on the MSVU English Society Facebook page or on Twitter @MSVU_English . Happy Halloween!
Olivia Ingraham is a Mount student and a regular contributor to the English Department blog.