With it having been announced recently that The Woman in Black is the highest-grossing British horror film in the UK since records began, it will be interesting to see if the industry takes note. Recent horror films have gone down the line of revulsion and disgust rather than true terror with movies such as The Human Centipede and the oft-cited Saw heptalogy becoming the norm. Despite writers such as Luke Thompson claiming that Saw isnt really torture porn and that its really a deranged kind of philanthropy we can all see that the kind of fear directors are going for isnt nail-biting terror, its just the gross-out; the kind of horror a child can inspire by chewing their food and sticking their tongue out. Perhaps film-makers should start taking note from the classics of the genre; Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist, Rosemarys Baby. If The Woman in Black isnt example enough of the excellent book-turned-play-turned-film then look at these mighty monsters of the horror film genre. Theyre stomach-wrenching, nail-biting, heart-pounding and book-based. These are some classic horror books which need film adaptations.
1) Strawberry Spring by Stephen King
Now I know youll all have seen at least one Stephen King book-to-film effort and based on which one it was youll either be right here with me, (Carrie, Misery, The Green Mile), or shaking your head in scorn, (It, The Shining. Christine). But give me a chance. Strawberry Spring is from Kings collection of short stories, Night Shift. Without giving too much of the plot away its about a man looking back to his days at college, when a serial killer stalked the students. Its an excellent story which would lend itself well to a film with its potential for real fear and paranoia. Plus, with its college setting, its already aimed at the main horror target audience; teens to mid-twenties. Personally I think that to get a really successful book-to-film adaptation short stories work best as you dont have to miss anything out and theres plenty of room to work. Although, (thanks to Kings Dollar Baby offer where a film-maker can buy the rights to one of his short stories for a dollar to make a not-for-profit movie), there are shorts of this out there already but thus far theres been no big Hollywood blockbuster. Read the story and tell me that doesnt need rectifying.
2) The Rats in the Walls by H. P. Lovecraft
I have a caveat before we begin here. Im a purist, with Lovecraft there can be no deviation from what he wrote, he got it right in the first place. Admittedly his stories have some issues, (an unwillingness to describe the monster for a start), but he was one of the true masters of horror fiction. This story already technically appears in a film, H.P.Lovecrafts: Necronomicon. However the section of the film that takes inspiration from this story has a completely different plot to the original tale and in general the film just doesnt hold true to Lovecraft. To describe the plot Ill turn to the man himself, "Horrible secret in crypt of ancient castlediscovered by dweller." As with all his work it is a basic horror staple; ancient house taken over by naive descendent who discovers something awful waiting for him. But it is so much more; for those who cant survive without their gore there is revulsion aplenty and the end sends real goose bumps down your spine.
3) The House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam
This book flits beautifully between the 1920s when a vicious crime occurred in the Fischer House, the 1980s when Paul Seaton narrowly escaped being claimed by the houses inhabitants and the present day when Paul and Nick Mason return to the house in an attempt to save Nicks sister. Its a wonderfully plotted story and the 3 tales intertwine beautifully as the characters discover more and more about the house and what happened there. Even more than that, its terrifying. Its full of the creepiness of a truly terrifying ghost story and it has plenty of side-stories that tie in to the main plot which are genuinely goose bump-inducing. The translation to screen would work beautifully thanks to the well-crafted plot and its something-for-everyone horror approach. Both classic Victorian horror purists and teens looking for gory chills would jump when watching this haunted house, occult mystery.
4) House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
A lot of people have argued that this isnt a horror story but to my mind most books are never truly confined to one genre and if anything has ever really scared me, its this story. Now Im not going to lie, this would be a hard book to film. Youd need the right scriptwriter and the right director to get it to be anything close to the original. Anyone who wasnt right for the project would be forced to strip it down and turn it into what it is at its very heart, a haunted house story. But it is far more than that. The plot centers on Johnny Truant, who finds a manuscript written about a documentary called The Navidson Record, and the Navidson family who move into a house which turns out to be wrong in every way. The house keeps changing, becoming completely diametrically and proportionally impossible and gradually driving the family mad. It would make an incredible film, so much of the book is written to create incredible pictures in your mind and, intricacy and complexity aside, it was written to be seen.
5) World War Z by Max Brooks
Now before you point out that this is currently being made into a film and therefore doesnt belong on the list let me explain. The synopsis for the film which has been released by Paramount is nothing like the book "The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself." It has clearly devolved into the typical trying to stop the zombies by getting from point A to point B film weve seen so many times when the book was so excellent almost by dint of not being that stereotype. World War Z is an oral history of the zombie war. Its a collection of stories from the people who were there when it happened and by using a variety of people from around the world and various jobs it explains how it came about and how it was fought. It encompasses all the various factors that come together in times of war, (economical, ecological, militaristic), and does it so realistically that a lot of the terror comes from the feeling that these are real people and this could really happen. By changing the plot the film has taken away what made the book great. Thats why World War Z is on this list; because the film theyre making at the moment simply isnt this book. American true story horror The Devil Inside is one of the best examples of recent horror films. It has a shockingly low 7% critics rating and 22% audience on Rotten Tomatoes and is described as a, cheap, choppy unscary mess. This is what the horror genre has descended to; gross-out thrills packaged as based on true events to add some scare to the special effects. When the industry does get its hands on something good it mutilates it and takes out all the originality and skill that made it good in the first place. Blood and guts arent needed for something to be scary; a 12A can be scarier than an 18 could ever be, even in its worst nightmares. Some of these books have blood and gore in them, but they dont rely on it, their terror comes from something much deeper and darker. I want to see that unleashed on the silver screen. Films that can make you throw up your popcorn are commonplace now, the box office results show that what audiences want now are films that make you hide behind the box, or even drop it in terror.