13 Thrilling Horror Novels with Gruesomely Great Film Adaptations

From ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ to ‘Hellraiser’, there’s been no shortage of brilliant horror book-to-screen adaptations over the last few years.

Picture this: moonlit nights, haunted mansions, and things that go bump in the night. Horror, as a genre, possesses a unique ability to haunt us, both in written and visual forms. From I Know What You Did Last Summer to the nightmarish landscapes of Lovecraft, there’s no shortage of brilliant horror book-to-screen adaptations. Even today, that’s no exception. When these spine-tingling tales make the transition to film, they undergo a transformation. It’s a reinterpretation of horror’s essence by directors, screenwriters, and actors who strive to evoke the same dread in visual form.

If you love a thrill whether it’s Halloween or not, these books and films can easily stretch into a month-long fright fest any time of the year. Now… are you ready for a scare? Grab your popcorn or settle in to your comfiest reading nook. Here are 13 chillingly good horror novels to read before watching them play out on screen (or vice versa). Enjoy!

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Set in Chicago in 1954, twenty-two year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find his missing father, Montrose. Accompanied by his Uncle George and his childhood friend Letitia, the trio encounter  both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours on their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite — heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors. 

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn. Led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb, the Order of the Ancient Dawn has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his — and the whole Turner clan’s — destruction.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Tubi; MAX

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

horror book - the haunting of hill house

Alone in the world, Eleanor is thrilled to take Dr. Montague up on the invitations to spend the summer in the mysterious — and eerie — Hill House. They are joined by the ‘sensitive’ and artistic Theodora and Luke, the heir to the house. What starts off as a light-hearted experiment quickly turns into their darkest nightmares, as they realize that one of them may not survive…

Though this 1959 horror novel has a number of adaptations, it most recently served as the inspiration for the 10-part Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Netflix

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

On a trip to the South of France, an unnamed woman falls in love with the handsome widower Maxim de Winter. While his proposal comes as a surprise, she agrees to marry him. However, when the two return to Manderley, a change comes over Maxim, and his new wife begins to worry. 

Friendless in the isolated mansion, she realizes that she barely knows him. In every corner of every room is the phantom of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca, and the new Mrs. de Winter walks in her shadow.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Netflix

The October Faction by Steve Niles and Damien Worm

The comic series followed the adventures of retired monster-hunter Frederick Allan and his family, which includes a thrill-killer, a witch, and a warlock. Because sometimes crazy is the glue that binds a family together.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Netflix

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez

The comic book series follows the Locke siblings — Tyler, Kinsey and Bode — after they return to their ancestral home, Keyhouse, with their mother after the gruesome murder of their father. 

Keyhouse is a place of both wonder and fear, filled with dark doors and the magic keys that open them, and also home to a malicious presence that will stop at nothing in it’s quest for the Omega Key and the unspeakable prize it unlocks.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Netflix

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

Jake and his girlfriend are on a drive to visit his parents at their remote farm. After dinner at the family home, things begin to get worryingly strange. When he leaves her stranded in a snowstorm at an abandoned high school later that night, what follows is a chilling exploration of psychological frailty and the limitations of reality.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Netflix

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The 1898 novella focuses on a governess who, caring for two children at a remote estate, becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted. The Haunting of Bly Manor, the follow-up series to Hill House, is loosely based on James’ The Turn of the Screw.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Netflix

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

horror book - we have always lived in the castle

Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn’t leaving the Blackwoods alone.

When cousin Charles arrives, armed with promises of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

horror book - the invisible man

With his face wrapped in bandages, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses and his hands covered even indoors, the other guests at The Coach and Horses assume Griffin to be a shy accident-victim. 

But the true reason for his disguise is far more chilling.

He has developed a process that has made him invisible, and is locked in a struggle to discover the antidote. Forced from the village and driven to murder, he seeks the aid of his old friend Kemp. However, the horror of his fate has affected his mind. When Kemp refuses to help, Griffin resolves to wreak his revenge.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Peacock

The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud

When Will discovers a cell phone after a violent brawl his life descends into a nightmare. Affable, charismatic and a little shallow, he’s skated across the surface of life in a state of carefully maintained contentment. He decides to keep the cell phone just until the owner returns and everything changes. Then the messages begin — and that changes everything. 

Buy the book | Where to watch: Hulu

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

horror book - scary stories to tell in the dark

The iconic anthology series is full of some of the most alarming tales of horror, dark revenge, and supernatural events of all time. It features walking corpses, dancing bones, and narrow escapes from death. 

Buy the book | Where to watch: Tubi; Hulu; Peacock

The Stand by Stephen King 

horror book - the stand

First come the days of the virus. Then come the dreams. Dark dreams that warn of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil.

His time is at hand. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms.

When a man crashes his car into a petrol station, he brings with him the foul corpses of his wife and daughter. He dies and it doesn’t take long for the virus which killed him to spread across America and the world.

Buy the book | Where to watch: Paramount+

The Forbidden by Clive Barker

horror book - in the flesh

The short story, published in Barker’s In The Flesh, served as the basis for Candyman. It follows a university student named Helen, who is doing a thesis on graffiti. She selects a run-down estate to focus her study. 

Helen notices disturbing graffiti in an abandoned building that makes references to an urban legend known as the Candyman. Eventually, her research leads her to believe it’s connected to recent murders and mutilations in the neighborhood. However, the locals are reluctant to talk about the incidents. But it isn’t long before Helen comes face-to-face with the Candyman himself…

Buy the book | Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Header: Rebecca (Netflix)

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