Frightening Fiction

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As Halloween approaches, so does the season of scary movies. Yet by now, you’ve seen the good ones a million times, and nothing else is remotely suspenseful. What many students don’t know is that numerous horror films are based on pre-existing novels.

“I Know What You Did Last Summer” was the only scary movie that Caity O’Shaughnessy, a junior at Xavier University, knew was based on a book. “Even reading the book, I was still on edge and couldn’t put it down,” she said. “It was like a horror movie that I visualized in my mind.”

O’Shaughnessy said suspense and unpredictability are essential elements to a successful horror film or novel. “Scary movies can throw so many curves. You are always on edge with what's going to happen,” she said.

Kelsey Malyszek, a freshman at the University of South Carolina, agrees that suspense provides that anxious terror she loves about scary movies. “You don’t know when someone is going to jump out or when there’s going to be a loud noise that makes you scream,” she said.

However, the quality of the plot and acting are not to be ignored. The production must be believable to convince viewers a story is plausible.

Malyszek relies on realistic situations to get the full scary movie experience. “I like scary movies with monsters, but I just don’t feel they’re real,” she said.

Unpredictability fuels suspense, so why read the book when you already know what’s going to happen?

First off, there is always more description in literature than film, which can be used to illustrate an alien’s grotesque features right down to the long fingernails and boiled skin. Some authors illustrate horror through aspects unseen, like temperature or the way the wind blows, hinting at an unwanted presence.

When filmmakers adapt novels to the screen, they always change certain elements, sometimes based on their own agenda or a limitation of resources. In a book, the author has complete creative license, usually giving more insight to a character’s thoughts.

First-time horror readers can then identify more with the character they see in the movie. Hopefully the “girl running straight toward the creepy noise” seems a little more sensible after reading the book.

The novels are where many critically-acclaimed horror films originated, and the source may provide some unexpected horror in the similarities between humans and their fictional monsters.

If you feel like you’re missing a thrill this Halloween, try reading some of the following books that inspired popular scary movies. You might just find that reading the book is like watching the extended version of the movie with the surround sound on.

The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty

The Ring – Koji Suzuki

I Am Legend – Richard Matheson

The Silence of The Lambs – Thomas Harris

The Shining – Stephen King

Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin

Let The Right One In – John Lindqvist

Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice


Junior > Public Affairs and Journalism > Ohio State University

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