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Creepy Countdown: 6(66) dark books that should be made into films


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Halloween is fast approaching, and 2017 has already seen the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It break box office records, becoming the highest-grossing horror film ever in the US. 

Some undeniably great films have come out of horror novels in the past, from Psycho to The Shining. Here is a list of novels that would make great creepy flicks for those dark Autumn nights.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box is the story of Malorie, who lives with her two children ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’ in a post-apocalyptic world where the ability to see can get you killed. ‘The Problem’ has overtaken the United States, leaving few survivors - and those who do survive cannot go outside without a blindfold. After years locked up with her children in the house, Malorie decides to make the perilous journey outside to seek safety.

What works about Bird Box is its character-driven nature, and the ambiguity of what actually lies in wait out there. We never actually get to - ahem - see the monsters, if indeed monsters are what’s behind this apocalypse-ravaged world. The book is already in talks to be commissioned into a film, with Netflix acquiring the rights, so it would definitely be interesting to find out how the lack of sight could be adapted visually. It was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2015.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I’m Thinking of Ending Things focuses on Jake and his girlfriend, who are taking a road trip together to meet Jake’s parents for the first time. Only the narrator is thinking of ending things (the relationship, or something else? You decide), after receiving ominous phone calls from ‘The Caller’. And Jake’s parents might not be who they seem.

This novel is perhaps the most controversial of the list. I’m Thinking of Ending Things garnered incredibly mixed reviews from readers and critics alike. The Independent give it 4 stars, writing that the book ‘posits a number of unsettling questions before you’ve even cracked the spine’. The NY Times, however, says the book ‘hastily disposes of unexplained and unnecessary red herrings’. It’s definitely a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book. However, it's undeniably chilling in a way that a lot of horror films don’t even come close to.

The novel was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award for Novels in 2016.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Though not a horror novel as such, The Roanoke Girls features some of fiction’s darkest themes. Lane Roanoke comes to live with her grandparents and cousin in their Kansas country estate after the suicide of her mother, and is met with the life of a true Roanoke girl. But the family have a dark secret that sends Lane running, only returning eleven years later when her cousin Allegra goes missing.

There are some serious twists in this novel. Engel’s backwoods setting is the perfect backdrop for a spooky film a la 2015's The Visit, and who doesn’t love a deep dark family secret?

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This book will have you - pardon me - trembling. It’s the result of years of exorcism movies and novels, all rolled into one. Tremblay actually includes a kind of bibliography of possession fiction for readers to consume after finishing A Head Full of Ghosts, from The Exorcist to American Horror Story.

The novel centres around fourteen-year-old Marjorie, who is ‘possessed’. She is displaying signs of acute schizophrenia, at least, and an exorcism is suggested by the local Catholic priest. The novel isn’t just another possession tale, however. Marjorie’s illness is commissioned for a documentary, ‘The Possession’, which captures the nation, and scars Marjorie’s younger sister Merry for life with the events that unfold within.

Tremblay’s novel could certainly make a good found-footage flick. There are some great twists and honestly frightening moments. The book won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel in 2015. It’s allegedly already in development with Focus Features.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

A novel set in a pseudo-prison camp in the Australian outback might not initially scream ‘horror’ - but Charlotte Wood’s book certainly has the capacity to induce chills. Ten women are kidnapped and brought to an institution to be watched over by two incapable male guards and a woman clad in a child's nurse costume.

What ensues is a story of uprising, female empowerment, and dystopia, as food supplies run low and the jailers stand to become the jailed. There are some truly harrowing moments from start to finish, and the book could make an eerily understated thriller. It won the Stella Prize in 2016, and called ‘a masterpiece of feminist horror’ by The Guardian. 

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Dubbed ‘unfilmable’ by WhatCulture, House of Leaves is indeed a maze of a book. It’s a huge volume, over 700 pages long, and centres around a fictional manuscript, the 'Navidson Record’. The book is comprised of script extracts, footnotes upon footnotes, upside-down writing and overlapping text. Broadly, it’s about Johnny Truant, who discovers the Navidson Record manuscript in a dead blind man’s apartment. The Record details an eerily shifting house - doors appearing out of nowhere, the house’s measurements changing, hallways re-shaping.

An unreliable narrator and terrifying horror tropes abound here, but it’s difficult to imagine the book actually being adapted into a film. Never say never, though! It was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award in 2000.

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