From Fear to Eternity: 5 Horror Novels That Deserve Better Movie Adaptations and 5 Chillers Begging to be Adapted

Posted on April 2, 2024

by Amy H

There are few things as mesmerizing as a horrible horror film. So many cult favorites are born this way! But that’s not what is featured here, these are 5 disappointingly bad adaptations of good books, plus 5 great books that deserve a film or series attempt! See what you think…

Book Jacket: The Shining

the shining by Stephen King

Many of King's books have been made into "meh" movies at best and super stinkers at worst (yeah, I'm talkin' about YOU, "Pet Sematary", "Children of the Corn", and "Dreamcatcher"!), but "The Shining" is truly an injustice. The book is SO. MUCH. BETTER! Perhaps it is a sign of how much horror relies on the reader's imagination and the incredibly talented authors behind the originals. Perhaps it is just the weariness inspired by Jack Nicholson's mugging for the camera, but.... ugh.

Book Jacket: The Wicker Man

the wicker man by Robin Hardy

This is the book based on the notoriously crappy film. It's like an attempt to remedy the cinematic misfire. The original novel upon which the film is based, "The Ritual" by David Pinner, is regrettably out of print.

Book Jacket: Inside the Wicker Man

inside the wicker man by Allan Brown

You know a movie is bad when it inspires an insightful book on just how utterly bad it was....

Book Jacket: A Living Nightmare

a living nightmare by Darren Shan

The immensely popular "Saga of Darren Shan" horror-comedy YA series inspired a 2009 film "Cirque du Freak: the Vampire's Assistant" which died a painful death of commercial failure.

Book Jacket: The Queen of the Damned

the queen of the damned by Anne Rice

This surprise commercial failure is a sequel to the mostly successful "Interview With a Vampire" (1994) and was notoriously panned for some truly awful accents, a muddled story, and recasting the roles of the original film.

Book Jacket: I Am Legend

i am legend by Richard Matheson

Haters of the film version of this novel note everything from the distraction of painfully obvious product placement to the awkward sidestep away from many of the novel's deeply relevant themes of isolation and loneliness, to the overplayed focus on Will Smith's immense likability.

Book Jacket: Heart-shaped Box

heart-shaped box by Joe Hill

Stephen King's novelist son has been almost as poorly served as King himself when it comes to adaptations. Hill tells the tale of Judas Coyne, an aging rocker with a collection of haunting memorabilia whose life is thrown into chaos when he attains a suit with an actual ghost with a vendetta against Jude. The book has a thrilling pace that is ripe for the big screen.

Book Jacket: The Damnation Game

the damnation game by Clive Barker

Many of Barker's short stories have made very compelling horror films. His first full novel is equally ripe for adaptation. Parolee and compulsive gambler Marty Strauss is hired as a bodyguard by the freakishly wealthy Joseph Whitehead. As he works, Strauss encounters more and more darkly supernatural mysteries. Turns out, during WWII, Whitehead made a deal with a devilish man who has come to collect what he is owed. Whitehead’s refusal to pay puts the lives of his daughter, Carys, and Marty in danger, until Marty decides to gamble with the devil to save Carys’ life.

Book Jacket: Into the Drowning Deep

into the drowning deep by Mira Grant

Two words: Killer. Mermaids. More words: a documentary crew explores the Mariana Trench hoping to find evidence of mermaids (a previous crew was lost at sea 7 years prior) and are attacked by a pod of super creepy mermaid-ish sea creatures, leading to a desperate fight for survival against deep sea eldritch horrors. Optioned for a film back in 2018, nothing yet, though.

Book Jacket: Haunted

haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

Perfect for a streaming series, this is a collection of 23 short stories by writers who have gathered for an intensive and secretive writing retreat. As the days pass, each writer tells their story, revealing the ghastly history that drove them to this moment. Simultaneously, terrible things are happening in the decrepit old house hosting their retreat. The entire food supply spoils, the lights go out, and the heater keeps breaking. And each writer is crafting their own survivor’s tale of how they were the only one to escape. Of course, that means everyone else would have to die…

Book Jacket: The Final Girl Support Group

the final girl support group by Grady Hendrix

Film rights were secured prior to publication in 2021, but nothing seems to have developed. In horror movies, the final girls are the ones left standing when the credits roll. They made it through the worst time of their lives...but what happens after? Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre. For more than a decade, she’s been meeting with five other final girls and their therapist in a support group, working to put their lives back together. Then one woman misses a meeting, and their worst fears are realized - someone knows about the group and is determined to rip their lives apart. But the thing about final girls is that no matter how bad the odds, they will never, ever give up.

Book Jacket: Classic Horror Films and the Literature That Inspired Them

classic horror films and the literature that inspired them by Ron Backer

Because so much of the sentiment behind these lists is subjective.... you don't have to take my word for it. Here's a neat comparison of a variety of great/not-so-great horror books and films.

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