Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Ten Books to Read If You Like Scary Movies

Since I'm all about a good bandwagon, I've decided to take part in Top Ten Tuesday, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. This week is "Top Ten Book to Read If You Like (TV Shows, Movies, Plays, Etc.)" and I chose Top Ten Books to Read if You Like Scary Movies. I picked books based on how visceral my reaction was to the story. A lot of horror novels just aren't that scary to me, since it's easy to separate yourself when the situation isn't physically presented to you, but these books found a way to get past my defenses and either startle me, disturb me, or just keep me looking surreptitiously over my shoulder, even after the last page. Off we go:

1. Night Shift by Stephen King: Of course, you've got to start with Stephen King, he's basically mandatory. This is a collection of short stories, including classics like "Children of the Corn" and "Jerusalem's Lot" along with several lesser known tales. I find that King tends to over-explain the monsters in his novels, taking away most of their mystery and, as a result, their power. In Night Shift, however, each story just does its job and wraps up. No filler. "The Boogeyman" in particular resonated with me, and I still find myself thinking about it sometimes when I see my closet door slightly open. Was it like that when I left? Am I sure?

For Those Who Like: Well, Stephen King movies, obviously, though most of these stories are more creepy than horrifying, and some of them will just bum you right out. So if a general sense of unease is your thing, here you go.

2. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: This book was crushing this first time I read it. Basically, it chronicles the death of Addie Bundren, and her family's subsequent journey to fulfill her final request to be buried in the town of Jefferson. It's dense, stream of consciousness, told from multiple perspectives, and doesn't allow the gray world presented to be touched by a single ray of light throughout. Seriously, you can tell almost immediately that not one good thing is going to happen from cover to cover. The cement cast was especially disturbing to me, as was the sense that none of the characters could even imagine escaping their fates.

For Those Who Like: The Road was the first movie that came to mind, or Children of Men. Something post-apocalyptic. Even if that's not the book's setting, it still has that wandering, hopeless dread. Get ready to get depressed!

3. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk: This is the only book I've ever read that I didn't want to have in my house afterwards. Seriously, I gave it away. Haunted has an overarching plot concerning a group of writers who've come together for a retreat, and intertwines their short stories and (bad) poetry through the main narrative. Things quickly spiral out of control at the retreat, but Palahniuk isn't content to just make his point and go home, he had to make sure he's beaten you clear to death's doorstep with every form of the grotesque imaginable. It's not gore to be funny or gore to make a point, it's just gore for gore's sake, and you really get the sense that the author had a blast writing it.

For Those Who Like: Stuff like The Human Centipede or the Saw sequels, movies that revel in human depravity. Blood and guts and such.

4. This Book Is Full of Spiders by David Wong: This is actually a sequel, the original being John Dies at the End, but Spiders can very easily be read on its own. Basically, there are these spider-looking parasite beasts that take over people's brains, but it's honestly hard to sum this one up in a single sentence. It has sci-fi, horror, comedy, and a genuinely unique and interesting take on the done-to-literal-death zombie genre. This book is equal parts funny and scary, which is difficult to manage. I'm a huge fan of this one, if you couldn't tell, so it would be easy to go on and on. Just read it.

For Those Who Like: Think the Evil Dead franchise, post reboot, or Funny Games (the Austrian one). Hot Fuzz and Zombieland are similar to Spiders in comedic tone, but lack the genuine fear factor. Oh! Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Just thought of that one.

5. The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski: I said Haunted was so intense I couldn't keep it, but The Painted Bird is on a completely different level. It follows a young Jewish boy as he wanders through various Eastern European villages during World War II. Just about everything that could possibly happen happens. There's torture, bestiality, rape, incest, and it's all presented through the eyes of a child too young to be outraged. That's what so upsetting about this book, the matter-of-fact way all the abuses are presented, and the disturbing yet somewhat inevitable lessons the boy takes away from his experience. This book is mired in controversy from its portrayal of Eastern Europeans to Kosinski's potential plagiarism, but stands the test of time as a gutting portrayal of true atrocity.

For Those Who Like: The original Oldboy, Antichrist, The Woman, something that gets at the really dark places, makes your insides cold.

6. Inferno by Dante Alighieri: Even though The Divine Comedy has three sections, everyone loves Inferno. As my professor said when I read this for college, "No one wants to read about paradise. They want a show." The best part about this epic is that Dante included real people he actually knew, describing in minute detail their sins and condemning them to increasingly impressive punishments. Imagine that happening today, someone publishing a massive book describing their moral and political opponents being boiled alive and whatnot, it would stunning. I don't know if reading this book will actually scare anyone, but the fact remains that just about every representation of hell that's come after Inferno has been influenced by it, so it's worth reading for that alone.

For Those Who Like: What Dreams May Come, the Hellraiser series, anything with hell in it, basically.

7. Welcome to Hoxford by Ben Templesmith: This one's a comic, because I couldn't make this list without including at least one. Hoxford is about inmates in a new kind of superjail that, of course, is not quite what it seems. It boils down to a pretty basic survival plot, but it's just done so well that you don't mind one bit. The art is also amazing. Templesmith knows how to make gore look glorious.

For Those Who Like: Cabin Fever, 28 Days Later, just your regular old lighthearted bloody fun.

8. The Trial by Franz Kafka: A man defending himself against unknown charges and unknown accusers is a frighteningly hopeless and plausible scenario. Anyone who's ever had to fight an uphill battle with bureaucracy can imagine this all too well. The whole farcical process, the way the the main character is ushered through it, the way no one around him sees the absurdity, it's a simultaneously humorous and humorless read. After all, society is made of humans, but functions as a machine, and those machinations will not stop for any individual. People are crushed by it every day. Fall out of step, and it could easily be you.

For Those Who Like: I thought of Orson Welles, then remembered that he actually made a film of The Trial in 1962. Welles and Hitchcock. The stories are older than you are, and you already know the endings, but they remain just as compelling as they were when they were new.

9. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist: Vampires! Well, vampire, but still. We start with a young boy, alienated and bullied, who meets a young vampire with problems of their own. A friendship develops and, despite all the horrible things that happen, there remains a sweetness to this friendship that holds to books together. Lindqvist is could at juxtaposing tender scenes with terrifying ones, the beautiful with the truly ugly. There is something of a sequel in the title piece from Lindqvist's short story collection, Let the Old Dreams Die, that adds even more bitter sweetness to the story. Bittersweet. That's the best way to describe this one.

For Those Who Like: Dracula, Interview With the Vampire, Nosferatu, vampires with both bite and melancholy.

10. Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark by Alvin Schwartz: This one is an Amazon link, since you pretty much have to buy this one used. The original was illustrated by one Stephen Gammell, and honestly, the illustrations are what make this book the classic scare monger it is. Newer versions don't have the same pictures, possibly because they are really, really scary. The stories themselves aren't bad, either, but seriously, go look up Gammell's illustrations. I'll wait.

For Those Who Like: Goosebumps, obviously, Are You Afraid of the Dark? All things creepy and nostalgic. The old Twilight Zone was my poison back in the day. Whatever kept you up all night giddy as a kid.

Well, there you have it, a bunch of books and movies to think about next time your not interested in sleeping. I, however, am a worked of the Night Shift, and seeing as the sun is now rising, it's about time for me to turn in.

1 comment:

  1. I recently revisited Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and even after all these years, they still hit a chord within me. They don't make children's books like that anymore. Thank you for sharing.
    My TTT