Isn’t it intriguing to know how one’s favorite movie comes into existence on the big screen? Numerous renowned horror movies have originated from novels, showcasing the remarkable skill required to convey horror effectively in writing. Adapting these novels faithfully to the big screen also demands great talent. After experiencing a chilling horror film, some fans are inspired to explore the original source material. Let’s look at some of the best horror movie adaptations.
10 The Ritual (2017) – Adam Nevill
This novel was published in 2011. The story revolves around four friends, Luck, Hutch, Phil, and Dom. They embark on a hiking trip in the remote and dense forests of Sweden. While hiking, they take a shortcut through eerie and foreboding woods. The novel masterfully builds a sense of isolation, claustrophobia, and psychological terror, making the readers feel the characters’ anxiety in the face of a malevolent force.
In 2017, The Ritual was adapted into a horror film, directed by David Bruckner. The movie retained the core elements of the novel. This adaptation effectively captures the eerie atmosphere and tension of the novel, delivering a chilling cinematic experience to the audience.
9 Pet Sematary (1989) – Stephen King
The movie adaptation was released in 1989, and there was also a remake released in 2019. The story follows the Creed family as they move to a rural town in Maine. They find a mysterious graveyard in the woods close by. However, the burial ground holds a dark secret, as anything buried there comes back to life, but not quite the same.
The novel and its adaptations delve into themes of grief, loss, and the consequences of tampering with the natural order of life and death. It is widely regarded as one of Stephen King’s most chilling and emotionally intense works. The movie adaptations have been well-received by horror enthusiasts.
8 The Invisible Man (2020) – H.G. Wells
In the 2020 film The Invisible Man, the core idea is derived from H.G. Wells’ classic novel, but it takes a contemporary and suspenseful approach to the story. Cecelia Kass is portrayed as a woman trying to escape an abusive relationship with her manipulative and controlling partner, Adrian. Strange and eerie events unfold around her after the death of Adrian, leaving both Cecelia and the audience to question the reality of the situation.
Unlike the original novel, which was set in the late 19th century, the film embraces a modern setting, exploring the impact of technology and the digital age on the story. Leigh Whannel, the director, crafts a compelling narrative that not only terrifies but also offers commentary on themes like domestic abuse. The film’s success lies in its ability to re-imagine a well-known story in a fresh and gripping manner, using the horror genre to tell a powerful tale.
7 The Ring (2002) – Koji Suzuki
Directed by Gore Verbinski, the movie is an Americanized version of the novel and the previous 1998 Japanese film adaptation, which allowed for significant creative changes. In the film, the story revolves around a cursed videotape that, when watched, brings about a terrifying curse, resulting in the viewer’s death after seven days.
The American adaptation maintained the core premise of the original story while infusing its own unique elements and cultural context. While some fans of the original Japanese version appreciated the American remake, others preferred the nuances of the Japanese horror style. The Ring has left a lasting impact on the horror genre, inspiring more remakes of Asian horror classics, like The Grudge.
6 It (2017) – Stephen King
It is one of Stephen King’s most renowned novels, and it has been adapted twice. In 1990, it was turned into a two-part miniseries. In 2017 and 2019, it became a duology with two movie parts. The plot follows a group of childhood friends who confront a creepy entity known as “Pennywise the Dancing Clown,” which terrorizes their town.
The 2017 adaptation received widespread acclaim for its writing, direction, and performance, becoming a beloved horror film among fans. Both parts of the duology have gained a devoted following. The film’s success has cemented Pennywise as one of the most iconic horror villains of all time. The removal of certain disturbing elements in the films allowed for a more accessible and mainstream horror experience.
5 Bird Box (2018) – Josh Malerman
The monster movie in the 2018 Netflix horror movie Bird Box left viewers thoroughly creeped out and captivated when it was released. However, what many fans may not realize is that Bird Box was actually based on a novel. In the story, Malorie faces the daunting task of keeping herself and her children safe in a world filled with unseen danger.
The successful adaptation of Bird Box brought the chilling tale to a wider audience, and the film’s popularity further boosted the novel’s acclaim. The combination of a unique and terrifying premise, Sandra Bullock’s compelling performance, and the fast-paced narrative contributed to it becoming a memorable watch.
4 Psycho (1960) – Robert Bloch
Although Robert Bloch wrote several other works, Psycho stands out as his most notable creation. The novel delves deeper into Norman Bates’ psyche compared to the film. However, this works to the movie’s advantage by adding an air of mystery and fascination to the infamous slasher story. Viewers are given just enough insight into Bates’ troubled mind to form their own chilling conclusions.
Psycho is a remarkable blend of style and substance, where Alfred Hitchcock masterfully crafts a terrifying yet artful horror film that engrosses the audience. The narrative unfolds in a gripping Hitchcockian fashion, enticing viewers like a curious fly on the wall before wishing to intervene in the unfolding events.
3 The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Thomas Harris
The 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs achieved immense global success and earned numerous Academy Award nominations, making it a highly acclaimed movie. Both the novel and film revolve around the enigmatic and infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who becomes the subject of profiling by a young FBI agent.
It’s worth noting that this film is actually a sequel to Harris’s novel, Red Dragon. While Red Dragon had its own adaptation, Silence of the Lambs stands as the pinnacle of the series. It establishes Dr. Lecter as one of the most iconic and complex characters in the realm of horror and psychological thrillers.
2 The Shining (1980) – Stephen King
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror movies ever made. However, it is no secret that Stephen King himself has expressed dissatisfaction with Kubrick’s take on his novel. The differences between the book and the film are notable, with significant changes to the story’s themes.
In 2019, a sequel to The Shining titled Doctor Sleep was released, based on King’s novel. Despite the differences in their visions, both movies have carved out their own places in horror history. Kubrick’s version has become a staple in the genre, admired for its unsettling atmosphere and iconic moments.
1 The Exorcist (1973) – William Peter Blatty
The Exorcist, penned by William Peter Blatty, was a best-selling novel before its 1973 screen adaptation. Blatty himself wrote the screenplay, drawing inspiration from a purported real-life exorcism performed on a young boy in 1949. Despite lacking prominent actors and facing initial skepticism from the studio, the film received critical acclaim and broke box office records. William’s talent was recognized with an Academy Award for his work on this film.