In a world where there’s a new Stephen King adaptation announced practically every morning, one has to ponder a very important question: Do other horror novels exist? Could it even be possible?
Well, we consulted an entire team of scientists, and it turns out that yes, other horror novels do, in fact, exist, and some of them would even make pretty killer films. Here are twelve of them, along with their ideal directors!
12. The Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale
This one will be an obvious choice to most horror fans.
You’d have a difficult time finding someone who’d argue Joe R. Lansdale isn’t at least in the top five of Greatest Authors Who Have Ever Lived. Lansdale can write any genre, and he probably has. When asked what genre he writes, he’ll tell you flat out that he writes in the “Joe Lansdale genre”. Don’t know what that means? Then you haven’t read Lansdale’s work before.
Allow me to introduce you to The Drive-In, which might be one of his most infamous publications. Unsurprisingly, The Drive-In takes place at a drive-in. Depending on your age, you’ve maybe even frequented one of these establishments. However, I doubt you’ve experienced what the characters in Lansdale’s story experience, unless you’ve also found yourself trapped in a drive-in by a mysterious force and had to go all Lord of the Flies on the rest of its patrons. If that’s also happened to you, then you probably can skip this one. But if not, hey! What are you waiting for? And who would be a better choice to write/direct than Don Coscarelli? Hell, it wouldn’t even be the first Lansdale work he’s adapted (see also: Bubba Ho-Tep).
11. The Changeling by Victor LaValle
You remember that STEPHEN KING RULES T-shirt one of the kids wore in Monster Squad?
If they remade that movie today, the shirt would (or at least should) say VICTOR LAVALLE RULES, because let’s face it, folks: Victor LaValle rules. From The Devil in Silver to The Ballad of Black Tom, his horror fiction never fails to utterly drain his readers of emotion. One of his best, I think, was his 2017 novel, The Changeling, about a recent father trying to comprehend parenthood in the age of social media. That’s probably an unfair way to describe the novel. I might be cheating a little bit, but maybe I’m dead on? There’s a chapter about, what, 120 or so pages into this novel that left me sobbing. I didn’t know what to do. A book has never suckerpunched me like The Changeling. Do you know who else handles grief in a really interesting way? Ari Aster, of course. Watch Hereditary or Midsommar and tell me this guy doesn’t understand human emotion. The Changeling is about a lot of things, true, but maybe it can also be summed up by one word: grief. How do we respond to tragedies? Few writers and directors have figured that out, but Victor LaValle and Ari Aster? They’ve mastered it.
10. In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson
I’m not quite sure where Andy Davidson stands as an author for most people yet, but personally?
He’s right up there with folks like Stephen Graham Jones and William Gay. His southern horror reads smooth and flawless. It’s something you can’t teach, I swear. Read one page of his writing and, if you’re also a writer, you’ll be fuming with jealousy. In the Valley of the Sun is a vampire novel set in Texas. Cue in honkey tonks, deserted motels, and drifters.
At one point, when the novel first came out, I described it as part ’Salem’s Lot, part Red Dragon, part Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, part No Country for Old Men. The vampires in Davidson’s novel are scary, yeah, but they’re also cool as hell, and do you know who has already proven they can handle this specific requirement? Kathryn Bigelow, baby! Wouldn’t you kill for another Bigelow horror joint? Near Dark is a masterpiece, and so is In the Valley of the Sun. Let’s do this.
9. Last Days by Brian Evenson
Every day I wake up and discover Brian Evenson isn’t more famous, another piece of my soul dies.
Everything Evenson puts out is an absolute treat, and his novel Last Days might possibly be the most delicious of them all. A detective with a missing limb gets hired to investigate a crime within a cult centered around self-mutilation. It’s easily one of the coolest examples of body horror ever published, and I can’t think of anybody who would do a better job than the king of body horror:
David Cronenberg. Let’s get this dude out of horror retirement already. Don’t you think enough time has passed? It’s no secret Cronenberg has faced numerous difficulties trying to finance new films. I don’t know how that’s even possible. If there’s any justice left in this world, we’ll start giving him all the money in the world to start making new body horror, beginning with Brian Evenson’s Last Days.
8. Experimental Film by Gemma Files
Gemma Files delivered a truly classic ghost tale with Experimental Film back in 2015.
When people discuss the greatest modern horror novels around, you’ll most likely always see Gemma’s book mentioned somewhere, and for good reason.
It’s downright scary.
I also have a weird suspicion that David Lynch would make one killer adaptation.
7. Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
How many books has Stephen Graham Jones published at this point? 15? 100?
A lot, is the point, and the thing with his bibliography is you could throw a dart at any of them and you’d strike something worth getting lost in for several hours/days. Mongrels has probably been his most widely read book at this point, and it’s one hell of a time.
Have you ever wanted to read a coming-of-age novel about a werewolf?
Of course you have. You’re only human, right? Something about SGJ’s voice has always reminded me of Jeff Nichols’s films (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud, Midnight Shelter).
I think both of their creative minds would blend perfectly together, especially with something as special as Mongrels.
6. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
The opening scene of Broken Monsters is not liable to ever fade from memory.
It’s grotesque, it’s nightmarish, it’s beautiful in design.
In my head, the cold open on this hideously gorgeous crime scene is so perfect, it’s almost a crime the film doesn’t exist yet.
I won’t spoil the scene, as I’m afraid of ruining its impact, but if you’re a fan of True Detective/Zodiac/Mindhunters, then Broken Monsters is right up your alley, so who better to direct than David Fincher himself?
Get this man a contract ASAP.
Also, make Lauren Beukes a household name already, you monsters.
5. A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben
A Hawk in the Woods was one of my favorite debut novels of 2019.
When writing my review for it last year, I described it as “the Geek Love of witchcraft,” a statement which I still feel is accurate.
It’s about two sisters, both of them having grown up in a witchcraft household.
It’s funny, it’s traumatic, it’ll grip you by the heart and squeeze until you explode.
I loved it to death.
I also think someone like Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation) would knock an adaptation out of the park.
4. The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce
Remember when Graham Joyce died in 2014? I’m still bummed about it.
Dude was an excellent writer, and I can’t think of a more perfect example of his talents than the incredibly disturbing The Tooth Fairy.
Think of this book as a coming-of-age drama with a supernatural entity leaking in from the peripherals.
There are elements of dark fantasy usually only found in the works of Guillermo del Toro, which of course is why I recommending him to handle the adaptation.
Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy is exactly the kind of story Guillermo del Toro eats for breakfast.
It would be perfect.
3. The Fisherman by John Langan
I don’t know how else to describe John Langan’s The Fisherman besides “dope as hell.”
It’s exactly the kind of slow-burn cosmic nightmare I love to read, and do you know who else excels at these sorts of stories?
Robert Eggers, obviously. I mean, have you even seen The Lighthouse? Good god.
Imagine what he could do with something like The Fisherman. Ahhhh.
John Langan’s novel is something you’ll see on any list advertising the “best horror” ever published.
Few other works contain the confidence to utilize patience like Langan’s The Fisherman. This has A24 all over it.
2. The Cipher by Kathe Koja
Ask me what my favorite horror novel of all time is and my answer will always be Kathe Koja’s The Cipher.
I’ve written elsewhere at length about why I think it’s the G.O.A.T., so I won’t waste too much space here repeating myself.
But I will say this: nothing has ever made me feel physically disgusted like The Cipher.
Nothing has ever contaminated my dreams like The Cipher.
Nothing has ever even come close. Recently, while watching Daniel Isn’t Real, I couldn’t stop thinking that Adam Egypt Mortimer could make a pretty awesome adaptation of The Cipher.
There’s a nightmarish body horror quality to his work that would match well with Koja’s fiction. I think it could be something special.
1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Most people consider House of Leaves unfilmable…
…but those people must not be aware of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the brilliant minds behind Resolution and The Endless.
Those two films are proof enough that Benson and Moorhead understand the cinematic opportunities of reconfiguring reality to screw with their audience. I want this adaptation (from these specific filmmakers) more than anything on this list.
I remember, as a kid, first reading House of Leaves and losing my mind for a little while. At one point I clearly recall sneaking to our bathroom in the middle of the night and holding the book up against the mirror to crack its mysteries. I have full confidence in Benson and Moorhead creating the cinematic equivalent to Danielewski’s masterful mindfuck.
Which horror novel adaptation did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!
BIO: Max Booth III is the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the host of two podcasts: Ghoulish and Castle Rock Radio. He’s the author of Touch the Night, Carnivorous Lunar Activities, and several other novels. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth or visit him at www.TalesFromTheBooth.com. He lives in Texas.