Our Favourite Horrifying Books Turned Films

Scary stories: there’s nothing quite like them. The eerie settings. The despicable characters. The brain-boggling suspense. Where else can you get all of that wrapped up into one neat bow (that will probably be used for gruesome acts later on)? The only other magic that compares is when your favourite horror novel or scary story is adapted for film or TV. Finally, the monsters that you read about under your covers come to life before your very eyes and, frequently, are more terrifying than you ever could have imagined.

We don’t publish any horror novels ourselves (although, The Colony books are pretty chilling) but, here at Agora, we love a good scary movie night with our gals. So, here are some of our favourite frightening books that have also graced the big screen:

The Monkey’s Paw (1902)

The oldest on the list — published in 1902 — this horror short story was one of the greatest gems to come out of the literary canon of writer W.W. Jacobs. The story revolves around the White family, who receive an unlikely gift from a close friend in the form of… you guessed it: a monkey’s paw. The paw, however, has been cursed and given the ability to grant three wishes. Although Morris, the friend of Mr. White, advises against using the paw, White wishes for his desires anyway, which soon come with very dire consequences. The story has given the message throughout the years in questioning the sanity of interfering with fate, and it has clearly inspired the creative masses, as it has been adapted for the screen not one, not two, but four times! The first time was in 1933, but the most recent of the bunch is the 2013 adaptation, which included actors like Stephen Lang, Charles Dutton, and Corbin Bleu.

The Phantom of the Opera (1910)

For anyone who thought this was only the best musical of all time, think again. The story revolving around the Phantom and his prodigy Christine Daae, didn’t begin as an play or movie, but as a novel written and published in 1910. French writer Gaston Leroux actually wrote the story of the Phantom as a series, but it did not garner as much success until the third book was published. With this mystical romance novel being of such interest to readers, it was only a matter of time before producers and directors everywhere were ready to bring the plot to life not just to the big screen, but to the stage as well. The first show was in London’s West End at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1986 and grossed over billions of dollars internationally in the process. Fans of the musical were soon headed to movie theatres following the 2004 film version, which included Gerald Butler as the Phantom and Emmy Rossum as Christine. Let’s be honest: not many movie actors could belt that same long note at the end of “Music of the Night” like Butler does in the film.

I Am Legend (1954)

It may come as a shock, but this iconic post-apocalyptic film was, in fact, a novel, originally published in August of 1954 — so author Richard Matheson was definitely ahead of his time with this one. The plot surrounds Robert Neville, the sole and immune survivor of a deadly disease that forces vampirism upon those who are not immune to the disease. Robert is attempting to find research to know more about the disease, and, eventually, find a cure. However, when he finds another survivor in the midst of the apocalypse, they express some differences in how to approach other vampires, debating whether killing them is acceptable or rather keeping them alive so they may create a new species and way of life. The 2007 film was beyond good, maybe one of lead actor Will Smith’s best work post-Prince of Bel-Air. However, there were deviations from the novel going in the movie, such as how Neville’s wife and daughter die, the cause of how the virus came to be in the first place, the future setting of the story, and even the death of Neville himself.

The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

This psychological horror was just as creepy in novel form as it is on screen. American author Shirley Jackson published the novel in 1959, and it’s still managed to be creepy enough for audiences 60 years later. The story follows four people who attempt to find proof of supernatural existence in a haunted mansion known as Hill House. They begin to encounter strange events, seances, spiritual possessions, and, of course, death. Jackson’s novel is said to be one of the best horror stories to come out of the 20th Century — there were even two film adaptations created in the late 60’s and 90’s. However, the most current of the film canon is the Netflix series of the same name that developed in 2017.

The Exorcist (1971)

And of course, finally, the most classic horror novel of them all. We’re willing to bet there isn’t a soul on this Earth who hasn’t heard some deviation of this story. Remember the parody of the iconic exorcism scene in Scary Movie 2? The William Peter Blatty novel speaks of a demonic possession that takes form in the body of an 11-year-old girl, while two priests attempt to document the exorcism taking place. Although most adaptation success can be credited to the 1973 version, BBC Radio 4 felt the need to pay homage to the book anniversary in 2014, by creating a two-part adaptation of the novel.


As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with your favourite scary novel that’s been adapted for the screen!